In setting the table for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots I mentioned that one of the best matchups will be on special teams. This area of the game is often overlooked, but it could make a huge difference in any given week.
Drilling even deeper here, the best 2 matchups happen to be when the Vikings kick off and when the Vikings punt. So, let’s take a quick look…
When the Vikings kick off: New England uses WR Brandon Tate as their primary kickoff returner and he’s been excellent so far in 2010. Tate is averaging 31.7 yards per kickoff return and he’s taken 2 returns to the house for TDs. Conversely the Vikings kickoff coverage team has been solid this season. Because he can’t boom the ball through the endzone regularly, the Vikings emphasize placement of kicks and this will be key on Sunday.
Also key on Sunday will be the 10 guys running down the field in coverage for the Vikings. Generally speaking, this area has been good this season and certainly improved from seasons past. The Vikings yield 23.7 yards per kickoff return, which is middle of the road in terms of NFL rankings, but that includes a pesky 86-yard return. Anyway, they’ll need to be at their best on Sunday to slow down Tate.
From a raw numbers standpoint, the Patriots have the edge here. But Longwell and Co. will certainly have a plan for Sunday and it’ll be a matter of executing that plan and not missing tackles.
When the Vikings punt: The edge in this department goes to the Vikings. P Chris Kluwe is having another marvelous season, as he’s ranked #2 in the NFL with a 41.8 net average and he also has 11 punts downed inside the 20. Just as important, though, is the fact that Kluwe and the punt coverage team are allowing a league-low 3.1 yards per punt return and only 11 of Kluwe’s 28 punts have been returned; opposing returns have called 9 fair catches. These stats indicate a couple of things: 1) Kluwe is doing a good job of directional kicking and hang time and 2) the coverage guys are doing a nice job of surrounding the returner and bringing him down quickly.
New England counters with a nice returner in WR Julian Edelman. Both Tate and Wes Welker have logged punt returns, but Edelman has taken the majority of them and when he does New England gets 13.4 yards per return, which would rank 4th best in the NFL if it qualified. Edelman has yet to call for a fair catch and although he doesn’t have a return TD yet, he does have a long return of 34 yards, so you know he’s got the moves to make it happen.
This is a good matchup and one to watch on Sunday; the Vikings have a slight edge here.
Tags: Chris Kluwe, Ryan Longwell
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 19 Comments »