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.