BOSTON (CBS) – They say that you need to be good in “all three phases” of the game to be a successful football team.

The 2014 New England Patriots possess a Super Bowl caliber defense, the highest scoring offense in the NFL and, for my money, the best special teams unit top-to-bottom of any team.

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You’d certainly be hard-pressed to find a special teams unit that’s better, and Sunday afternoon was just another example in a long list of quality performances this season.

With Julian Edelman sidelined, the punt return duties were given to Danny Amendola — “next man up,” as they say.

Amendola had a nice day on offense for New England (eight catches for 63 yards), but he also made an impact in the kicking game.

The second-year Patriot kick-started the first positive swing of momentum on Sunday for the AFC East champs when he returned a Jets punt 39 yards on the first play of the second quarter. The Patriots drove the short field, capped off by a Rob Gronkowski receiving touchdown to give New England a 7-0 lead.

“[Amendola] did a great job and he’s been really looking for this opportunity. I thought he did a great job in there in the role that he played,” quarterback Tom Brady said of Amendola after the game. “He’s a very good player for us. He did a good job returning some great kicks and punts.”

Amendola also had a 47-yard kickoff return late in the second quarter, but it was negated on a holding penalty by Brandon Bolden.

Then there’s Ryan Allen, the second-year NFL punter who boomed kicks down the field all afternoon. Allen had five punts, including a long of 58 and two of them pinned the Jets inside their 20-yard line.

Belichick praised the punter in his postgame press conference.

“[Allen has] really hit the ball well three weeks in a row. He’s done a real good job. We had a couple of big field position plays in the whole first half. He’s done a good job for us,” said the head coach.

Allen was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after his Week 14 performance against San Diego — the third time this season a Patriot has received that honor (Chris Jones in Week 7 and Julian Edelman in Week 9).

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And perhaps another AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honor is in store for the Patriots after defensive tackle Vince Wilfork helped seal the win with his blocked kick late in the fourth quarter.

With the Jets threatening, Dont’a Hightower sacked Geno Smith for a 10-yard loss on third down, which forced a New York field goal try. Wilfork got just enough of the ball to derail Nick Folk’s kick, and the Patriots held on to a 17-16 victory.

Wilfork’s block is just one of the many game-changing plays by New England’s special teams this season:

Week 2: Chandler Jones blocked a Minnesota field goal and then returned it himself 58 yards for a touchdown.

Week 7: Chris Jones blocked Nick Folk’s would-be game-winner in the final seconds to secure a Patriots win.

Week 9: Julian Edelman’s 87-yard punt return against Denver in the second quarter help extend the Patriots lead to 20-7.

Week 14: Brandon Bolden’s punt block against San Diego helped bring New England within 14-13 at halftime against the Chargers, a game they would eventually win.

Week 15: Jamie Collins blocked a Dolphins field goal attempt on the opening drive of the game, and Kyle Arrington scooped it and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown.

Week 16: Wilfork got his hand on a go-ahead field goal attempt in the fourth quarter to preserve a one-point lead against the Jets.

That’s six times this season the game’s been changed on account of great plays by the Patriots specials teams unit. If football really is a game of inches, then maybe special teams will be the biggest difference for New England come playoffs.

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