In the NFL, special teams are sometimes an afterthought.
Everyone still think Kickers aren’t that important?!
— Phil Dawson (@phil_dawson_4) January 23, 2022
That is until things start going wrong to the extent that the outcomes of games are affected.
Special teams successes and miscues were on display in the 2021 NFL Divisional playoff games.
Check out my TikTok recap of the special teams highs and lows of the weekend.
Here are how special teams determined the outcome in three of the four divisional playoff games.
1. Bengals Vs. Titans
The Cincinnati Bengals selected Evan McPherson in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
A team’s quest for a good kicker can be difficult, and relying on a rookie in clutch playoff moments can be nerve-wracking.
McPherson has been a perfect eight for eight in field goal conversions in the playoffs.
Evan McPherson is a perfect 8/8 on FGs in the playoffs, including that 52-yard game winner.
— Cincinnati 🧡🖤 (@CincyProblems) January 23, 2022
However, McPherson’s comment before he went to kick the game-winning 52-yard field goal speaks volumes about his confidence and nerves of steel.
“Looks like we’re going to the AFC Championship Game.”
Joe Burrow says Evan McPherson came up and said "looks like we're going to the AFC Championship Game" right before he went out to kick the 52-yard game-winner.
Talk about having confidence.
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) January 23, 2022
With that kind of attitude, the Bengals know they can rely on him regardless of the circumstances.
2. 49ers Vs. Packers
Ironically, Joe Buck talked at the beginning of the San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers game about how the outcome could be affected by special teams.
He noted that neither team was particularly effective in that area.
The 49ers blocked a punt and ran it in for a touchdown.
This was a huge turning point in the game.
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) January 23, 2022
They topped off the night with a game-winning field goal by 39-year-old Robbie Gould in miserable Lambeau Field conditions.
For the win!!! On to the next! pic.twitter.com/rd2oJ24fpi
— Robbie Gould (@RobbieGould09) January 23, 2022
3. Bills Vs. Chiefs
ESPN’s Rex Ryan pointed out the fundamental special teams’ mistake that the Buffalo Bills made in the most exciting NFL Divisional playoff game of the weekend.
He did not understand why the Bills did not squib kick the ball to eat up more time off the clock.
Ryan was not the only one questioning that decision.
We'll hear a lot about the unfairness of overtime rules. But the Bills kicked it in the end zone with 13 seconds left rather than using 4-6 seconds with a squib kick. And then let KC get in FG position.
But what a game..
— Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) January 24, 2022
From the perspective of the time left on the clock, had the Bills squib-kicked it and forced the Kansas City Chiefs to field it, anywhere between four and six seconds would have ticked off the game clock that was sitting at 13 seconds.
Instead, the Bills chose to kick-off, and the ball went into the end zone for a touchback.
No time elapses on a touchback so Patrick Mahomes was left with 13 seconds to work his magic.
It took the Chiefs 10 seconds after that play to get into field goal range.
Even though the Chiefs had timeouts at their disposal, it would not have mattered because there physically would not have been enough time to run multiple plays, get into field goal range, and kick the game-tying field goal.
At best, the Chiefs would have had one play after the squib kick which likely would have been a Hail Mary pass.
Thinking about the Chiefs/Bills game last night and I’m absolutely perplexed at why Sean McDermott didn’t squib kick after going up with 13 seconds left? You squib it, take 6 or 7 seconds off the clock, the Chiefs only get 1 play. 🧐
— Jonah Griffith (@iminthewhale) January 24, 2022
The 24 NFL teams sitting at home watching these games needed to take note.
Special teams play wins and loses games.
This important facet of football should never be overlooked because the results can be catastrophic.