FOXBOROUGH -- Matthew Slater, the Patriots' special teams captain, knows the difficulties of the role safeties play in New England's embattled secondary. Asked if the secondary's job in football was analogous to that of a bullpen in baseball -- in that they have to avoid giving up the long ball -- Slater chuckled and said, "That's a nice little comparison there.
"Obviously, you never want to give up big plays, regardless of what phase of the game it is. You don't want to give up a big turnover, you don't give up a big kickoff return or punt return. Big plays are momentum plays. In that respect, a lot of us have that responsibility to not give up the big play -- and to make the big play.''
While much was made after Sunday's 24-23 loss in Seattle about the number of big plays the Patriots secondary has allowed this season -- 33 passes of 20 yards or more -- none was more damaging than the 46-yard TD pass from Russell Wilson to Sidney Rice that beat rookie safeties Nate Ebner and Tavon Wilson for the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter in Seattle.
"All I'll say about that is this: I have played some safety and it is much, much harder than it may look,'' Slater said. "Those guys have a tough job to do. They're trying the best as they can. They're competing, and I wouldn't want any other guy on my team than the guys we have in this locker room and the guys that we have going out there playing for us on Sunday.
"They're busting their tail and doing everything they can to go out there and help us win games. I respect every last one of them. The job they have to do is tough, as I said. We just have to keep getting better as a unit.''