It’s the phase of the game that is rarely talked about, yet plays a vital role in a team’s success.
When it comes to the special team aspect of the Colts team, this offseason saw an added emphasis in improving those units.
If Week 1 is any indication than the coverage units are ready for a successful 2012 campaign.
The Colts downed two of there first three punts inside the five-yard line against the Bears with the initial punt leading to an interception returned for a touchdown on the following play.
“That’s something we practice all the time,” special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf said of downing the football inside the 10. “We’re stressing field position. The more field our defense has behind them (the better). That starts to maybe turn into turnovers for them with a short field.”
Both of those punts were downed by second-year safety Joe Lefeged and he realizes the importance of the ‘third’ phase of the game.
“It felt good, especially because we all know that special teams is an important part of the game,” Lefeged said. “To make a play like that it shifts the momentum in our favor.”
Last season, Lefeged was a mainstay on the Colts special teams while also returning kicks.
While he isn’t returning kicks this season, Maalouf still considers him a very valuable asset to the special teams unit.
“He’s somebody that we’ve been expecting a lot of things out of,” Maalouf said. “He’s just got to keep building on it because the more he does, the more other teams are going to start keying on him.”
Both Lefeged and Maalouf gave a lot of the punt coverage credit to punter Pat McAfee.
On Sunday, McAfee had two punts downed inside the five-yard line to go along with punts of 63, 57 and 54 yards.
Only one of his five punts was able to be returned against the Bears and it’s a two-way street between punter and coverage units for a successful special teams play.
“Pat is a great punter and I know where that ball is going to be. I know where he is going to put it,” Lefeged said. “You get a peak at the ball a little bit when you’re running down the field, if you beat the controllers.”
After having to deal with Bears returner Devin Hester last week, the Colts will once again have their hands full with Vikings returner Percy Harvin.
In his four seasons in the NFL, Harvin has returned four kicks for a touchdown.
Maalouf knows his coverage unit has another task to deal with on Sunday and will count on No. 1’s right leg to help neutralize Harvin.
“Having McAfee doing the kickoffs is huge,” Maalouf said. “He’s one of our best coverage players with his ability to kickoff the ball high and deep.”
Tags: Joe Lefeged, Marwan Maalouf, pat mcafee
Posted in Colts Blog