Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott made the decision on Friday for his team’s game against the Carolina Panthers to sit rookie punter Matt Araiza. The reasoning was sound enough, given the lawsuit filed by a woman in San Diego Super Court this week, accusing Araiza and two other current and former San Diego State players of rape, false imprisonment and gender-violence crimes. Why Araiza was still on the team was a mystery (though he isn’t anymore), and McDermott completely whiffed in his postgame press conference when he tried to both-sides the whole situation, extending “thoughts and prayers” to the alleged victim… and to Araiza himself.
Not a great moment for the coach. Another not-so-great moment was the decision earlier in the week to release punter Matt Haack, which left no punter on the roster for the Panthers game. This led to a pregame situation in which safety Micah Hyde, and backup quarterbacks Case Keenum and Matt Barkley, competed to fill the punter’s role for the game.
Barkley won out, and availed himself pretty well. He punted four times in Buffalo’s 21-0 loss, averaging 40 yards per punt, and nailing this 53-yard coffin corner shot.
Matt Barkley’s second punt is a 53-yard coffin corner job, pinning the Panthers inside their own 10-yard line. Maybe he was The Punt God all along! pic.twitter.com/obWSUuXOU4
— Doug Farrar ✍ (@NFL_DougFarrar) August 27, 2022
Barkley also completed nine of 13 passes for 100 yards, which put him in rare company — at least, in the NFL’s modern era. Per Pro Football Reference, Barkley became the first NFL player to attempt at least 10 passes and four punts in the same game since Blair Kiel did it for the Indianapolis Colts in a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 18, 1987.
The Buccaneers selected Kiel in the 11th round of the 1984 draft out of Notre Dame. Kiel was as much of a punter as he was a passer in college, punting 259 times and averaging 40.7 yards per punt. As a passer, Kiel was less spectacular, throwing 17 touchdown passes to 32 interceptions in his college days.
In this particular NFL game, which happened during the 1987 players’ strike, Kiel replaced injured starter Gary Hogeboom, while No. 1 starter Jack Trudeau vowed to honor the strike as long as it went on — which, as it turned out, was one more game. Washington’s Monday night matchup with the Cowboys on October 19 was the final game in which there were replacement players.
In any event, Kiel looked a lot like the Notre Dame version of Kiel — he completed 17 of 30 passes for 195 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions in a 21-7 loss.
(Mike Fender/The Star-Imagn Content Services, LLC)
Danny White of the Cowboys met this feat many times in his NFL career — Roger Staubach’s replacement as the team’s franchise quarterback was also an estimable punter. The last player to do it before Kiel not named Danny White was Steelers Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw, who completed 14 of 35 passes for 297 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, and had five punts with a 34.6 yards per attempt average, in a 17-16 loss to the Bengals on October 12th, 1980. Bradshaw was the emergency punter because Craig Colquitt suffered a foot injury in the first quarter.
Thanks to the good folks behind the must-follow Quirky Research Twitter account, we actually have video of Bradshaw’s punting exploits.
Four plays later, Bradshaw's first punt: pic.twitter.com/EhkdFXXMzE
— Quirky Research (@QuirkyResearch) June 29, 2020
So Barkley, whose NFL career as a quarterback has not exactly been marked with distinction, does now have this bit of NFL history upon which to hang his helmet.