Rusty Tillman would have been proud. The 2010 Seattle Seahawks special teams lived up to the name. There were special returns, special hits, special kicks, special coverage and special results. Leon Washington rightly got a lot of the attention with his insatiable appetite for the end zone, but so much of what made that unit great had nothing to do with Washington. Even the best kick/punt returners only score a few touchdowns each season. Elite special teams units effect field position in each and every game. Players like Olindo Mare, Jon Ryan, Roy Lewis, Matt McCoy, Kennard Cox and others helped lift Seattle special teams to a lofty #3 spot in Football Outsiders statistical rankings across the NFL.
Most fans will remember Week 3 when Leon Washington returned not one, but two kicks for touchdowns. These weren’t meaningless returns either. Baseball uses the term, “money bags,” when a player steals a base at a critical point in the game when the opposing team knows they want to steal. Washington’s second return for TD against SD was a money return. He had already done it once, and SD had just tied the score after being down 17-0 earlier in the half. Some will tell you that he “single-handedly” won the game. That’s a slap in the face of an offense and defense that was up 10-0 at halftime, but that’s another story for another day.
The kickoff coverage team did not allow a TD return all year, and Mare notched 20 touchbacks to rank among league leaders. Mare connected on 25/30 FG attempts and Ryan dropped 27 punts inside the opponents 20-yard line.
Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s ability to scour the waiver wire for talent and athletes works well for special teams. There is reason to hope this staff could recapture the Tillman era magic when special teams regularly helped the Seahawks win games.