October 05, 2010
Going into their Week 4 debacle against the New England Patriots, the Miami Dolphins ranked 27th in Football Outsiders' special teams value ratings. Safe to say, that number's about to go waaaaaay down ... and Patriots safety Patrick Chung(notes) is the primary reason.
For Chung, it's been a pretty good week. It started on Saturday, when his Oregon Ducks beat the tar out of the Stanford Cardinal, 53-21, to vault over Boise State to third in the BCS rankings. And then, there was his performance on Monday Night Football, when he was the engineer of New England's historic night. The Pats became the first team in league annals to score touchdowns on a running play, passing play, interception return, kickoff return, and blocked field goal in the same game. The 41-14 win was led by Chung, who blocked a field goal attempt, deflected a punt, registered Miami quarterback Chad Henne's(notes) third interception of the game, and returned it for a touchdown.
It was a crucial game for a young Patriots defense that had been lit up through this and most of last season. There had been talk of benching safety Brandon Meriweather, and cornerback Darius Butler(notes) wasn't drawing too many raves, Chung, who came on board as part of the 2009 draft class that produced Butler, rose up from rotational status in his rookie year to post 12 solo tackles against the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2010 season opener. He was the team's only every-down safety in that game, and he's now proven to be very adept at fitting in with the primary Patriots edict: It's best to be great at a great many things.
That transferred from Chung's time at Oregon, when he played the rover position (hybrid safety/linebacker; Brian Urlacher(notes) did the same at New Mexico). He started 51 games there, excelling on special teams and In the defensive backfield. As a junior, he won the team's Gordon E. Wilson Award, given to the best special teams player.
"Rover is safety/corner/linebacker all rolled into one," Chung told me in a 2009 pre-draft interview. "You have to cover tight ends, cover slot receivers, play in the box, cover twos and cover threes. You are pretty much the guy who covers the whole field and you have to be flexible enough to do that."
After what he did on Monday night, it seems that Patrick Chung is flexible enough to do just about anything.
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