For much of Sunday afternoon, the matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and Miami Dolphins, two of the better offenses in the NFL, struggled to get anything going. In both the first and third quarters, both teams were held scoreless and relied on their defenses to make stands. While the Vikings defense played one of their stronger games of the season, holding the Dolphins to just 16 points, another major factor was their punter. Once again, Ryan Wright proved how important a good punter can be in the NFL.
A week ago, against the Chicago Bears, Wright punted just once, and that punt traveled just 15 yards. After a holding penalty was called against the Vikings, the punt flipped field position by a net of 10 yards. I think everyone would agree that’s less than ideal for an NFL punter, especially when the ensuing drive by the opponent leads to a touchdown.
In need of a bounce-back game from the vast majority of the Vikings special teams players, Wright had a terrific showing. Of course, you don’t want your punter to be one of the best players on the field on a regular basis, but the Vikings punter had a terrific day and is as big a reason why the Vikings won this game as any other single player.
Wright had to punt 10 times, and every time he pinned the Dolphins deep within their own territory. Six times Wright booted punts inside the 20-yard line, including a 73-yard bomb in the first quarter. On another occasion, the Dolphins returned one of his punts exactly to the 20-yard line. On the day, the Vikings punter averaged 43.9 net yards per punt.
This strong game for the rookie builds on what has quietly been an outstanding season outside of Week 5 against Chicago. Through six games, he’s averaged a net of 43.1 yards per punt, tied for 10th best in the NFL alongside Denver’s Sam Martin.
Wright also leads the league in total punts inside the 20. After his performance on Sunday, Wright now has 15 on the year, ranking just ahead of three punters with 14. Those three are Carolina’s Johnny Hekker, Houston’s Cameron Johnston, and Green Bay’s Pat O’Donnell.
Finally, the UDFA is one of just two players with 25+ total punts to not have a touchback on his stat line this season. The other is Braden Mann of the New York Jets. These two could wage field position warfare on each other in Week 13 when the Jets travel to U.S. Bank Stadium.
At the end of the day, for a guy that seemed like an afterthought to make the final roster when he joined the Vikings training camp this summer, this is a terrific coming out party for the Vikings rookie punter. We’ll see if it continues through the rest of the season.
Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing as well as minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys marathon training, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his takes, NFL and otherwise, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.