When New England Patriots punter Ryan Allen makes headlines, it’s rarely a good thing. Maybe he’s dropped a snap as a field goal holder, or maybe he’s shanked an ugly punt attempt.
So when Allen launched an unbelievably beautiful punt that Jonathan Jones downed on the Houston Texans 1-yard line, I thought it would be a good thing to highlight the punt- and it turns out that this kick is arguably the best of Allen’s career.
“[The punt] made a big difference in this game because [the Texans] were out of timeouts,” Head coach Bill Belichick said on Sunday afternoon. “That added what would’ve been touchback yardage, so another 19 yards to the drive. It was a huge play. It ran about eight or nine seconds off of the clock.”
This was the second time in Allen’s career that he’s pinned an opponent on the 1-yard line, the other coming in the first quarter against the Baltimore Ravens in 2016 (he stuck the Ravens on the 2-yard line on a different punt that game), but this punt happened late in the fourth quarter. The stakes were pretty high as far as regular season punts are concerned.
But despite the fantastic outcome, Allen felt like he could have done better.
“Going out there and working efficiently and executing at a higher rate feels better than having it hit and bounce on the [1-yard line] just with just enough time to have Jon Jones run down there and down it,” Allen said after the game. “That’s great and it’s nice, but just being able to feel like we were in control of that was a good thing at the end of the day.”
Well, even if Jonathan Jones had to down the football, Allen would have a hard time making a better kick than the 54-yarder to seal the victory against the Texans. I was curious to know if Allen had a better punt net percentage than the 54 of a limited 55 yards (98.2%) he picked up on this punt, so I went through every punt of his career.
(I know Allen gained the maximum amount of yards from this punt. I wanted to give allowance for longer punts to be considered more impressive)
It turns out that this was the second-best punt of Allen’s career, as his 56-yard punt against the Ravens that ended on the 1-yard line traveled two additional yards.
5. 2017 Regular Season vs Steelers: Allen punts 54 yards to the Steelers 3-yard line
4. 2016 Divisional Round vs Texans: Allen punts 38 yards to the Texans 2-yard line
3. 2016 Regular Season vs Ravens: Allen punts 53 yards to Ravens 2-yard line
2. 2018 Regular Season vs Texans: Allen punts 54 yards to Texans 1-yard line
1. 2016 Regular Season vs Ravens: Allen punts 56 yards to Ravens 1-yard line
The average Allen punt gains 63.3% of the yards to the opposing goal line, so picking up 98.2% of the yards is extremely impressive. Allen had a second punt against the Texans to the 9-yard line that is tied for the 50th best of his career and contributed to one of the best days of Allen’s career.
When you look at Allen’s entire day, he gained 30.5% more yards than expected on his punts, the 17th-best day of his 6-year career. Allen’s in the middle of a hot streak, too, with five of his past six games ranking in the top 18 of his career (Allen didn’t punt in the Super Bowl so I’m not counting it).
Allen’s best game? Also against the Texans, during Tom Brady’s suspension in 2016, where all seven of his punts landed in the red zone, six were inside the 15-yard line, and four were inside the 10-yard line.
These incremental yards matter, as Belichick noted, because every little bit helps when the game comes down to a Hail Mary attempt.
“[Watson’s Hail Mary attempt] was far enough away from the end zone that Watson couldn’t really get it there,” Belichick said. “Had [Allen’s punt] gone into the end zone and they had another 19 yards, I don’t know, maybe it could’ve gotten to the end zone. It was a big play. It was a great kick... Ryan’s done a real good job for us putting the ball down tight for us. [...]
“He handles a lot of situational punting. He has worked very hard on that. It might not show up in the individual stats, but it shows up in the team stats and it helps us win, and that’s very important.”