|CB Aaron Ross and P Steve Weatherford celebrate after Weatherford's punt during the first half of Super Bowl XLVI. (AP Photo/Pat Semansky)|
INDIANAPOLIS -- Steve Weatherford is old school in that he prefers the directional punt to the end-over-end style that has come into vogue in recent years.
Much like the soccer-style kicker replaced the straight-ahead kicker two decades ago, those punters who could consistently place the ball out of bounds inside the 10-yard line have given way to the new-fangled era of backspin specialists; players who, in theory anyway, can have their punts land at the five and instead of tumbling into the end zone, the ball either bounces straight up or stays in the field of play.
Except that it doesn't always work.
Two years ago, Chris Hanson was the Patriots punter. In a regular-season game against the Ravens, his rugby-style kicks twice bounced into the end zone for touchbacks prompting Bill Belichick to make the following observation: “You hardly see anybody go for the sidelines any more,” he said according to the New York Times' Judy Battista. “Show me a punter who coffin corners. You don’t see it. They don’t do it.”
Be careful what you ask for.
Weatherford, joined the Giants before the 2011 season, a year after one of the all-time great directional punters Jeff Feagles retired. And against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, he put forth a stellar effort.
* His first punt came on the Giants' first drive and it was downed at the Patriots' 6-yard line. On the next snap, Tom Brady was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone and New York led 2-0.
* His next punt, with 10:09 left in the second quarter, went out of the end zone for a touchback, but the Giants' defense held and the Pats go three and out.
Weatherford's third punt went out of bounds at the New England 4 with 4:11 to go in the first half. The Pats ended up scoring a touchdown but it required a 14-play, 96-yard drive.
* The final punt, which came at the 9:31 mark of the fourth quarter, is fair-caught by Wes Welker at the 8-yard line.
|Giants 21, Patriots 17|
Weatherford didn't convert a last-second kick, Vinatieri-style (or perhaps more fitting, Lawrence Tynes-in-the-playoffs-style), but he did do his job. In a game that included a Chase Blackburn interception (!) and a Brady misfire on a wide-open Welker, Weatherford's contributions were critical. Who knows how things play out if he doesn't pinned the Pats deep on his first punt of the game.
And to think, it wasn't long ago that a team had no use for Weatherford. In September, after the Jets chose not to re-sign him, Jets special-teams coach Mike Westhoff said that "there were times that (Weatherford) just didn't do the job."
During Media Day earlier this week, Weatherford fired back: "That wasn't good enough for Mike Westhoff," he said. "I'm playing for a guy now [Tom Quinn] that's got a Super Bowl ring, so that's not a guy I care to talk about. He does a lot of complaining, but recently he hasn't produced much."
Now Quinn has two Super Bowl rings, and Weatherford has his first.
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