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Florida Gators in the NFL, Weeks 9 and 10: A new kind of punt, pass, and kick

Tommy Townsend and Carlos Dunlap got their kicks in different ways over the last fortnight.

Green Bay Packers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Intrepid world traveler Shawn Kopelakis had Week 9’s recap in last week; your fearless editor had a few things to attend to back then, though, so we combined this week’s post with last week’s. And no, it wasn’t just for the headline.

Week 9

Where have you gone, Kadarius Toney and Kyle Pitts? Gator Nation turns its lonely eyes to you — and yet, after I wrote glowingly about them a couple times, both have struggled to make an impact since.

The lack of traction is for different reasons.

Pitts has only five catches in his past two games after 16 in the two before. He was targeted a healthy seven times last week but had a drop on a deep ball that would have been a big play. That’s two drops for him in two games — after not having one since 2019.

Toney’s lack of production is more due to lack of usage. He’s barely playing more than 50% of the Giants’ offensive snaps and had only one target last week. After showcasing his explosiveness in Week 5, Toney expected to be a bigger part of the offensive game plan — as did, oh, anyone who saw that game or its highlights.

In fairness, Toney might still be limited by an ankle injury, but if he’s not, it makes no sense that Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has forgotten about him.

Player of the Week

When the NFL schedule came out, Chiefs-Packers in Week 9 looked like one of the game’s of the year: Mahomes vs. Rodgers, two Super Bowl contenders, the Super Bowl I rematch. Instead, it ended up being a bit of a stinker.

But not for Tommy Townsend.

Townsend punted six times — tied for the most he’s ever had in an NFL game — and dropped five of them inside the 20. His second punt was muffed by the Packers and recovered by the Chiefs. And overall, his kicks averaged almost 57 yards. He was, deservingly, named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

Through nine weeks, Townsend had 14 kicks inside the 20 and no touchbacks, something no other punter in the league can match. As the Chiefs’ offense has faltered, Townsend has become one of their most reliable performers.

Play of the Week

Coming into Week 9, Taven Bryan had 3.5 sacks in 54 career games. The former first-round pick has been a disappointment in Jacksonville, to put it mildly.

In Week 9, however, Bryan finally had his coming-out party in the NFL: He sacked Josh Allen twice, causing enough havoc up front that he ultimately forced the Bills to double team him in the fourth quarter to keep him out of the backfield.

He also broke out a unique celebration which he called the “campfire”.

It was one game for a player who is still well short of what he was expected to be, but it sure was a memorable game.

Here are all of the Week 9 stats (ranked and tiered in order of performance) for the Florida Gators in the NFL ranks.

The Good

  • Tommy Townsend, KC, P: 6 punts, 56.8 Avg
  • Taven Bryan, JAX, DE: 2 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFLs, 2 QB hits, 20 snaps (30%)
  • Kyle Pitts, ATL, TE: 3 rec, 62 yds, 44 snaps (75%)
  • Van Jefferson, LAR, WR: 3 rec, 41 yds, 75 snaps (96%)
  • Jonathan Greenard, HOU, DE: 3 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit, 1 pass defended, 44 snaps (59%)
  • D.J. Humphries, ARI, LT: 70 snaps (100%)
  • T.J. Slaton, GB, DT: 4 tackles, 45 snaps (69%)
  • Marcus Maye, NYJ, S: 6 tackles, 41 snaps (66%), tore his Achilles, placed on IR this week
  • Keanu Neal, DAL, LB: 6 tackles, 1 TFL, 34 DEF snaps (44%), 8 ST snaps (35%)
  • Janoris Jenkins, TEN, CB: 5 tackles, 1 pass defended, 78 snaps (100%)
  • Marco Wilson, ARI, CB: 4 tackles, 59 snaps (100%)
  • Kadarius Toney, NYG, WR: 1 rec, 9 yards, 1 rush, -2 yards, 31 snaps (55%)
  • Jawaan Taylor, JAX, RT: 61 snaps (100%)
  • Jarrad Davis, NYJ, LB: 2 tackles, 45 snaps (73%)
  • Joe Haden, PIT, CB: 1 tackle, 1 pass defended, 62 snaps (100%)

The Limited

  • Evan McPherson, CIN, K: 1/1 FG, Long 27, 1/1 XP
  • Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, NO, S: 2 tackles, 1 pass defended, 16 snaps (27%), left with foot injury
  • Demarcus Robinson, KC, WR: 1 rec, 2 yards, 14 snaps (22%)
  • Teez Tabor, CHI, S: 2 tackles, 15 DEF snaps (21%), 17 ST snaps (49%)
  • C.J. Henderson, CAR, CB: 3 tackles, 12 snaps (17%)
  • Marcell Harris, SF, S: 23 ST snaps (88%), no stats
  • Jabari Zuniga, NYJ, DE: 22 snaps (35%), no stats
  • Lerentee McCray, JAX, OLB: 16 ST snaps (96%), no stats
  • Feleipe Franks, ATL, QB: 2 rush, 3 yards, 2 OFF snaps (3%)
  • La’mical Perine, NYJ, RB: 9 ST snaps (30%), no stats
  • Tyrie Cleveland, DEN, WR: 7 OFF snaps (11%), 11 ST snaps (48%), no stats

