Football is littered with specialized terminology. From bird dogging to wide 9 technique, commentators rarely get to explain everything you need to know before the next play. Inside The Pylon’s glossary was developed to give fans a deeper understanding of the game through clear explanations, as well as image and video examples. Please contact us with any terms or phrases you’d like to know more about.
Pooch kicks ‒ also known as sky kicks ‒ are similar to squib kicks in that the main aim of the kicking team is to prevent a dynamic returner from cleanly receiving the ball. A pooch kick concedes yardage, aiming to force one of the other kickoff return unit members to field the ball. Unlike a squib kick which is a low, driven kick, a pooch kick is popped high in the air, typically targeting the opposing 20 or 25-yard line.
Pooch kicks are rare in the NFL, as most kickers possess enough leg strength to drill kicks into the end zone for a touchback on a regular basis. In 2014, NFL kickers produced touchbacks on 52.3% of kicks. However, Washington did employ the pooch kick strategy in 2014 against Seattle, largely due to kicker Kai Forbath, who forced touchbacks on only 34.6% of kicks that season.
Rather than having Forbath kick deep, they instead chose to pooch kick throughout the game:
Washington lines up in 6×4 right formation, with Forbath in the middle of the field. The kicker takes a normal run-up and strikes the ball. However, instead of booting the ball deep, he pops it to his left, deliberately shorter than a normal kickoff:
Seattle catches the ball at the 16-yard line, slightly deeper than most pooch kicks. The hang time on the kick is 3.8 seconds, nearly as long as a regular kickoff despite being 20 yards shorter. However, just 15 yards away, there are five defenders closing in on the ball carrier. This is the primary objective of the pooch kick: to place the coverage unit within striking distance of the returner and limit his options.
In this case, the pooch kick works perfectly:
Washington tackles the ball carrier against the sideline at the 33. While Seattle has better field position than most teams would desire, this prevented the big play by the Seahawks and took much of the risk out of the kickoff for Washington.
Chuck Zodda contributed to this entry.
Follow us on Twitter @ITPylon.
Inside The Pylon covers the NFL and college football, reviewing the film, breaking down matchups, and looking at the issues, on and off the field.
All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.