The easiest way to win in the NFL is to be better than your opponent in at least two phases of the game. While Dak Prescott was out this earlier this season, and the offense saw it’s struggles, but the elite Dallas Cowboys defense took over to help keep games competitive. The other phase that’s stayed consistent in helping achieve victory has been the special teams, and John Fassel needs all the kudos for what he’s done so far.
FIELD GOAL/ EXTRA POINTS
It’s safe to say, that no one could have predicted Brett Maher would be one of the most accurate kickers in the NFL at this stage of the season. Right now, Maher has 17 field goal attempts, which is forth most, and a completion percentage of 88%, which is the same as legendary kicker Justin Tucker. In terms of extra point kicks, Maher has one miss on his record, but that was a block during the Washington game, and not something you can put all the blame on Maher for. So far, there are lot of u-turns being made on the Cowboys kicker, and he is becoming a reliable source of putting points on the board. And let’s not forget how big of a leg he has, kicking some 50+ yard kicks, and usually with plenty of room to spare.
Bryan Anger is having a pretty good season. His kicks upfield cover a lot of ground, and his 41.7 net yards on average ranks fifteenth among the league’s punters. He’s also in the top ten for kicks inside the 20. And even better is his hang time of 4.55 seconds, which ranks sixth in the NFL among all punters. That means he leaves little time for returners to look downfield for any possible response. Currently Anger’s 83-yard punt this season is the longest punt in the NFL. Anger is kicking the ball high and deep, which is really blocking any return specialist on the opposing team from creating yards against Dallas.
Another big factor to the lack of return rate is the team’s speed and effectiveness at the gunner position. The return rate against Dallas is 37.1%, which is the sixth fewest, and they are tied with 12 fair catches which is the third most. That shows how well the gunners are getting up to the kick to kill the play. Players like C.J. Goodwin, Kelvin Joseph and Israel Mukuamu are getting down to the returner in a hurry, showing good speed and technique to get free. The lack of ST tackles for Dallas only goes to show how effective the punter/gunner combination are for the Cowboys, and a trend that should continue into the back half the season as these players only get more reps on these duties.
The Cowboys, thanks to Dorance Armstrong’s efforts, are one of the few teams to get a punt block, and every week they seem to be closing in on the punter to tack on another block as they burst through the blockers. Somehow Peyton Hendershot missed a point blank block against the Bears in the last game.
We all know what’s going on here, this is the KaVonate Turpin section. He’s been a step away from a touchdown, fearless at the catch, and unbelievably fast in the break. On kickoffs, Turpin has the third longest return with a 63-yard return. His 24 yards per kickoff return is the seventh best in the NFL. But it’s the punt returns we love most.
Turpin is fourth in return yards, fourth in yards per return average, and his 52-yard punt return that almost went the distance is second longest this year. What makes Turpin so remarkable is he’s doing all this at a time when the NFL has made kick and punt returns even more difficult with safety rules. If there is any part of the game that is so demoralizing to a team, it is watching the opponent return chunk plays on punts. And Turpin is certainly doing that.