September 22, 2020

Let’s give some love to special teams

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This archived article was written by: David Osborne Jr.

Offense sells tickets, defense wins championships and special teams help both tremendously, but never get any love. Sure they are only on the field for kickoffs, punts and field goals, but those can have a tremendous effect on the game. So why don’t we give them more love when they are the group that makes everything possible for the offense and defense?
Is it simply because most of the time they aren’t the most glamorous plays and usually run by the second-team players? In all reality the offense and defense count on the special teams throughout the entirety of the game. For many teams the special teams can be the difference between winning and losing a game.
Think specifically about the field goal kicker. The game is ticking down to its final seconds and after a drive lead by the offense, the coach calls his number to go kick the ball from 50 yards. If he makes it, everybody praises the coach for making the decision to kick the ball and the quarterback for leading the drive to get the team in a position to kick the game-winning field goal. But if the kicker misses, it is his fault the team lost and more than likely he has kicked himself out of a job?
Then there is the punter, the one player on the team that can flip field position. He can pin the opposing offense inside their own 20-yard-line. While the art of the “coffin-corner,” kicking the ball and having if bounce out of bounds as close to the goal-line as possible has been replaced by trying to let the gunners get down the field and stop the ball at the goal-line, the punter has stayed ever important. Not only does he help the defense by making the opposing offense face a long field, but he also helps the offense by hopefully creating good field position for them.
The University of Utah Utes all season have relied on punter Tom Hackett, the Australian born rugby-style kicker to help out the offense and the defense. While the Utes offense has been sort of stagnant, Hackett averages 46.8 yards per punt and is a finalist for the Ray Guy Award (nation’s top punter). Those punts have allowed the defense to attack the offense, creating turnovers and better field position for their offense.
And who can forget about the kick/punt returners? Is there a more exciting and explosive play? The art of watching the perfect wall form and the blocking down field, the cut that was timed perfectly and a player taking the ball to score. This simple play can turn the tide of the game, bring energy and life to one team and deflate the hearts of the other.
Remember the Super Bowl between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens? Opening the second half, wide receiver Torrey Smith took the kickoff from his own end zone 106 yards for a touchdown, giving the Baltimore Ravens a commanding lead. Sure, the 49ers came back in the game, although they ultimately lost, but the feeling after that return was one of defeat for San Francisco.
Of course there are more positions on special teams that have a huge impact like the gunners, the long-snapper, blockers and more. Most recently the Minnesota Vikings used their special teams in their game on Nov. 30, blocked two punts by the Carolina Panthers and returned both blocks for touchdowns. Head coach of the Vikings, Mike Zimmer, said, “I don’t know about demoralizing the other team, but I do know that when you score on defense or you score on special teams, your odds of winning a football game go way up,” as told to the Associated Press.
Simply put, special teams deserve a lot more credit and love because they are the backbone of the team and create all the scoring opportunities for the offense and defense.

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