Lost in the negativity of last week’s 21-3 loss to the NY Giants at Ford Field in Detroit and the whirlwind of developments involved in the collapse of the Mall of America Field at the Metrodome roof was an outstanding performance by the Vikings special teams unit. Let’s take a quick look back at what happened…
One of the Vikings top performers all season has been P Chris Kluwe, and he was in great form once again last week. A sputtering Vikings offense wasn’t able to sustain drives, meaning Kluwe was called on often to boot the ball away while also trying to maintain some kind of field position advantage. Kluwe had 10 punts on the night, with a net average of 42.4. More importantly, though, is that 4 of Kluwe’s punts stopped inside the Giants 20, only 3 of the 10 were returned and just 1 of them went into the endzone for a touchback.
For the season now, Kluwe ranks 3rd in the NFL in net punting (40.9), 1st in the NFC with 29 punts inside the 20 and tied for 1st in the NFL in fair catches. We also shouldn’t forget about the coverage team, as they’ve combined with Kluwe to allow just 5.5 yards per return, which ranks 1st in the NFL.
Kluwe wasn’t the only busy punt on Monday night. New York’s Matt Dodge had 7 punts on the night, but Vikings punt returner Greg Camarillo made sure Dodge and the Giants punt team didn’t have the same kind of success Kluwe and his group had. Camarillo returned 5 of the 7 punts and averaged 18.0 yards per try, an outstanding number. On top of that, he had a 52-yard return in which he ran across the field twice, dodging would-be tacklers and setting the offense up with good field position. Camarillo has been excellent in terms of securing the ball this season on punt returns, but on Monday he displayed some burst and playmaking ability.
Last season Percy Harvin was a Pro Bowl kickoff return selection, but the Vikings were without him on Monday night. So the newly-acquired Lorenzo Booker stepped in and looked like a natural running behind some solid blocking from special teams coordinator Brian Murphy’s group. Booker had 4 returns for 123 yards – a 30.8-yard average – and he had a sensational return that went for a TD but was called back because of a blocking in the back penalty. Add in the extra yards lost from that penalty, plus the TD, and the kickoff returns numbers would’ve looked even better.
The Vikings didn’t do much scoring, so Ryan Longwell and Co. only had 2 kickoffs on the night. In the limited reps, though, they were solid. Kickoff teams love touchbacks, and Longwell delivered one against the Giants. On the only other kickoff, the Vikings yielded just a 19-yard return.
Again, not much to report on here, but Longwell was a perfect 1-for-1 on the night, hitting a 21-yard try in the 1st quarter to stake the Vikings to a 3-0 lead. For the season, Longwell has been steady, converting 14 of 15 FG tries with his only miss coming at blustery Soldier Field when he banged one off the uprights.
Longwell is one of the most consistent performers I’ve ever seen with the Vikings. He’s converted 85-of-89 (95.5%) FGs from inside 45 yards since joining the Vikings in 2006 and he is currently ranked 8th all-time in NFL history with a career FG percentage of 83.3%. Longwell owns the team record for the most consecutive FGs made under 40 yards with 35.
Tags: Chris Kluwe, Greg Camarillo, Lorenzo Booker, Ryan Longwell
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 10 Comments »