During the Vikings roller coaster division winning season, there have been no moments where a viewer should look away. At any time a muffed snap, miraculous interception, or griddy could break out when the Vikings take the field. Adding to the sugar, spice, and everything nice that make up our football Sundays is the chemical X that is special teams.
In the last three Vikings games, there have been three blocked punts. In a game that has the thinnest of margins, impact in the third phase of football is often enough to push a team over the edge. A blocked punt can spark a team’s offense, or deflate another team as they have to trot their defense out in scoring territory.
Before we take a look at the clips, we should consider the punt team’s math and spacing. The most basic punt return team will have 4 players to each side of the center. Accounting in a 1 for 1 manner, each player will get a number from 1-4 from the punt team. Each rusher must be accounted for and the center and personal protector may end up sharing a responsibility. The “4” to each side is particularly threatening because they represent the shortest path to the punter. Blocked punts often come from internal pressure over a vulnerable snapper and a personal protector with a difficult decision. Because there is an accounting system for punts, defenses know they may cause issues when they stunt. Though it is slightly different, think of the problem a twisting defensive line poses for an offensive line and the running back in pass protection.
The punt team, like any other unit on a football field, is vulnerable when there are breakdowns in communication or new personnel is plugged into a different spot. Against the Colts, the Vikings had a rookie taking the place of their usual punt team right guard. The Colts did a great job exploiting this by twisting 3 and 4. The right guard was expected to step down, but his eyes instead took him to the outside and led to a huge play for Indianapolis:
The Vikings had their usual punt RG out and had a rookie (#43) step in against the Colts. With this 3-4 twist, 43 was expected to take 59 after 16 removed himself. Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels attributed the issue to bad eyes on the play pic.twitter.com/kR4FrioAFw— Shawn (@syedschemes) January 5, 2023
The Vikings struck back after two tough special teams performances in their thrilling victory over the Giants with a 4-4 twist. Josh Metellus ended up with his first of two consecutive games with a blocked punt:
Against the Giants, Josh Metellus (#44) blocked a punt off a 4-4 stunt that challenged the center and personal protector pic.twitter.com/xETI54B9qu— Shawn (@syedschemes) January 5, 2023
Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels, one of my favorite Vikings press conferences to watch each week, also spiced it up on this blocked punt against the Packers. The Vikings apparently had been working on this one for a few weeks but did not have an opportunity to run it:
Against the Packers, the Vikings ran a similar 3-4 twist that the Colts used and Metellus was able to get his hand on another punt pic.twitter.com/zFx4pslKEy— Shawn (@syedschemes) January 5, 2023
The Vikings will look for more solid play from their special teams unit as the playoffs near. These big plays can provide an edge for a team that is going to be dealing with an injured offensive line going into must win games.