Buccaneer Breakdown: Special Teams

Special Teams was the only phase of the game the Bucs won.
Special Teams was the only phase of the game the Bucs won. /
Special Teams was the only phase of the game the Bucs won.
Special Teams was the only phase of the game the Bucs won. /

Yesterday the Bucs special teams unit enjoyed arguably its best game of the season. Michael Spurlock was able to return a first-half kick 66 yards to set up an Arrelious Benn touchdown reception. Then Spurlock returned a third quarter kick 89 yards on what seemed to be a doomed play to put the Bucs back into the game.

The Buccaneers return game has not historically been a strong point for the organization. Obviously there was the much-alluded-to lack of a kick-return touchdown for the first thirty years of the team’s existence. Lately the Bucs have been able to find a little bit more success in the return game though. One thing is for sure too, as long as Michael Spurlock wants to be a Buc, he should be allowed to be one. Spurlock was responsible for the franchise’s first ever kick return touchdown and as was said, yesterday he was huge.

He averaged 52 yard per return on four returns, and his touchdown came on a kick in which the ball was actually muffed and had to be recovered. I know I swore a bit when I saw the ball hit the turf, but then Michael totally redeemed himself by finding a little seam and taking it the rest of the way.

Of course there also happened to be ten other guys out there blocking for him. Yesterday the Bucs were very efficient on special teams, they avoided penalties, they maintained their responsibilities and they executed correctly. That’s all you need. With a returner as talented as Spurlock, just do your job and good things will happen.

Kicking Game

Kind of a quite day for the kickers, Connor Barth converted on all three of his extra point attempts but didn’t attempt a field goal. On kick-offs the Bucs managed to hold things in check, they gave up just 23 yards per return and the long on the day was 34 yards. That’s a pretty big advantage over the Falcons kick coverage team, which as I mentioned, got gashed.

The lone excitement came when Barth and the kickoff team attempted an onside kick and nearly recovered. I’ll be honest, I thought they did recover, but according to the replay they had definitive proof that the Bucs touched the ball too early and awarded the ball to the Falcons. Now this is just me making a point, but I’m pretty sure the angles that the officials looked at were even less conclusive than what the officials in the controversial Dolphins-Steelers game had to look at. In that particular game, despite seeing the ball pop out and a Dolphins linebacker land on it they decided there wasn’t conclusive evidence to make the right call and ended up just giving the ball back to Pittsburgh.

Somehow though, despite an obstructed view from behind one of the officials yesterday and no truly conclusive angle showing the ball did or didn’t make contact with Connor Barth before the 40 yard-line, they deemed that in this case they DID have enough to overturn the call on the field and give the ball back to the Falcons. That seems kind of contradictory, no?

On Punts Robert Malone averaged 39 yards and downed two balls inside the 20. There weren’t any punt returns from either team all day.

The Bucs special teams unit had the best day of any of the three units. The offense was inconsistent, the defense was just bad but the special teams helped the Bucs stay in the game Sunday.