The new kickoff rule isn't hurting Joshua Cribbs on special teams so far. In fact, you could make a case that it has...helped him a little bit. This week's game ball (a weekly feature we'll be doing) goes to Cribbs for his efforts as both a returner and a receiver.
First, let's focus on his game as a returner. Last year, besides the fact that Cribbs was banged up, teams did an outstanding job keeping the ball away from him. They would either kick it short, squib it toward the sideline, or they'd find some other creative way to keep the ball out of his hands. Now, teams are less creative because of the new kickoff rule: they just boot it out of the end zone.
Not every kick has gone out of the end zone though, and Cribbs has capitalized against kickoff coverages the past two weeks. Against the Colts, after another terrible first quarter, Cribbs returned a kickoff 52 yards, giving Cleveland great field position to open up the second quarter. It led to the Browns' first good offensive drive of the game, and a go-ahead touchdown.
Later on, the Browns faced a 3rd-and-8 at the two-minute warning, down by a score of 9-7. Colt McCoy threw a receiver screen pass to Cribbs, who did a great job picking up 25 yards and setting up the team's next touchdown, one that put them ahead for good.
Late into the fourth quarter, the Browns still only had a 17-9 lead. The Colts punted the ball, and Cribbs returned it for 43 yards, allowing Cleveland to start the drive just 28 yards away from the end zone. Three plays later, Peyton Hillis ran for a 24-yard touchdown -- the final dagger in Indianapolis' hopes of coming back.
There's no Wildcat for Cribbs this year, but he's back to his form of making huge, underrated plays whenever the team desperately needs a spark. On Sunday, all three of his plays led to touchdowns. I think that is more than deserving of a game ball.