The Los Angeles Rams, then in St Louis, pulled off one of the best punt returns in NFL history when they faced off against the Seattle Seahawks back in 2014.
Special teams plays, whether they be field goals, kickoffs or punts, even if they are a minor part of the game, always have the potential to bring the crowd to their feet with just how exciting they can be, especially when they’re able to pull it off when you least expect it.
With player safety becoming more and more paramount in recent years, there are some aspects that have been taken out of the game, for instance on kickoff returns, the percentage of kicks that result in touchbacks have skyrocketed over the years as the league brought the kickoff line forward from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line ahead of the 2011 season.
Which is why you really have to cherish these plays, because they are something special, and not just because of their name.
Punts still stay prominent
Whilst kickoffs are becoming something of a dead play in the league, one thing that still remains is the punt play, which despite offering the safety of a fair catch still sees some players try to return it more often that they do a kickoff.
For instance in the 2021 season, Pittsburgh Steelers returner Ray-Ray McCloud had 38 punt returns to 35 kickoff returns, whilst the Las Vegas Raiders as a team had 27 kickoff returns with receiver Hunter Renfrow taking 31 punt returns.
That means that there is still the potential for someone to make a break for daylight and come out on the other side with 6 points, like the Los Angeles Chargers’ Brandon Powell last year:
That return was pretty straightforward, nothing compared to what the Rams pulled off back in 2014, when they had something special up their sleeves when the Seahawks came to town during the 2014 season.
Pulling off the perfect prank
Rather than let normal returner Tavon Austin take the kick, he peeled away to the other side of the field to where the ball was, allowing wide receiver Stedman Bailey to take the ball back the best part of 90 yards to the endzone:
A play like that certainly doesn’t look all that easy to pull off, so you have to imagine how many times that was worked on in practice before they were able to get the chance to use it.
The play ended up being a somewhat critical one, for the game at least, as the Rams would run out 28-26 winners, although it didn’t mean a lot in the grand scheme of things as they went on to finish 6-10 whilst the Seahawks went all the way to the Super Bowl.