A victory takes a village. Sun Tzu did not say this. However, it sounds impressive and I suppose it fits nicely into an Instagram story for a Gary Vaynerchuk clone, so we’ll roll with it anyway.
The victory of the Detroit Lions over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday had many heroes, but perhaps there were none who captured the imagination of the Lions fanbase more than punter Jack Fox. This is not some in-joke, nor some Twitter-born meme that has Detroit spiraling into bad yucks. This is genuine, this is important, this is a true story.
Fox—with no relationship to Gray Fox from Metal Gear Solid, or the fictional Fox Unit from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, or “Jack,” aka Raiden from Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, or the other character also known as Jack from Metal Gear Solid 3 (really there’s no connection to Hideo Kojima’s timeless stealth video game series as far as we know, although there is a more than 0% chance he might be a cyborg ninja)—has represented excellence in punting through the first three games in the Lions season. He’s not only been able to slide right in to replace former Lions punter Sam Martin, but he’s taken the punting game to the next level.
With 13 punts for the season, Fox is booming punts for an average of 53.1 yards, and returners have only gained 6 yards off his punts. Against the Packers, Fox skied a 67 yarder, and now through three weeks he’s far ahead of the rest of the league in value added at the position.
Another week, another MAGIC performance from #OnePride Jack Fox (let's get the kid some buzz this week!)— Puntalytics (@ThePuntRunts) September 28, 2020
Also huge swing for #BillsMafia Bojo with that monster punt
Happy week 3 y'all, hit us with your best punter takes#ForTheBrand #Punttowin pic.twitter.com/AZbk626GA7
I am, by a rule of law and nature, conflicted about punting. The art of drop-kicking a ball into the right spot I can appreciate; what bothers me is the series of events that leads to a punt. It represents a failure in some degree on the offense. It is a painful reminder of one’s shortcomings, their lot in life and death. But liquidity in such morals is the nature of man, and in Jack Fox, I feel the ting, the twang, the pang that I could, perhaps, in another universe be a connoisseur of punting.
But the joy of Fox is that you don’t need to be a punting fan. You can tell from his ability to confound return men, flip the field and catch the coffin corner. Although the Lions defense has been a tale of fits and spurts, Fox has made sure to always give them excellent field position upon which they might capitalize.
Just watch his punt from the second quarter, where Fox sent the return man scrambling to make good on a fair catch and put the ball inside the Cardinals 20:
Fox’s punt in the third quarter put his range on display. Snapped from Detroit’s own 26-yard line, Fox kicked short of the return man, where it took a set of hearty hops past said returner and downed on Arizona’s 14-yard line.
But the greatest moment of Sunday’s punting action came on Fox’s fourth and final punt of the game, an honest to goodness coffin corner kick; where he planted the ball at inside Arizona’s 5-yard line, where it took a high, almost vertical bounce, allowing Tony McRae to take the ball and pin the Cardinals up against their goal line.
The result of Fox’s punt was a 2-yard three-and-out for Kyler Murray as the defense pressured the pinned quarterback. The ball was swiftly back in Detroit’s hands, allowing them to kick the game-tying field goal.
Detroit can’t win on punting alone (and lucky for the rest of the league that they can’t, not with a weapon like Fox). But with Fox’s leg, the Lions can pin their opponents deep from almost any range, and if the defense can capitalize on a short field then the benefit of such a punt is immediately apparent.
Naturally the defense has been a slow project, and it’s likely that Fox’s own game can’t always result in heroic stands. But in the mean time, those kicks will still scream the sky and greatly benefit the Detroit special teams, and that should count for something, somewhere, somehow.
In the meantime, if you’re part of Lions Twitter, expect your timeline to light up every time Fox takes the long snap.