Everyone’s really excited to get a new head coach next year, even if we don’t have a clue who it would be.
That’s all well and good (I mean, we need something to be excited about, right?) but all this talk about uncreative play-calling, misusing Aaron Jones, and dreaming of brats instead of game-planning has distracted us from one of the big shortcomings and largest disappointments of the season.
Special Teams play.
Special Teams really doesn’t get the credit (or blame) it deserves. Fans don’t seem understand the impact of special teams or even realize that teams build the bottom of their roster with special teams in mind.
However, they’ve had a huge impact on the season. I mean, just look:
- Week 2 (Vikings): There’s a lot of talk about the terrible fluffing the passer call, but don’t forget that Mason Crsoby missed what would have been a game-winning field goal.
- Week 5 (Lions): Yes, we all complained about the terrible “fumble” on a punt return, the refs got it wrong, but you can still put some blame on special teams for not knowing to fair catch or get out of the way in that situation. The bigger gaffe was again in the kicking department where Mason Crosby missed five kicks… in a dome… with zero blocks… Leaving 13 points on the board in an 8 point loss on the road hurts.
- Week 8 (Rams): This was a classic back and forth battle where it looked like the last team with the ball would win – and the last team with the ball was the Packers… at least it was supposed to be. The Rams kicked a go-ahead field goal following a pathetic 25 yard punt by JK Scott (I could literally do better), which basically gave them the ball in field goal range. On the ensuing kickoff, instead of taking a knee in the end zone (after being told to take a knee in the end zone) to give Aaron Rodgers two minutes to run the two minute drill and kick a game-winning field goal, the kick returner brought it out… and fumbled. Maybe it was because he was p!ssed, maybe he never listens, maybe he forgot or didn’t know where he was or – you know what? It doesn’t matter why – the point is that special teams ruined the game in the closing minutes of what should have been an epic momentum-building upset.
- Week 11 (Seahawks): Lots of blame to go around on this one for sure, but a missed field goal in a three point loss stings, espeially since the miss gave the Seahawks nice field position, which lead to a field goal for them. There was also a 53 yard kick return called back for holding, taking (at least) an almost sure field goal (at worse, a quick touchdown drive) and backing them up so much the drive ended in a punt… in a three point game.
And don’t forget that the Patriots game started with the Packers allowing a huge kick return (also aided by a special teams penalty) that led to a quick 7-0 deficit and was marred by a roughing the kicker penalty late in a tie game that stole a possession in a game that was tied in the 4th quarter. That certainly was a big impact, but not as close to ensuring victory as the other FOUR games that special teams clunked it.
So let’s say that special teams play didn’t totally ruin the other four games (we won’t even bother imaging special teams coming up with a big play to turn a loss into a win) and the Packers found themselves at 8-2 with a tie-breaker over the Rams giving them the inside track on a first round bye and home field playoff game. Wouldn’t that be something?
It’s also worth noting that, in the Packers win against the Dolphins, they were burned by a fake punt, had a punt blocked, and fumbled a punt return. Imagine if those turned the outcome of that one… Luckily it didn’t, but it reinforces how bad special teams play has been even in wins
We can also put aside specifics and see where they rank aming the league as a team, too. *Shuffled through papers* Ah, here we go, the Packers are:
- 20th in yards per punt return
- 27th in yards per kick return
- 24th in field goal percentage
- 28th in extra point percentage
Just to be clear: those aren’t good rankings.
Nothing has really been good about special teams.
Sure there’s been some bright spots like the blocked punt touchdown against Minnesota and… uh, that’s all I got for bright spots. The multitude of negatives have far outweighed the very few positives this year and they are in the bottom third of the league in pretty much every important category.
But with all the hate and vitriol spent on McCarthy (warranted or not), it seems like no one has the energy to be upset about special teams.
Well they should. Maybe in addition to a new head coach, we need a new special teams coach.
They’ve taken us from a first round bye to what are probably insurmountable odds for a wild card.
There’s plenty of blame to go around for the results of 2018 and special teams deserves a healthy chunk of it.