It’s easy for special teams play to get lost in the shuffle when evaluating and digesting NFL games. But we won’t let that happen here, not after the Vikings put together perhaps the most complete special teams performance since Brian Murphy took over as coordinator of the unit before the 2009 season.
We’ve mentioned a few times in the vikings.com Blog this season that the special teams unit is playing well, but often times that praise has been easily overlooked because the team got off to a rocky 1-3 start. So now with win #2 on the season in the books, let’s take a quick look at the impact Murphy’s group had on the outcome.
– We’ll begin with the catalyst for the Vikings 2nd-half surge against Dallas. The Vikings went into the locker room at halftime trailing 14-7. But they came out of the locker room in the 2nd half and immediately tied the game when Percy Harvin dashed 95 yards through the middle of the field for a TD. Harvin was virtually untouched on the play, so credit goes to the 10 blockers there. And he did a nice job of sticking his foot in the ground and heading straight upfield.
“Coming out of the half there’s no better way to set the tempo than taking the opening kick back,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said after the game. “It’s a testament to those special teams. You talk about covering people up, I don’t know that Percy broke stride on that return. He set the tempo for us special teams-wise as well as those other 10 guys and then got on the field and got a three-and-out on defense and were able to hold on.”
– As explosive as Harvin was with that return, P Chris Kluwe was every bit as consistent on the day, as he’s been all season. Kluwe had 5 punts on the day for a net average of 41.8. But more importantly, he landed 4 of those 5 punts inside the 20 and 2 of them inside the 10. Of Kluwe’s 5 punts, only 2 of them were returned and Dallas managed just 3 total yards on those 2 returns. That’s outstanding work from Kluwe.
“He’s done a great job of directional punting,” Childress said of Kluwe. “He’s really taken that bit. The other thing he’s doing is kicking with great height and hang-time and I think I’ve mentioned to you guys before the people that do a great job in terms of not having punt returns are the people that are able to hang it up in the air and let our guys go down and cover it. Again, the kicking teams were outstanding.”
– While a lot of credit is due to Kluwe for the lack of Dallas return yardage on Sunday, credit also goes to the Vikings coverage unit. LB Jasper Brinkley tallied 3 special teams tackles on Sunday while the newly-acquired Fran Walker also got in on the action. Dallas returned 5 kickoffs on the day and averaged 16.2 yards per return, a pedestrian average. The most impressive kickoff cover of the day may have been the opening kickoff, when Brinkley smashed Akwasi Owusu-Ansah at the Cowboys 19 after just a 13-yard return. The hit got a great reaction from the crowd that went from “Whoa!” to loud cheers.
– We can’t talk about the Vikings special teams play without talking about K Ryan Longwell, who was perfect on his PAT tries and also hit the game-winning FG in the 4th quarter from 38 yards out. Longwell also appeared to do a nice job on his kickoffs in terms of placing the ball where the coverage team expected him to place it.
– Finally, the best special teams play (aside from Harvin’s return) may have been the last special teams play of the day. The Vikings forced a 3-and-out after Longwell’s 38-yard FG and the offense took over on the MN 25. Four Adrian Peterson runs and a pass interference penalty allowed the Vikings to run over 2 minutes off the clock. Ultimately the Vikings had to punt the ball away with 29 seconds remaining in the game. Kluwe’s punt came down near the Dallas 4, where Dez Bryant received it and tried to make a few moves to pickup yardage. But the Vikings punt team covered the perfectly placed kick well and strung Bryant out. Eventually Bryant was surrounded by the entire coverage team and he was dropped after just a 3-yard gain to the 7. That left the Cowboys with more than 60 yards to gain in 13 seconds to get in FG range, a task too tough to accomplish as the Vikings came away with the 24-21 victory.
Tags: Chris Kluwe, Frank Walker, Jasper Brinkley, Percy Harvin, Ryan Longwell
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 6 Comments »