Punter Rankings - Week 13
Bill Belichick has started every single one of his 14 seasons as the New England Patriots’ head coach with a left-footed punter. If you believe what Belichick told NFL.com back in September, it’s just a coincidence. But as we’ve learned over and over, nothing Belichick does is unintentional. Earlier this season, Bird Breakdown took a look at stats from 2002-2012 and concluded that left-footed punters induce muffs 3.19% of the time, while right-footed punters induce muffs 2.36% of the time. This is actually quite an extraordinary difference, one established with statistical relevance (over 28,000 punts were included in the data) and a clear-cut difference (left-footed punters are 35% more likely to induce muffs).
We all know what happened on Sunday night. Wes Welker misjudged Ryan Allen’s left-footed punt by nearly 10 yards, setting up a situation where it caromed off cornerback Tony Carter and gave the Patriots possession of the football on the Broncos’ 13 yard line. When one combines the likelihood of a left-footed punter’s opposite spin adding an element of confusion for the returner with the extreme wind conditions on Sunday night, it suggests that the “luck” involved in that game-changing play was in fact the residue of design. In a game like Sunday night’s battle between the Patriots and Broncos, every little edge matters far more, and this was yet another clear case of Belichick giving his team the best possible chance to win.