Special teams is a phase of the game that’s often overlooked, but it remains as important to the outcome of games as defense and offense. And when you play the Chicago Bears, the importance of special teams is even more important. The Bears annually feature one of the finest special teams units in the NFL.
This year is no exception, as the Bears boast the 5th ranked punt coverage team and the 9th ranked kickoff coverage team. In terms of kickoff and punt return, the Bears have perhaps the most dangerous return man of all in Devin Hester. K Robbie Gould is perfect on FGs and PATs this year, and his kickoffs reach the end zone 92.0% of the time; he records touchbacks on 64.0% of his kickoffs, which ranks 6th in the NFL.
Against the Carolina Panthers in Week 4, the Bears allowed 547 yards of offense, but they still won the game. And they won the game largely on the strength of their special teams. Hester logged a 64-yard punt return for a TD and a 73-yard kickoff return, and then Julius Peppers blocked a FG late in the 3rd quarter.
The bad news is Chicago’s special teams group is good enough to lead the team to victory. The good news is the Vikings special teams group has been good this year, too. The Vikings rank 6th in kickoff coverage and 5th in both kickoff and punt return average. K Ryan Longwell has been steady and P Chris Kluwe has 7 punts downed inside the 20, 7 punts fair caught and just 1 touchback.
On Thursday, Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer had candid assessments of a few important aspects of his special teams group. Here’s what he had to say…
On kickoff coverage
“I think our kickoff covering unit has been outstanding all year. Ryan’s done a great job with our kickoffs. He’s kept people off balance a little bit between the left, right and middle, and the hang time has been really good. Guys are focused. We’ve had a couple guys switch in and out, and even the backups have done a nice job.”
On punt coverage
“Punt coverage was not good for a couple weeks. Detroit and Kansas City were not good and this last week was very good. Chris punted the ball well. Patrick Peterson is a very dangerous returner, but Chris punted the ball very effectively and very well and our guys covered and did a good job forcing fair catches and that’s what you’re looking for.”
Tags: Chris Kluwe, Mike Priefer, Ryan Longwell
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