Kicker Dustin Hopkins has been named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week while defensive end Myles Garrett captured the AFC Defensive Player of the Week. For Hopkins, this makes back-to-back weeks for this distinction as he was honored after Cleveland defeated the San Francisco 49ers in Week 6 as well.
Both players were recipients of this week’s Brownies & Frownies here on Dawgs By Nature.
Garrett was a beast in the Colts game. His greatest moment was sacking QB Gardner Minshew in the end zone for a sack/strip/fumble as LB Tony Fields jumped on the loose ball for a defensive touchdown. Another great moment happened in the second quarter with 10:16 left before the half as Indy lined up to attempt a 60-yard field goal. Garrett completely jumped over offensive lineman Will Fries and blocked the kick in superhuman form.
His stats for the game include nine total tackles (second on the team), two sacks, one tackle for loss, one batted pass, two QB hits, two forced fumbles, and one blocked kick.
Garrett explained how he was able to jump over an entire player to block the field goal attempt:
“I’ve actually done it a couple of times throughout the years every now and then, just to keep our special teams honest, just for fun. And I think (special teams coordinator) Bubba (Ventrone) went into the archives and saw it, he was like, yeah, we have to bring this out. And we had the candidate in the Colts who allowed us to jump over, and I made the play.”
When asked if it is difficult to jump over a player and block a kick, he explained:
“It depends if you’re me or not.”
The play is something that Garrett has practiced many times before. On Fridays during special teams practices, he has jumped over many a Browns offensive lineman in an attempt to get down the timing plus bringing up that back foot in an effort to make sure it does not catch on an offensive player such as running hurdles or the high jump.
The Browns defense has been pretty dominant this season overall. They are allowing the lowest number of total passing yards in the league with 895 this season and also allowing the lowest number of first downs with 72 this season.
This marks Garrett’s third career Defensive Player of the Week award and first since Week 3 in 2021. His blocked field goal and two forced fumbles resulted in 17 Cleveland points.
For Hopkins, he has now won the distinction for a second week in a row.
In the 49ers game, the veteran missed his first kick just barely from 47 yards. Then he went 4-of-4 for the remainder of the game including the game winner. He converted field goals of 42, 49, 50, and 29 yards and also made his only PAT. His kicks were the only points Cleveland scored in the second half.
But his greatest play was just after he converted his first FG early in the third quarter. After his kickoff, San Fran kick returner Ray-Ray McCloud gathered the ball at his own six-yard line then scooted to this rightside only to find a crease and was headed upfield as Hopkins planted him after a 28-yard gain and a chance at daylight. Hopkins is known for being a very good tackler which goes back to his high school days as a starting cornerback.
Against the Colts, Hopkins made all four field goal attempts including three from 50-plus. He set an NFL record with at least one 50-plus yard field goal in five consecutive games. His three field goals from 50-plus yards tied for the second-most in a single-game by any player in NFL history.
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski offered:
“Very well deserving, so whoever votes on that, they got this one right. Dustin’s been awesome. I enjoy having him around. A good person, fits really well with our team. He was a game captain last week. The guys made him a game captain and then he came through and played like that kick like that.”
Hopkins made kicks of 44, 54, 54, and 58 yards. The 58-yarder was tied for the second-longest field goal in Browns history.
This is Hopkins’ fifth career Special Teams Player of the Week award (three in the AFC and two in the NFC) but his first in consecutive weeks. He joins a short list of kickers who have accomplished that feat including Matt Prater (2016), Stephen Hauschka (2017), Justin Tucker (2019), and Daniel Carlson (2021).
Oddly enough, Cleveland has had two players win these same two awards in the same week before. After Week 8 in 1994, LB Pepper Johnson (Defensive) and PR Eric Metcalf (Special Teams) were the recipients.