2014 Kansas City Chiefs Review: Special Teams

Looking back at the Chiefs’ year in special teams

As the 2014 season neared its close, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid continually spoke freely about the importance of winning all three phases—offense, defense and special teams.

During most times during this past season, the special teams phase was a positive part of what the Chiefs did.

Let's go back and explore the different aspects of special teams coordinator Dave Toub's unit.

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Kickoffs

Seven different players returned kicks for the Chiefs this year, but two players, Knile Davis with 29 and De'Anthony Thomas with 14, led the pack by a large margin.

Among regular kick returners for all teams, Davis finished in third place for average yards per return with 28.6. Only Cincinnati's Adam Jones (31.3) and Baltimore's Jacoby Jones (30.6) finished ahead of his output.

The Chiefs' lone kick return touchdown of the season came against the St. Louis Rams at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 8. With the Chiefs up 10-7 to open the second half, Davis received the ball at the 1-yard line on a bounce.

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Davis saw an open lane to his right and darted up the field, and after picking up a key block by James-Michael Johnson, ran 99 yards en route to his touchdown. The Chiefs took a 17-7 lead on the play and eventually won the game, 34-7.

The Chiefs' 1,430 yards on kickoff returns was the most in the league and Davis' touchdown made them only one of five teams in the entire league to get at least one. 

The Chiefs were not as good when it came to defending against the kickoff return, as the 23.9 average yards given up per return ranked them 18th in the league.

Highlights of the special teams' plays from the 2014 season.

Punts

Three different Chiefs returned punts this year—De'Anthony Thomas (34), Frankie Hammond Jr. (15) and Marcus Cooper (1). Hammond's punt returns primarily came in Weeks 1 through 4, when De'Anthony Thomas was out with a hamstring injury.

As mentioned last week, Thomas' 11.9 yards per return tied him for the third-best punt returner in the entire league, placing him only behind the Eagles' Darren Sproles (13.0) and the Patriots' Julian Edelman (12.0).

Similar to how the Chiefs fared in kickoff returns, Thomas and the Chiefs had just one punt return touchdown this season, and that came against the Oakland Raiders in Week 15 in Arrowhead Stadium.

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In a scoreless game late in the first quarter, Thomas caught the punt right at the 19-yard line. Kelcie McCray had the first block to give Thomas a window, and Daniel Sorensen gave another in order for him to keep it, and he was off.

Junior Hemingway's final block of the Raiders kicker gave Thomas the final room he needed, and the Chiefs went up 7-0 early in a game that would end 31-13 in favor of the home team.

Thomas had eight punt returns on the afternoon for 156 yards, an output that was the second-best punt return performance in Chiefs history. He was later awarded AFC special teams player of the week. 

When it came to punting and covering punts, the Chiefs were among the best in the league. Punter Dustin Colquitt landed 31 of his 71 punts this season inside the 20-yard line, and the Chiefs allowed just 6.6 yards per return, the sixth best rate in the league.

One of the most critical special teams plays for the Chiefs occurred Week 10 against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium, when down 13-10 in the fourth quarter, Colquitt and the Chiefs lined up to punt from their own 16-yard line.

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Colquitt boomed the ball to the Buffalo 31-yard line, and Albert Wilson tackled Bills returner Leodis McKelvin. Anthony Sherman knocked the ball from McKelvin's grasp, then recovered the fumble.

The Chiefs scored their game-winning touchdown on the ensuing drive.

Sherman won the AFC special teams player of the week for his efforts and finished the year with 11 special teams tackles and four forced fumbles, an unbelievable number for a player who didn't play a defensive snap all season. 

Field Goals

After missing two out of the first four field goals of his career against Tennessee and Denver, Cairo Santos made 14 kicks in a row, a streak put together over nine weeks.

He finished 25 of 30 for 83.3 percent on the season and was a perfect 38 of 38 in extra points.

His only potential game-winning kick of the season came in Week 7 on the road against the San Diego Chargers.

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With 26 seconds left on the clock, Santos curved the field goal through the right upright, and the Chiefs won an early key AFC West divisional matchup, 23-20, on the road.

Santos' 25 field goals on the year tied Ryan Succop, the player he replaced in training camp, for the most made field goals by a Chiefs rookie kicker in a single season. In addition, his total of 112 points set the record for most points by a Chiefs rookie kicker in a single season.

CHIEFS RECORD BOOK

MOST POINTS, KICKERS, ROOKIE, SEASON

1.     112          Cairo Santos                     2014

2.     108          Jan Stenerud                       1967

3.     104          Jack Spikes                           1960

                         Ryan Succop                       2009

5.     87             Tommy Brooker                  1962

One, Two and Three

According to Pro Football Focus, which takes into account all aspects of special teams (blocking, tackling, etc.), the three best special teams players in the league were all Chiefs—Josh Martin, Kelcie McCray and Kurt Coleman (in that order).

Martin achieved a 13.5 rating (9.5 kickoffs; 5.0 punts; -1.0 penalty), McCray achieved an 11.5 rating (4.0 kickoffs; 8.5 punts; -1.0 penalty) and Coleman achieved an 8.5 rating (3.0 kickoffs; 5.5 punts).

Interestingly enough, Daniel Sorensen found himself in a seven-way tie for fourth with a rating of 8.0 (5.0 kickoffs; 4.0 punts; -1.0 penalty).

Reid said this season (as we saw in the case with Phillip Gaines) that good play on special teams can lead to a heightened role on the defense, so it's fair to say that these players may have an opportunity to make an impact on the 2015 defensive roster.


Note:  Article research aided by *ProFootballFocus.com and Pro-Football-Reference.com. *

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