Special teams need special treatment

Updated: October 22, 2003, 11:41 AM ET
By Randy Mueller | ESPN NFL Insider
As we've seen throughout the first seven weeks of this season, a team's special teams units can impact a Sunday afternoon like no other group.

No unit's play can lift the intensity and emotions of a stadium full of fans so suddenly or suck the air completely out of that same stadium at the drop of a hat. Whether it's a punt return for a touchdown in Kansas City or a blocked extra point/field goal in Carolina, these plays are no longer being treated as a given by fans. I'm here to tell you that they have never been treated as such by NFL teams, but nevertheless now fans have to think twice about heading to the refrigerator after a third down stop.

I'm not sure we can point to a specific reason why special teams have been such a big focal point this year, but I do know that it's getting attention league-wide more so than ever before, and coaches in every NFL office are pulling their hair out because of it.