It hasn’t exactly been a smooth season for the Kansas City Chiefs‘ special teams unit. But one bright spot thus far has been defensive back/gunner/jammer Chris Lammons.
This has never been more apparent than it was this past Sunday, when thanks to one of football’s quirkiest rules — and Lammons’ quick action — Kansas City avoided being pinned at its own one-yard line.
At the end of the Jacksonville Jaguars‘ second offensive possesion, punter Logan Cooke dropped what appeared to be a perfect kick that would back Kansas City up against its own goal line. But before a Chiefs player could touch the ball, it made contact with a Jacksonville player — which constituted a first touching violation.
Here’s how that is described in the NFL rulebook:
“First touching” is when a player of the kicking team touches a scrimmage kick in the field of play that is beyond the line of scrimmage before it has been touched by a player of the receiving team beyond the line. If the ball is first touched by a player of the kicking team, it remains in play. First touching is a violation, and the receivers shall have the option of taking possession of the ball at the spot of first touching.
So when Lammons saw the ball bounce off a Jackonsville player, he was free to pick it up and try to advance it — with no threat of losing possession. What happened instead is that the ball was knocked into the end zone and the Chiefs were awarded a touchback. So essentially thanks to Lammons, the Chiefs gained an extra 19 yards on the play — and removed any threat that quarterback Patrick Mahomes would be sacked for a safety.
Special teams coach Dave Toub spoke about the play on Thursday.
“Once they see the ball hit him and the ball’s rolling around on the ground,” Toub told reporters, “we’re going to try to pick it up and return it.
“A team last year returned one for a touchdown — I can’t remember who it was, but they picked it up and ran it back for a touchdown — so that’s the scenario that we look for.
“That’s what happened in that case. It looked like we were being dumb — but really, we were being smart.”
This isn’t the first heads-up play Lammons has made on special teams this year.
“He’s a potential Pro Bowl player,” Toub said of the fourth-year cornerback. “He’s the one that we put up there to get votes as that guy [on special teams] — so he’s an important guy to us. If he doesn’t play, somebody has to step in and take his role.”
This makes the fact that he might miss Sunday night's game against the Los Angeles Chargers with a concussion a tough pill to swallow; Lammons is what Toub calls a four-phase player who is on the field for most of the unit’s snaps.
“We don’t have one guy that can replace him in all the spots,” said Toub, “so we’ll ask a couple of guys to fill in — like one guy will take two of his spots and another guy will take another two.
“But yeah — that’s a big loss for us.”