The Atlanta Falcons lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week 48-25, and the game turned on a punt by each team.
Holding on to a slim 28-25 lead, Tampa Bay was forced to punt in the fourth quarter. Buccaneers punter Bradley Pinion boomed a 57-yard punt and pinned Atlanta inside its own five-yard line.
The Buccaneers defense held, and Atlanta punter Cameron Nizialek hit a 33-yard punt from the shadow of his own goal post.
Tampa Bay picked up 24 yards of field on those punts. Three plays later, Tom Brady threw his fifth touchdown pass, and the game was essentially over at 35-25.
Nizialek's struggles prompted Atlanta to sign 39-year old veteran punter Dustin Colquitt to the practice squad this week. Colquitt has a chance to be the punter on Sunday against the New York Giants, and special teams coach Marquice Williams discussed the decision process.
"Consistency is critical," said Williams. "There's very limited special teams reps. You're only guaranteed a kickoff and a kickoff return. We might punt one time in a game; we might punt eight times."
"Hopefully we don't punt as many times, but if we have one punt in the game, we better win that rep."
"It starts with our protection, and it goes down to our punter being able to execute his technique, and our gunners and our coverage making plays on the football."
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"So consistency is critical for that position."
Williams was asked about Nizialek's struggles the first two weeks of the season. He broke it down to the basics for his punter.
"For him it's just his basic fundamentals," said Williams. "Making sure he's doing his job and making sure he's being consistent with his proper technique."
"You can get fixated on the actual results rather than focusing on the process. So that's where we're focusing all of our time each and every day, each and every week, is the process. The results will come."
Williams wouldn't commit to either Nizialek or Colquitt for Sunday's game against the Giants.
"It's a great challenge this week going against New York," said Williams. "Right now we're still in evaluation process when it comes to that position."
New Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot was limited in how much he could overhaul the roster because of salary cap constraints. He focused early on improving Atlanta's special teams by signing All-Pro kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson and drafting Avery Williams from Boise State.
The Falcons were let down by their punter last week, but he's got a chance to make another impression. Otherwise 17-year veteran Colquitt will provide the consistency, if not the leg strength, that Williams and the Falcons are looking for.