Booming punts without wobble sounds like success. That's especially true when, pinned near the goal line, the kick goes nearly 70 yards in the air.
One play didn't define the Washington Redskins' 17-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field. This play, Landry's 69-yard punt return that doubled as the go-ahead touchdown did flip the script. That's because according to the punter, he tried flipping the field position.
"I think I left everyone hanging out to dry," Way said in the Redskins locker room following the season opening loss. "I tried to flip the field and I kicked it a little too far. Wrapped the spiral up a little tight and left Landry plenty of room to run."
Way's lengthy kick landed in Landry's hands in the middle of the field. No chance they punt landed near anyone else. The closest Redskin was 12 yards away and engaged with a Dolphin along the left sideline. Up the middle, nobody wearing burgundy and gold was within 20 yards. Landry ran that direction. No more than a hand touched him before he touched down in the end zone.
"I think I wrapped it up a little tight. My punt usually has a little wobble to it," Way said. "When it came down pretty quick...I had a feeling I gave them a little too much room. Sure enough, he came right up the gut and took it to the house. ...Landry is one unbelievable athlete and you can't give an athlete that much room.
Landry credited his blockers who "gave me a lot of space to make a play." Dolphins coach Joe Philbin noted, "There seemed to be a lot of space when [Landry] first caught the football, which is an indication that our [blockers] did a good job. He's good n the open field. He's a tough guy to get to the ground."
Regardless of any worthy praise for Miami's special teams, longtime Washington observers collectively shared a sense of here we again with the Redskins punt coverage. Change the coaches, swap out players, suspect performance remains a constant. The Redskins ranked last in opponent punt return coverage in 2013, allowing three touchdowns. Last year's middle of the pack finish felt Herculean.
Considering Washington lost special team standouts Adam Hayward and Niles Paul to season-ending injuries during training camp, a dip this season seemed possible. In this game, or at least on that play, the unit cratered. Nobody will remember the ho-hum nature of Way's two other punts.
"That's what special teams is," Way continued. "It flies under the radar until the big play happens. You watch kickoffs. You watch punts. Whenever the normal happens like a team returns (a kick) out the 20-yard line or a punt gets returned five or six yards, nobody ever thinks anything. Then when one gets housed, it's like 'There it is.'"
Way is correct. That's exactly how those at FedEx Field, at least the half not clad in aqua, felt watching Landry take it to the house.
They also watched the offense falter in the second half with a barrage of familiar penalties and drops.
They witnessed the defense, stout throughout, give ground through the air as the game progressed.
That's also why the special teams' gaffe stood out and not just because this mistake led to the game-winning score. At this point, the Redskins cannot afford any wobbles.