Anatomy of a Momentum Changing Punt Return

Because the posts have been and will continue to come fast and furious, I'm going to include links to previous ones in each post, so that one can jump around between them at ease.

Previous Breakdowns:

Fake Punt Attempt
1st Half Review
2nd Half Review
Celebration Thread

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Let's take a look at how Santonio Holmes was able to take a Mike Scifres punt 67 yards for a TD in the 1st quarter to level the score at 7-7 during Sunday's Divisional Round win over the San Diego Chargers. The Steelers patience and decision to pooch punt it with Ben their first possession had pinned San Diego deep. The defense held, which meant Pittsburgh was going to get good position regardless of the return, as you can see by where Holmes caught the punt. 

To the pictures:

Frame1_medium

As you can see, Holmes begins heading right down the 35 yard line with his shoulders squared to the opposing team's bench.

Puntreturn_medium

But in the above frame, you can see Holmes recognizing where the tiny window is for him to get through, and he begins to head up field.

  Puntreturn2_medium

One giant step to the inside and he's got the two gunners beat to the necessary angle. See how he goes from running towards the sidelines to up field all in just a few frames time? Very impressive.

As you can see in the second and third frames, Holmes makes a lightning fast move to the inside, but he has to kind of duck his shoulder down to angle his body correctly to make the fast enough burst back to the middle rather than continuing on the same plane towards those blurry teammates of his. When you look at all three frames, but particularly the final two, you quickly realize that Holmes displayed an absolutely electric couple of steps there to get himself past those two SD cover guys who were in their appropriate lanes. Sometimes good quickness just wins out. Also, this is a great example of how all speed is not created equal. Lots of dudes can run fast. But there has to be an extra gear of quickness to compliment base speed.

Holmes showed he had that ability to get into high gear in a split seconds time in those frames. He still needed a few key blocks to spring him to the house though.

Did he get them?

NFL Scores, Schedule and Blog Posts - SB Nation

Let's take a look...

 

Puntreturnblock_medium

Not sure who that was who made the block, but it was a good one. Also, you can see how Holmes just barely beat that Chargers gunner to the spot as he dives unsuccessfully to make the tackle. 

He still needed one more block though. But first, look at what I meant when I said changing the angle of his body on a dime. His shoulders were once parallel with the sidelines in the previous frame. Now they're squared away and he's running north and south. All in a split seconds time. There's one last guy who can possible make this tackle now at the top right of the frame above.

But here comes another blocker to take care of that..

Puntreturn3_medium

And he's off.

There was one last guy with a chance to get Holmes down. Had he, at about the 20 yard line or so, we still would have had to do some work to get points and who knows how the game might have played out differently had we not gotten it done. Let's take a look.

Prwhiff_medium

He didn't have to dive. He could have just as easily pushed him out of bounds. That's weak stuff and it cost San Diego. Holmes would take care of the rest.

20090111wap_steelerholmes_500_1__medium

The rest was history and we had ourselves a ball game.

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