Thursday, November 5, 2009
Patriots can stop returns before they beGinn
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Perhaps for the first time since a Gainesville Sun reporter queried Urban Meyer in January 2007, somebody asked a concerned football coach how to neutralize Ted Ginn.
Before a few days ago, the subject was moot.
But Ginn, showing flashes from his Ohio State days, returned back-to-back kickoffs for touchdowns Sunday against the New York Jets. Those gargantuan plays propelled the Miami Dolphins to victory despite gaining 104 yards from scrimmage.
That display has made Ginn a renewed issue of concern. The first question at New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick's news conference Wednesday was about stopping Ginn.
The best way to neutralize a Ginn kickoff return?
Deny him the opportunity.
That's what Belichick's close friend, Meyer, would advise. The Florida Gators coach made the mistake of kicking to Ginn to open the BCS title game nearly three years ago. Ginn returned it 93 yards for a touchdown, the last kickoff he took the distance before Sunday -- even though it's a big part of what he was drafted for.
Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski ranks second in the NFL with 13 touchbacks.
"That's really the best coverage you can have, kicking it out of the end zone," Belichick said.
But trying to boom it off the tee comes with a degree of risk. Patriot opponents are averaging 23.5 yards a return, tied for 21st.
"The flip side of that is when you kick it deep, then that gives them the best opportunity to set up the timing on the return as opposed to the ball coming down on the 10, the 15, the 8, the goal line," Belichick said. "Ideally, you get that kick to the goal line and that gives the offense -- the return team -- the best opportunity to get all timed up the way they work on it.
"But the good kick, it keeps you from having to cover it, too. When it's a touchback, it's good. When it's not, then it creates an opportunity for the return team to get their [return] timed up.
"They still have to block us. We still have to get down there and make the play. But the timing element of it is probably the best you can hope for if you are a return team."