Sitting at 1-6 it’s difficult to justify “aggressive” as the adjective to describe the components of the team. But if you’ve paid attention to the Vikings special teams group this season and the two seasons prior, it’s difficult to use any other word besides “aggressive” to describe what you’ve seen.
In 2012, for example, the Vikings allowed zero touchdowns on the season while ranking third in the NFC with an opponent average drive start of the 20.8 yardline. Also, the Vikings kickoff return unit ranked second in the NFL with a 24.6 average drive start following kickoffs. On top of all that, rookie kicker
The Vikings special teams group is also performing well in 2013, with three return touchdowns to their credit already. Rookie
Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said last week while meeting with reporters that, in Minnesota, special teams are considered a weapon. And he’s right. Since Priefer arrived in Minnesota prior to the 2011 season, the Vikings are tied with Denver and Tennessee for the most kickoff return and punt return touchdowns with six (four kickoff, two punt).
As impassioned as Priefer can be about being aggressive and scoring points on special teams, he’s equally or even more insistent that his group doesn’t allow points to be scored against them on special teams. He refers to those scores as neutralizers because any advantage his group had gained with a return score of its own is neutralized if the opponent finds a way to score on the Vikings.
“It’s one of those situations where when you’re a special teams coach and a special teams player, we have to keep emphasizing – me coaching and them playing – you have to be consistent. You have to do it play after play after play after play. If you have one great play, three average plays and one poor play, they’re just as good as you are.”
A special teams group that has been nearly as good as the Vikings this season is actually the Vikings opponent this Sunday – the Cowboys. With Dwayne Harris handling return duties, the Cowboys rank second in the NFL (behind the Vikings) in kickoff return average (31.2 yards) and third in the NFL (behind the Vikings and Bears) in average drive start after a kickoff (24.0 yardline). Also, Harris has 15 punt returns this season and is averaging 15.8 yards per try.
Needless to say, the matchup between the Vikings and Cowboys special teams group will be a fun one to watch on Sunday.