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Thursday, October 11, 2012
On passing up a touchback

By Paul Kuharsky

Return men are bringing too many kickoffs out of the end zone.

That gut feeling had me asking ESPN Stats and Info to see if my theory was true. I feel like I see a disproportionate amount of drives starting at the 17- or 12-yard line, and it seems like teams are holding free yardage giveaways.

League-wise, the number heading into Thursday night is 59.6 percent. That is 59.6 percent of kickoffs into the end zone that are being brought out are getting returned to beyond the 20 yards line, per Jason Starrett of our stats department.

So it’s not necessarily a bad risk.

Though we don’t know how often the ones short of the 20 are cut down inside the 5 or how often the ones advanced beyond the 20 are returned for touchdowns. Here is how teams in the AFC South are doing:

So only the Indianapolis Colts are getting kickoffs past the 20-yard line more than half the time.

But if the Tennessee Titans didn’t try it as often as they did, then they may have missed out on Darius Reynaud's 105-yard kickoff return touchdown against the Detroit Lions.

How many times are you willing to land short of the 20 in exchange for a play like that? What's the equation?