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Wednesday, January 4, 2012
NFL stats show it really was the Year of the Punter

Shane Lechler
Oakland Raiders punter Shane Lechler booted an 80-yard punt this season.

Rodgers? Brees? Brady? Old news.

Yes, this might have been the Year of the Passer. But let's not forget: 2011 was the Year of the Punter, too.

As the folks over at ESPN Stats & Info point out in "Feets of Strength" (not to be confused with Festivus' Feats of Strength), the NFL's leadfoots broke numerous records this year, including:

• Most gross punting yards (112,03)

• Highest gross punting average (45.0)

• Highest net punting average (38.7)

• Most punters averaging 50+ gross yards (3)

And although Sammy Baugh's record 51.4 per-punt average wasn't bested, a record two players topped the 50-per-kick mark: San Francisco's Andy Lee (50.9) and Oakland's Shane Lechler (50.8). Lee also posted the third best single-game punting average (59.6, in Week 1), while Lechler booted an 80-yarder … over the head of a certain Devin Hester (and threw a touchdown pass against the Browns).

Must be something about that Bay Area Gatorade.

Oh, but let's not forget these other noteworthy happenings during the Year of the Punter:

• The Brothers Colquitt, Britton (Broncos) and Dustin (Chiefs), might have been the league's most significant set of siblings, with both placing in the top 10 in net average and Britton entertaining the crowd with punts before weekly Tebow Time. Peyton and Eli who?

• New England's punter retained his award for Most Intergalactic Name.

• Miami's Brandon Fields was third in the NFL in punting average, and a local columnist named him early season Team MVP! Woo-hoo!

• New Orleans' Thomas Morstead launched a YouTube Pro Bowl campaign, promising to do a drop-kick if he landed in Hawaii. And he still lost out to Lee!

• Philadelphia rookie Chas Henry chose the most appropriate number ever (or stole it from kicker Alex Henery).

• Speaking of numbers, Minnesota's Chris Kluwe -- who threw down (verbally) with non-punters during the lockout -- created one of 2011's most entertaining sagas after agreeing to sell No. 5 to Donovan McNabb.

The Year of the Punter, indeed.