One of the seemingly forgotten battles going on this season is to improve a special teams that has been nothing short of awful for the last two seasons. With the Vikings looking better and inserting a number of new starters, it was expected that the special teams would show a similar improvement.
The grades on the first effort, however, were spotty with several ups and several downs. A review:
· Opening kickoff – Vikings return kick 22 yards to their own 20.
· First kickoff – Aaron Elling drops the kickoff into the end zone and Dante Hall returns it out to just the 18-yard line.
· Vikings first punt – Darren Bennett shanks a 29-yard punt that has 5 more yards deleted because the Vikings lined up in an illegal formation.
· Mewelde Moore returns a kickoff 45 yards and the Vikings open shop on the Chiefs 42-yard line.
· Travis Dorsch hits just a 30-yard punt, but the Vikings were on the Chiefs 37 and he drops the kick on the 7-yard line to pin the Chiefs deep.
· Paul Edinger drops a kickoff to the 12-yard line that is returned 24 yards to the 36, but a holding penalty brings the play back 10 yards.
· In his first attempt at a punt return, Keenan Howry fumbles the ball, but is able to fall on it before anyone else can get to it.
· Elling rips a 40-yard field goal that goes through the posts in a big hurry.
· As the half ends, Edinger kisses a 48-yard field goal inside the left upright to give the Vikings a 20-3 lead.
· Elling's opening kickoff comes down on the 3-yard line and is returned 23 yards.
· A holding penalty on the Vikings' first kick return of the half by Heath Farwell has the offense open the third quarter pinned on their own 9-yard line.
· Bennett hits a 41-yard punt that isn't returned, but the play is called back because of Farwell being ineligible downfield. The second punt goes just 34 yards and is returned 9 yards – a net loss of 21 yards of field position.
· Edinger kicks off to the 5-yard line and the kick is returned to the 25.
· Siaha Burley makes a weak fair-catch call and, after not hearing a whistle, takes off running and gains 19 yards. After complaints from the Chiefs sideline, the ball is returned to the spot where Burley touched the ball.
While there were some good moments – the two 40-plus field goals, the Moore kickoff return and the limiting of the Chiefs from breaking a long kick or punt return, there were still a lot of mistakes that could have been critical if the game had been closer. Maybe we should chart specials teams progress in baby steps, but the performance was neither great nor horrible. Considering the last few years, you would have to give a grade of a minor positive, but clearly a lot of work still needs to be done.
Special Teams Somewhat Average
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