The Minnesota Vikings‘ special teams unit has made plenty of noise throughout the season, but mostly because of Cordarrelle Patterson‘s effectiveness in the kick return game. Against the Detroit Lions this past Sunday, Patterson made himself known on the offensive side of the ball while remaining fairly silent in the return game, giving way to Marcus Sherels, who impressed in the punt return game and played a huge role in one of the Vikings’ scores.
Sherels returned just three punts all day, but he made a difference on all three of them, most notably on his late game 50-yard return that set up the Vikings for an easy eight-yard touchdown score. Sherels returned punts for 12 and 15 yards as well, giving the Vikings better field position whenever he was given the chance.
On top of this, the punting game with Jeff Locke helped the Vikings’ defense hold the Lions to just 13 points. Locke was able to punt the ball within the Detroit 20-yard line four times, and of the two times he didn’t, his punts traveled 42 and 53 yards.
Of the four punts that started within the Lions’ 20, only one was returned for any positive yardage, an eight-yard return allowing the Lions to start at their own 25. Although the impact of a good punter is often overlooked, field position is an important factor when it comes to scoring success. Of the three Locke punts that were downed inside the 20, only one of them turned into Detroit points.
This was just another game in which the special teams unit played a huge role in the Vikings’ success. With a likely improved offensive and defensive unit in 2014, special teams play is what could push this team to the next level in their attempt to become a serious playoff contender.