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NFL 2014: Special Teams Game-Changers
A big play on special teams can help shift the momentum of a game. Through Week 2 of the 2014 season, teams that have scored a touchdown on special teams are undefeated (4-0).
This season marks the first since 1992 with a kickoff-return touchdown, punt-return touchdown, blocked punt-touchdown and blocked field goal-touchdown in the first two weeks.
"Every coach preaches that special teams are one-third of the game," says former NFL offensive lineman and current NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger. "When you pay it off with either a blocked field goal for a touchdown or a kick return for a touchdown, it verifies exactly what every coach has been preaching to their team each and every day about the importance of special teams."
In Week 2, two AFC teams capitalized on special teams plays that resulted in crucial touchdowns.
With the Buffalo Bills holding a 9-3 lead in the third quarter of the their home opener against the AFC East rival Miami Dolphins, running back C.J. Spiller scored the game's first touchdown on a 102-yard kickoff return. Buffalo went on to win by a score of 29-10 and improved to 2-0.
Spiller, who also had a 47-yard run in the third quarter that helped set up another Buffalo touchdown, became the first NFL player with a 100-yard kickoff-return touchdown and 45+ yard run in the same game since 1973 (Houston Oilers running back BOB GRESHAM, September 23, 1973).
"I think he's very dangerous back there (as a returner)," says Bills head coach Doug Marrone of Spiller, who also had a 95-yard kickoff-return touchdown as a rookie in 2010. "That's how we're going to have to win; by playing well in all three phases. Special teams, really for the last two weeks, have done a heck of a job."
Trailing the New England Patriots 17-7 in the waning moments of the first half, Minnesota lined up for a 48-yard field-goal attempt that would have brought the Vikings within seven points. But defensive end CHANDLER JONES blocked the kick and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown to give the Patriots a 24-7 lead heading into halftime en route to a 30-7 win, improving to 1-1.
"Chandler really made a good play because he flattened down the line of scrimmage," says New England's BILL BELICHICK, who on Sunday became the sixth NFL head coach to win 200 regular-season games. "He's obviously a really athletic guy. He has good length and was able to get up and then made a real good play after that to scoop and score and turned it into really a 10-point play -- three off the board and gave us a chance to pick up seven. That was obviously a huge play in the game."
Since realignment in 2002, NFL teams have a 244-157 (.608) record in games in which they scored a return touchdown on a kickoff, punt, blocked punt or blocked field goal.
"I think those kinds of touchdowns gives the entire team a lift," says Baldinger. "When you can take the pressure off of your defense or get back into a game or open up a game because of a special teams turnover, it just adds momentum. It's harder for an opponent to overcome when you get that."
NFL teams with the most combined kick-return and blocked kick/punt-return touchdowns since 2002:
|Team||Special Teams TDs|
|New York Jets||23|
|Kansas City Chiefs||19|
|New England Patriots||16|
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