The Inactive

  • Dante Fowler, Jr., ATL, OLB: Injured Reserve, designated to return
  • Trent Brown, NE, RT: Injured Reserve, designated to return
  • Duke Dawson, DEN, CB: Activated to 53-man roster
  • Max Garcia, ARI, C: DNP (Achilles)
  • Jonathan Bullard, ATL, DL: DNP (Concussion)
  • Freddie Swain, SEA, WR: Bye Week
  • Carlos Dunlap, SEA, DE: Bye Week
  • Alex Anzalone, DET, LB: Bye Week
  • Stone Forsythe, SEA, T: Bye Week
  • Kyle Trask, TB, QB: Inactive
  • Vernon Hargreaves III, CIN, CB: Inactive
  • Fred Johnson, CIN, G/T: Inactive
  • Jeff Driskel, HOU, QB: Inactive

Week 10

When Marco Wilson tossed Florida’s College Football Playoff hopes through the thick foggy night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium last year, it felt like seeing Halley’s Comet. Surely, none of us would ever see such an incredibly stupid penalty again in our lifetimes.

Well, almost 11 months to the day, another shoe went flying through the air across a football field. In a close game, with his team fighting for a playoff spot, former Florida Gators and current Seattle Seahawks defensive end Carlos Dunlap gave us an encore.

How could this happen?

Dunlap is in his 12th season in the National Football League. He has played 172 games and almost 7,000 snaps. He has been a leader in both Cincinnati and Seattle, on and off the field, and generally known as a good teammate. His 88 sacks are the fourth-most by a former Gator and rank 11th among all active NFL players.

And after a long and decorated career in Cincy petered out in 2020, his arrival in Seattle via trade last season seemed to reinvigorate him. He helped shore up the Seahawks pass rush and finished the season with five sacks despite playing part-time in only eight games. This past offseason, he was released, but quickly re-signed by Seattle.

The 2021 season, though, has been a disappointment for Dunlap — and, frankly, the entire Seahawks organization. He’s started just two games, played less than half of the defensive snaps, and has only half a sack and 15 tackles. The Seahawks are 3-6 and are likely to miss the playoffs for only the third time in Pete Carroll’s 12 seasons. Frustrations are high.

And yet: It’s still unbelievable another Gator would commit the same dumb act. Wilson’s toss was probably not truly unprecedented, given how much football is played in America, but my efforts to find other examples of shoes being thrown on a football field were futile. Given how savagely Wilson was attacked last year, it’s hard to fathom how someone doing the same thing and incurring the same penalty on the field and vitriol off of it could have happened again — even harder, of course, given that Dunlap is a 12-year NFL veteran and leader.

This is a brain cramp you can at least understand from a college kid. Dunlap isn’t one.

Say this, though: The Seahawks didn’t lose because of the shoe toss. Their inept offense wasn’t scoring on the Packers anyway.

Still, it was too critical a moment for Dunlap to lose his cool. He apologized to his team immediately, and he’ll look to atone for it by getting back to his quarterback-sacking ways in the Seahawks’ final eight games.

As for Marco? he’s clearly moved on, even retweeting our buddy Lucas’s tweet above. He’s starting for the upstart Arizona Cardinals and has put the shoe behind him. Here’s hoping every former, current, and future Gator does the same.

Player of the Week

Trent Brown made himself into a Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle in his first stint with the New England Patriots. In March of 2019, he became the highest-paid tackle in the league by signing with the Raiders. But that contract couldn’t keep him on the field or in the Raiders’ plans, and this offseason, he returned to New England looking to regain his form after two injury-plagued years. Those hopes were seemingly dashed when he left the season opener after only seven snaps.

But Brown finally returned this past Sunday — and helped the Patriots’ offensive line to their most dominant performance of the season. Brown was a menace at right tackle, leading the way as the Pats ran for 184 yards, their highest total of the season.

As good as his run blocking was, his pass protection might have been better. He handled Jadaveon Clowney and anyone else in front of him.

He earned a spot on Pro Football Focus’s team of the week with his performance and said afterward it had been so long since he played that he forgot how fun football is — especially given that an IV mishap apparently endangered his life last year.

