Dexter McCluster is one of the most explosive players in the NFL, but even he can’t pick up a yard without good blocking.
Football is the ultimate team sport. Tt takes 11 men on the field doing their job to come away with a great play. Yes, usually one gets the credit, but more often than not, there are 10 other players who executed well and deserve to be praised as well.
Last Sunday against the Redskins, McCluster received a ton of credit for what he was able to do on special teams. He returned seven punts and gained a total of 177 yards off those returns. The highlight, of course, was his punt return for a touchdown. Dex took it back 74-yards to the house, and in the process, he put the Chiefs up 31-zip.
It was that type of game for the Chiefs, and it was a huge day for McCluster. Like I said though, it takes 11 to execute on any given play, so let’s go back to the tape and see how McCluster was able to find the end zone.
First things first, notice that the Chiefs had the Redskins backed up far into their own zone. Their punter, Sav Rocca was nearly on the goal line. Kansas City also only brought five, which meant there were plenty of blockers available for the return:
McCluster will get the stats here, but first thing’s first, the defense set this score up.
Once the ball is in the air, the Chiefs did a great job of running with the gunners and getting a body on a body. In a punt return scenario, you want to see your skill guys flip and run on the hip pocket of the punt unit; and that’s what the Chiefs got here. You’ll see two blockers on the gunner on the top, which eventually sets up the punt return right:
Below is the field right as McCluster catches the ball. Small but important detail here: He did a great job of backpedaling and getting underneath it. Notice that the gunner on the right is on the ground, and blocks are starting to set up:
McCluster starts heading straight down the hash, which draws the defense in. But then he cuts out to the right, which immediately sets up his first wall down the sideline.
The gunner on the right side was able to get free, but notice this second block from Marcus Cooper that really sets McCluster up, and the caravan of blockers waiting for him:
Here’s a closer view of that block from Cooper:
From here, a lot of this is on Dex’s speed, but he does pick up two more great blocks as he runs down the sideline. The first, from Quintin Demps is below:
The closer look:
And here’s the touchdown block on the punter from James-Michael Johnson. McCluster rides that to the sideline, and then cuts back on Rocca, leaving him in the dirt (snow):
From there, all McCluster had to do was turn on the burners and high step over one last desperation dive:
Kansas City’s special teams has been great this season. While coordinator Dave Toub and certain players like McCluster, Knile Davis and Demps have gotten much of the credit; this great punt return could not have been possible without some great blocking.
This was one of many great plays the Chiefs made as a team this past Sunday, and they’ll need more plays like this as the season winds down and the playoffs approach.
It’s a team game, and the Chiefs are starting to play like a team ready to make a run.