Cardinals need to tighten up special teams after Week 17 debacle

Three-time Pro Bowl Justin Bethel and Arizona's punt return unit had a rough regular-season finale versus Seattle.
Mark J. Rebilas/Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Among the many forgettable aspects for the Arizona Cardinals in their 36-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the regular-season finale was a miserable performance by the special teams unit.

In particular, the Cardinals were abysmal in punt coverage, allowing Seahawks rookie Tyler Lockett to set a franchise record with 139 yards on four returns – all coming in the first half – while earning NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

“You got to tackle," Arizona special teams coordinator Amos Jones said per Arizona Sports. "If you’re going to punt the ball at a 5-0 hang time you got to be able to tackle those balls. You can’t punt every ball directionally; you can’t punt every ball out of bounds, so you got to be able to tackle.”

Lockett didn’t do the bulk of his damage on one punt, burning the Cardinals with returns of 66, 42 and 31 yards to set up a pair of touchdowns and turn the game into an early blowout. Saturday’s opponent, the Green Bay Packers, presents a far less daunting challenge, ranking 30th in punt returns.

Arizona cornerback Justin Bethel, a Pro Bowl selection on special teams for the past three seasons, absolved punter Drew Butler and placed the blame squarely on poor coverage by the unit in the loss to Seattle. 

"Drew was kicking the ball great; we just got to do a little better job of covering," Bethel said. "We’ve been working on that and fixing what we got to fix and we’ll be ready for this game coming up.”

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