|Maynard doing his best to boot Bears' opponents|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 24 December 2008 23:05|
He thinks he's currently in it - and it would be tough to argue.
``I think it could be one of the best stretches in my career,'' said Maynard, the Chicago Bears' punter.
It could be one of his best seasons, period.
With their playoff hopes hanging in the balance, the Bears (9-6) hope the pattern continues in the finale at Houston on Sunday. Actually, they'd just as soon not have to use him, but the fact that he can be counted on if needed at least gives them some peace of mind.
The league's fourth-ranked punter, Maynard is averaging 41.5 yards per attempt in his 12th season - and no one is doing a better job pinning opponents deep in their territory. His career-high tying 36 punts inside the 20 lead the NFL and are tied for third since the league started recording that statistic in 1976.
that's taking pressure off a defense that has struggled at times.
``It's helped out a lot,'' defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said. ``It's given the (opponents') offense a long way to go. It also gives us the ability to play our whole defense. We can blitz a little bit. We can be aggressive. Or, we can play zone.''
And, they can thank their punter.
In the last six games, Maynard is averaging 42.6 yards and has driven 16 of 37 punts inside the 20. Five of those came in a loss at Minnesota on Nov. 30, and he did it four more times against Jacksonville the following week.
Against New Orleans two weeks ago, Maynard booted a 53-yarder and a 56-yarder, and he came up with two more big ones against Green Bay on Monday night as the Bears won their third straight.
His first attempt was a 60-yarder and his second sailed 65 yards for a touchback. When he wasn't going long, he showed a soft touch - like he did on a 25-yard punt that pinned Green Bay on the 9 early in the second quarter.
Either way, opponents are finding little room to run.
They have just 14 yards on punt returns over the last six games, with the Packers running back three for just seven yards.
ver a punt and can find the ball when it's in flight. And they're making plays on it.''
Enter Rashied Davis.
The Bears were trailing 14-3 to start the second half when Maynard punted from the 31 after three plays went nowhere. That's when Davis came through and the comeback began.
He ran back in coverage and bumped the Packers' Jarrett Bush, causing the punt to hit him as Will Blackmon signaled for a fair catch. Chicago's Jason Davis recovered at the 27, and after hitting Desmond Clark with a 21-yard pass to the 6, Kyle Orton found Greg Olsen in the back of the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown that made it a four-point game.
``I knew where the ball was,'' Davis said. ``Usually, when you're on the offensive side, you know where the ball is. That's your job. As a gunner, that's your job to know where the ball is. ... My whole deal was to let him think he was blocking me and then to push him into the football.''
It was a big play, one of several by the special teams.
Sure, Adrian Peterson delivered an ill-advised late hit against Blackmon after he stepped out of bounds on the kickoff following Matt Forte's tying touchdown with just over three minutes left in regulation. That put the ball on the Chicago 35, but Alex Brown blocked Mason Crosby's 38-yard attempt with 18 seconds left in regulation.
Then, Robbie Gould booted the game-winner in overtime to keep the Bears in playoff contention.
``You can pretty much count on all of our special teams,'' Maynard said. ``It says a lot about the group of guys we have. They're doing a tremendous job.''
Particularly the punter.