INDIANAPOLIS – It’s a bone-chilling mystery perfect for the spooky season: what happened to the “coffin corner kick?”
That’s the question a pair of Indianapolis Colts legends set out to answer in the latest episode of Peyton’s Places on ESPN+ from Omaha Productions and NFL Films.
Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning enlists the help of everyone’s favorite tank top-wearing former punter Pat McAfee.
The ostensibly Halloween-themed episode begins with a mysterious delivery at Indianapolis’ Crown Hill Cemetery, where McAfee signs for a coffin emblazoned with a blue horseshoe.
Moments later, Manning pulls up in a hearse and talks about the history of the “coffin corner kick.” Now a lost art, punters of yore attempted to angle their punts to go out of bounds inside the 10-yard-line and pin their opponents deep in their own territory.
These days, with different punting methods and coverage tactics, punters aim for maximum hangtime and count on coverage units to down the ball as close to the goal line as possible.
“What better place to demonstrate the most lethal punt of all time, the coffin corner kick?” Manning asks of Crown Hill. “It’s a dying art.”
“It is a dying art. I don’t want to be the one to break this news to you, but there’s no actual coffins involved in a coffin corner punt,” McAfee says to Manning.
McAfee, who spent eight seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and played at an All-Pro level as one of the game’s best punters before his retirement in February 2017, then appeals for his former teammate to travel to Lucas Oil Stadium so they can unlock the mysteries of the coffin corner.
Just one problem: the passenger-side door on the hearse doesn’t work. McAfee agrees to travel by coffin in the back of the hearse, his journey lit by his cellphone. It doesn’t look particularly comfortable.
“All that money that Peyton makes on commercials, and he cheaps out on a coffin,” McAfee says in exasperation.
Once Manning and McAfee reach Lucas Oil Stadium, the former Colts quarterback has the coffin placed in the corner just outside the endzone and challenges McAfee to land a punted ball inside this now-literal “coffin corner.”
After a few attempts, McAfee hits paydirt. Manning takes his best shot, and while it’s not pretty at first, he almost matches McAfee’s feat.
While that’s the main thrust of the episode, viewers also get an overview of punting’s impact in the NFL over the years:
- For years, quarterbacks also often doubled as punters, with Sammy Baugh, Norm Van Brocklin and Sid Luckman considered among the best
- In 1940, Baugh set a record for average yards per punt in a season with 51.4; the record stood until 2022, when Titans punter Ryan Stonehouse finally bested it by averaging 53.1 yards per punt
- To Manning’s recollection, Danny White of the Dallas Cowboys was the last starting QB to double as a punter
- McAfee considers Ray Guy, the only pure punter in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, to be the greatest punter of all time and the father of the coffin corner kick
- Sometimes punters have to make the tackle as the last line of defense (“There’s a lot of us [punters] who don’t mind making the play, but we’re all sore for three, four days afterward,” McAfee says)
- McAfee says Matt Boscher, former punter for the Atlanta Falcons, takes the crown when it comes to punishing punt returners with a big hit
- Punter Reggie Roby, who played 16 seasons, wore a wristwatch to check his hangtime
- Former Bengals punter Pat McInally came up with the idea for the “Starting Lineup” series of sports action figures
- Many punters employ the “Australian” method of punting; Darren Bennett is credited with popularizing the style in the early ’90s
- McAfee likes his meatball sub from Subway “toasted with extra cheese” (Manning prefers the cold cut combo)
The punt-tastic episode of Peyton’s Places from Omaha Productions and NFL Films debuted Oct. 29 on ESPN+. The show, in its fourth season, follows Manning as he explores football history at locations around the country.
Others set to make special appearances during season four include 49ers tight end George Kittle, former Notre Dame/NFL running back Ricky Watters, Super Bowl-winning QB Phil Simms, legendary cornerback Darrell Green, Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts, IU alum/billionaire Mark Cuban and [checks notes] Mickey Mouse.