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COOL Under Fire
Paul Zimmerman
September 01, 2003
When a game is on the line, these pros are the best in the business when time is running out
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September 01, 2003

Cool Under Fire

When a game is on the line, these pros are the best in the business when time is running out

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Are some better than others late in the game? Yes. The good ones have that extra burst when the stakes are highest. That's Hall—"the best return man I've ever been around," says his coach, Dick Vermeil.

PUNT RETURNER: BRIAN MITCHELL, GIANTS

I want a guy who won't fumble. Mitchell has been at it for so many years (13 seasons, 434 returns), at Such a high level, that I'd feel secure with him back there. But there's another way of looking at this situation, and that is when you have to have a punt return for a touchdown. I'll take the Jets' Santana Moss. He's the most gifted, the niftiest and the scariest return man of them all.

SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER TO MAKE A TACKLE: JERALD SOWELL, JETS

"You look at special-teamers," says the Jets' Mike Westhoff, who coaches them, "and two guys might have the same size and speed, but one of them has the knack for making the play and the other doesn't. Sowell has that knack."

PUNTER TO HANG ONE HIGH AND DEEP FROM THE SHADOW OF HIS END ZONE: CHRIS MOHR, FALCONS

I came up with a ranking system for this, based on the 160 games I saw last year. Any punt from inside a team's 10-yard line with a hang time of at least 4.4 seconds and a net gain of 40 yards or better got a positive, and any punt from inside the 10 that failed in either category got a negative. Mohr led my list with 11 positives and one negative. Tied for second were the Chargers' Darren Bennett and the Bills' Brian Moorman with six positives, and both of them had a couple of negatives.

PUNTER TO PIN THE ENEMY INSIDE ITS 10-YARD LINE: JEFF FEAGLES, GIANTS

"As you get older," says Feagles, who's entering his 16th NFL season, "your hang time comes down, but you get smarter—you get better at placing the ball. Then, when you're all brains and no hang time, you become a coach." With the Seahawks last year he boomed a 50-yard, 5.09 hanger against the Giants that went out of bounds at the New York four. Then, in the fourth quarter, his 56-yarder backed up and died at the Giants' five. New York had a total of one yard in punt returns that day, and coach Jim Fassel had seen enough. When Feagles became a free agent, the Giants were first in line with a five-year, $4.3-million contract that included a $500,000 bonus.

FIELD GOAL KICKER TO WIN THE GAME: ADAM VINATIERI, PATRIOTS

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