The Importance of Special Teams

Once again this season, special teams have played a key role in the outcome of games.  Poor special teams efforts have plagued the Chargers and Dolphins in recent weeks and other teams, such as the Saints and Raiders, lost early season games due to missed short field goals.

The football stat gurus at Football Outsiders have come up with a new statistic to measure poor special teams play through a number called Special Teams Disasters.  The number includes blocked punts, touchdowns allowed on punt returns and touchdowns alliowed on kickoff returns.  In the first five weeks of the season, the Chargers had 6 STDs.

Football Outsiders has also developed measurements for some positive special teams stats in the form of return tackles (the number of tackles and assists made on kick and punt returns), return stops (when a tackle is made on a return for less than an average return based on the length of the kick or punt and where the returner catches the ball) and return saves (tackles or assists a player makes on a kickoff past the 50-yard line or any punt return of more than 20 yards).

The leaders in each of the categories from 2005-2009 were Brendon Ayanbadejo (78 return tackles), Ayanbadejo (60 return stops) and the leader in return saves with eight was Jets punter Steve Weatherford.

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