'No excuse' for muffed punt

FOXBORO — Rookie punt returner Gunner Olszewski discovered that mental mistakes hit the hardest during the Patriots 30-14 victory over the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium

The 6-0, 190-pound, undrafted free agent allowed a routine fair catch on the New England 6-yard line to morph into the Jets’ first touchdown with 21 seconds to play in the third quarter.

Olszewski’s flub resulted in the first touchdown allowed by the Patriots since Kansas City Chiefs tailback Damien Williams scored on a 2-yard run at 2:03 of the fourth quarter of the AFC title game on Jan. 20.

“I lost focus and it’s unacceptable,” said Olszewski. “I lost focus and there’s no excuse for that and I’m going to learn from it and it won’t ever happen again.

FOXBORO MA. – SEPTEMBER 22:New England Patriots Gunner Olszewski dejectedly walks off the field after a fumble on a punt return resulted a New York Jets touchdown during the 3rd quarter of the game at Gillette Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Foxboro, MA. . (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

“I have to prove to the coaches they can trust me back there.”

The sequence began when Dont’a Hightower and Adam Butler combined to sack quarterback Luke Falk and put the Jets in a fourth-and-24 on the New York 49.

Jets punter Lachlan Edwards’ kick came down inside the Patriots 10-yard line. Olszewski signaled for a fair catch but the ball came loose and rolled slowly towards the end zone. Olszewski lunged for the ball but he was beaten by Jets gunner Arthur Maulet, who pounced on it in the end zone.

“I called a fair catch, assessed the situation and lost focus and I didn’t look at it all the way in,” said Olszewski. “It went through my hands but it is unacceptable, and there was no excuse for that.”

Olszewski got a measure of sympathy from his teammates after retreating to the sidelines with an added caveat that a repeat performance will not be tolerated.

“They told me to keep my head up, we have more game to play and don’t let it happen again,” said Olszewski.

Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater, a seven-time Pro Bowl special teams’ player involved in all aspects of the return game, insisted that Olszewski’s body of work is sound and he maintains the confidence of the team.

“I told him to keep his head up and we all support him,” said Slater. “We know what type of kid he is and he’s and asset to this football team and everybody in this locker room has faith and confidence in him.

“Look, mistakes happen and no one knows more about muffing balls as a returner more that I do. We support him and stay positive and get ready for Buffalo.”

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