Not CFL related but a number of people seem to enjoy my articles so I figured I would toss this one here in case anyone is interested!
It’s still technically Week 1 of the NFL season! From the first field goal of the season to game-winning punt return touchdowns, let’s take a look at some of the biggest Special Teams plays in this week’s review;
Thursday Night Punter Showdown
Opening night of the NFL was nothing short of electric! An exciting 21-20 game where the Detroit Lions beat out the 2022 Super Bowl Champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. Punters Jak Fox (DET) and Tommy Townsend (KC) put on a punting showcase, accumulating a combined average of 47 yards per punt over 10 total attempts.
Tommy Townsend, who is in the final year of his contract with the Chiefs, had the better night, averaging 49.4 yards and 46.2 net yards per punt over 5 attempts. He was also able to keep 3 of those punts (60%) inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Townsend’s most impressive punt was this 53-yard punt that had an insane 5.5-second hang time. Tommy was also amusingly caught putting on a second helmet later in the game.
Jack Fox punted 5 times for an average of about 44.5 yards and 41.2 net yards per punt and also had 3 punts (60%) land inside the 20-yard line. The difference is that 2 of those punts were inside the 10-yard line. Fox’s best punt of the night was a 61-yarder that was only brought out to the KC 13-yard line. This game was a sweet way to start the 2023 season.
2nd Longest Punt Return of the Week
Jamal Agnew had an incredible game for the Jacksonville Jaguars this week returning 2 punts for 58 yards with his longest being an incredible 48-yard return. The Colts punter placed the ball exactly where he wanted it to go, between the numbers and the sideline at the 9-yard line, however, the coverage unit was caught sleeping as Agnew plucked the bouncing ball out of the air and broke to his right where he was able to then flip the field and return it 48 yards!
Longest Field Goal of the Week
It was a tied game, 17-17, in the Fourth Quarter when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Chase McLaughlin knew that he could be lining up for a potential game-winner. McLaughlin, who was just recently signed to a 1-year, $1.3M contract, trotted out to attempt a 57-yard winner with just 5 minutes left on the game clock. The snap was good and the hold was executed perfectly, now it was just time for Chase to do what he does best; Kick the ball. Chase took the kick and launched a line drive, straight down the middle and the kick was GOOD! Tampa Bay came out on top 20-17 and owe their first win of the season to McLaughlin, who went 2/2 on field goals and 2/2 on PATs in his debut for the Bucs.
The Kicking Games
Every year, if we’re lucky, there is a game where the only points scored a from field goals. Well, it was quite only field goals, but it was close enough when the Tennessee Titans took on the New Orleans Saints at home in NOLA. First of all, it must be noted that both teams have employed new kickers this year, with the Titans signing long-time Patriot, Nick Folk, and the Saints shipping off incumbent Will Lutz to Denver in favour of rookie Blake Grupe.
Nick Folk’s first field goal of the game came early in the First Quarter when the Titans were backed up on 4th & 18. Folk lined up for a 50-yard field goal and sent it straight down the middle where it looked like it would have been good from 55+ yards out. Nick would end up finishing the night 5/5 on field goals and accounted for all 15 of Tennessee’s points.
Blake Grupe, the rookie out of Notre Dame, was also a perfect 3/3 on field goals and 1/1 on PATs in his regular-season debut, helping the Saints beat out the Titans by a single point (16-15). Grupe’s longest kick was from 52 yards out and looked like a missile as it travelled through the Goalposts. Here is a highlight of Blake Grupe’s first NFL Field Goal from 26 yards out. If Blake keeps kicking like this, he’ll be sure to have plenty of Grupe-ies.
The Longest Punt Return of the Week
The New York Jets beat the Buffalo Bills 22-16 in spectacular fashion on Monday night. In a game that went into overtime thanks to a 50-yard field goal by Buffalo Kicker Tyler Bass. The Jets were able to force a 3 & Out and force Punter Sam Martin onto the field. Martin only managed to punt the ball 42 yards where rookie returner Xavier Gipson caught the ball at the New York 35-yard line. Gipson was then able to make 4 Buffalo players miss and break 65 yards upfield where it looked like he would be caught by Martin himself at the Buffalo 15-yard line. Unfortunately for Buffalo, Martin, with the game on the line, kind of whiffed the tackle and only managed to gently nudge Gipson as the returner broke to the right and ran into the endzone for a walk-off, punt return touchdown in overtime. What a finish!
As it always seems to happen, I have more content than time this week and I wanted to quickly add a few extra bullet points on players who I thought had interesting weeks. Here are Week 1’s Honourable Mentions;
- Jake Elliot, Kicker for the Philadelphia Eagles was 4/4 on field goals with a long of 56 yards and had another field goal from 50 yards out. Elliot did, however, miss 1 of his 2 PATs.
- Brett Maher, Canadian Kicker for the Los Angeles Rams, is looking to revitalize his career after being released from the Dallas Cowboys. Maher went 3/5 on field goals and 3/3 on PATs in his debut for the Rams, with his longest of the night coming from 54 yards out.
- Brandon Aubrey, USFL Star and Kicker for the Dallas Cowboys made his NFL debut and was 2/2 on field goal attempts this week and 4/5 on PATs. Aubrey managed to score 10 points by himself with his longest field goal coming from 38 yards out.
- Michael Dickson, Punter for the Seattle Seahawks, is leading the NFL with an average of 59 yards per punt (4 attempts).
- Johnny Hekker, Punter for the Carolina Panthers, is leading the NFL with a net average of 52.4 net yards per punt. Hekker had a very impressive night, punting 5 times in total with a gross average of 53.2 yards per punt.
- Daniel Whelan, XFL Star and Punter for the Green Bay Packers made his NFL debut and punted 5 times for a great average of 50 yards and 39 net yards per punt. He also had 1 punt remaining inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
- Juanyeh Thomas, a Dallas Cowboys Special Teamer, blocked a field goal attempt that was eventually recovered by his teammate Noah Igbinoghene and returned for his 1st Career Touchdown!
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