Foxboro - Punters rarely receive attention. They can be lonely people.
P Ryan Allen, 28, must catch the ball and kick the ball at the exact angle for the ball to go a long way. Fans are never happy to see Allen because it means the Pats offense failed to do its job. Allen, who is a free agent in the offseason, has been the Pats punter since 2013 when he beat out Zoltan Mesko.
Allen also functions as the team's holder, which means he has to get the ball in the exact position that Stephen Gostkowski wants or he must face the kicker's wrath. The three amigos -- Gostkowski, Allen and long snapper Joe Cardona have become close. They spend hours together. They sometimes practice alone - often in the stadium on a Friday before a home game.
Special teams could be a big advantage Sunday for the Pats against the Los Angeles Chargers if the weather is bad. Allen is prepared for the challenge. He wants to keep the ball aways from Chargers punt returner Desmond King.
"Everything we have worked for all year has been for this moment," Allen said. "Nine times out of 10 times whoever you are kicking the ball to is a good athlete.They are fast and know how to setup big plays. They are all capable of making big plays."
Allen likely never expected to have this much stability in his career given that he was undrafted.
"This is all I have known," Allen said. "This is a place where you receive an opportunity to grow and I feel like I have done that with football and other parts of my life."
Allen was happy that the field goal operation was as good as it was this season. Gostkowski only missed four field goals and one extra point.
"My job is to make sure that things are as perfect as can be for Stephen," Allen said. "He is relying on two people to make sure he can even do his job."
The three specialists have developed a strong bond.
"We are able to laugh at ourselves and poke fun at each other. It is a little like a brotherhood," Allen said. "I am thankful to be part of a group that cares about the common goal and points things in the direction of the team and not the individual."
Gostkowski, who turns 35 at the end of January, is considered the old man of the group. Cardona, 26, and Allen even jokingly mock Gostkowski when he avoids the media. Surely, Gostkowksi is hesitant to talk with the media, but once he starts talking he doesn't stop.
Allen said the key with special teams is that everybody knows their assignment perfectly. Little mistakes can be costly - especially with great athletes on special teams.
"That is when big plays happen if one person is slacking," Allen said. "It is organized chaos out there and punts don't happen that often and there can be a large momentum swing. When all of us our worried about ourselves - things tend to go well. We all depend on each other. They depend on me to kick a good ball and I depend on them to cover well."
Allen also stays in shape so if the returner gets by the first 10 players, he can prevent a touchdown. Allen fondly remembers when Gostkowski ran down Houston Texans returner Danieal Manning from behind in the 2013 playoffs.
"Stephen's got some wheels. I am certainly not paid to hawk guys down and make big hits all the time," Allen said. "I like to stay in shape so I can make the play or find the right angle to get them out of bonds.”
Gostkowski and Allen are free agents. The future is uncertain, but Allen is thankful for another chance to be in the playoffs. Allen knows veteran Pats CB Jason McCourty has never been in the playoffs until this year. Allen has been to at least the AFC Championship Game every year since he was a rookie.
"Stephen and I will always be close - no matter what happens," Allen said. "This is a production business and we all know that. There are no guarantees. I have been lucky to play with this caliber of men. I continue to want to work with people like that."