Loss Hides The Shine On Special Teams’ Stars

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 17, 2010 – 9:22 am

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…

Punt/Punt Coverage
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.

Punt Return
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.

Kickoff Return
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.

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Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 10 Comments »

10 Responses to “Loss Hides The Shine On Special Teams’ Stars”

  1. By Ricefield on Dec 17, 2010 | Reply

    Our special teams has played well all season. I think they only had one bad game and I think that was in Chicago on the sloppy field (but I could be wrong about that part).

    Anyway, the point is, yeah I agree our special teams played well.

  2. By Ham on Dec 17, 2010 | Reply

    Lorenzo Booker reminds me of a Darren Sproles.

  3. By mr smiff on Dec 17, 2010 | Reply

    Maybe we can get McNabb. The Deadskins are going to bench him for the rest of the season.

  4. By Arrow86 on Dec 17, 2010 | Reply

    Ham: Isn’t sproles a person of rather small stature? Booker looks like he has some girth to him. He did an excellent job returning the kicks. Not enough time to get a grasp of the offense, but he did make a positive contribution on very short notice. Mc Nabb could help for the bridge to the Joe Webb era.

  5. By Ham on Dec 17, 2010 | Reply

    Lorenzo Booker reminds me of LeSean McCoy.

  6. By Arrow86 on Dec 17, 2010 | Reply

    Ham: As long as he doesn’t remind us of Ontario “Whizinator” Smith, we’ll both be thrilled!!!!

  7. By Ham on Dec 18, 2010 | Reply

    Lorenzo Booker reminds me of Ontario “Whizinator” Smith.

  8. By Frederick Jones on Dec 18, 2010 | Reply

    Ontario “Whizinator” Smith is an example of a great talent, who at that time in his life, had poor character.

    That also explains what happened to Randy Moss, and 100s of other guys.

    In the NFL it’s not just talent, you also have to be of good character to succeed.

    Marcus Dupree, Ryan Leaf, etc. —great talent. For lack of a better word…lack of character.

  9. By Arrow86 on Dec 18, 2010 | Reply

    Frederick: Great point. Keep us thinking out here!

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