One of the key components of Falcons head coach Mike Smith's coaching philosophy is drive start averages. Smith wants a defense that can help put the offense in position to score easily and he wants a special teams unit that can pin a team deep in their territory and force a long drive for a score.
A year ago, few Falcons fans believed punter Matt Bosher would turn out to be so critical to the success of this year's team. As a rookie last season, Bosher went through his struggles but improved down the stretch late in the year.
This season, he looks like a seasoned veteran and he's helping deliver some major results in one of Smith's key fundamentals. Heading into the Oakland game last week, the Falcons were the best team in the NFL at stretching their opponent's field. Including punts and kickoffs, Atlanta's opponents were starting their drives on average at the 23.2-yard line.
Against Oakland, all four of Bosher's punts landed inside the Raiders 20-yard line, including two at the 10-yard line. While all of the credit for this doesn't go to Bosher, he's a major player in it. The coverage teams have been great for Atlanta, but the ball leaves Bosher's leg.
Bosher's punted the ball 27 times this year and only 14 have been returned. When they're allowing a return, the Falcons are giving up 7.3 yards per return. Only nine teams have held their opponents to less this season.
The Falcons have seen their opponent start inside their own 20-yard line 17 times this season. In those situations they've allowed only three scores and have produced five takeaways. Against the Raiders last week, they allowed only a field goal in the five situations when Oakland started inside the 20. They also forced an interception on one of those drives.
It may have been a slow start to his career in Atlanta due to the lockout, but this season Bosher is showing why he was the only punter drafted in 2011.