Head coach Brad Childress and special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro pulled one out of the hat with an onside kick after scoring on their opening possession. Unfortunately, the offense was unable to make anything of it. A pair of bad decisions in the return game also hurt mightily. Otherwise, a long return (27 yards) in the punting game was the only other blemish on the special teams this week.
Punter Chris Kluwe had another strong performance statistically, averaging 48.0 gross on six punts. He also dropped one inside the 20 and would have had another, except that linebacker Ben Leber inadvertently knocked the ball into the end zone as he failed to down it. However, the one long return was the result of an uncharacteristically low, line-drive punt by Kluwe, who ended up making the tackle on the play. Kluwe also took one for the team on a cheap shot blindside hit by Eagles’ linebacker Matt McCoy that resulted in a 15-yard penalty.
Kicker Ryan Longwell converted on all his attempts – one extra point and field goals of 39, 32 and 48 yards. His kickoffs were so-so, coming down at the 9, 5, 5 and 13-yard lines, but the coverage was good. He also executed the onside kick superbly with linebacker Heath Farwell covering the ball.
Rookie Adrian Peterson looked like a rookie on kickoff returns. He fielded the second-half kickoff and stepped out of bounds at the 1-yard line to sabotage any chance at field position. He struggled with judgment on the other kickoff into the opposite corner and was held to just 11 yards on that return.
Troy Williamson averaged 24.8 on four kickoff returns and was close to breaking one of them but was unable to break an ankle tackle. Williamson is an all-or-nothing return guy who has the speed to take it the distance if he ever hit a seam just right, but his vision, tackle-breaking ability and creativity are only average.
Bobby Wade took more chances this week and averaged 10.5 on four returns. However, he should not have fielded the ball at his own 1-yard line with few precious seconds still on the clock late in the game. The team needed time much more than the 8 yards he gained on the return.
The biggest flaw this week was with the return game, where poor judgment hurt the team at least three times. The coaches, however, seem intent on sticking with Wade on punt returns and “mixing it up” on kickoff returns.