NFC Championship Game 2013: Falcons special teams cheat sheet

USA TODAY Sports

We take a look at the different aspects of the Atlanta Falcons' special teams units heading into Sunday's NFC Championship Game.

We're back with the third edition of our "Falcons cheat sheet" to help get you ready for Sunday's NFC Championship Game. Big thanks to the folks at The Falcoholic for their help this week.


Related content:
Falcons Offensive Cheat Sheet | Falcons Defensive Cheat Sheet

Today we wrap things up with Caleb Rutherford's look at the Falcons special teams units. The 49ers had some ups and downs on special teams, with David Akers being the big question mark. A lot of people expect a big 49ers win, but if this game comes down to the wire, the Falcons have a decided advantage when we are looking strictly at kickers.

Kick Return

Starter: Jacquizz Rodgers (32)
Reserves: Nobody, because Quizz is invincible.

Our kick return team has not been flashy this year. We use a single returner in backup running back, Jacquizz Rodgers. Quizz does not have elite top speed, but his acceleration, in my opinion, is tops in the league. He averages 25.7 yards per return and it is a rare moment when he does not make it to the 20 when he brings the ball out of the end zone. He's also tough to bring down (as Seattle learned firsthand!) and rarely loses yards after contact.

Punt Return

Starter: Harry Douglas (83)
Reserves: Dominique Franks (29)

Our punt return team has not been flashy either and, until the end of the season, didn't even feature the best guy back there. The idea was that Franks would field punts during the season to save Douglas, our slot receiver, for the postseason. Many fans were calling for Franks's head because he seemed to do boneheaded things with regards to returning punts, but the coaching staff doesn't listen to us so the yelling was for naught.

Harry Douglas is a player who is shifty and has very good speed. You wouldn't know by looking at him (he looks like a twig) but he's a very capable punt returner and a very good one at that. He makes smart decisions with the ball and can pick up yards quickly with a little help from the return team.

Punter/Punt Coverage/Kickoff Coverage

Starter: Matt Bosher (5)
Reserves: Matt Bryant (3)
Extra Reserve: Kroy Biermann (71) (No, really, we have a DE that can do kickoffs)

Matt Bosher has quietly had a very effective season for the Falcons, averaging 47.5 yards a punt. His net average is 40.7, which isn't awful, but the coverage crew is giving up a few yards on returns on average. I just learned that he and I share the same birthday, except he's a year older. Small world, eh?

He only had two punts at 42 yards each against the Seahawks. He's quietly become one of the fan favorites because he is a vicious hitter. He does not run away from contact, and usually, whether by design or just utter fury, is usually not far behind the front lines by the time they get to the ball carrier. The Falcons are allowing 9.3 yards per return on punts. Bosher also handles the kickoff duties, and is usually pretty good about getting the ball into the end zone or placing it around the goal line.

The Falcons average 22.2 yards against them on kick returns. I'm going to assume that includes lame returns by upbacks, so it's probably a little more than that. The Falcons have not allowed a kickoff or punt return for a TD (yet), and they play very fundamentally sound on special teams.

Field Goals

Starter: Matt Bryant (3)
Holder: Matt Bosher (5) (Also is the backup FG kicker)
Long Snapper: Josh Harris (47)

Matt Bryant is the other "Matty Ice" for the Falcons, as he always comes through in the clutch when it comes to field goals. He had an infant son pass away unexpectedly a few years ago, and to be honest, I think that's why he's so clutch. If something like that happened to me, I wouldn't give a rip about anything, anymore.

This season, he attempted to be the first kicker in some time to kick something like 90% in three consecutive seasons, something like that, but I don't think he achieved that percentage this year. He's not prone to missing kicks, but he can go through small spurts of inconsistency. He is literally ice cold with game winning kicks. I'd venture to guess that, without him, Matt Ryan wouldn't have half the 4th quarter comebacks that he does.

He has a prearranged agreement with his holder and snapper to snap the ball when the opposing coach calls a timeout to ice him at the end of games. I personally think it's brilliant. I also haven't decided whether or not he misses the first one on purpose or not (because he seems to do that every time) but he always, always, always makes the one that counts. Reminds me a lot of Vinatieri when he was with the Patriots for their Super Bowl run.

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