Photo by: Reed Hoffmann/AP
2022 has been a challenging year for Kansas City Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub especially with wide receiver Skyy Moore who had muffed three punts earlier in the season; however, their special teams have gone from disastrous to the focal point of why we will be playing in Super Bowl 57 due to the outstanding play of punter Tommy Townsend, the improved consistency of kicker Harrison Butker, and the creative scheming from Dave Toub and his usage of Skyy Moore late in the game.
Dave Toub has consistently coached excellent special teams units ranking near the top of the league every year and has a reputation for his leadership and highly respected around the NFL among players and coaches. He was the man behind this play from last week’s AFC Title game, he showed a strong grasp of special teams schemes that significantly improved the Chiefs field position towards the end of the game and that could work going forward into 2023.
Facing the Bengals with 0:41 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs force a punt from the Bengals 27-yard line. Bengals punter Drue Chrisman, lines up 14 yards behind the line of scrimmage:
The Chiefs show just six men near the line of scrimmage, all in three point-stances on the line, indicating they are doubling both gunners and looking to prioritize a return over pressuring Chrisman. Punt units need to be intensely aware of what a return team is trying to accomplish in order to avoid falling into a trap on the most chaotic play in football. At the snap, the initial suspicions are confirmed as Kansas City rushes five men:
Backup wide receiver Marcus Kemp (#85, right screen) takes off to the right of the frame before the punt to help Nazeeh Johnson (#13, far right) double-team the right gunner. This is a key early sign that the Chiefs are looking to bring the ball in this direction, as they are dedicating 30% of their potential blockers to sealing off one man early in the play. While Chrisman and the Bengals cannot adjust their punt strategy at this point, it is something the Bengals coverage unit must make a mental note of, and attempt to keep in their minds as they sprint 50 yards downfield dodging blockers left and right for the next six to eight seconds. Yikes.
Also dropping away from the line of scrimmage is Deon Bush (#26 black circle), who retreats up the middle of the field to provide additional blocking as well. With only five men rushing Chrisman he has a clean pocket to get away a strong punt with no interference.
Just after Chrisman punts the ball away, the scene becomes somewhat muddled:
On the right side of the frame, the triple-teamed right gunner, Dax Hill (#23 in between the circled Bush and #85 Kemp), is finding no room to get downfield as he struggles to get out of grasp of his blockers. Score one for the Chiefs so far. But on the left side of the field is going to excite Chiefs fans more. The Chiefs also double-teams the left gunner by knocking him out of the play instead of giving him a free release. As the ball continues downfield, the return setup continues:
Meanwhile, Darius Harris (#47, top left corner of the screen black circle), is going to loop inside his target, setting up a block to seal his man to his right as well. Moore gets to the edge and turns upfield, with a five to six-man wall on the numbers:
With nothing but clear space in front of him, Moore picks up 29 yards before being tackled at the sideline. Toub’s design here was simple, with two key strategic decisions that the Chiefs execute perfectly: the triple-team into the eventual wall on the left side of the field, as well as blocking the other gunner up front instead of letting him have a free release. Because Toub is so creative with his schemes, it should be incredibly difficult for opposing coverage units to read their keys properly and figure out what is going on, and this is a perfect example of how his creativity challenges opposing special teams units and how much valuable he is to the Chiefs organization as a result. Because of this play, the Chiefs are once again going back to the Super Bowl. Because of Dave Toub’s creativity from this play shows why he is no doubt still one of the brightest special teams minds in the game, and his schemes that have utilized the likes of Devin Hester, Dexter McCluster, Knile Davis, DeAnthoy Thomas, Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman consistently produce unique and innovative plays that make the Chiefs special teams unit one of the strongest in the league today.