Blocked punts have become more than just a football play in the city of New Orleans. Whenever a Saints fan hears the sound of the kick hitting a defenders hands, it brings them back to a magical moment 12 years ago.
I still remember where I was when Steve Gleason blocked Michael Koenen’s first quarter punt in the first game back in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina left this team, like many residents, without a home.
This Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Taysom Hill played the role of Gleason, and while his punt may not have ignited a city, it gave the team the spark of energy needed to take over the game.
On Hill’s punt block, the Buccaneers come out in the “spread” punt formation. This formation is the typical one used in the NFL. It consists of five lineman, who are not actual offensive lineman, but rather a combination of tight ends and linebackers and the long snapper. This is due to their coverage responsibilities downfield after the kick.
Lined up on the outside of the line are two wing players, in this case a running back (number 27) and wide receiver (number 17), who are also responsible for blocking. The player lined up behind the line is what’s known as the “personal-protector.” He is responsible for blocking the A-gap (between long snapper and guards) to his side.
Not seen in the angle of the play above are the two gunners, who are lined up similar to wide receivers on the outside of the formation. They are responsible for getting downfield as quickly as possible to tackle or reroute the returner towards the middle of the field.
For the punt block unit, the Saints line up with seven players close to the line of scrimmage, with the strength to the right side (4 defenders on right side). Because of this, the long snapper opens up to the right to block, and leaves a linebacker to block David Onyemata one-on-one.
On the left side of the line, Hill and Alex Okafor will run a “twist” stunt. The twist is seen when Okafor will attempt to penetrate the C-gap (between the left tackle (52) and wing (17)) and Hill will loop or “twist” around him. Due to the zone blocking scheme where each lineman is responsible for the gap to the outside of them, number 52 is forced to pick up the block on Okafor. This allows the B gap (between guard and tackle) to open up with the guard occupied by Onyemata. With no one to block him, Hill is able run freely and block the punt.
This play isn’t much different than the one from 2006.
The main difference here is that the Saints line up with 8 men on the line of scrimmage instead of the seven from above. They will also run a stunt here, but instead of outside on the edge, Gleason lines up over the right A-gap and will run an interior stunt and rush through the left B-gap. Penetrating the left A-gap first is running back Aaron Stecker, who occupies both the long-snapper and right guard. With the two blockers distracted, Gleason breaks through and the most famous play in New Orleans Saints history is cemented with a touchdown.