Chiefs MVP? It’s The Punter … Friday Cup O’Chiefs

It’s hard for the head coach of a 1-5 team that’s playing like the worst club in the NFL right now to find positives in his team’s performance.

Romeo Crennel was asked the other day to name three positives about his team. He ended up talking about the things his team did to get into positions where they eventually didn’t get the job done, and why they’ve lost five of six.

The offense has been inconsistent and even the best producer on that side of the ball in RB Jamaal Charles has struggled at times. The defense has also been inconsistent, even the top performer so far, OLB Justin Houston.

If looking for a most valuable player for the Chiefs over the first six games it comes down to one man – punter Dustin Colquitt. Without him, it’s hard to imagine how much worse things would look after six games. Colquitt’s left leg and foot have consistently changed field position in favor of the Chiefs. That the offense and defense could do nothing with those opportunities is why the team stands among the bottom teams of the AFC West, AFC and the NFL.

It might be damning with faint praise for the 8-year veteran to name him the most valuable player of the start of the Chiefs 2012 season. But that’s what he’s been.

“There have been a couple balls that I wish I could have back like that touchdown return (88-yard TD by Buffalo’s Leodis McKelvin in the second game of the season), but our coverage teams are really clicking and our gunner play has been fantastic,” Colquitt said. “We just have to try to be consistent every time we step on the field.”

With the exception of that TD return in Buffalo, Colquitt has been very consistent whether he was punting from deep in his end zone, or trying to pin the opponent deep on their side of the field.

“It’s a nice weapon to have,” Crennel said of Colquitt and is ability to not only punt for distance and hang-time, but punt directionally. “Having a punter that can get you field position in the plus-50 area and then backed up can hit some balls that can get you out of trouble … those are pretty valuable guys.”

Colquitt cannot be found at the top of the list of top punters for gross and net averages. He’s punted 28 times and averaged 45.9 yards per kick. That ranks 20th among all NFL punters – not even in the top half of the league. His net average is 40.5 yards and that’s 14th in the league. In a punter strong AFC West, his averages are at the bottom. For example, on gross average San Diego’s Mike Scifres (49.9 yards) is No. 5, Oakland’s Shane Lechler (49.2) is No. 6 and his brother Britton Colquitt (47) is No. 13 for the Broncos.

But those numbers do not reflect what Colquitt has meant for the Chiefs that can be measured with other numbers. He’s had only one touchback off a punt; that ranks among the top five punters. He’s No. 1 in the league in downed punts with 9 and No. 2 in punts that landed inside the 20-yard line with 16. Colquitt is tied for No. 6 in fewest punts returned by the opponent with 9 returns.

In each of the last four games, Colquitt, his punts and the Chiefs cover team has contributed more than 200 yards in field position. It was especially evident in Tampa Bay, where despite the loss the score could have been much worse if not for the 255 yards of field position that changed in the punt game. Here’s how it happened:

  • Punt #1 – @ Chiefs 19-yard line, Colquitt’s punt was deflected by Tampa Bay’s Ronde Barber and went out of bounds for a 21-yard punt. The Chiefs were also called for a 10-yard penalty for holding and that gave the Buccaneers possession on the Chiefs 30 yard line. Field position gained: 11 yards.
  • Punt #2 — @ Chiefs 9-yard line, Colquitt punted 62 yards to the Tampa Bay 29-yard line, where Roscoe Parrish returned it 9 yards to the Bucs 38-yard line. Field position gained: 53 yards/64 yards.
  • Punt #3 — @ Buccaneers 39-yard line, Colquitt’s punt went 38 yards and was downed at the Bucs 1-yard line. Field position gained:
    38 yards/102 yards.
  • Punt #4 — @ Chiefs 48-yard line, his punt traveled 50 yards and was downed at the Buccaneers 2-yard line. Field position gained: 50 yards/152 yards.
  • Punt #5 — @ Chiefs 49-yard line, Colquitt punted 45 yards to the Tampa 6-yard line where Parrish returned it 8 yards to the Bucs 14-yard line. Field position gained: 37 yards/189 yards.
  • Punt #6 — @ Chiefs 19-yard line, Colquitt’s punt went for 60 yards and Parrish returned it for 11 yards, but Tampa was hit with a holding penalty and after the smoke cleared, they had possession at their own 15-yard line. Field position gained: 66 yards/255 yards.

