The Seahawks will never get official credit for the feat, but their 19 yards allowed on opponent punt returns is the best in NFL history through 14 games.
While the New York tabloids seized upon — and predictably beat to a pulp — Tom Coughlin’s use of the word “pathetic,” to describe the performance of his Giants Sunday, the Seahawks had numerous positives to ponder: A 12-2 record, five interceptions, a road shutout (23-0), and two more achievements by Russell Wilson, whose feats placed him among the most successful young quarterbacks of the Super Bowl era.
Seattle punter Jon Ryan did not induce much lip-flapping, although he was primarily responsible for the Seahawks establishing an NFL record that will officially never exist: Fewest single-season yards allowed on opponent punt returns.
Ryan booted seven times for 289 yards, a 41.3 yard average, with a long of 53. One of his kicks went for a touchback, three were downed inside the 20, two more were fair catches and one was returned. That occurred early in the second quarter when Ryan punted on fourth-and-12 from his 17.
Ryan’s kick sailed 53 yards to the Giants’ 30-yard line, where Rueben Randle returned it four yards before Jeremy Lane tackled him. The play ultimately had no bearing on anything relating to the game’s final result, but it represented a remarkable oddity.
The four punt return yards by Randle marked the first such gain against Ryan and the Seahawks since Oct. 28 against the St. Louis Rams, when Tavon Austin returned three punts for a combined seven yards.
In five subsequent games against Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Minnesota, New Orleans and San Francisco, Ryan and the Seahawks punted 15 times. Only three were brought back – for zero yards.
Now, through 14 games, the Seahawks have permitted a total of 19 punt return yards. This bring us to the story of Donny Anderson and the 1967 Green Bay Packers. Coached by Vince Lombardi, those Packers went 9-4-1 and won the Super Bowl with seven future Hall of Famers. Donny Anderson wasn’t among the seven.
But he was a do-it-all back for the Packers from 1966-71 who had versatility not found in today’s game. In six years with the Packers, had 3,165 yards rushing, leading the team in 1968 and again in 1970 with a career-best 853 yards. He had 1,725 yards receiving, averaging nearly 14 yards per catch. Anderson also returned 15 punts in his career, averaging 14.8 yards, and 34 kickoffs, averaging 22.3 yards.
He also did all of Green Bay’s punting and never had a better year than 1967. A left-footed kicker out of Texas Tech, Anderson punted 65 times for a 36.6-yard net. Opponents returned 13 of those punts for 22 yards. That’s the NFL record for fewest punt return yards allowed in a season.
Or was. Having played the same number of games as the 1967 Packers, the 2013 Seahawks have allowed 19 punt return yards.
This, of course, will not stand as the league record because the Seahawks play a 16-game schedule – unless of course, they allow two or fewer punt return yards in their final two games, which is not out of the realm of possibility. The Seahawks have allowed ZERO punt return yards in NINE games this season, as the chart shows.
|Sept. 8||at Car||4||2||10||Ted Ginn 1 return for 10 yards|
|Sept. 15||vs. SF||5||1||0||Kyle Williams one fair catch|
|Sept. 22||vs. Jax||4||2||3||Will Blackmon 2 returns, -3 yards|
|Sept. 29||at Hou||6||1||1||Keshawn Martin 1 return, 1 yard|
|Oct. 6||at Indy||2||0||0||T. Y. Hilton 1 fair catch|
|Oct. 13||vs. Tenn||3||0||0||Darius Reynaud 1 fair catch|
|Oct. 17||at AZ||3||0||0||Cardinals had 2 fair catches|
|Oct. 28||at StL||9||4||7||Tavon Austin 3 returns, 7 yards|
|Nov. 3||vs. TB||2||1||0||Eric Page 1 fair catch|
|Nov. 10||at Atl||2||0||0||Robert McClain 1 fair catch|
|Nov. 17||vs. Minn||5||0||0||Marcus Sherels 3 fair catches|
|Dec. 2||vs. NO||3||1||0||Darren Sproles 1 fair catch|
|Dec. 8||at SF||5||1||0||LaMichael James 4 fair catches|
|Dec. 15||at NYG||7||1||4||Rueben Randle 1 return, 4 yards|
In a separate, but related category, the NFL lists a record for fewest average punt return yards allowed. The 1967 Packers own this one, their 13 opponent returns resulting in 22 yards, an average of 1.69. The Seahawks’ 14 opponent punt returns have resulted in 19 yards, an average of 1.35. Also noteworthy:
WILSON!: Russell Wilson established himself Sunday as the winningest quarterback through the first two seasons of a career in the Super Bowl era. His 23 victories are one more than Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger in 2004-05. Others on the list include Dan Marino (21, 1983-84), Andrew Luck (20, 2012-13), Joe Flacco (20, 2008-09) and Matt Ryan (20, 2008-09).
This is really a team record vs. an individual one, as is Wilson’s 14-0 mark at CenturyLink, and is more reflective of his ability to manage a game than his individual skills. More impressive about Wilson individually is that Sunday he became the third quarterback to reach 50 touchdown passes in the first two seasons of a career. Wilson’s 50 (with two games remaining) trails Dan Marino (68) and Peyton Manning (52).
The TDs have come — not the case with either Marino or Manning — with a team oriented to the run more than the pass.
Manning has become one of the greatest (if not the greatest) quarterback of the Super Bowl era. But consider his early learning curve compared to Wilson’s. To go with his 52 TD passes in 1998-99, Manning threw 43 interceptions, a plus 9 in TDs. Offsetting Wilson’s 50 are 18 picks, a plus 32.
Wilson isn’t dinking, either. After 14 weeks, he leads the NFL in deep passing (throws targeted 20 or more yards downfield) completion percentage at 51.9 compared to Manning’s 47.2, according to Pro Football Focus — and this despite the fact that on throws traveling 10 or more yards Sunday, Wilson was mediocre, going 4-for-12 for 68 yards, no TDs and one interception.
SECONDARY SUPERLATIVES: Also according to Pro Football Focus, Richard Sherman faced five passes into his coverage area. He allowed two catches, intercepted two and broke up a pass in the end zone that resulted in an Earl Thomas pick . . . Eli Manning threw five passes into Byron Maxwell’s coverage area, finishing with zero completions and two interceptions . . . Manning targeted Jeremy Lane’s area seven times, coming away with four completions for 22 yards.