Special teams swing close games

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 9: Wide receiver Brandon Tate #19 of the the Cincinnati Bengals fumbles a kickoff return out of bounds against the Jacksonville Jaguars October 9, 2011 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

In 2010, the Jaguars were on the winning end of several close contests. Of the seven games in which the teams were within a touchdown of each other, the Jaguars won five. Among those wins were memorable victories like the 59 yard game winning field goal from Josh Scobee to beat the Colts and the 'hail mary' heave from David Garrard to Mike Thomas to beat the Texans.

In 2011, the Jaguars luck has been different. Aside from their two point victory in week one, the Jaguars were on the losing end of close games with the Panthers and the Bengals.

The fact of the matter is, the 'football gods' are not against the Jaguars this year. The big difference between the two teams has been the lackluster play of the special teams.

Matt Turk is the easy scapegoat, and a very deserving one in the punting game, but he's not the only problem. The only aspect of special teams that the Jaguars are doing well at is kicking field goals. 

Deji Karim's 23.1 yards/return on kickoffs is pedestrian at best, and ranks in the latter half of the league rankings. Cecil Shorts's 3.9 yards/return on punts is worse. Even stopping opposing returners has been a struggle as the 29.9 yards/return average allowed by the Jaguars on kickoffs is among the league's worst.

In 2010, the opening day, seven point win over the Broncos was aided by kickoff returns of 46 and 53 yards by Tiquan Underwood that resulted in 10 points.

Week four against the Colts, Underwood was a hero again with a 39 yard kickoff return in the middle of the 4th quarter to set up what would be a go ahead touchdown.

In week 14 against the Raiders, Deji Karim's 65 yard kickoff return when the game was tied with less than two minutes to go, put the game in the Jaguars hands and led to a Maurice Jones-Drew game-winning touchdown.

Every special teams play is the opportunity for one team to make a big play to swing a game in their favor. In 2010, the Jaguars took advantage of these opportunities and it allowed a team that probably didn't have 8-8 talent to win eight games.

Even with special teams aces Montell Owens and Kassim Osgood in, the Jaguars have been unable to do so in 2011 and have actually been victimized by special teams mistakes.

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