When you’re mauling dudes like he did last week, football sure is fun. But just getting grass under his feet has to be a good feeling for big Trent, too.

Play of the Week

Successful fake punts are often the coolest plays in a game. Tommy Townsend - as recapped above - is one of the best punters in the game. But he has also been doing awesome stuff on fourth down besides pinning teams inside their own 20 for a while now.

In the NFL, Townsend is now two-for-two on fakes, both perfectly executed passes. His latest was one of the highlights of Sunday Night Football.

It’s probably not a great sign for former Florida players that Townsend’s dime or the dart thrown by Kadarius Toney in Week 8 is likely to be the best pass thrown by a former Gator in the league this year, given that Kyle Trask is Superglued to the bench as an inactive player behind Tom Brady, Jeff Driskel is being Tyrod Taylor and Davis Mills on a depth chart, and Cam Newton — who only sort of counts — is now in some weird timeshare in Carolina.

Then again, Trey Burton’s Philly Special might be the best pass ever thrown in the NFL by a Gator — certainly, it’s the most consequential — so what are you going to do?

Here are all of the Week 10 stats (ranked and tiered in order of performance):

The Good

  • Trent Brown, NE, RT: 46 snaps (69%), team rushed for 184 yards; first game since Week 1
  • Kyle Pitts, ATL, TE: 4 rec, 60 yards, 1 tackle, 33 snaps (61%)
  • Alex Anzalone, DET, LB: 9 tackles, 87 snaps (100%)
  • D.J. Humphries, ARI, LT: 55 snaps (100%)
  • Van Jefferson, LAR, WR: 3 rec, 54 yards, 52 snaps (95%)
  • Tommy Townsend, KC, P: 1/1 passing, 16 yards; 1 punt, 42.0 Avg
  • Keanu Neal, DAL, LB: 4 tackles, 23 DEF snaps (46%), 8 ST snaps (32%)
  • Jawaan Taylor, JAX, RT: 66 snaps (100%)
  • Janoris Jenkins, TEN, CB: 3 tackles, 1 pass defended, 67 snaps (100%)
  • Marco Wilson, ARI, CB: 3 tackles, 65 snaps (87%)
  • Taven Bryan, JAX, DE: 1 tackle, 1 TFL, 2 QB hits, 20 snaps (31%)
  • Jarrad Davis, NYJ, LB: 2 tackles, 42 snaps (72%)
  • Freddie Swain, SEA, WR: 3 targets, 0 catches, 41 OFF snaps (67%), 7 ST snaps (39%)

The Limited

  • Dante Fowler, Jr., ATL, OLB: 3 tackles, 31 snaps (40%), first game since Week 5
  • Carlos Dunlap, SEA, DE: 3 tackles, 31 snaps (42%)
  • Demarcus Robinson, KC, WR: 3 rec, 23 yards, 26 snaps (34%)
  • C.J. Henderson, CAR, CB: 2 tackles, 22 DEF snaps (40%), 6 ST snaps (24%)
  • Joe Haden, PIT, CB: 1 tackle, 1 pass defended, 9 snaps (13%), left game with foot injury
  • Lerentee McCray, JAX, OLB: 1 tackle, 4 DEF snaps (6%), 29 ST snaps (91%)
  • Marcell Harris, SF, S: 2 tackles, 18 ST snaps (82%)
  • T.J. Slaton, GB, DT: 12 snaps (20%), no stats
  • Tyrie Cleveland, DEN, WR: 11 ST snaps (39%), no stats
  • Feleipe Franks, ATL, QB: 1 OFF snap (2%), 4 ST snaps (16%)

The Inactive

  • Kadarius Toney, NYG, WR: Bye Week
  • Jonathan Greenard, HOU, DE: Bye Week
  • Jeff Driskel, HOU, QB: Bye Week
  • Evan McPherson, CIN, K: Bye Week
  • Vernon Hargreaves III, CIN, CB: Bye Week
  • Fred Johnson, CIN, G/T: Bye Week
  • Teez Tabor, CHI, S: Bye Week
  • Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, NO, S: Injured Reserve (foot)
  • Marcus Maye, NYJ, S: Injured Reserve (Achilles)
  • Max Garcia, ARI, C: DNP (Achilles)
  • Jonathan Bullard, ATL, DL: DNP (Concussion)
  • La’mical Perine, NYJ, RB: Inactive
  • Kyle Trask, TB, QB: Inactive
  • Stone Forsythe, SEA, T: Inactive
  • Jabari Zuniga, NYJ, DE: Returned to practice squad
  • Duke Dawson, DEN, CB: Activated from PUP list, signed to practice squad
  • Brandon Powell, LAR, WR: Signed to practice squad last week
  • David Sharpe, BAL, T: Signed to practice squad a few weeks ago