the study of the kicking components within sports

Monday, December 20, 2010

NFL Week 15: Onside Kicks

Two of yesterday's games with playoff ramifications each saw an onside kick attempt. In common, both were successfully recovered by the kicking team. In contrast, each occurred at a very different stage of the game.

The Eagles on side kick came midway through the fourth quarter, after the first of their four touchdown comeback spectacle that gave them a 38-31 win over the Giants.  

David Akers described his kick:
"It was a great call by Andy Reid and [special-teams coordinator] Bobby April. We work on that all the time. When they give you a five-man front, it's basically five men on our left vs. their two . . .
We executed well. The ball got a good bounce. It went right around 10 [yards] and Riley was able to come right behind and catch it at the high point, right at the 10-yard mark."
Afterward, New York head coach Tom Coughlin discussed their thinking prior to the play:
"We talked about the onside kick as a possibility. We didn’t put our hands team in there, no. There were still seven and a half minutes to go and they were down two scores, so we didn’t think it was necessary to do that at that time. There was no reason for us not to make a better play on the ball. We didn’t have anybody even around the ball....
The upside [of not using the hands team] is to try to get field position for your offensive team. Seven and a half minutes to go, let’s have a return and position – we had been doing a good job returning. Danny was knocking the ball out. However, all people up front, again, were told to watch out for the onside kick."
Green Bay's onside kick came at a very different point in their game at New England... on the opening kickoff. Packers' kicker Mason Crosby the teams planning:
"It had kind of been in the plan the whole week. We get the opening kickoff and try to steal a possession. You always come into a game looking for ways to steal possessions, especially against an offense like the Patriots. It’s just like any other scheme you have running, it’s nice when you execute it. Especially the first play of the game, that can go one way or the other. That’s a big energy booster."
Although the Patriots ultimately won the game 31-27, head coach Bill Belichick was of course not pleased with the outcome of that first play:
“It was good execution by them [on the onside kick] but it was terrible by us. We can’t give that up, I don’t care if it’s well executed or not. We’ve got to do a better job in all three phases of the game, there’s no doubt about that.”

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