Time For Happy Returns … Friday Cup O’Chiefs

Javier Arenas and the Road Runner – have you ever seen them together?

Think about it the next time you watch the Chiefs cornerback return a kick, or more likely a punt. Watch his legs as he’s moving forward with the ball. They look like they are churning in circles, just like the Road Runner in all those Looney Tunes cartoons.

Arenas flies into a pile of bodies and should be snowed under by tacklers, but he pops out of the scrum, his body spinning, his legs churning and he avoids all those Wile E. Coyote types wearing opposing jerseys. The other team is dropping all sorts of obstacles on Arenas as he runs, making it easy to visualize anvils – from the Acme Anvil Company of course – falling from the sky. But they never seem to get a clean hit.

It’s almost expected that once Arenas has been stopped, he will stand up and give everybody a “beep, beep.”

“Everybody thinks he’s little,” said Chiefs special teams leader Terrence Copper. “But Javier is not little. He’s not big, but he’s not little. He keeps those legs moving all the time. He is a little bit like one of those cartoon characters.

“He’s always one block away.”

That would be one block away from the end zone. Receivers are always open, running backs always need more carries to get into the flow of the game and returners are always one block away from a touchdown. But in recent weeks there appears to be some evidence that Arenas is close to cracking open the type of return that he’s dreamed about since being selected in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

In the last two games (San Diego and Minnesota) he’s returned four punts, averaging 27 yards a return. But more important, it’s the change in field position that’s had a big effect on the Chiefs. All four of those returns led to Kansas City points, setting up two touchdowns and two field goals. For a team that’s had trouble scoring points that type of help was very important:

  • San Diego: 37-yard return gives sets up offense on the Chargers 42-yard line. In six plays, the Chiefs had a TD as QB Matt Cassel found WR Dwayne Bowe for a 4-yard scoring pass.
  • Minnesota (1): a 33-yard return sets up the Chiefs offense at the Vikings 43-yard line. Holding the ball for 12 plays, they end up taking a field goal.
  • Minnesota (2): Arenas’ 20-yard return gives the Chiefs possession at the Vikings 45-yard line. Seven plays later, they kick another FG.
  • Minnesota (3): his 18-yard return allows the Chiefs offense to start at the Kansas City 41-yard line and leads to a Cassel to Bowe 52-yard TD pass.

“I think everyone is going to go the distance,” Arenas said, who is second in the NFL right now with his 20.7-yard punt return average through four weeks. “There have been a couple in the last few games that were very close to breaking out. We are going to get one, and it’s going to be soon.”

The Chiefs have not had a punt return for a score since the 2010 season opener when RB Dexter McCluster scored on a 94-yard return against the Chargers. Before that, it had been four seasons since they had a punt return finish in the end zone, that one from Dante Hall in October of 2006.

In team history, there have been 22 punt return TDs by 15 different returners, led by Hall with five, one more than Tamarick Vanover and J.T. Smith.

What’s so important about a punt return TD? It’s one of the most infrequent plays in the game, but when it happens, it packs so much punch. In those 22 games where the Chiefs had a punt return for a touchdown, the team’s record is 18-4.

Arenas is getting the opportunities to return punts because of the increased load that McCluster is carrying in the Chiefs offense. But for Arenas, it’s a job he has always enjoyed. As a senior at Robinson High School in Tampa, Florida, he had four punt return scores. At the University of Alabama, he scored seven times on punt returns, a record in the Southeastern Conference. Arenas had at least one punt return TD every season with the Crimson Tide.

“He’s a tough, tough low-center-of-gravity guy that has really good skill and he’s got very good feel and he’s tough – sometimes that’s a big element there for returners, especially punt returners,” head coach Todd Haley said. “When you’re standing there and they’re flying at you and you’ve got to talk guys into making fair catches they’re generally pretty tough guys and he’s got ability.”

Copper says its imperative when blocking for Arenas on punt returns that the blocker never gives up on the block, no matter where he is on the field.

“With Javier, he’ll bounce it out and be going a complete different direction than he was, so you’ve got to finish your blocks,” Copper said.

Haley says the key for the rest of the punt team is very simple.

“Sometimes it’s just getting out of the way,” Haley said. “Sometimes when you lose a block guys tend to want to chase their guys, well, those guys Javier is making miss. So it’s turn and get out of the way number one. You’ll see us make the tackle a few times on him because guys are standing instead of turning and trying to find somebody else to block.”

Added Copper: “If you are out there with him, you have to be like him and keep your feet moving. Don’t stand still.”

That could happen this Sunday. The Colts have already allowed one of the five punt returns for touchdown this season in the NFL when Houston’s Jacoby Jones ran for 79 yards against them. They are ranked No. 28 in the league, giving up an average of 18.8 yards per return so far this season.

Last year broke the string of six straight years for Arenas with a punt return TD, and Arenas wants to make sure it doesn’t go beyond a one-year drought.

“We are just going to keep going for it,” Arenas said. “We are close and we are going to get it.”

The History of Texans-Chiefs Punt Return Touchdowns

Season

Returner

Yards

W/L

2010

Dexter McCluster

94

W

2006

Dante Hall

60

W

2003

Dante Hall

93

W

2003

Dante Hall

73

W

2002

Dante Hall

86

W

2002

Dante Hall

90

W

2000

Tamarick Vanover

84

L

1999

Tamarick Vanover

80

W

1997

Tamarick Vanover

82

W

1995

Tamarick Vanover

86

W

1992

Dale Carter

86

W

1992

Dale Carter

46

W

1987

Jitter Fields

85

L

1980

J.T. Smith

53

W

1980

J.T. Smith

75

W

1979

J.T. Smith

88

W

1979

J.T. Smith

55

L

1968

Goldie Sellers

76

W

1968

Noland Smith

80

L

1966

Mike Garrett

79

W

1965

Willie Mitchell

71

W

1960

Johnny Robinson

62

W


6 Responses to “Time For Happy Returns … Friday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • October 7, 2011  - Chuck says:

    I think Arenas and McCluster are what you call “keepers”. The Chiefs just need to use them sparingly so they don’t get injured. Neither one is a very big guy so thats why I say don’t over use them.


  • October 7, 2011  - Niblick says:

    Bob is only talking about punt returns, not kickoff returns.


  • October 7, 2011  - John says:

    For a fan in the stadium there is no bigger mood enhancer than a punt or kick-off return for a touchdown. You, you, you you you gets louder and faster.


  • October 7, 2011  - brainsmasher says:

    I am glad for whatever reason that they settled on one guy–Arenas–to do the returns. They now need to settle the running back chores. I think Thomas Jones should get the most carries. I’d like to see Jackie Battle get some touches earlier in the game.


  • October 7, 2011  - txchief says:

    What possibly could have been offensive about the Ajax anvil comment? Sheesh!


  • October 8, 2011  - rufus says:

    I like Arenas. He’s got “it”. get him a crease and he’s through it for 6. But his cover skills are like Darrell Green. Like glue.




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