During his postgame press conference following the Seattle Seahawks’ 20-15 victory over Washington on Sunday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll did something unusual during his opening statement, mentioning a special-teams player unprompted.
“Michael Dickson had a huge game today,” Carroll raved about his team’s punter. “We were playing field position all day long and he did a great job of keeping them deep and making their offense go the long haul.”
Moments later the Seahawks did another unusual thing. In this time of COVID-19, all player availability is being conducted over video conferencing, and special-teams players are rarely among those the team sends to the screen. However, after setting a new franchise record by hitting his 31st straight field-goal attempt, kicker Jason Myers was given a moment in the spotlight.
“You see the numbers and what’s going on, but it’s kind of cliche that my mindset is one-for-one,” Myers said about breaking Olindo Mare’s record. “I write it on my wrist every day, so you just keep doing that kick after kick and you hope in the long run they all add up.”
As the Seahawks find themselves one result away from claiming their first NFC West title since 2016, let’s take a moment to recognize the role Seattle’s special teams have played in putting the Seahawks in this position.
While both Seattle’s offense and defense have navigated peaks and valleys throughout the season, the Seahawks’s special teams have been the constant of excellence. Just how good have Seattle’s special teams been?
Myers is a perfect 20-for-20 on field goals this season. That includes a 61-yarder against the Los Angeles Rams that also set a record as it was the longest make in franchise history, and 13 of the 20 came from 40 yards or deeper. The only other kicker who’s perfect on field goals this season is Green Bay’s Mason Crosby, who’s only attempted 16.
Dickson ranks second in the league at 49.4 yards per punt, and he tops the list with 27 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. His abilities were on full display against Washington as he dropped all four of his punts inside the 20, highlighted by a 55-yarder in the first quarter that he aimed toward the sideline and had bounce out of bounds at the 4. Like with Myers, there hasn’t been a single issue this season with snaps from long snapper Tyler Ott.
While Seattle hasn’t busted out in its return game, the Seahawks have been excellent in both kickoff and punt coverage. Seattle is allowing 7.2 yards per punt return and 21.9 per kickoff return, both of which are better than the league averages of 8.7 and 22.6, respectively. Fullback Nick Bellore and linebacker Cody Barton, with 12 special teams tackles apiece, are tied for third in the league.
The net result? According to Pro-Football-Reference.com Seattle ranks fourth in the league in average drive start position (own 31.1 yard line) and sixth in opponent average drive start position (own 26.3 yard line). FootballOutsiders.com ranks the Seahawks fourth in the NFL in their special teams DVOA ratings.
Think special teams have anything to do with Seattle ranking fourth in the league in scoring offense while ranking just ninth in yards gained? Or ranking 14th in scoring defense despite being 26th in yards allowed?
“That’s one of our goals for the season and every week, to be able to put a positive impact on the game with whatever we do,” Myers said. “Whether it’s flipping the field with Dickson, or pinning them deep, or kickoff coverage, and then just going out there and putting points through, that’s our mindset every week. We’re just trying to be that third phase for the team and come through.”
Making this all the more incredible, Seattle is doing it without its coordinator. Seahawks special teams coordinator Brian Schneider, who’s been in the position since 2010, left the team indefinitely for personal reasons just before the season started. Special teams assistant Larry Izzo stepped in as coordinator and not only have Seattle’s special teams not missed a beat, they’ve been even better.
Given how so much of Seattle’s season has rested on the edge of a knife — 10 of the Seahawks’ 14 games were decided by one score — Seattle’s proficiency on special teams can be seen as the difference between the Seahawks playing the Rams on Sunday with a chance to win the division title, and Seattle fighting for its playoff life.
So during opening kickoff of that crucial Seahawks-Rams game Sunday, take a moment to appreciate the 11 Seattle players on the field, as well as all the Seahawks’ other special teamers. They deserve recognition for the role they’ve played in the Seattle’s success this season.
Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.