The NFL changed the touchback rule last year in an effort to cut down on kickoff returns, and it has resulted in far fewer long kickoff returns. More returners are keeping the ball in the end zone now that the touchback goes to the 25-yard line, and more kickers are kicking the ball high, which gives the coverage team more time to get downfield and makes it harder for a returner to break free.
So the game Seahawks kickoff returner Tyler Lockett had last night was particularly impressive.
Lockett returned five kickoffs for 197 yards last night, which is the most productive game a kickoff returner has had since the league changed the rule last year.
Lockett started the game with a 57-yard return of the Falcons’ first kickoff, then had a 37-yard return, a 39-yard return, another 39-yard return and finally a 25-yard return of the second-half kickoff. The Falcons had two more kickoffs after that, but both went deep into the end zone and Lockett didn’t return them.
Last night’s game also saw Atlanta’s Andre Roberts return a kickoff 50 yards and later fumble a return. There was a lot of excitement on kickoffs last night, something we haven’t seen much of in the NFL over the last two years.