Depth making a difference for return game

December, 12, 2013
12/12/13
3:35
PM ET
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The NFL single-season team record for combined kickoff and punt return touchdowns is six, a goal that may be out of reach this year for the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have four such touchdowns.

But after scoring twice in last week's win over the Washington Redskins, the Chiefs haven't given up hope.

"Once you score, it kind of feeds off itself," special-teams coordinator Dave Toub said. "The guys really start buying in and they want to get 'em into the end zone. We have three guys that can do it and ... it's really paying off for us right now."

Toub was also the kicking game coach for the team that set the six-touchdown record, the 2007 Chicago Bears. That team got its six TDs (four punts, two kickoffs) from one player, Devin Hester.

The Chiefs go three-deep with Quintin Demps and Knile Davis on kickoffs and Dexter McCluster returning punts. Demps and Davis each have one touchdown return this season, McCluster two.

Having a pair of kickoff returners is an advantage for the Chiefs beyond just depth in case of an injury. Davis returned a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown two weeks against the Denver Broncos. Demps brought one back 95 yards for a score last week against the Redskins.

"It creates problems for the other team," Toub said. "They have different styles. Quintin likes to press the edges and look for the cutbacks. Knile can probably do that, too, but he can hit it right up the field and he runs so hard and so strong with his knees up, running back-style, that he's really hard to tackle that way."

The Chiefs this year reclaimed McCluster off the punt return scrap heap. He scored a touchdown on a return in his first NFL game in 2010 but the Chiefs didn't use him much as a returner the past couple of seasons.

"I saw a guy who was dynamic," Toub said. "I saw the ability to make people miss. They didn't use him. I think they were trying to keep him fresh or protect him for the offense. I'm happy that Andy allows him to [return punts]."

The Chiefs face the Raiders on Sunday in Oakland. The Raiders have allowed one punt return for a touchdown this season and are near the bottom of the league in punt return average allowed.

Kickoff returns could be more problematic. More than 64 percent of Sebastian Janikowski's kickoffs have ended in touchbacks for Oakland this season.

But, as Davis showed with his long kickoff return against the Broncos, the Chiefs aren't afraid to bring out a kick from deep in the end zone.

"We'll bring 'em out," Toub said. "We like to create. We want to put pressure on the kickoff [coverage] team. Our confidence is high right now."

Adam Teicher

ESPN Kansas City Chiefs reporter

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