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Steelers one of many giving up special teams touchdowns

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Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009

You inevitably hear it from the head coach after his team loses a game when it gives up a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown.

While coaches may truly believe that, the statistics say something else.

Giving up a special teams touchdown doesn't necessarily translate into an automatic loss -- at least over the past decade.

Indianapolis, Minnesota and the Steelers are prime examples.

Since 2000, and including the playoffs, those three teams have allowed the third-, fourth- and fifth-most special teams touchdowns in the NFL.

Still, in those games, the Colts, Vikings and Steelers have a combined 28-13 record.

Indianapolis has given up 15 special teams touchdowns during that span and has a 10-4 record. The Colts allowed two in a 2007 loss to San Diego. That record also includes giving up the opening kick of Super Bowl XLI to Chicago's Devin Hester for a touchdown.

The Colts gave up four returns for scores in 2007, their Super Bowl year, and won three of those games.

Behind the Colts are the Steelers. They have allowed 14 returns for touchdowns in that span and have won nine times, including twice this year.

The Steelers have allowed three postseason kick returns in the past 10 years and were able to find ways to win two of those games.

Finally, the Vikings have surrendered 13 special teams scores and won nine of those games. Last year, they gave up a league-high four returns and still won three of those games.

The reason for these teams' success is, simply put, good teams find ways to win, while bad teams come up with excuses to lose.

The Colts are 117-50, the Steelers 110-56-1 and the Vikings 82-76 since 2000.

On the flip side, the teams that have allowed the most special teams touchdowns since 2000 are the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals.

They have surrendered 38 kick or punt returns during the past decade and have won only nine of those games.

Incidentally, those two franchises have had a penchant for losing.

The Rams have lost 86 games this decade, and the Cardinals have lost 96 times.

This season, there have been 18 special teams touchdowns, and surrendering teams are 5-11. A team twice allowed two kick returns for scores in one game.

Giving up two special teams scores in one game is a sure fire way to lose. Denver's Eddie Royal did it against San Diego and Ted Ginn against the New York Jets this year; the Chargers and Jets lost those games.

Additional Information:


Colts: They owe Bill Belichick a thank-you card.

Saints: They didn't pick up any style points in close win over Rams.

Vikings: Brett Favre is playing as well as any QB this side of Peyton Manning.

Bengals: They're still giddy in Cincy after first season sweep of Steelers since 1998.

Chargers: Bolts are poised to take control of AFC West race.

Raiders: JaMarcus Russell is not the answer in Oakland.

Buccaneers: They're playing better with rookie Josh Freeman at QB.

Rams: Imagine the numbers Steven Jackson would put up if he were on a good team.

Browns: Fighting Manginis put on another offensive clinic Monday night.

Lions: They're in serious contention ... for No. 1 overall pick of 2010 NFL Draft.

Special teams TDs not a death sentence?

Allowing a kick or punt return for a touchdown doesn't necessarily guarantee a loss in the NFL. Since 2000, including the postseason, it has gone both ways:


Team - TD - Record

St. Louis Rams - 20 - 7-13

Arizona Cardinals - 18 - 2-16

Indianapolis Colts - 15 - 10-4*

Steelers - 14 - 9-5

Minnesota Vikings - 13 - 9-4


Steelers - 3 - 2-1

Carolina Panthers - 2v1-1

Denver Broncos - 2 - 1-1

New York Jets - 2 - 0-1*

San Diego Chargers - 2 - 0-1*

*Allowed two kick returns in one game

'You can't expect to win a game if you give up a touchdown in the special teams.'

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