Learn and move on.
That’s the approach Buffalo Bills rookie Shawn Powell is adopting as he tries to rebound from poor pressure-situation punts each of the past two games.
“It’s a learning experience every week, and I’m working to get better at certain things that I’m asked to do,” Powell said. “I don’t look at the past. Just keep going forward to each new week. I’m trying to be a consistent asset to this team.”
The Bills knew some growing pains were in store when they handed the punting job to Powell in Week Four and released 12-year veteran Brian Moorman.
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Powell has done a good job of keeping the ball out of the hands of opposing return men.
However, he hit a punt of just 30 yards with 50 seconds left in the fourth quarter against Arizona. It set up the Cardinals at their 47 and put them in position of needing only a short drive before trying a 38-yard field goal, which the Bills blocked to force overtime. With 5:33 left in the last game, against Tennessee, Powell hooked a 22-yard punt out of bounds to give the Titans possession on the Bills’ 46. The defense bailed him out, holding the Titans on downs.
“It gets to me just because I know I’m better than that,” Powell said. “But I don’t make excuses about it. ... I’m kind of glad I’m having a rough patch right now so I can learn how to get past it and stay focused and learn how to handle these situations.”
Up until the last boot in Arizona, Powell did a good job of directional kicking in an effort to keep the ball away from the Cards’ star return man, Patrick Peterson.
“The whole plan was to keep the ball away from him because he’s very dangerous,” Powell said. “I took too hard an angle to the sideline. If I wouldn’t have taken that hard of an angle, it may have went 35 to 40. I am more upset about the kick the last game, just because that one shouldn’t have happened.”
Powell’s net average of 38.0 yards on 20 punts is 23rd in the NFL. Moorman, punting for Dallas, currently stands 27th in net average. Only seven of Powell’s 20 punts have been returned, a rate (35 percent) that compares favorably with those of the leading punters in net average, who are mostly above the 40 percent rate.
“He’s had more ups than downs,” coach Chan Gailey said. “There’s been some things that he’d like to have over and I’d like to have over for him. But on the whole, he’s done a pretty good job. In a couple of critical games, he did a nice job, especially keeping the ball away from (Arizona’s) Patrick Peterson. Except for the one. But he did a great job there.”
If Powell can have a good day in Houston on Sunday, the Bills could have a distinct advantage on special teams. Buffalo ranks first in the NFL in both punt return average and kickoff return average. Houston is last in the NFL on both kickoff returns and kickoff coverage (based on average drive start after kickoffs).