Due partly to Markus Wheaton’s awfully poor showing in his debut attempt at being a punt returner, but mostly because of their punter, Britton Colquitt, the Broncos were able to spend the day consistently ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the field position battle, where they had an average starting field position of the 36-yard line, versus the 20-yard line for Pittsburgh.
In contrast, the Steelers’ Jordan Berry had much to do with the Broncos having quality field position through most of the game, as he averaged just 29.3 yards per six punts throughout the game, with one punt going for a touchback and only one that was put inside the 20-yard line.
Berry may have had a pretty up-and-down first full season in the league, but his awful inside-the-20-to-touchback ratio was something that the Steelers were not accustomed to from him this season. He had a couple dozen punts downed inside the 20 during the year, and had only two touchbacks.
The Divisional round of the playoffs was a terrible time to begin to trend in the opposite direction, and to have the worst game to this point of his career. In truth, he did not live up to his preseason form during the course of the games that counted, against players who were actually on 53-man rosters.
Berry’s first punt of the game came at the end of a three-and-out to start the game for the offense, traveling 52 yards, and actually had quality hang time of comfortably over five seconds. But the Broncos’ jammers did an excellent job of fulfilling their titles against the Steelers’ gunners, which led to a 42-yard return to Pittsburgh’s 30-yard line. This one is, admittedly, on the coverage.
But there was only enough blame to go around to him for his second punt, coming from out of his own end zone. While the snap was slightly off-center, he fielded it cleanly and got off the punt in rhythm, with the only issue being the fact that he shanked it sharply right, with the wind contributing to pulling it out of bounds after just 27 yards to the 31-yard line.
His third punt came midway through the second quarter from his own 32-yard line, with this one hooking sharply to his left and taking it out of bounds at the Broncos’ 41-yard line after traveling only 27 yards, yet again.
By far his best punt, and best result, of the day, came next, however, as he got off a 50-yard punt that this time actually got the proper angle, bouncing out of bounds at Denver’s 40-yard line. Of course, this would be the one time that the defense would fail to capitalize on the field position.
His last two punts were decidedly average and rather unfortunate, respectively. Punting out of his own end zone, Berry only got 43 yards out of a straight line drive that was fielded for a fair catch. His last punt, from the Denver 39-yard line, bounced into the end zone for a touchback for a net of 19 yards.