BGA: Special Teams – All good things come to an end

After opening the season by making all 23 of his field goal attempts, Nick Folk had to miss eventually. And when it came, you knew it would be at a really bad time.

Folk’s kick looked to be right down the middle, but then got swept wide right by a huge gust of wind. At the time, the game was scoreless and the Jets were in control of clock and field position, but this gave Buffalo the ball back just shy of their 40-yard line. Although they were only able to generate one first down on the drive, this enabled them to pin the Jets inside their 10-yard line, from where they ran the ball three times and punted. Now in control of the field position battle, the Bills took a 3-0 lead and from there the Douzable penalty/Milliner losing sight of the ball/Winters giving up strip sack trifecta bit them hard.

It’s interesting that Folk’s kick took such a sharp right turn there, almost as though Dick Dastardly was controlling it with a remote device or something. Dan Carpenter’s go-ahead field goal in the same direction was straight and true. As we’ve all observed, Folk’s kicks do have a strange tendency to veer right and then come back to the left and I wonder if this makes them more susceptible to being caught by the wind.

In an effort to reverse-jinx Folk into not falling into a slump, I should remind you all of these statistics he had entering the season (from Bent and Bassett’s Season Preview):

[T]here’s been a worrying trend since the end of the 2008 season. Since then, he has only missed four of 49 field goals in weeks one to seven, but has missed 27 of 70 (almost 40%) in week eight or after. Prior to his hip surgery, this wasn’t an issue – he made all 13 field goal attempts after week seven in 2008. The cold weather could be a factor – over the last three years, he has made 97% of his field goals when the temperature was 60 degrees or above, but only 65% when it is colder than that.

As I said, it did seem to be a perfectly good kick that just got caught in the wind. I’m really hoping that his reduced workload is the main thing you can attribute his success so far to, because that would mean it’s hopefully sustainable this time.

In contrast to Folk, punter Ryan Quigley actually used the wind to his advantage with a 47.3 yard gross average. However, he did put one in the end zone and there was a 12-yard punt return that included four missed tackles.

Konrad Reuland is arguably lucky to still have his roster spot. Although he has hardly featured on offense all year, even with Kellen Winslow suspended and Jeff Cumberland missing time through injuries, he was retained as a fourth tight end, apparently because of his special teams blocking. Therefore, it wasn’t encouraging to see him miss a block on the opening kickoff, leading to Josh Cribbs getting stuffed at the 15. He did bounce back with a better block on a good Cribbs return later on, though and also made one tackle.

Cribbs also had a nice punt return and continues to be a major upgrade over anything the Jets had before his arrival. He drew two penalties as well, but did muff a kick in the end zone that he potentially could have returned.

Darrin Walls and Leger Douzable each committed special teams penalties, with Douzable’s in particular being extremely costly. Isaiah Trufant drew a penalty, Ellis Lankster blew up a couple of returns and Greg Salas got some pressure on the punter after he dropped the snap, leading to a two-yard punt.

Up next…a final wrap up, with my conclusions and links to each section.