Henry's boots give Eagles a boost

Chas Henry averaged 55 yards on six punts against the Browns on Sunday.
Chas Henry averaged 55 yards on six punts against the Browns on Sunday. (YONG KIM/ STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: September 13, 2012

FOR LARGE stretches of Sunday's game, it was clear that the Browns' offense was simply not going to be able to move the football. The Eagles' defense was too good against Trent Richardson on the ground, and Brandon Weeden was too bad through the air.

If the Eagles were going to lose the opener, their offense or special teams would have had to be the reason. Thanks to four Michael Vick interceptions, the offense almost did. But hidden in the hoopla of Vick's ineptitude was the performance of punter Chas Henry, who picked a good game to have his best day as a pro.

Tasked with eliminating any hope for a futile Browns offense, Henry boomed six punts into Cleveland territory to the tune of a 55-yard average. His punts, all of which occurred in the second and third quarters of a tight game, landed at the Browns' 25, 19, 13, 13, 33 and 10, respectively.

Returner extraordinaire Josh Cribbs did what he does best, averaging 13 yards a pop, but Henry's damage was indelible. Weeden and the Browns were repeatedly buried on their own side of the field, and their ability to affect the outcome was minimized.

"That is how you win games," Henry said on Monday. "Our whole thing when I was in college was, how do you play defense? If you're a quarterback, don't turn the ball over. Running back? Don't turn the ball over. For a punter, you put your defense in the best position and make it a long field for the other team's offense."

When Henry was at the University of Florida, coach Urban Meyer ran the special teams. Henry said Meyer charted the scoring percentages for the opposition, depending on how deep Henry could pin them. Had Meyer done the same for the Browns, that percentage undoubtedly would have been close to zero.

Henry's per-punt average of 55 broke a 70-year-old franchise record for punters with a minimum of four attempts in a game. In 1942, Len Barnum averaged 53.5 yard per punt on two consecutive September weekends.

Henry punted a career-best 61 yards early in the third quarter, only to follow it with a 62-yarder 7 minutes later. In an afternoon full of ugly performances, Henry and his right foot shined.

"I've always had a pretty strong leg," Henry said. "It's just been about getting rid of the bad punt here or there and trying to become more consistent. That is something we worked on this offseason."

Henry was great, and he had to be. Look no further than late Monday night to gauge how pivotal a punting unit can be in a sloppy game. In an injury-packed affair where both offenses stalled, the Raiders lost their long snapper and consequently botched three punts. The miscues resulted in nine decisive points in a 22-14 Chargers win.

"You do see when the offense is struggling a little bit that we have to help them out. And our defense was playing great," Henry said. "I knew as long as I did my job, and helped us out when we needed it, we were going to be fine."

It was only 2 weeks ago that Henry was engaged in a position battle with veteran Mat McBriar. Many thought that McBriar, a former Pro Bowler, had the job locked up, but the Eagles decided to stick with the incumbent, Henry. The two became friends, and Henry said the time he spent with McBriar was invaluable.

"It was probably the best thing I have ever gone through as far as a learning aspect, and an adversity aspect too," he said. Friendship aside, Henry seemed determined to go out and show the Eagles' front office they had made the right choice.

"It felt good to show what I've been working on this whole offseason and put it into effect," Henry said. "I've done it in practice. To actually do it in a game now is a little bit rewarding, but I've got to get better from here."

Despite his best efforts, it will be difficult for the second-year punter to eclipse his performance in Cleveland. Luckily for the Eagles, if they can right the ship on offense, he might not have to.

Contact Alex Lee at alee@phillynews.com

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