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Not-so-special teams: the anatomy of a blocked punt

How failures in the first two games led directly to the blocked punt in game three.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Denver Broncos Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Broncos coverage units in the first two games had been poor. Khalif Raymond of the Titans nearly broke a long punt return after making two defenders miss (although he was aided by holding). The return ended up being 11 yards.

Then in the Pittsburgh game, both the kickoff coverage and the punt coverage units were poor. The Broncos allowed a 49 yard kickoff return to Ray-Ray McCloud and a 32 yard punt return by Diontae Spencer. The punt coverage team also allowed a punt return for a TD that was called back because of an illegal block above the waist. Overall is was really bad coverage in this game which set the stage for what happened against the Bucs - more on this later.

Also against the Steelers, Sam Martin, our high-priced free agent punter, flat-out dropped a perfect snap the literally hit him in the hands, which led to a safety. The most basic (and simplest) job of the punter is to catch the snap.

Seriously!?! How do you drop this?

Tom McMahon’s special teams had been under performing poorly in the first two games heading into the game against the Bucs.

So the punt coverage guys were all very sensitive to getting down the field. Unfortunately this led to Malik Reed and Trey Marshall failing to block the man who lines up in a 3-tech, over Malik Reed. The fastest way to either block a kick or pressure a QB is to go right up the middle in the G-C-G (A gaps). The job of the guards is to help the long snapper with blocking any man lined up over him (or close to it) as you can see #79 is lined up on the blocked punt. The job of the personal punt protector (sometimes called the upback) is to block first then to cover. Trey Marshall does not block at all on this play and literally runs in front of the guy who blocks the punt without touching him.

Three Broncos failed on the blocked punt: Jacob Bobenmoyer, Malik Reed and Trey Marshall.

This is problem that is rarely seen on the punt team, three players all failing on the same play. I have to guess that both Reed and Marshall were so concerned with getting down the field to cover the punt that they failed their primary responsibility which is to block so that the punter can get the punt off.