Unless you are a New England Patriots fan or you have the Patriots defense/special teams on your fantasy football roster, this week’s Monday Night Football game surely made you cringe on behalf of the Miami Dolphins special teams unit. New England came away with a resounding 41-14 win and registered 3 momentous special teams plays in the 2nd half along the way to the route.
Patriots WR Brandon Tate began the 2nd half by returning Miami’s kickoff 103 yards for a TD. Miami’s ensuing possession was a 3-and-out and Patriots S Patrick Chung broke through the Dolphins special teams unit to block the punt. That setup New England for another TD 2 plays later. Then, early in the 4th quarter, the Patriots blocked a Dolphins FG attempt, which Kyle Arrington returned for yet another New England TD.
While it was entertaining to see so New England’s special teams unit play so well, it was just as unnerving to watch the Dolphins special teams unit play so poorly. The most unfortunate part of the whole deal is that Miami moved to fire its special teams coordinator on Tuesday.
“A lot of times special teams gets overlooked until a game is changed, win or lose, by special teams,” Heath Farwell said after practice on Tuesday. “This is a field position game. If we can get good returns and shorten the field for our offense, and then as a kickoff unit and punt coverage unit if we can pin them deep, not a lot of teams can drive 80 or 90 yards against our defense.”
Farwell is right in that the Vikings defense rarely allows drives of 80+yards. In 3 games so far in 2010, no team has driven that far against the Vikings. The longest drive surrendered by the Vikings to this point is 77 yards to the Saints on the 1st possession of the game. The Vikings defense has faced 34 drives and according to my calculations 21 of those drives have been 30 yards or shorter.
A standout on special teams to this point has been P Chris Kluwe. He ranks tied for 4th with a 43.3 net punting average and he’s placed 6 of his 14 punts inside the opponent’s 20; Kluwe also has just 1 touchback. When opponents are able to return one of Kluwe’s punts, the Vikings punt coverage team is holding them to just 1.8 yards per return.
“Kluwe is doing a good job with a lot of hang time and the gunners are doing a great job of flying down the field and pressuring returners into a lot of fair catches,” Farwell explained. “It’s a combination of Kluwe doing a great job and our guys covering the field well.”
Tags: Chris Kluwe, Heath Farwell
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