Aussie punter stuns NFL with drop kicks
AUSTRALIAN rookie punter Michael Dickson has continued to amaze the NFL by introducing a drop kick to America's most popular sport.
But Dickson's Seattle Seahawks were not so impressive.
They lost 24-17 to the Chicago Bears to remain winless after their first two regular season games.
Dickson stunned the crowd at Chicago's Soldier Field and an audience of 10 million American TV viewers on the Monday Night Football broadcast when he was called on to perform drop kick kick-offs.
ESPN commentators Joe Tessitore and Jason Witten were left scratching their heads watching the Sydney-raised Dickson.
"A drop kick kick-off?" Tessitore asked.
"We are going to send our stat folks into overdrive here, but I'm going to put it out there.
"You tell me the last time you ever saw a drop kick kick-off in the NFL?"
"I don't know if it ever happened Joe," Witten, a star tight end for the Dallas Cowboys for 15 years, replied.
Seahawks' 19-season veteran kicker Sebastian Janikowski usually kicks off and uses a tee, but Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is known for using non-traditional methods and gambled with Dickson's rugby method.
Dickson's first went deep into the Bears' territory.
With just 14 seconds to go in the game and the Seahawks needing a touchdown to tie, the Australian attempted a short drop kick hoping his team would recover.
They didn't and the Bears held on for the win.
Seahawks' quarterback Russell Wilson had a dismal game, fumbling twice and losing the ball another time while connecting with 22 of 36 passes for 226 yards.
"We're still a work in progress," Carroll said.
Dickson led all punters after his debut NFL game last week against the Denver Broncos with 57.5 yards net average per punt and he continued that form early against the Bears with booming pinpoint 40, 54, 53 and 55 yard efforts in his first four punts.
Midway through the second quarter he showed he was human when he shanked his fifth punt and it only travelled 10 yards over the sideline.
Dickson was also let down by his coverage unit, with the Bears' punt returner Tarik Cohen averaging 14 yards on four returns, including a high of 32 yards.
Dickson, a former Sydney Swans Academy member, had seven punts for an average of 36.9 yards.
Fellow Australian Cam Johnston also continued to impress. After starring on debut last week, the Eagles punter stepped it up another notch on Monday.
Johnston's five punts went for an average of 56 yards (51 metres) with three kicks trapping the opposition inside their 20 yard line.
According to NBC's Reuben Frank, Johnston's two-game average of 53.9 yards to start his career is the best mark in 49 years and the third best in NFL history.
The SportsTalkPhilly blog gave the former Melbourne Demons rookie a backhanded compliment after his impressive performance.
"It's hard to make punting exciting but Cam Johnston is doing his best to make it fun," the website said.
"For the second straight week, punting is one of the biggest positives … that's not a good thing."
And if the opening weeks of the NFL season are anything to go by the all-Australian battle between rookies Johnston and Dickson is going to be a lot of fun to watch.
It was a strong week for fellow Australian punters with Lachie Edwards and Jordan Berry both improving on their week one efforts.
New York Jet Edwards launched a 60-yarder to average 52 yards on five punts against Miami.
Pittsburgh's Berry boosted his average from 39.3 to 46.4 on five punts against Kansas City.
Meanwhile in Oakland, Denver defensive end Adam Gotsis had one tackle as the Broncos snatched victory at the death against the Raiders.
After a solid start in last week's win over Seattle, Gotsis was again important in the Broncos' pass rush.