Special teams play has been critical this season and there are more numbers and theories to document and explain this development. The Chargers lost four games to kicking game issues and a number of other games have turned on this critical aspect of the NFL.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated weighed in on this issue recently and highlighted five games where special teams play made a difference. King’s article notes that Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News, who annually ranks special teams units, found that, through Week Seven last season there were 38 “explosive plays” on special teams. These are either touchdown returns, blocks and turnovers. This year, through the same timeframe, there have been 63!
Previously, Longsnap.com described the rule change that prevents a player from lining up over the snapper. This has creating some blocking issues and led to larger gaps in the middle of the field, such as the recent play in which Browns punter, Reggie Hodges, executed a fake punt in which he ran for 68 yards. This change, combined with the elimination of the four player wedge blocking on kicks, may be a key factor in the big special teams plays.