Thursday, September 15, 2011
Chasing more return touchdowns in Week 2
By Mike Sando
There were three kickoff returns of 103 yards or longer in 256 NFL games last season.
There were two during 16 games in Week 1 this season, plus Ted Ginn Jr.'s 102-yarder for the San Francisco 49ers.
We're seeing far more touchbacks since the NFL moved kickoffs from the 30- to 35-yard line. That was predictable. The kickoffs that get returned for touchdowns will also be longer, but will there be more total return touchdowns despite far fewer return opportunities overall?
There were more of them in Week 1. Consider:
- Twenty-three of 2,033 kickoff returns went for touchdowns last season. That is 1.1 percent.
- Three of 80 went for touchdowns in Week 1. That is 3.3 percent.
One week does not make a trend, but the results from Week 1 were interesting. Randall Cobb, Percy Harvin and Ginn accounted for the three kickoff-return touchdowns.
The chart breaks down kickoff return stats for all but onside kicks. The touchback percentage jumped to the highest since at least the 1970 merger, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
A quick look at the returners NFC West teams are facing in Week 2:
- Seattle at Pittsburgh: The Steelers' Antonio Brown averaged 34.3 yards on his three returns against Baltimore in Week 1, with a long return of 41 yards. The Steelers allowed one return for 37 yards. Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham has one touchback on two kickoffs.
- St. Louis at New York Giants: The Giants' Devin Thomas had one return for 21 yards. D.J. Ware recovered another kickoff for no gain when Thomas let one get past him, nearly resulting in a Redskins recovery. Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes has one touchback on three kickoffs.
- Arizona at Washington: The Giants' Brandon Banks had two returns for 24 yards. The Redskins allowed two returns totaling 21 yards. Redskins kicker Graham Gano has three touchbacks on five kickoffs.
- San Francisco vs. Dallas: The Cowboys' John Phillips had one return for 16 yards. Teammate DeMarco Murray had one return for 14 yards. The Cowboys allowed four returns for 78 yards, with a long of 27 yards. Cowboys kicker David Buehler has one touchback on five kickoffs.
The NFC West has multiple dynamic returners, but the Seahawks' Leon Washington is coming off a rough week, and the Cardinals' LaRod Stephens-Howling has a hand injury. Ginn will be facing a Cowboys coverage team that allowed 19.5 yards per kick return on four returns to the New York Jets.