New kicking rule produces more touchbacks

The NFL’s new rule moving kickoffs up 5 yards produced a huge
number of touchbacks during the opening weekend, yet a
record-matching three kicks were returned for touchdowns.

The league moved kickoffs up to the 35-yard line hoping to
address safety concerns, and that produced nearly triple the number
of touchbacks from last year, according to STATS LLC.

Heading into Sunday night’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and
New York Jets, 49 percent of kickoffs (63 of 129) were touchbacks.
Last season only 18 percent (24 of 137) were not returned the
opening weekend.

For whatever reason, it also produced more touchdowns than
usual. The three returns – up from one last year – matched the
opening weekend mark set in 1970 and equaled in 1998.

Packers rookie Randall Cobb tied the NFL record for longest kick
return with a 108-yard score on Thursday night against New
Orleans.

Minnesota’s Percy Harvin returned the opening kickoff 103 yards
for a TD against San Diego on Sunday. It was costly for the
Chargers as kicker Nate Kaeding hurt his left knee on the play and
missed the rest of the game.

Ted Ginn Jr. also had a 102-yard TD return for San Francisco
against Seattle.

”I got an opportunity to go out and show what I had,” Ginn
said. ”It’s great. You do it on the video game a lot but you don’t
see it a lot in real life.”