The Indianapolis Colts have one of the best special teams units in the league.
A big reason why?
The 6-year NFL punter has devoted himself fully to his craft, after spending earlier seasons partying and drinking like many young NFL players upon entering the league. According to Zac Keefer of the Indianapolis Star, McAfee was upfront on some of his old bad habits:
"“For like the first few years I was here, I didn’t really care about what I ate, I didn’t really do any extra work,” McAfee admits of his first few years with the Colts, who took him in the seventh round of the 2009 draft. “I was drinking heavily earlier in my career.”Then came the advice, McAfee says, that changed it all, the words that spurred him from just another kid with a monster right leg to one of the finest in the league at his position.“Hey man,” Adam Vinatieri told him one day, “I think you should start thinking about your body a little bit more.”"
McAfee always had special talent and a “booming” leg. However, we’ve reached the point where his work ethic off-the-field has reached his always special ability. Look-out NFL.
Lending a helping hand: The Indianapolis Colts’ Pat McAfee has credited 19-year veteran and future hall of fame kicker Adam Vinatieri for his improved focus and conditioning.
Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
It’s not just that McAfee is a world-class punter either, as he also handles kick-offs and covers too, having made several touchdown-saving tackles on special teams against some of the league’s most dangerous returnman.
For the purposes of this article though, we’ll start with his punting. Pat McAfee (i.e. “The Boomstick“) is 3rd in the NFL in punt average at 47.9 yards per punt, and 1st in the NFL in Punt Net Average at 44.9 yards per punt. Simply put, he’s punting the ball the best out of any punter out there in the NFL.
It’s not just “all-boom” though, as he’s demonstrated “touch” as well. He’s 10th in the NFL in punts placed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line having done so 13 times. Because of his booming punts or perhaps because of his innate tackling ability, the Colts are 4th in fewest allowed punt return yards, having only allowed 72 total punt return yards through the 1st 8 weeks of the NFL regular season:
Now, I’m sure McAfee would be the first one to tell you that he’s just one part of a special teams’ unit that’s playing exceptionally well, but aside from LS Matt Overton making a clean snap, the punt average and punt net average respectively is all him. That much is indisputable.
It’s not just punts either, as McAfee also handles kick-offs too and shines in this area as well. McAfee leads the league in touchbacks this season at 41 touchbacks through 8 weeks, the same amount that the Colts had during all of last season. It’s not just that McAfee kicks-off for one of the league’s highest scoring offenses in the Colts either. Consider that McAfee is 2nd in the NFL in touchbacks at 77.4% of his kick-offs, only behind the Denver Broncos’ Brandon McManus, who has the luxury of kicking-off at the high altitudes of Mile High (79.1%).
Oct 9, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee (1) recovers his own onside kick in the first quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Colts also not only lead the league in attempted onside kicks, but they also lead the league in recoveries, having recovered all 3 of their attempts. They are the only team to successfully recover more than 1 onside kick on the season, and the only kicking unit to recover 100% of their onside kick attempts. McAfee’s athletic ability is a key driving factor of their success, as who could forget him sprinting down the field to recover his own onside kick against the Houston Texans in Week 6.
With the help of McAfee, the Colts’ kick-off coverage unit is 10th in the NFL at average kick-off return with 21.4 yards per return. That is, when opposing returnman are actually able to take the ball out of their own end zone.
It’s clear that McAfee has clearly matured in his 6 seasons in the NFL, and his numbers have continued to increase as he has gained more experience and learned to take better care of his body.
Because of his “booming leg” and self-maturation, the Colts are currently rated as the #1 special teams unit overall according to the advanced statistics provided by ProFootballFocus (PFF) at a +35.8 clip. McAfee, himself, is graded out as the #1 punter in the NFL with a +19.9 grade overall.
The Colts’ special teams play has been truly special this season due to both the booming leg and improved work ethic of a very special player, Pat McAfee. As you can see, “The Boomstick” is having an absolutely dominant season on special teams for the Indianapolis Colts: