Having worked in the NFL for 15 years in the special teams realm, each week we will discuss the most impactful moments from in the kicking, punting or return game. Often special teams can be overlooked, but the critical nature of a reliable and effective special teams unit cannot be overstated.
This week, we will take a closer look into blocked punts, a game changing KOR and the clutch kick of the week.
Indy Joins the Block Party
One of the biggest games of the weekend came on our first Saturday game of the year. The Indianapolis Colts took on the New England Patriots in a battle of potential supremacy in the AFC. With the Patriots gaining no momentum in the first quarter and the Colts leading 7-0, the Mac Jones led offense left the field and yielded to the punt team. New England’s veteran special teams player, Cody Davis sets the protection against Indianapolis’ 8 man front. This protection sends the long snapper, Cardona to the right as the Colts show a 4 by 4 look with 4 down on their left side (protection right) and 3 down, 1 stand-up on the right side. The issue on this play comes to the slide side from the pressure produced on the Patriots’ right guard, Jakob Johnson. Johnson is going to execute a dual technique where he posts the inside rushing A gap threat with his inside arm while eventually working to his final blocking responsibility in the B gap. This technique helps the snapper in his blocking assignment as he has the most difficult job of not only snapping the ball but blocking the 4th rusher from that side. Johnson holds his “Post” position too long which allows Adams to penetrate and block the punt. The ball is blocked and rolls behind the line of scrimmage and allows EJ Speed to scoop and score for his second punt block for TD of the year.
Texans Kick Return for Touchdown
This weekend the Houston Texans produced a key momentum play to fuel their victory over the 2-11 Jacksonville Jaguars. The Texans started out strong as they scored on one of their first drives and ultimately held a 7-3 lead as the 1st quarter started to come to a close. With 1:42 left in the first quarter, following a Jacksonville field goal, the Jaguars kicked off to Tremon Smith of the Texans. Houston executes a sideline field return to Jacksonville’s right, opposite the direction of the kick. The kick return blocking responsibilities are to double the R4, the veteran ST player for Jacksonville, McCray, with the right rover and the right tackle. In addition, the Texans utilized their left rover to wrap around and kick out on the edge defender. The returner, Smith, makes an incredible individual effort to fight through 2-3 tackles, including a miss by #5 Ford. He is able to then beat the kicker to the far sideline and his speed allows for him to score a TD.
Kotwica’s Clutch Kick
Credit to Raiders Kicker Daniel Carlson
- In a hectic Monday Night Football game, with the Raiders and the Browns both vying for playoff spots, the game came down to the wire. The Raiders kicker, Daniel Carlson, who has been excellent all season (91.7% FG%, 7-8 40-49 yards and 5-6 50+) lined up for a 48-yard FG. With 3 seconds left on the clock, Carlson nails the kick to give the Raiders the win. This is Carlson’s second clutch kick of the season as he hit one in Overtime on Thanksgiving day to beat the Cowboys down in Dallas. In addition, this Raider win pushes the Browns down to the #8 seed in the wildcard hunt and keeps the Raiders playoff chances alive as well.