By contrast, they were third in the league last year. The worst part is that it’s not just one aspect of special teams; they struggle across the board.
The unit’s struggles are not lost on special teams coordinator Dave Toub, who is in his 22nd year as an NFL coach.
“Statistically, it’s probably the lowest we’ve been ever in my career,” said Toub. “It’s one of those years.”
Still, Toub said that he thinks the unit has improved as the season has progressed, leading him to believe it will be OK in the team’s final game and then the postseason.
“I think we’ve gotten better,” said Toub. “You know, when you look at different things, I really feel like our best football is in front of us.”
Toub stressed that the best thing to do when things aren’t going according to plan is to keep pushing forward.
“You keep coaching, you keep stressing the same things,” said Toub. “It’s the same things I’ve been stressing for 22 years.”
This is only the second time in Toub’s decade with the Chiefs in which his unit has been ranked outside of the top 10 — and just the fourth time in his career. While this season seems to be the outlier, Toub pointed out that things still go wrong even in the best seasons he can remember.
“You get a block, you get a dropped snap, you know — things happen,” he said. “We just had an unusual amount this year... Maybe the football gods are giving us some good things down the stretch. That’s what we’re hoping for.”
One of the most significant areas of concern for the Chiefs special teams moving forward is the performance and health of Chiefs placekicker Harrison Butker, who has been battling injuries since the season opener.
I may have watched these a time or 50. pic.twitter.com/bKUN3iGQEE— Nick Jacobs (@Jacobs71) December 19, 2022
Butker was held out of Wednesday’s practice with back spasms but did practice on Thursday.
“He looked good today at practice,” said Toub. “We’re hoping it’s not a serious thing, but you always have to be careful. I’m sure (general manager) [Brett] Veach is going to have some kind of insurance policy in, so we’ll be ready to go.”
Beyond Butker’s injuries, the Chiefs' kicking unit has struggled with putting the ball through the uprights, spawning speculation by former players and fans as to who’s to blame for Kansas City’s kicking woes.
When Toub was asked about it, he said he was not concerned about Townsend’s ability as a holder.
“We made a mistake,” admitted Toub. “He dropped the ball, it happens. But it hasn’t happened in a long time... It’s just the timing was bad of it when it happened, and it’s something that you don’t expect. And obviously, it’s not going to happen again.”
When he was asked again about his confidence in his punter as a holder for the placekicker, Toub doubled down on his faith in Townsend.
“It’s good. I’m totally confident in him. Totally.”
The dropped snap wasn’t the only kicking error last Sunday. Townsend’s error was compounded by another special teams blunder at the end of the first half.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes made one of his best throws of the day with 11 seconds remaining in the second quarter to give Butker a chance to extend Kansas City’s lead to six points. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, the 51-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by Broncos defensive end Eyioma Uwazurike.
“If one guy makes a mistake,” said Toub as he addressed the blocked field goal, “If one guy leans too much and they happen to be swimming in that gap, and the guy gets his hands up, and the ball trajectory is perfect — they can get a hand on it. That’s what happened. It was another one of those things that happened— untimely, obviously.”
There have been a lot of untimely errors this season; let’s just hope Toub is correct, and it’s all sunny days ahead, but I’d still plan on bringing my umbrella just in case.
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