Last weekend while waiting for their team to play the Dallas Cowboys the next day, Vikings fans may have had a case of déjà vu as they watched the New Orleans Saints take care of the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC’s other Divisional Round playoff game.
In that contest – a 45-14 New Orleans victory – Saints RB and punt returner Reggie Bush dazzled the audience and sliced through the Cardinals special teams unit with an 83-yard punt return for TD in the 4th quarter. As Vikings fans surely remember, Bush had similar success in Week 5 of the 2008 season, when he torched the Vikings punt coverage unit for a pair of TDs and 176 return yards.
In that game, the Vikings punt team did a nice job of limiting returns for most of 3 full quarters. But then P Chris Kluwe boomed a punt 48 yards down to the Saints 29 and Bush took it from there for a 71-yard score to cut the Vikings lead to 3 late in the 3rd quarter. Bush then took the Vikings next punt 29 yards to midfield, which set up a FG and tied the game at 20. Then on the next Vikings punt, Bush did it again, this time going 64 yards for a score to give his team a 27-20 lead and ignite the home crowd.
The Vikings wound up winning the game thanks to 10 unanswered points in the game’s final 7 minutes, 3 of which came on a clutch Ryan Longwell FG. But that didn’t take away from the Vikings frustration in terms of its punt team. Head coach Brad Childress wasn’t happy after the game because Kluwe was instructed to punt the ball away from Bush.
“Both of those kicks are supposed to be out of bounds,” Childress said at the time. “And when you say to somebody ‘kick the ball out of bounds,’ that’s what you expect to happen. That’s what I expect to happen with a professional football kicker.”
Fast-forward to the 2009 playoffs, and Kluwe is coming off an excellent performance against the Cowboys in which the Vikings allowed 0 punt return yards and even pinned Dallas on its own 2 early in the 3rd quarter. A similar performance this week against the Saints – and Bush – is the goal for the Vikings.
“I think that we will go back and revisit our last trip we had to the [Louisiana Superdome] and probably have a little sit down about that to see if either one of us has evolved in our processes in communicating that,” Childress said tongue-in-cheek on Monday when asked about Kluwe and punting to the Saints.
During the regular season with Bush as the primary return man, New Orleans averaged just 4.6 yards per punt return as a team and had 0 TDs. The Vikings were 12th in the NFL in punt return average allowed at 7.9 yards and they gave up 1 TD, a 67-yarder to Cleveland’s Joshua Cribbs in Week 1.
With so much attention bound to be paid to both of these teams’ QBs and explosive offenses, don’t sleep on the special teams units and their potential to impact the outcome of this game.
Tags: Chris Kluwe
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 14 Comments »