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singersp
11-11-2005, 01:49 PM
From the San Jose Mercury News;

Special teams looming as special unit for Vikings

Posted on Thu, Nov. 10, 2005
BY DON SEEHOLZER

Knight Ridder Newspapers

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Special teams had been a problem area for the Vikings since Mike Tice became the full-time head coach in 2002, and this season was expected to be no exception. Instead, they have emerged as the team's strongest units.

Go figure.

With everything else that has gone wrong this season, while the offense and defense have struggled to find an identity, special-teams coordinator Rusty Tillman's troops have almost always held up their end.

In fact, they have had just one bad game: the 28-3 loss at Chicago in which Paul Edinger missed a 52-yard field-goal attempt, had a 32-yard try blocked and lined up for a 36-yarder that never got off the ground after holder Brad Johnson bobbled the snap.

Oh, yeah, the Vikings also allowed a 49-yard punt return by Bobby Wade in that game to set up a Bears touchdown. Other than that, the special teams have lived up to their name and then some.

Here's a position-by-position look at the surprise success story within the Vikings' so-far disappointing season.

KICKER

If Edinger never makes another kick, he'll still have a place in Vikings history, thanks to the 56-yard field goal as time expired that beat Green Bay.

In addition to being a franchise record, the kick was a career long for Edinger. He has made 13 of 18 field-goal tries with the Vikings after connecting on a career-low 62.5 percent of his attempts during his final season with Chicago.

Except for the aforementioned one bad game against the Bears, Edinger has been a money kicker, including a 53-yard field goal against Tampa Bay that ranks as the third longest in Vikings history. His kickoffs have been more than adequate.

Not bad for a guy who wasn't assured a starting job until Aaron Elling suffered a hip injury during pregame warm-ups for the next-to-last exhibition game against San Diego.

PUNTER

The Vikings really lucked out on this one.

They didn't expect to find a Pro Bowl punter when they went looking for a replacement for Darren Bennett after the final roster cutdown, but that's just what they got.

Chris Kluwe hasn't earned his ticket to Hawaii yet, but give him time.

Snapped up by the Vikings after he was released by Seattle, the rookie from UCLA averaged 54.3 yards in his first game and continued to thrive, winning NFC Special Teams Player of the Month honors for September.

Kluwe ranks second in the NFL with a 47.1-yard average and fourth in net average (40.1) with a long of 62 and seven punts inside the 20.

About the only thing he hasn't done yet is hit one of those speakers hanging from the Metrodome ceiling, but again, give him time.

KICKOFF RETURNS

Koren Robinson hasn't done much as a wide receiver, catching four passes for 18 yards in six games, but he has had a big impact on special teams.

A former No. 1 draft choice of Seattle, Robinson had a 46-yard kickoff return against New Orleans in his first game with the Vikings and a 49-yarder last Sunday against Detroit.

In between, he had a career-long 72-yard return against Green Bay and is averaging a healthy 24.2 yards per return for the season.

That's good enough for sixth place in this week's NFC rankings and a lot better than the 14.5 yards rookie Troy Williamson averaged during his three-game stint as kickoff returner.

PUNT RETURNS

This has been a weak spot all season for the Vikings, but they finally might have found their man.

Mewelde Moore took a punt back 30 yards to set up a touchdown last Sunday and has the speed and big-play ability to put some fizz into what had been a flat return game.

Moore has a sprained right wrist, but, when healthy, he's a big improvement on Keenan Howry, who averaged just 6.5 yards per return in five games before being released.

COVERAGE

Except for that 49-yard punt return by Chicago, the team that seemed to allow at least one big runback every week last season has been consistently solid.

Even with that return, the Vikings are allowing 8.6 yards per punt and 21.7 per kickoff return with a long of 36.

The unsung heroes of the coverage teams are linebacker Raonall Smith, tight end Richard Owens and cornerback Ralph Brown, who rank 1-2-3 in special-teams tackles with 13, nine and eight, respectively.

A big part of the Vikings' success, though, has been due to their liberal use of starters, especially cornerback Antoine Winfield, who is tied with cornerback Brian Williams for fourth in tackles with seven and has a forced fumble and recovery.

If the offense and defense were playing half as well as the special teams, this team wouldn't be sitting at 3-5 at the midway point.

SamDawg84
11-11-2005, 03:00 PM
yeha my boy raonall! lol.

COJOMAY
11-11-2005, 04:13 PM
First, this from the St. Paul Pioneer Press...

Special teams had been a problem area for the Vikings since Mike Tice became the full-time head coach in 2002, and this season was expected to be no exception. Instead, they have emerged as the team's strongest units.

Go figure.

Maybe what the Vikes should be doing in free-agency is taking the castoffs who really want to play football rather than getting high priced vets that only have a couple of years left in them and are just HOPING they have a good season. LOL

thepacksux
11-11-2005, 08:40 PM
it worked for the raiders back in the day

magicci
11-11-2005, 09:07 PM
well i guess we got something we always wanted this season.

gregair13
11-12-2005, 01:35 AM
kluwe is totally going to hawaii. just give him his ticket now.