Ravens P Sam Koch has quietly had a very good all-around season.
The fifth-year pro from Nebraska has had a knack for pinning opponents deep. He had 39 punts downed inside the 20-yard-line in the regular season, second most in the NFL behind the Jets' Steve Weatherford (42).
Koch, 28, also has done well to limit the opposition's return opportunities. Just 34 of his 81 regular-season punts were returned, and he set a career-high with 22 opposition fair catches. He forced a pair of fair catches, both of which gave Kansas City the ball inside its own 20, in the Ravens' wild-card win over the Chiefs.
Koch's net average of 39.2 yards was the second-highest of his career and second only to Raiders P Shane Lechler, widely regarded as the NFL's best at his position, in the AFC. The Ravens also have done very well covering his punts, limiting opponents to just 8.1 yards per return.
In addition, Koch has played a key role in PK Billy Cundiff's success on field goals.
"Sam Koch is a 'nails' holder," Ravens special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. "He is really good."
Said Cundiff of Koch's holding: "For me, I have the utmost confidence going into a game that the ball's going to be where it needs to be with the proper lean. … It's made my job so much easier."
Rosburg, who has worked with Koch the past three seasons, notes that Koch has added a new skill to his arsenal every offseason.
"Sam, he's a worker," Rosburg said. "He likes football, he likes to go to work. He's constantly striving for improvement. He's not a guy that's going to say 'OK, that's good enough.' He's a guy that wants to get it right, and get it right every day.
"(Leading up to the 2008 season, he) developed a pooch punt, a reverse-rotation (punt) — we call it 'rugby' for lack of a better word. … The following year, he really worked hard on his directional punts, particularly to his left, and he is now good equally left and right. Then, this past year, he took on the challenge of trying to get more hang time on the ball, and he's done that as well.
"It's been a progression for Sam. When he goes at it, he's going to find something in his game that he's going to try and improve."