PHOTO: New England Patriots Josh Miller (8) congratulates kicker Adam Vinatieri (4) on his 22-yard fourth quarter field goal against the Philadelphia Eagles during Super Bowl XXXIX at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla., on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2005. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)
Miller's Performance Overlooked
Patriots punter had a major impact on the outcome
By Michael Reardon, Site Contributor
There is an unnoticed player who came through big for the Patriots on Sunday. He'll not come up much in the conversations of the Patriot Nation nor will his name be in a single headline of the post - Super Bowl media coverage. Yet, this player's contributions to the third New England Super Bowl in four years was just as vital as many of the other players you'll be reading about. Also, he represents, next to Corey Dillon, one of the biggest upgrades at his position from last year's team to this year's.
Miller's performance was instrumental in a game that was, for the entire first half, nothing short of a defensive war. One important aspect of a defensive war is the battle for field position, and much of the outcome of that battle was dependent on the leg of Josh Miller.
Miller came through almost flawlessly with whatever the situation called for. When the ball needed to go deep, he got it to go deep. When the Patriots needed accuracy from him, he provided it.
Miller punted 4 times on the first 4 New England possessions in the first quarter field position battle. The punts went for 48, 44, 54, and 48 yards and were essential to containing the Philadelphia offense while the New England offense was unable to get any kind of momentum going. The first quarter ended in a scoreless tie.
New England finally started putting some drives together, and Miller's services were not required again until the third quarter. He kicked two more punts for 50 yards each and were both crucial to hampering a Philadelphia comeback by ensuring that they would have to do it with consistently poor field position.
Then, in the 4th quarter with 52 seconds remaining, Miller came through again with another big kick. This time he did it with finesse instead of power, dropping a 32 yard punt with plenty of air under it that allowed the New England punt cover team to down the ball at the 4 yard line. This pinned Donovan McNabb and the Eagles in a position where they would have to produce a very long drive in a very short amount of time to tie the game up.
Also, when placed at the 4 yard line, McNabb was standing in his own end zone when he dropped back to pass. The poor decisions and the game - ending interception he made on his last drive were in part due to the tremendous pressure the New England pass rush was able to put on the cornered McNabb.
Miller's performance is even more notable when compared to the production the Patriots got out of his position last year. Ken Walter had a pretty awful season in 2003, and if you compare the two punters' numbers for the divisional playoff game, the conference game, and the Super Bowl, there is an obvious gap. In three games of punting against Tennessee, Indianapolis, and Carolina, Walter averaged 27, 37, and 34.6 yards per punt respectively. This year, against Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia, Miller averaged 39, 40.3, and 45.1 yards per punt.
You can find more stories about the players in the HOT NEWS section or in their player profiles. This article was assembled by Site Contributor Michael Reardon. If you have any comments or suggestions for future topics, you may contact us here
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