Personnel Analysis: Special Teams (Week #5)

Devin Hester put the Vikings in the hole early on with an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown, but the special teams held up there end of things the rest of the way in Minnesota's 34-31 victory against the Bears. Here's the analysis:

PK Ryan Longwell hit the game-winner with an amazing 55-yard field goal as time expired.  The kick was the longest of his career, on the soggy turf at Soldier Field, against a team known for blocking kicks.  Longwell’s offseason regimen has clearly improved his leg strength this season.  Longwell’s other field goal wasn’t exactly a gimme either, as he hit from 48 yards out.  He was also perfect on four extra point attempts.  His opening kickoff came down at the 5-yard line.  After that he squibbed his kickoffs.

Apparently Chris Kluwe was supposed to kick the ball out of bounds when punting.  His first punt was into the endzone for a touchback.  Then he made the mistake of booming one 54 yards toward the sidelines but not out of bounds.  Unfortunately, Hester fielded it at the Bears’ 11-yard-line and took it to the house.  From there, Kluwe was able to pin the Bears inside their 20 or at least keep Hester on the sidelines.  He finished with a 42.3-yard gross average.  We don’t want to discuss the net.  He had 2 touchbacks and 3 inside the 20.

Adrian Peterson averaged 32.0 yards on 4 kickoff returns, including a 53-yard runback to set up the game-winning field goal.  Troy Williamson also had one nice return for 30 yards.  The other “kickoff” was an onside kick recovered by safety Darren Sharper.

On punt returns, Bobby Wade did not ever have a legitimate chance as he was forced to fair catch all four punts he fielded.

The Vikings did a nice job on kickoff coverage to open the game, limiting Hester to just 18 yards, but they tried to steer clear of him the rest of the afternoon.  The result was a modest 20.0 average return, but the Bears starting field position on kickoffs was the 23-, 33-, 30-, 35-, 42- and 46-yard line.

Hester averaged only 6.3 on his ‘other’ three punt returns.  Cornerback Antoine Winfield was the team leader on special teams with 2 tackles.  Heath Farwell, Vinny Ciurciu, Charles Gordon and Mike Doss also recorded tackles on special teams.


It’s hard to evaluate the kick coverage in a game when you’re trying to avoid the opponents’ primary return man, but when he scored a touchdown I guess you’d have to say there’s room for improvement.  The game-winner by Longwell was amazing, though.

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