The Buffalo Bills punter, Shawn Powell, has been released after the Bills’ 37-24 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football. Powell’s punts were returned seven times by wide receiver/special teams Travis Benjamin for a Browns record 179 yards. This is a single game franchise record, mind you, and 79 of those yards led to a Browns touchdown score that added to the nails in the Buffalo Bill’s coffin in Ohio last night.
Every fan knows that during any type of kick off, if the return man gets past everyone else, the punter/kicker is responsible for stopping him. The punter/kicker is also responsible for recognizing those returners that have the most success and making the effort to place the landing spot for the kick away from them.
Powell did not manage this strategy last night. His punts gravitated to Benjamin’s ready hands and not one was fair caught. Surely, Coach Rob Chudzinski wouldn’t fire the 2nd year punter for one game of mistakes, would he?
Apparently not. Before travelling to Cleveland, Powell expressed concern about his place on the roster. His performance last season and in the first four weeks of this season has not been without some trials. In the Bills’ win over the Baltimore Ravens, he shanked two punts and Powell is ranked 32nd in the NFL in net yards per punt.
During Thursday’s game, Powell punted for a net of 23.1 yards and none of those punts pinned the Cleveland Browns inside their own 20 yard line. Coach Doug Marrone admitted the team asked Powell to place his kicks out of bounds to avoid any (more) disastrous returns that led to big plays for Cleveland.
Powell may have had some idea the clock was ticking on his time in Buffalo. After all , he got his job last season when the Bills released veteran Brian Moorman after poor performances in the first four weeks. Fans were not exactly pleased, but it seemed the right course at the time. Coaches praised Powell’s youth and strength. Unfortunately, it seems no one was aware of his aiming issues last season.
In Powell’s defense, Travis Benjamin’s sudden explosion Thursday night was a shock to everyone, except, perhaps, himself. He came into last night’s game averaging just 7.7 yards with five fair catches on 10 returns in the first four games of the season. Benjamin puts his early season slump down to patience. “It was about settling down,” he explains. “I was trying to …force it. Once I calmed down, I knew the plays would come to me.”
And, indeed the plays did come to him. Benjamin has broken a Cleveland Browns record that has stood since Oct 24, 1993 when running back Eric Metcalf returned punts for a total of 166 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Cleveland came from behind and won that game 28-23 on Metcalf’s returned punt for a 75 yard touchdown.
Now at 2-3, the Buffalo Bills are in the market for a punter, again. Thankfully, they will not be playing again until Sunday Oct.13, when they host the Cincinnati Bengals. This should give the Bills time to locate and sign a punter they can be pleased with. Having released Shawn Powell, the punter they released a punter for last season, fans can only hope their next choice is more up to the challenge of the game.
Written by: Brandi Tasby