Seahawks punt strategy on verge of NFL record
For most of his career, Jon Ryan’s task was to change field
position with booming punts.
And then the Seattle Seahawks decided they wanted to change
their punting approach. They wanted Ryan to pull back and use hang
time and directional punting to take away the danger of giving up
”That’s been my whole career is going after the ball and
smashing it. So it’s a little bit different,” Ryan said. ”For me,
it’s taking the driver out of my hands a little bit. It seems to be
working, so I’m not going to complain.”
The Seahawks have been exceptional with achieving their goal
this season. Entering the season finale against St. Louis, the
Seahawks have allowed only 25 punt return yards on 16 returns this
season. They’re on pace to set an NFL record for fewest return
yards allowed in a 16-game season.
It’s an obscure record but highlights the importance Seattle has
put on its special teams.
”We’re very confident that we can control that and do a great
job there, but you have to have the consistency of the coverage,”
Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ”But Jon has really been the key
factor and continuing to be so solid that we know where the ball is
going and we’ve been able to control that factor.”
Ryan has been among the most consistent punters in the league
ever since coming to Seattle in 2008. He averaged more than 45
yards in four of his previous five seasons with the Seahawks. His
net average of 40.8 yards last season was a franchise record.
But the plan changed for this season. Seattle didn’t want the
booming kicks anymore. It wanted control and direction, and an
opportunity to limit the number of returns.
The results are two-fold. Ryan’s average is down nearly four
yards per punt and on the verge of a career-low. But through a
combination of the increased hang time and solid cover downfield,
the Seahawks have allowed only 16 returns all season. The 25 yards
in returns Seattle has allowed include 10 yards to Carolina in the
season opener, seven to St. Louis and six last week to Arizona.
Seattle had allowed a total of 19 return yards entering last
week, but 6 yards on a two returns by Arizona’s Patrick Peterson
pushed Seattle past the NFL record of 22 yards allowed by the 1967
Green Bay Packers in a 14-game season.
The record for a 16-game season is 49 yards by Atlanta in
”We take a lot of pride in that. When you look at our role and
what we do and how we help our team we want to flip the field, we
want to make it a long field for the defense to go out there and
play,” Seattle reserve safety Chris Maragos said.
The change for Ryan was subtle. He had become adept at punting
end-over-end, typically used when he was trying to have full
distance control on his kicks and have them downed inside an
opponents’ 20-yard line. What Seattle decided to do this season was
to punt that way on a regular basis. It’s now normal for Ryan to
punt deep in his own end and rather than trying to get the kick to
spin in a spiral for maximum distance, will still be in the
Then it’s on the coverage team to get downfield and make sure
the amount of time Ryan is giving them to cover the kick isn’t
”We’re able to get enough guys out in coverage to where even if
they’ve got time to return it we’ve got two or three guys right in
his face forcing him to make the catch,” Maragos said. ”We’ve got
guys who really understand special teams. I think that’s important.
We’ve got a really good core group of guys who know what they’re
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