Sunday, September 30, 2007

Importance of a kick return game

First off, the Lions played a pretty good game against the Bears. Though their offense was stagnant for the majority of the game, they turned it on when they needed too. Thankfully the Bear’s offense was still pathetic, even with Brian Griese at quarterback.

But, what almost killed the Lions was the Bear’s return game. Devin Hester was absolutely amazing. If he makes one or two people miss (and he did that often), he’s got a great chance of taking it all the way. He single-handedly kept the Bears in today’s game.

Hester’s return game made me miss Eddie Drummond. The Lions simply do not have a good return specialist, and it is hurting them. But, in a larger sense, just how important is field position?

According to the NFL Stats blog, field position means more than some would think. Through their calculations, a 4-yard starting field position difference can mean up to a three percent difference in points score per game.

Because of the limited stats available for starting field position, let’s compare Hester’s average return yards to our average return yards. Though this isn’t the best comparison, it is a very telling one. Hester averaged 31.3 return yards on kickoffs and 19.0 yards on punts. The best Lion returner, Brandon Middleton, averaged 23.3 yards on kickoffs, and Troy Walters averaged 8.5 yards on punts. That’s a margin of 8 yards on kickoffs and 10.5 yards on punts, which equates to a roughly 13 percent difference in points score per game.

Obviously, other factors affect how many points a team scores. But for demonstrative purposes, that is a very scary realization that the Lions need to have an effective return game.

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