Super Bowl 2012: 4 Special Teamers Who Could Have Monster Impact on Game
As we saw in both conference championships games, special teams execution is just as important as having an effective offense and defense.
Therefore, we can expect similar implications from football's third area that goes unnoticed more often than not. Well, the following players will certainly make special teams more relevant in Super Bowl XLVI, just like we saw earlier in the playoffs.
Devin Thomas, Giants
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In the NFC Championship the big story was San Francisco's Kyle Williams fumbling two punts and the Giants recovering both.
Well, the player that recovered both fumbles was punt team-gunner, Devin Thomas.
His efforts on both plays gave the Giants a major field position edge against the 49ers and their stout defense, which ultimately helped win the game.
Thomas also served as New York's main kickoff returner in the regular season. There, he compiled 607 yards on 25 attempts, but he has yet to return a kick in the playoffs.
As for the Super Bowl, expect the same kind of effort from Thomas whether it's on punts or kickoffs because to win a championship a complete team effort is needed.
Julian Edelman, Patriots
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Julian Edelman is New England's special teams utility man and he even has a limited role on defense. He's Bill Belichick's next version of Troy Brown if you will.
Edelman was second on the team during the regular season with 12 kickoffs returned for 284 yards, and he was the Pats leading punt returner with 300 yards on 28 attempts, including one touchdown.
All this being said, Edelman's ability to use quickness, awareness, and vision on punt and kickoff returns must enhance in Super Bowl XLVI.
The New York Giants have an excellent punt cover team as evidence by the aforementioned Devin Thomas and the NFC Championship game. They are however, a bit more vulnerable on kickoffs, so expect Edelman to be the primary returner there instead of running back Danny Woodhead.
Because of the Giants excellent pass rush, setting up Tom Brady and shifting the field position battle into the Pats favor will be Edelman's job.
It's just one of the minuscule ways to win a game.
Stephen Gostowski, Patriots
Throughout the course of the 2011 regular season, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostowski was 28-of-33 with a long of 50 yards and was perfect on extra points.
He missed just once from the 30-39 yard range and twice going 9-of-11 from the 40-49 yard range.
As for the postseason, Gostowski has been a perfect 4-of-4 with a long of 35 including going 3-of-3 in the AFC Championship game versus Baltimore.
Think, just one miss in that game and the Ravens could have either won it or gone to overtime with New England. He's also been a perfect 8-of-8 on extra points so his automatic clutch performance thus far must continue through the Super Bowl.
With a good range leg and the game being indoors, Gostowski will be called upon to connect from downtown against New York.
Steve Weatherford, Giants
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For the 2011 season, Giants punter Steve Weatherford attempted 82 punts and averaged 45.7 yards per punt.
Considering that it's obviously a 16-game regular season, averaging just over five punts per game and consistently changing the field position almost half it's length is damn impressive.
In the playoffs, Weatherford's consistency continued and perhaps made the biggest impact against San Francisco.
A defensive battle, Weatherford was asked to punt 12 times and he managed to average 46.4 yards per punt, while having a long of 57 yards. His punt yards total for the NFC Championship game was 557 yards and two of them landed inside the 20-yard line.
Anytime a punter can be that reliable in a big game, your team always has a solid chance of winning. That'll also hold true against New England in the Super Bowl because providing Tom Brady with a short field is not an option.
Plus, getting dangerous return man Julian Edelman to backup will be crucial with playmaker Devin Thomas bolting downfield.
John Rozum on Twitter.