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How Disruption Affected Bears Special Teams

Rick Gosselin's 2021 special teams overall rankings have been released and it shows how the Bears handled the disruption of losing their punt and kick returners, and also their punt gunners.

The Rick Gosselin final special teams rankings have been released and it's further indication why their new head coach needs to retain Bears special teams coordinator Chris Tabor.

Tabor, who served as head coach in the 33-22 loss to San Francisco when Matt Nagy had COVID-19, headed up a group that finished ninth in the league overall for 2021.. Now he's among those who interviewed for the same job with Carolina.

It's the second straight year the Bears finished ninth overall in special teams, a fairly strong accomplishment considering the disruption they fought in special teams in 2021. 

The Bears lost their punt returner for 2020 and 2021 when Tarik Cohen suffered a torn ACL and then lost all-time great kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson when they let him leave for Atlanta in free agency. They also lost their longest tenured player, special teams gunner Sherrick McManis. Both McManis, who retired when he wasn't given another contract, and Patterson were the Bears punt gunners in 2020.

Gosselin is the hall of fame sports writer who retired from the Dallas Morning News two years ago but continues his FanNation website and also the system for ranking all special teams most used by teams in the NFL.

Chiefs and former Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub always referred back to Gosselin's rankings when he was with the Bears under Lovie Smith.

Gosselin's system ranks teams in 22 kicking-game categories and assigns points according to where they were in each one.

Many teams faced COVID-19 issues all year and it wreaked havoc with how special teams coordinators put together their groupings. Often they were calling upon practice squad players who might even be undrafted rookies to go into games with only a few preseason games of experience. The Bears found this the case during the late season when they played Minnesota with 14 players affected by COVID-19.

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The Bears rated best in the league at net punting average by opponents at only 37.2 yards, thanks to Jakeem Grant's NFC-leading punt return average. As a result of

Because of Grant, and then also Dazz Newsome late in the season, the Bears finished fourth in the league in punt return average.

Grant's 97-yard punt return TD and DeAndre Houston-Carson's fumble recovery/TD return on a punt let the Bears rank fourth in direct special teams points scored with 12.

Not surprisingly, the Baltimore Ravens ranked first overall. They had the league's top punt returner in Devin Duvernay, and of course their head coach is longtime special teams coordinator John Harbaugh.

Green Bay had the league's worst overall special teams.