Vikings toying with dubious NFL history

The Vikings' problems on special teams have been chronicled here before, but after their latest mistake against Green Bay they are treading near dubious league records with seven regular-season games still to play.

The Vikings might be heading for the record books this season – but not for good reasons.

Much has been made over the futility of the Vikings special teams, but it would appear that their group ineptitude could be not just the worst in the league this season, but among the worst special teams coverage units of all time.

During his Monday press conference, head coach Brad Childress said the Vikings did 90 percent of their coverage correctly – apparently the other 10 percent included the 75-yard punt return for a touchdown.

"I think that you have to continue to refine the things that you are doing – A, kicking the ball where you want to kick it, and B, paying attention to detail in terms of getting off hold-ups and having some lane integrity and then coning down to the football the way that you should," Childress said. "On the (punt) return that went for a touchdown we had several guys who had opportunities. We always talk about getting down there and shooting your shot. What a vertical returner hopes you do is he hopes you start to pat your feet so he can move you outside and come vertical."

Through nine games, the Vikings have allowed six special teams touchdowns. That already ties a single-season NFL record set by the 1980 Detroit Lions and there is almost half a season remaining to break the tie. The four punt returns for touchdowns also ties a league record previously held by the 1959 New York Giants and the 1992 Atlanta Falcons.

The Vikings have also allowed 488 punt return yards on just 27 return opportunities – a brutal average of 18.1 yards per punt return. Opponents have returned 27 punts and called just six fair catches. In contrast, the Vikings have returned 23 punts for less than five yards per return and have called 15 fair catches. The last team to go a full season with a worse punt return average than that was the 1949 Packers. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the worst punt coverage team was the Cleveland Browns with 18.0 yards per return – a record so longstanding that Cleveland lost that Browns franchise to relocation and was able to secure another team through expansion afterward.

The special teams have been a problem all season, but now the Vikings are getting to the point of putting themselves in a dubious section of the all-time NFL record book – a section that is far from special.

TUESDAY NOTES

  • Through nine games, the Vikings have allowed opponents to score 25 touchdowns – eight on rushing plays, eight on passing plays and nine on returns – four punts returns, two on interceptions, two on fumble recoveries and one on a blocked punt return.

  • In the two games in which the Vikings recorded a safety, they won the games by scores of 12-10 and 28-27.

  • Former Viking great Carl Eller is expected to have his trial begin later this week for a fight Eller had with police who tried to pull him over for suspicion of drunk driving. Eller's attorney has asked that the case be dismissed because of the prosecutorial misconduct – claiming the prosecution hasn't preserved evidence or supplied the defense with video from the dashboard camera.

  • We've had another Todd Lowber sighting. The speedster signed by the Vikings last season and subsequently released when it was learned his football skills weren't up to speed, has signed with the Miami Dolphins to their practice squad. Lowber spent time in training camp with the Cowboys.

  • Robert Ferguson was silent following Sunday's game after being deactivated for the second straight week. There have been rumors that Ferguson is seeking his release from the team.

  • A federal judge ruled Monday that the NFL Players Association must pay retired players a total of $28.1 million for failing to properly market their images. The suit was filed by Hall of Fame cornerback Herb Adderly on behalf of 2,056 retired players, claiming the league failed to actively pursue marketing deals on their behalf with video games, trading cards and other sports memorabilia.

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