Special Teams Strategies in Football
Method of starting a drive in gridiron football.
Special teams play a crucial role in football, often determining the outcome of a game through field position, scoring opportunities, and sudden, game-changing plays. This unit will delve into the strategies used in special teams play, covering kickoffs, punts, field goals, extra points, and returns.
Kickoff and Punt Strategies
Kickoffs and punts are about more than just kicking the ball as far as possible. Strategic elements include directional kicking, hang time, and coverage schemes.
- Directional Kicking: The aim is to limit the returner's space by kicking the ball towards the sidelines. This confines the return to one side of the field, making it easier for the coverage team to contain.
- Hang Time: This refers to the time the ball spends in the air. A higher hang time allows the coverage team more time to get downfield and surround the returner.
- Coverage Schemes: These are designed to contain the returner and prevent big plays. They often involve players maintaining their lanes and converging on the ball carrier.
Field Goal and Extra Point Strategies
Field goals and extra points can be the difference between winning and losing. Key strategies include:
- Kick Trajectory: A lower trajectory can result in longer kicks, but it also increases the risk of a block. A higher trajectory reduces the chance of a block but may limit distance.
- Holder Placement: The holder's placement and the angle of the hold can affect the kick's accuracy.
- Blocking Schemes: These are designed to protect the kicker and holder from the opposing team's rush.
Kick and Punt Return Strategies
Returns offer the opportunity for big, momentum-changing plays. Key strategies include:
- Blocking Schemes: These are designed to create lanes for the returner to run through.
- Returner Decision Making: The returner must decide whether to catch the ball, let it go, or call for a fair catch, often in a split second.
Onside Kick Strategies
Onside kicks are high-risk, high-reward plays often used late in games when the kicking team is trailing. The aim is to recover the ball after it has gone ten yards. Key strategies include:
- Surprise vs. Expected Onside Kicks: A surprise onside kick can catch the receiving team off guard, but it's a risky strategy. Expected onside kicks allow the kicking team to align in a way that maximizes their chances of recovery, but the receiving team will also be prepared.
- Kick Direction and Technique: The ball can be kicked in several ways to make it unpredictable and hard to handle, increasing the kicking team's chances of recovery.
In conclusion, special teams play is a complex and vital aspect of football, involving a range of strategies designed to maximize field position, scoring opportunities, and the potential for game-changing plays.