Thursday, January 28, 2010

Special Men will Make or Break You

Now that we have mastered the offense and defense, we are going to look at the special men that make up the third unit in football—Special Teams. Appropriately titled, this unit plays a special role in the game. It is responsible for starting the game and determines several aspects of the game. They can make or break a team in a matter of seconds. So, let’s see what makes this unit so special.

Special Teams handles all kicking situations. The main goal of this unit is to establish field position and score. It is unique because it has offensive and defensive players. Offensively, this unit works to establish a good position for its team to start a drive, remove their team from a bad position and score. Defensively, they aim to block punts, secure a poor position for the opposing team and prevent scoring. This unit has a critical impact on the game because it controls where the offense will start each drive. Based on the performance of special teams, the offense will have either an easy or difficult time attempting to score a touchdown.

There are four phases to special teams. Similar to the way that the offense faces the defense, each phase has an opposing phase. This table outlines the phases and their responsibilities.


Opposing Phase

Kickoff Team – Kick the ball long to achieve as much distance as possible between their end zone and where the opposing team will start their drive. If the ball is not caught by the receiving team and rolls, stop it as close as possible to the opposing team’s end zone. Tackle the returner.

Receiving Team (Kickoff Return Team) – Catch the ball and run forward to gain as many yards as possible to put the offense in a strong position to score. The returner can run the ball the entire distance to the end zone and score a touchdown.

Extra Point/Field Goal Team – Kick ball through the goal post to score an extra point or field goal.

Extra Point/Field Goal Block Team – Block the ball from going through the goal post.

Punt Team – Kick the ball as high as possible to limit the returner’s progress. Force the other team as far back as possible before their offense takes possession of the ball and starts their drive. Tackle the returner.

Punt Return Team - Catch the ball and run forward to gain as many yards as possible to put the offense in a position to start their drive close to the punting team’s end zone.

Onside Kick – Kick the ball a short distance (but past 10 yards) to give teammates the opportunity to get the ball and prevent the opponent from getting the ball.

Hands Teams – Catch the ball and recover the onside kick. Usually all wide receivers come out.

Scoring on Special Teams

Special teams score in the following methods:

1. Extra Point (1 point) – Kicking the ball from the opponent’s 2 yard line through the goal post after scoring a touchdown.

2. Two-point Conversion (2 points)– After scoring a touchdown, begin at the opponent’s 2 yard line and carry the ball into the end zone or catch the ball in the end zone.

3. Field Goal (3 points) – Kicking the ball from anywhere on the field through the goal post.

Here are the players on Special Teams

1. Kicker (Placekicker) – Kicks the ball on kickoffs, extra points and field goal attempts. Kicks the ball off a tee or from a teammate holding it.

2. Punter - Catches the long snap from the center, and then kicks the ball after dropping it toward his foot.

3. Snapper (Long Snapper) – Snaps the ball to the holder or punter.

4. Holder – Receives the ball from the snapper and holds it for the kicker to kick.

5. Gunners - Sprint down the field after the ball is kicked to tackle the kick or punt returner.

6. Kick Returner - Catches kickoffs and attempts to return them in the opposite direction for a touchdown or good field position.

7. Punt Returner - Catch the ball after it has been punted and run it back toward the punting team's end zone.

8. Upback – Running back that blocks for the punter. In fake punting situations, he receives the snap and attempts to run and get a first down or touchdown.

9. Blockers – Form a wall to block for the kick or punt returner.

10. Wedge Buster – Sprint down the middle of the field to break up the wall of blockers and tackle the kick or punt returner.

See how this special group can make or break you?

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Anyway, now you have an understanding of all three units used in the game of football! Tomorrow we will put it all together.


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