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Special teams in NFL Rankings

Posted Jan 22, 2016

In the third of a three-part series, ChicagoBears.com takes a look at how the Bears stacked up in the NFL rankings on special teams in 2015.

In the third of a three-part series, ChicagoBears.com takes a look at how the Bears stacked up in the NFL rankings on special teams in 2015:

Punt return average: 7.8 yards (20th in NFL)

Primary return man Marc Mariani averaged 6.6 yards on 29 returns with a long of 20 yards. The longest return of the season came on a trick play when Bryce Callahan crouched near the Bears sideline against the 49ers and raced 65 yards for a touchdown. But the play was nullified by an obvious holding penalty against LaRoy Reynolds and Callahan was credited with a 34-yard return instead.


Opponents' punt return average: 7.5 yards (14th in NFL)

The Bears' punt coverage team was generally solid throughout the season, with two exceptions. The first came Sept. 27 when the Seahawks' Richard Sherman returned a punt 64 yards on a play that was similar to the one that sprang Callahan. The second occurred Nov. 1 when the Vikings' Marcus Sherels returned a punt 65 yards for a TD.


Kickoff return average: 27.0 yards (3rd in the NFL)

Mariani performed well, averaging 26.1 yards on 16 returns. But Deonte Thompson provided a bigger boost late in the season, averaging 29.2 yards on 14 returns with a long of 74 yards. Thompson's 29.2-yard average was second in the NFL among players with at least 10 kickoff returns, trailing only the Vikings' Cordarrelle Patterson's 31.8.


Opponents' kickoff return average: 25.2 yards (21st in the NFL)

The Bears showed vast improvement covering kickoffs after getting burned twice early in the season. They allowed touchdown returns of 108 yards by the Cardinals' David Johnson and 105 yards by the Seahawks' Tyler Lockett in back-to-back losses in Weeks 2 and 3.


Net punting average: 39.6 yards (20th in NFL)

Second-year punter Pat O'Donnell was consistent throughout the season, placing 28 of 70 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line with just four touchbacks.

Defense in NFL Rankings
Offense in NFL Rankings