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Today’s Special Teams Are Truly Special

Flag football muffed punt

Something has gotten into the various special teams units today. Hijinks abound. We go first to Jacksonville, where the visiting Cardinals attempted a truly nuts 68-yard field goal with time expiring at the end of the first half. Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer, whose cheeks look a little flushed but who has otherwise risen from his hospital bed like a zombie from the grave, smartly stationed Jamal Agnew in the back of the end zone, and when the ball fell short of the crossbar, the stage was set for mega drama:

That's Gus Johnson on the call, pretty much exactly who you'd want freaking out in the booth as a guy races 109 yards for a field-goal return. Agnew's score tied the NFL record for longest return of a field goal, set by Antonio Cromartie in 2007. The Jaguars took a lead into halftime against the undefeated Cardinals, their first experience of outscoring another team across one half of regular season football under Meyer. Things are looking up!

It was an altogether different sort of special teams excellence that surprised the broadcasters in Buffalo. Washington kicker Dustin Hopkins kicked off early in the second quarter following a thrilling 73-yard catch-and-score from Antonio Gibson; the gusting winds of western New York grabbed the ball at the top of its arc and essentially spiked it into the turf at the 15-yard line, where it took an unexpected bounce backward and eventually fell into the hands of none other than Washington kicker Dustin Hopkins. The Defector Stats and Information Department was tapped for a record of instances in NFL history when long kickoffs were recovered by the kicker without a fumble taking place, and responded with "Dude, what?"

Washington scored five plays later on a long scramble from quarterback Taylor Heinicke to turn what only moments earlier looked like a blowout-in-progress into a one-touchdown game.

But the weirdest special-teams play of the day so far came earlier in the Cardinals–Jaguars game, when Rondale Moore of the Cardinals attempted to field a punt at his own 18-yard line, only to have the ball deflected in mid-air by a small yellow bird:

But wait! In fact this was not a suicidal bird at all, but a flag thrown by an official standing behind the return man, who in one million attempts could not replicate this feat. Moore muffed the catch, but the ball was recovered by teammate Antonio Hamilton, sparing the unnamed official the embarrassment and professional ruin of having tilted an NFL game by going Patriot Missile on a ball in flight.

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