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Special Teams Source of Second-Half Surge vs. Redskins

Posted Nov 12, 2013

After trailing 24-14 at halftime last week against the Washington Redskins, the Vikings put together a fierce comeback in the second half, with the offense putting 20 points on the board and the defense holding the Redskins to just three points in the final two quarters.

As much a source of the second-half surge, though, was the Vikings special teams performance. In fact, special teams was solid for the entire game, which kept the Vikings within striking range in the first half and set the stage for the comeback in the second half.

Vikings

In the first half, the Vikings special teams made an impact by handling very well Washington’s attempt to neutralize Cordarrelle Patterson on kickoff returns. Redskins kicker Kai Forbath used a series of pooch and squib kicks to keep the ball out of Patterson’s hands. But the combination of Toby Gerhart, AJ Jefferson and Joe Webb countered that strategy effectively, with the trio combining for 61 yards on four returns. This was the Vikings field position following the four short kickoffs that weren’t handled by Patterson: Minnesota 28, Minnesota 35, Minnesota 27, Minnesota 26. For the game, the Vikings average field position following a kickoff was the Minnesota 28.

In the second half, a combination of Marcus Sherels on punt return and the field goal team combined to help the Vikings build and pad a lead that resulted in victory. The Vikings forced three consecutive punts after giving up an early 3rd quarter field goal, and the starting field positions after those three punts were as follows: Washington 41, Midfield, Minnesota 38. On the first punt, Sherels darted through the Redskins coverage team for a 20-yard return and a 15-yard penalty against Washington served as a bonus. The second punt was a 33-yard shank and the third punt was returned 14 yards by Sherels. The Vikings scored 13 points off of those drives starts, with the final three points coming via a 40-yard field goal by Walsh that gave the Vikings a seven-point lead. Speaking of Walsh, he was perfect on the night kicking the ball with two field goals and four extra points, and he added four touchbacks to boot.

In total, there were 28 special teams snaps in the game and the Vikings won, according to my unofficial count and analysis, 17 of those snaps. If you take scoring plays out of the mix, there were 17 special teams snaps, and the Vikings won 11 of those, according to my analysis.

So, yes, credit goes to the Vikings defense for coming alive in the second half and to the offense for scoring 20 points. But let’s not forget about the often-forgotten-about phase of the game – special teams. For the Vikings, this phase of the game set the stage for a sensational second-half surge on Thursday night that netted the team its second win of the season.