Bailey, Gunner earn All-Pro nods after historic seasons for Pats originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Amid a season of failure, the New England Patriots had unmistakable success in one area: special teams.
That success was validated Friday when Patriots punter Jake Bailey and punt returner Gunner Olszewski were named AP First-Team All-Pros as the best players in the NFL at their respective positions. Longtime special teams ace Matthew Slater also earned Second-Team All-Pro honors.
That’s wassup ! Appreciate my teammates and my family . Wouldn’t be here without em pic.twitter.com/hJTB04hw0M
— Gunner Olszewski (@Gunnerolszewsk1) January 8, 2021
The honors were well-deserved for Bailey and Olszewski: Bailey averaged 45.6 net punt yards -- tops in the NFL and a single-season Patriots record -- and placed 31 punts inside the 20-yard line, second-most in franchise history behind his own mark of 36 in 2019.
Olszewski, meanwhile, led the NFL with 17.3 yards per punt return (20 returns for 346 yards), smashing Julian Edelman's previous franchise record of 15.3 yards per return set in 2010.
Most impressively, Bailey and Olszewski are the first Patriots punter and punt returner, respectively, to earn First-Team All-Pro honors since the team was founded in 1960.
While New England's defense struggled at times and its offense looked downright dysfunctional, the club's special teams unit was excellent all season. Even kicker Nick Folk had a solid year, connecting on a career-high 92.9% (26 for 28) of his field goals.
The Patriots have plenty of needs to address this offseason, and Slater will be a significant loss if he decides not to return in 2021. But with Bailey and Olszewski both entering their third season, Belichick won't have to worry about the punt game.