Tarik Cohen’s INSANE Punt Return

The Chicago Bears lost a nail-biter to the Francisco 49ers today, 15-14.  But the Bears didn’t disappoint as football fans were treated to an incredible punt return in the second quarter.  San Francisco’s Bradley Pinion (#5) received the snap and launched his punt at about the 49ers 7-yard line (click on the image for a larger view).

Pinion’s punt traveled about 54 yards in the air with a hang time of 4.2 s.  That’s a typical hang time and should have given the 49ers plenty of time to get downfield to defend against the punt return.  But their defense looked more like a Tour de France peloton than proper football pursuit!

Chicago’s Tarik Cohen (#29) fielded the ball at the Bears 39-yard line (click on the image for a larger view).

Note that Cohen caught the punt just to the left of the painted 40 on the field.  Chaos ensued after Cohen’s catch!  He first noticed two 49ers about 8 yards in front of him.  He then ran backwards and to his right.  Check out the screen capture below, which is 2 s after Cohen caught the punt (click on image for a larger view).

San Francisco’s Aldrick Robinson (#19) had both his hands on Cohen!  But Cohen kept running backwards.  Check out the 49ers pursuit when Cohen got to the other side of the field (click on image for a larger view).

There are SEVEN 49ers running after Cohen with no blockers in their way!  The problem is that they all ran as one.  Instead of fanning out and covering more of the field, they looked like a cycling peloton or a flock of birds changing directions.

Cohen ran back across the field to nearly the spot where he caught the punt.  His teardrop-shaped path backwards towards the other side of the field took 8 s off the clock!  He then hit his own 40-yard line and turned on the jets.  He sprinted 50 yards, hitting a top speed of just over 20 mph.  Slowing to 15 mph for the final 10 yards, Cohen crossed the goal line nearly 15 s after he caught the punt! (click on image for a larger view)

Though he was credited with a 61-yard punt return, Cohen ran about 119 yards in total!  That was nearly TWICE was he was credited for!  He also had to catch the punt while staring into the sun.  That was one amazing punt return!

Gary O’Reilly of Playing with Science joined me on TuneIn‘s No Huddle to discuss this play.  Gary did a great job setting up the play and then I yapped some physics.  Click here for our segment.  A fun play to analyze!

I am Professor of Physics at Lynchburg College and author of Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports.

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