Trick play and new rules lead to XFL's first kickoff return touchdown

ST. LOUIS, MO - FEBRUARY 23: Joe Powell #44 of the St. Louis BattleHawks after taking a lateral from Keith Mumphery and ran it back for the first kickoff return in the XFL League against the New York Guardians at The Dome at America's Center on February 23, 2020 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Rovak/XFL via Getty Images)
The XFL got at least one thing right with its kickoff rules. (Scott Rovak/XFL via Getty Images)

Easily one of the best things about the new XFL is the league’s creative, yet practical approach to kickoffs.

Essentially, the kicker kicks the ball from the 30-yard line — five yards behind the NFL’s spot — while the rest of his team lines up at the other team’s 35-yard line. Meanwhile, everyone on the other team but the kick returner lines up at their own 30-yard line with the kicker behind them. No one moves until the ball is caught.

The end result is fewer touchbacks and fewer high-speed collisions, usually the two worst things about the NFL’s standard kickoff play. The added bonus is return teams can get even more creative with blocking and trick plays, and that showed on Sunday in St. Louis.

The XFL’s St. Louis Battlehawks scored the first kickoff return touchdown in league history against the New York Guardians, using a classic reverse from returner Keith Mumphery to Joe Powell.

Now that is a fun kickoff system, and absolutely something the NFL should steal before another season in which all but seven teams topped 50 percent touchbacks on kicks (six different teams topped 75%).

The XFL also got its first kickoff return touchdown in its third week of games in a league of eight teams. Compare that to the NFL, which had only seven in a total of 256 games (that’s once per 36.6 games).

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