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Special Teams Scheme

Posted Sep 22, 2010

Ryan Succop learns pooch kick to keep Cleveland's return game in check

Ryan Succop last missed a regular season field goal on November 15, 2009. Since that 52-yarder sailed wide left in Oakland, he’s converted on 15 straight attempts. Succop’s three field goals in Cleveland this past Sunday only extended that streak, and his career FG percentage now stands at 87.5%.

The former Mr. Irrelevant has been an excellent find for the Chiefs, we know that.

But Succop has done much more for the team than kick extra points, connect on field goals and show off a powerful leg. He’s also proven the ability to adapt his kicking style to the specifics of the Chiefs game plan. There’s no better example than Sunday’s game in Cleveland.

With Browns playmaker Joshua Cribbs coming off a two-TD special teams performance the last time Kansas City and Cleveland met, the Chiefs were determined to scheme their kicking game away from Cribbs.

The kickoff strategy against Cleveland called to pooch the ball high and short, allowing Kansas City’s cover men ample time to run their coverage lanes and tackle a returner other than Cribbs.

While the Chiefs may have been giving up a bit of field position in the process, Succop’s pooch kicks were eliminating the game-breaking potential of Cribbs as a returner.

“Obviously, you want to go out there and pound the ball,” Succop said. “It was a special situation, and one that Coach Hoffman and Coach Haley thought would give us the best chance to win. I’m just happy that I was able to go out and execute something new.”

Something new?

As good as Succop has been for the Chiefs, it’s a little surprising to hear that pooch kicks represented out-of-the-box thinking for the second-year player. With his booming leg, Succop has often just teed-up the football and kicked the heck out of it throughout his career.

See end zone…aim end zone…hit end zone.

“It’s different,” Succop admitted. “I’m definitely not used to it. That’s the first time in my career that I’ve been asked to go out there and make those types of kicks. (Special Teams) Coach (Steve) Hoffman worked with me on it, and fortunately I was able to put the ball in some good spots.”

Good spots might be a bit of an understatement.

Succop’s pooch-kicking debut allowed Cribbs to get his hands on a kickoff just one time for 19 yards. Cribbs’ lone return didn’t come until late in the game when Cleveland was able to sneak him up and into the pooch zone.  

“There was a lot of strategy going into those kicks, let’s just say that,” Succop smiled.

Succop paired his kicks with Dustin Colquitt’s punts to completely take away Cleveland’s return ability. Only one of Colquitt’s punts were returnable, and it was taken by Cribbs for five yards.

“I think our cover teams did a tremendous job – the kickers leading both of those groups,” Coach Todd Haley said. “I think they both did a heck of a job helping us win.”

So how are the Chiefs winning with a 24th ranked defense and a 30th ranked offense?

For one, they’re a salty bunch. But they’re also doing the hidden things efficeinlty, such as adding a pooch kick to Succop’s box of tools box order to scheme an opponent.

Who knew that Succop had never pooch kicked before?

On a side note about special teams, another aspect of the victory in Cleveland that has gone somewhat unnoticed was Haley’s decision to “ice” Browns kicker Phil Dawson just before halftime. Haley called timeout prior to the kick and Dawson went on to pull the 42-yarder wide left; a huge miss in a two-point Kansas City victory.

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