Presumably, if you went to the NFL Films vault in New Jersey and pored through their vault of games, you’d find a worse punt return than the one Tennessee Titans rookie Cameron Batson had on Thursday night.
Batson’s punt return against the Jacksonville Jaguars was … well, it wasn’t good.
Late in the first quarter, with the Titans defense playing well and holding a 7-0 lead, the Jaguars punted. Batson’s first mistake came when he fielded the punt at all. He didn’t track it well and tried to catch it at his own 7-yard line. Nope.
Then Batson had the ball go right through his arms. If that wasn’t bad enough, when it bounced up it went off his knee. Because Batson was so turned around trying to catch the punt, that sent the ball back toward Tennessee’s goal line.
All of that was really bad, but it got worse. Batson recovered it at the 1-yard line. Not great but still salvageable. But instead of just falling forward and letting the Titans offense dig out of a hole, Batson actually retreated a bit back into his own end zone with a number of Jaguars swarming him — seriously, this play was like quicksand — and he was tackled quickly for a safety. Because his retreat into the end zone was voluntary, he wasn’t given forward progress.
“Just stay in play,” Fox color analyst Troy Aikman lamented. “Just get up the field.”
And not like it needed to get worse, but then Titans punter Brett Kern mishit the ensuing free kick, and the Jaguars returned it to their 44-yard line for great field position. The only saving grace for the Titans was their defense held on fourth-and-goal at the end of that Jaguars possession.
Batson, a rookie out of Texas Tech, had eight catches for 82 yards coming into Thursday night’s game. He also had just one punt return, for zero yards. He might not retain that punt returner job much longer.
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