Scoring two touchdowns on blocked punts in a game is a rare occurrence in the National Football League, to say the least. The last time it happened was the Kansas City Chiefs turning the trick against the Cleveland Browns on 30 September 1990.
The Minnesota Vikings accomplished the feat in one half against the Carolina Panthers today at TCF Bank Stadium en route to a 28-6 halftime lead.
The first block came on Carolina's second possession of the game near the end of the first quarter of play. Special teams ace Adam Thielen came charging through the middle of the Carolina line and blocked Brad Nortman's punt. The ball wound up right next to Thielen, who alertly picked it up and ran the remaining 30 yards for a score, giving the Vikings a 14-0 lead.
It happened again in the second quarter, on a play where it didn't even appear that the Vikings had their punt return unit on the field. Linebacker Jasper Brinkley burst through the middle once again and blocked Nortman's punt, leaving it for Everson Griffen to pick it up and ramble 43 yards for another Minnesota score, pushing the Minnesota lead to 21-3.
Griffen's 43-yard return of a blocked punt was the longest such play for a score in Vikings' history. Thielen's 30-yard return is the second longest, and he held the record for approximately twelve minutes and thirty-five seconds of game time. It marked the first time the Vikings had blocked two punts in a game since 11 December 1983 when they did it against the Bears.
The Thielen score marked the first time in 453 games. . .going back to Issiac Holt on 12 October 1986 against the San Francisco 49ers. . .that the Vikings had scored on a blocked punt.
The two big plays have helped the Vikings to a 28-6 halftime lead over the Carolina Panthers at TCF Bank Stadium.