Kubiak on Pats: 'We know what we're walking into'
The Texans head to New England as huge underdogs on Sunday and they know they’ll need a big game in all areas to come out with a win.
That’s why for the second straight game, Danieal Manning will be returning kickoffs. Manning, the seven-year NFL veteran safety, wasn’t used in that role but one time in the regular season but with the stakes raised he began to return kicks against the Bengals.
“Well I know we have an excellent chance,” said head coach Gary Kubiak about the chance for a big special teams play. “He’s done it before in this league. He’s made some big plays. I think he’ll be better this week after getting a few touches last week. He’s worked all week. He’s ready to go do it again.
“But to go do something like we’re fixing to go try to do, I think we’ve got to make a big play in a phase like that. We’ve got to make a big return, whether it’s punt return or kick return. Whether we go out there and block a kick or something. We have to have big plays from every area. It’s not like we have to survive on special teams, we have to do some great things there, too.”
Manning returned two kickoffs for an average of 23.5 against the Bengals. For his career, he has returned 115 kicks for an average of 26.83 with one touchdown. Most of that work came with the Bears, his previous team.
Since entering the league in 2006, Manning’s 26.83 kick return average ranks him second among returners, behind Percy Harvin’s 27.92, among all players with at least 100 returns.
The problem with getting a big play on special teams is that the Patriots don’t give them up very often. This season, the Pats kicked off 112 times, 13 more times than the next closest on the list. Their opponent’s average return was 20.5 yards, the third best mark in the league.
They were just as good on punt returns too, allowing the third shortest punt returns on average at 6.7 yards. They didn’t give up a punt return for a touchdown either.
That’s why if the Texans are able to get a big play on a return Sunday, it would be huge.
“Well I had only two, three returns and the whole time I’ve been back there has been in the postseason,” Manning said after practice on Friday. “And there’s a lot going into that, but I’m feeling comfortable with the returns and the guys that are blocking. And you have to get comfortable with those guys and they have to get comfortable with the returner back there. Me and Keshawn (Martin) run differently, we have different running styles. But with all that, I feel like we have time and we mesh together now. And it just takes some reps, and I was able to get some. I feel comfortable back there.”