The importance of special teams was on full display in the AFC matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Good and The Bad: The Importance of Special Teams
Replacing former-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, Chase McLaughlin featured in his first game of the season last week against Jacksonville. He kicked off the second half, and that was his lone “snap”. This game was much more dependent on his foot.
McLaughlin hit a 43-yard try to push the lead past a field goal in the second quarter. But arguably more important, he hit a 51-yard bomb late in the third quarter to close the gap. McLaughlin had confidence when lining up his kicks, this is something the team has missed. Along with the two field goals he also hit both of his point after attempts. This may seem like something not worth mentioning, but in a game decided by three points, every one counts.
Chiefs’ kicker Matt Ammendola now knows this all too well. He left four points on the board. The first was on a missed point after attempt to tie the game at seven points. His poor performance was sandwiched by a missed 34-yard field goal which would have put the Chiefs up seven points with 8:41 on the game clock.
As it would turn out, these four points would have won the game, or at least forced the Colts to go for two on their game-winning touchdown drive.
The Indianapolis Colts need to Thank Their Special Teamers
Points on the board are very important, duh, and they are easy to point at when you are breaking down the game. But we all know there are things that don’t score points, but they can definitely lead to them.
Matt Haack, Kylen Granson, and the rest of the punt coverage unit made things happen from the beginning of the game and made plays when the team needed it most.
The Colts offense came out flat, starting the game with a three-and-out. The replacement punter, Haack was called to duty earlier than we all would like. He was able to blast the ball From the Indianapolis 39-yard line to Skyy Moore waiting at the Kansas City eight, that’s a 53-yard punt.
Rookie Moore must have had some trouble with the Sun (Thank you Irsay for opening the roof). Moore muffed the punt and completely lost track of the ball. This gave gunner/tight end Kylen Granson the chance to recover the football at the four-yard line.
This magnificent misfortune for the Chiefs is exactly what special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone draws up in the week of preparation. From the four-yard line the Colts offense was able to score on a one-yard pass to rookie tight end Jelani Woods, for his first NFL score.
Woods beat linebacker Darius Harris at the line of scrimmage to make himself wide open in the back of the endzone.
This touchdown would be the only one for the Colts until Matt Ryan found Woods yet again in the endzone for what would eventually be the game-winning score.
Special Teamers were the real MVPs
Ryan and Woods started and ended the game for the Colts, but McLaughlin and Haack kept the team alive when they struggled. Haack’s second punt, with the help of Granson, pinned the explosive KC offense on their own one-yard line. This led to the three-and-out, the Chiefs narrowly avoided a Grover Stewart safety.
Haack finished the day with 154 yards with an average of 51.3 yards per punt, per espn.com. At one point he and McLaughlin were the co-MVPs. This goes to show the importance of quality special teams play.
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