NFL Week 1 Runaround: Putting the "Special" in Special Teams

Kevan LeeSenior Analyst ISeptember 10, 2007

IconDefense wins championships, offense gets the glory. 

Special teams? 

Not so much of either. 

Week One in the NFL was a different story, however, as teams across the league struck a blow for the little guy courtesy of kickoff returns, punt returns, and field goals. 

Enjoy the spotlight while it lasts, token white long-snapper. 

The greatest show of special teams came in Buffalo, where the awful play of QBs J.P. Losman and Jay Cutler left ample opportunity for the specialists to make their mark.

For 58 minutes, Roscoe Parrish’s first quarter punt return for a TD was the best play either team had to offer—and it looked to be the game-winner, until Cutler finally got out of his own way long enough to drive the Broncos down the field in the two-minute drill.  

Cutler's final pass to Javon Walker got Denver well into field goal range, but the team had no timeouts left when Walker was brought down in-bounds with 13 seconds remaining. Before Randy Cross could misidentify a Buffalo defensive back (again!), the Denver kicking team had sprinted into formation.

There was a snap, a hold, and Jason Elam's kick was good as time expired.

Very few teams would have been able to even get in position for that kick, much less make it. 

Considering Elam missed two other field goals and boinked a third in off the post, maybe the Broncos should permanently install the Chinese fire drill formation.

In Green Bay, meanwhile, the spotlight was squarely on the Philadelphia special a very bad way. 

Eagles WR Greg Lewis looked lost fielding punts—his first effort resulted in a fumble for a touchdown, his second resulted in his getting deservedly pummeled. To put the icing on the cake, replacement J.R. Reed muffed a punt at the end of the game, setting the Packers up for the game-winning field goal. 

In an abandoned ski yurt in Vermont, Jeremy Bloom waits patiently by the phone.

Many other special teams plays had big impacts on Week One outcomes (i.e. the Giants missing an extra point that doomed them down the stretch), but only one will be remembered in the NFL record books: Ellis Hobbs scored on the longest kickoff return in league history to open the second half of the Patriots' romp over the Jets. 

Hobbs broke through the wedge, broke through a weak tackle, and broke the game open. 

Here's hoping Bill Belichick doesn't bench him for not taking a knee.    

Naturally, things will return to normal next week, with quarterbacks hogging the attention and special teams disappearing into their socially-stunted abyss.

In the meantime, their fifteen minutes of fame made for a memorable opening weekend.

Team of the week: Carolina Panthers 

No one will admit it, but the Panthers didn't look half bad on Sunday. Jake Delhomme threw the ball with conviction, and the defense held a potent Rams offense in check. It appears as if the annual Carolina underachieving will have to begin in Week Two.

Bad team of the week: Cleveland Browns 

This one could speak for itself, but four penalties on one play does a good job of summing up, too.

Kevan Lee’s beverage of the week: 32 oz. PowerAde 

I gots to have my electrolytes.  And nobody does a better job of giving them to me than PowerAde and its glorious rainbow flavors.

As far as I know, electrolytes replenish energy, which I lose by trying to stay awake during Bucs-Seahawks (see Nap of the week).  I probably don’t need the multiple daily recommended doses of saturated fat and sugar, but I didn’t need to see Luke McCown to Ike Hilliard today, either. 

Point is, we all make sacrifices for the things we love.  I love my football, I love my PowerAde, and I love my electrolytes.

Nap of the week: Second quarter of Bucs-Seahawks 

I’m not sure what I missed. Oh wait, yes I am:  nothing.

Most misleading stat:  Ben Roethlisberger’s four touchdowns. 

Big Ben completed barely half of his passes, and the immortal Derek Anderson threw for more yards in half the time. Pittsburgh fans will be tempted to see the performance as a sign of rebirth, but until Roethlisberger does it against an NFL team outside Ohio, he’s nothing more than adequate.

Painfully true stat: Joey Harrington’s two touchdowns—to Minnesota Vikings defenders 

Harrington would kill for adequate. If the Vikings aren't good (and, really, they aren’t), then what does that make the Falcons? Harrington was sacked six times, and he looked anemic leading the Falcons “offense.”  If only the team had a mobile, playmaking quarterback...

Suicide pick of the week that I almost blew: Detroit Lions

I had the Lions in my elimination pool this week. My thinking was that I would pick a relatively bad team now so I could save my good teams for later.  When the Raiders took a 21-20 lead in the second half on 21 unanswered points, it looked as if I had overthought things—an act I had not been guilty of since I wore jorts in my yearbook photo. 

Picking the Lions is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, indeed. Never again.  No more thinking at all next week.

Weekly Super Bowl prediction: Patriots vs. Colts 

Find a way to make it work, NFL.

For Monday’s picks and more, visit

Until next week, you stay classy, Bleacher Report.


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