NFL

Best Punt of the 2010-11 NFL Season

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The impact of every play is amplified in overtime, even punts. During the Patriots OT struggle with the Ravens last Sunday, punter Zoltan Mesko may have made the punt of the year. Facing a 4th and 6 from their own 16, Mekso was called in try to bail out the Patriots.

Typically, punts from that region of the field net about 39 yards, putting the Ravens at their own 45, and it looked like the Ravens were going to win the field position battle. From there, it only takes one or two first downs to move into striking distance for a game winning FG attempt. When Mesko trotted onto the field, the Patriots' win probability (WP) was 0.33.

Mesko’s punt went for 65 yards, aided by wind and by poor fielding by the Ravens returner. When the ball came to rest on the Baltimore 19 yard line, the Patriots had gained the upper hand with a 0.54 WP. The punt was worth +0.21 Win Probability Added (WPA), an impact extremely rare for a punt that neither results in a long return nor a fumble.

On a side note, I noticed that in more than one of the write-ups of the punt, it was described as a big turn-around moment for Mesko. One article noted that he had been struggling, ranked only 24th in the league in net punt distance. This is silly. Mesko plays on a team with a very good offense, so his punts are going to tend to be from near midfield or better. Those kinds of punts are almost always shorter than punts from deeper in a team’s own territory due to the short field. Rankings punters by net distance without considering where he’s punting from is nearly meaningless.