Special teams is often the forgotten about phase of football. But it’s been hard to miss the Vikings special teams performance this season, especially with the Vikings being just one of eight teams with both a punt return and kickoff return TD and with rookie K Blair Walsh ready to set the team rookie scoring mark and already having set a team single-season touchback record.
In Sunday’s win over the Chicago Bears, a team known for having spectacular special teams play annually, it was the Vikings special teams group that continued to make a difference.
Walsh continued to execute well on kickoffs. He’s already proven to have a powerful leg with 41 touchbacks through 13 games. But now the Vikings are displaying some variety in their kickoff game plan by asking Walsh to put some hang time on his kickoffs so the coverage team can run down and tackle returners inside the 20. The Vikings executed that plan to perfection on Sunday, keeping Bears kickoff returner Eric Weems from crossing the 20-yardline on all 4 of his attempts.
Speaking of keeping teams inside the 20, Vikings P Chris Kluwe did just that twice on Sunday. In fact, his 2 punts inside the 20 were downed at the 5 and the 3. The Bears were forced to punt after 6 plays on one of those drives and then turned the ball over on downs on the other series. Kluwe had 7 punts on the afternoon, and 5 of them were returned by the ever-dangerous Devin Hester. But Hester was not dangerous on Sunday. He did surpass his season average for punt returns, but he wasn’t able to break off a long enough return to flip the field position, which he’s done so many times against the Vikings over the years.
When all was said and done, Chicago’s average drive start was their own 21, and their average drive start after a kickoff was their own 14. When Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer’s group puts up numbers like that, it puts Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams’ and Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave’s group in better position to succeed.
Tags: Blair Walsh, Chris Kluwe, Mike Priefer
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