In the last four games, opponents have begun their offensive possession after a Colquitt punt inside the 5-yard line four times, inside the 10-yard line 9 times and inside the 20-yard line on 14 punts. And in those four games, the punt team contributed field position gained of 255, 227, 210 and 206 yards.

“Part of what he does is hang the ball with distance when necessary and get pus-10 downings,” said Crennel. “He’s been able to be really effective in that plus-10 area the last couple games.”

Colquitt said those punts that ended up deep in opponents’ territory are the by-product of a lot of hard work by the coverage team going all the way back to the team’s OTA sessions back in May and June.

“When you get hot like that you have to take advantage of it,” said Colquitt. “You get in those situations and it’s working, you take a few more chances kicking the ball. With our guys on coverage, I feel comfortable aiming for the 5-yard line, rather than the 10-yard line like you would normally do.

“We’ve just got to continue to play that field position football.”

On those 14 punts where opponents started inside the 20-yard line, they put together one touchdown drive; 9 times they punted back to the Chiefs, once they fumbled, twice came at the end of the first half and the Chiefs picked up 2 points on a safety.

Colquitt did not want to discuss his contract situation – he’s in the final year of his deal. With free agency a possibility for 2013 it’s surprising that the Chiefs have not gotten an extension or new contract put together yet.

“That stuff takes care of itself,” said Colquitt. “I know this is where I want to kick.”

Based on his career and especially the 2012 season, it’s hard to imagine the Chiefs would want anyone else punting for them.

9 Responses to “Chiefs MVP? It’s The Punter … Friday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • October 19, 2012  - txchief says:

    Hilarious Bob! After the last game, my friends and I were discussing the observation that you’re probably rooting for the worst team in the NFL if their best player is the punter.

    At least Chiefs fans have at least one bright spot to reflect upon this season.

  • October 19, 2012  - johnfromfairfax says:

    All good points Bob. Thanks for pointing out what might lead the team to be working out punters when we have so many other issues that need addressed. What I’m wondering is why one of the interviewers didn’t ask Pioli why after promising to bring in meaningful competition for the QB position he did not. Why he didn’t bring in more experienced depth on the offensive line and better depth in the defensive backfield. They might also ask him how much money was a factor in those decisions and what was the strategy with leaving as much money in salary cap dollars sitting when we didn’t adequately address the needs of the team that might have actually had us playing meaningful games in October, let alone December and January. Lastly, somebody might have asked him what course of action he would take if he was an owner who said he had little patience for losing and had an executive with a record well below 500 after four years on the job, with the players contributing the most having been drafted by his GM’s predecessor, his team out of it by the halfway point and the most loyal fans in the NFL beside themselves and walking away from the team. It will give us all great comfort as we settle into our off-season (less than half way through the current season) that our most valuable player is our punter who’s contract ends after the season and they are working out other punters while he’s healthy, punting as well as anybody in the league and we are 1-5.

  • October 19, 2012  - Niblick says:

    Just one added tidbit. Colquitt is unsigned, and could become a free agent next season. Normally no one would care about a punter being unsigned.

  • October 19, 2012  - chewbone says:

    Dustin has been in the top 2 or 3 playes on the team even back to when Herm was here. A few years ago we basically wore his leg out, never a good sign when that happens to the teams punter.

    Add to that the best player out of an entire draft was Ryan S. that last NFL pick. Even when you look at a couple guys on special teams you can sense we are in trouble.

    I think our main problem is poor drafting, good players can overcome poor coaching!

  • October 19, 2012  - Johnfromwichita says:

    If a punt is the best offensive play the Chiefs have, why wait until the fourth down? Punting on second or third down might reduce the turnover problem.

    Come to think about it, is it still legal for the kicking reciever to punt?

    Colquitt deserves a raise.

  • October 19, 2012  - el cid says:

    Still, sort of sad when the punter gets the press. Guess we are returning to the pre Marty era. 1 or 2 wins a year, remembering how we just hoped we could beat raiders. Not good days or memories, no wish to go that direction again.

  • October 19, 2012  - Niblick says:

    We seem to be heading that direction. If season tickets drop down to 30,000 we would be there again. I’m not sure where we are now, somewhere in the 50,000 range I’m guessing. The only reason I’m mentioning that is because it got Lamar’s attention and I hope it would get Clark’s attention. Nothing else seems to at this point.

  • October 19, 2012  - Dave71 says:

    Maybe I’m mistaken, but I thought Colquitt was under contract.

  • October 19, 2012  - el cid says:

    Nope he will be an UFA after the season ends.

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