It’s Week 15 in the NFL and things are really starting to heat up. It’s make or break time for both Brad Wing’s New York Giants and Jordan Berry’s Pittsburgh Steelers who are continuing to fight for a place in the playoffs.
The bowls have also started in the NCAAF, and while I intended to write about someone other than Brad Hackett, the game he had in the Las Vegas bowl made him once again impossible to ignore.
Brad Wing’s Playoff Hopes Dashed
It was always going to be a tough ask for the New York Giants as they came up against the undefeated Carolina Panthers.
But the Giants desperately needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Unfortunately though, despite looking good in the first quarter and then staging a last quarter comeback, the Gaints lost to the Panthers 38-35 and severally damaged their chances of a playoff berth.
Brad Wing was kept busy throughout the game with seven punts which included two inside 20s. Each of Wing’s seven punts flipped the field and his first punt of the day was downed on the four yard line and his second was called for a fair catch on the 12 yard line. Two more came to rest on the twenty yard line, and whilst they aren’t technically ‘inside 20s,’ they are close enough that they deserve a mention.
— New York Giants (@Giants) December 20, 2015
Lots of messy stuff on that drive, but Brad Wing's punt not among it. Panthers start from their own 4.
— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) December 20, 2015
With the Washington Redskins winning this week, the Giants are now a game behind top spot on the NFC East standings which puts them out of contention for a playoff spot. However, if the Giants win their next two games, and the Eagles beat the Redskins next week, and the Eagles and the Redskins lose in Week 17 (the Gaints are actually playing the Eagles in Week 17), the Giants will find themself in top spot and in the playoffs
Rating – With some big punts and some punts coming to rest deep in the Panthers territory, it was a good day individually for the Brad Wing.
4 out of 5
Playoffs Still in Reach for Jordan Berry
The Pittsburgh Steelers needed a win. But it was never going to be an easy task against the Denver Broncos who at 10 wins and 4 losses were looking to cerement their place at the top of the AFC West, and a place in the playoffs.
But the Steelers, who have now won five out of their last six games, came through with 27-34 win over the Broncos and kept themselves in contention for an AFC wildcard.
But unlike the previous few weeks, Jordan Berry spent a fair bit of time on the field punting six times and landing four of them inside the 20 yard line.
— Nathan Chapman (@ProkickAus) December 20, 2015
Jordan Berry has kicked some beauties today, pinned Denver inside their 20 four times already. Crucial in a game like this.
— Woot and Wye NFL (@WootandWye) December 21, 2015
However, the two punts of Berry’s which didn’t land inside the 20 yard line are once again cause for concern. His longest punt for the game travelled 44 yards and landed on Denver’s 39 yard line, and the other travelled 36 yards to land on Denver’s 29 yard line. These are both examples of punts that should have travelled further and it raises the question of whether Berry has lost his long punt.
Since Week 6 when Berry sent a down monster 79 yard punt he has only twice punted over 50 yards – once in Week 9 for 51 yards and once in Week 14 for 53 yards. While distance isn’t everything, with accuracy and hang-time also key, there’s no reason for punts to be landing around the opposition 40 yard line if you have another 20 yards in you.
Underrated Steelers problem: Jordan Berry is kinda bad
— Victor Nichols (@Vic_inabox) December 21, 2015
But there’s no doubt that Berry is accurate and this is evident by the fact that only one of Berry’s punts have gone for a touchback all season, which was interestingly his 79 yarder in Week 6.
Rating – When Berry’s punting from around the 50 line he’s dangerous because he can punt accurately and deep inside the opposition’s territory. But when punting from much deeper, Berry seems unable to flip the field.
3 out of 5
Las Vegas Bowl Win for Tom Hackett – Also Proves He Can Run
Anyone who has played even the most junior level team sport knows that if the coach suspects that you don’t like running, you can expect laps at the next training session.
So when Tom Hackett claimed he didn’t like running during his Ray Guy Award speech he must have been suspecting some sort of repercussion. But I don’t think he was expecting it to be in the form of a 21 yard rush after the Utah Utes coach called a fake punt.
— BYU Cougars (@BR_BYUCougars) December 20, 2015
It was just one of the stories that came out of this week’s Las Vegas Bowl between the Utah Utes and the BYU Cougars which saw Tom Hackett’s Utes come out champions 35-28.
Hackett punted 6 times for an average of 49.5 yards and four inside 20s. But while Hackett didn’t have a single bad punt, it was this 51 yard gem that really got people talking.
Perhaps even take a look at that from a different angle.
While it was a day that topped off a brilliant college career for Hackett, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Utes. Thanks to some early interceptions, the Utes appeared to have the game wrapped up being 35-0 in front at the end of the first quarter. But the Cougars refused to lie down and clawed their way back through the following three quarters.
However, despite BYU scoring a touchdown late in the final quarter to bring them within 7 points, the Utes managed to maintain possession through the final three and a half minutes to hold on the for the win.
— Nathan Chapman (@ProkickAus) December 20, 2015
Rating – When a punter gets an opportunity to fake a punt and it pays off, it’s always a reason to get excited. The fact that he didn’t shy away from the hit at the end of the rush is worth an extra point too. But on top of that, Hackett once again punted consistently well – it’s beginning to get embarrassing how often this guy gets a top rating.
5 out of 5