I don’t know if you guys were aware of this, but the SUPER BOWL was last night! I know! And while it might have been the lowest-scoring Super Bowl of all time, that would minimize what was the real story of this game — the incredible punter’s duel between the Ram’s Johnny Hekker and the Patriot’s Ryan Allen.
If you’re a punting connoisseur like I am, there’s nothing you like more than a good old-fashioned punter’s duel. And boy howdy, did we get one in SPADES Sunday night!
I could recap each punt (and I’m tempted!) but instead I’ll settle for ranking my favorites from best to least. This was punting for the ages — a Super Bowl that will never be forgotten!
5 stars: That one that went a Super Bowl record 65 yards
Did you SEE that third quarter punt from Johnny Hekker? Boy, it really went far down the field. Just went, and went, and went. I mean, 65 yards, that’s just a hell of a kick. Hekker’s bomb was the most riveting kick since Ryan Allen in Super Bowl 59.
Son Heung-Min: He’s the hero Tottenham deserves, and also the one it needs right now. He’s just so gleefully exuberant, and he gives 100% for the squad. His match winner was a low knuckler that was a lot more difficult to save than it first appeared. Most underrated forward in England?
4.5 stars: That one just before halftime
Hekker, who really deserved the MVP trophy, don’t get me started here, had another gorgeously placed blast just before Maroon 5 took the stage (BEST HALFTIME SHOW EVER), that plopped and dribbled all the way to the New England two yard line before being downed. My goodness! *fans face*
Harry Winks: The numbers don’t show the same kind of defensive performance as in past games, but Winksy was once again excellent, running all over the pitch and serving as a safe outlet in midfield. Passing percentage isn’t the end-all stat — most of Winksy’s were side-to-side — but Winks’ defensive positioning continues to improve as the year goes on and I’m really liking it.
4 stars: That one from the first quarter
Hekker may have shown his punting dominance later in the game, but his first punt in Atlanta was another beauty, a 54-yard blast that wasn’t returned. What a way to start off a punter’s duel!
Tobinson Alderweirtonchez: Newcastle barely tried to play a possession game all match, but they did have some dangerous moments on the counter. Both Toby and Davinson did an excellent job in preventing those moments from turning into chances. Sanchez in particular had problems against Salomon Rondon in Spurs’ last match-up against Newcastle, but did an excellent job on Saturday.
Jan Vertonghen: I might be overrating Jan’s performance at left back — he was only 2/14 on crosses all match — but he looked surprisingly competent out wide. With all of Spurs’ CBs healthy again, I think Tottenham’s best choice to spell Danny Rose so long as Ben Davies remains injured. And maybe even after.
3.5 stars: That other one from the first quarter
Ryan Allen had to wait a bit to get into the game for New England, but he came through in the end with a lovely 41-yard punt that was exquisitely placed and went out of bounds at the Rams six yard line. It was a statement of intent from Allen — he was NOT going to let Hekker dominate the punting in this most important of NFL games!
Hugo Lloris: Didn’t have to do much all game, but came through when needed with a couple of nice stops. Distribution was fine.
Fernando Llorente: I’ve had my issues with Nando this season (and last season, if we’re honest) but coming in as an impact substitute target man may be his best role in this Tottenham side with Kane injured. He does have the ability to hold up play, even if he does blame the sun in his eyes when he misses chances.
Erik Lamela: Had Lucas Moura directed his cross into back of the net, he might be ranked a little higher. Worked hard, pressed even harder but not much came off for Erik offensively in a match against a bunkered opponent. Subbed off for Danny Rose as Spurs changed shape.
3 stars: That one just before the Rams got a field goal
Allen’s 42-yarder, which set up the series in which the Rams kicked a field goal to tie the game in the third quarter, was a perfectly acceptable and routine kick and he should not be knocked for it. It was fine. It just didn’t WOW me, you know? And you expect that from a Super Bowl punt with that much on the line.
Christian Eriksen: Unlucky not to score after his flick was hoofed off the line and created five big chances from open play and corners but it felt like an unusually quiet day from him. I get the feeling that he’s feeling stifled creatively without Dele and Kane in the side.
Moussa Sissoko: Probably should’ve scored with a blast that stung the palms of Matt Ritchie. Otherwise, solid and safe, if not excellent. He was (all together now!) fine.
Kieran Trippier: 4/10 from crosses, but only really had Lucas Moura to aim at, so whatever. Much of Newcastle’s attacks came up their right side so he didn’t have a whole lot to do defensively. He was all right.
2.5 stars: That one in the second quarter with the offensive holding flag
You have to feel sorry for Allen on this one — he boots a 53-yard beauty to the LA 22-yard line — an excellent kick — only to have his field position compromised by a 10-yard offensive holding flag against the Pats. If I were him, I’d be ALL up in his special teammates’ grills about ruining his outstanding play with a moment of madness. Don’t mess with THIS punter!
Lucas Moura: Pretty disappointing on balance, but he did press really well, and should be credited for that. Looked toothless at the #9, and really failed to get anything going wide as well, though this was not a match where Spurs created much from open play. Fluffed his best chance with a header that went wide.
1 star: The last one of the match
It’s not like it was a BAD punt — Hekker put a 39-yarder to the New England 31, again no return. It’s just that this was the last punt of the match, which is always the most disappointing punt in any NFL game. I cried, fam. You’d have thought there might have been at least one more before the two minute warning... but no.
No Tottenham players were as disappointing as the last punt of Super Bowl 53.
Sean Landeta Memorial Non-Rating
Danny Rose, Eric Dier