Five of P Josh Bidwell's seven kicks against Miami on Sunday were downed inside the 20
Last year, punter Josh Bidwell was everything the Bucs had hoped for when they signed him away from the Green Bay Packers as an unrestricted free agent.
This year, he's more.
On Wednesday, the NFL named Bidwell the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week, marking the second time he has been so honored this season. Bidwell was also the award winner in Week Three after a strong game against his former teammates at Lambeau Field. Before 2005, only one Special Teams Player of the Week award had ever gone to a Buccaneer punter (Tom Tupa, Week Three, 2003).
Bidwell is the first two-time winner of that specific award this season. He was a natural choice this week after his booming, well-placed kicks helped the Bucs win the field position battle in a 27-13 win over the Miami Dolphins.
Bidwell punted seven times against the Dolphins, driving the ball for a total of 342 yards to give him an outstanding gross average of 48.9 yards per kick. Even with 70 yards of punt returns by dangerous Miami returner Wes Welker, Bidwell still compiled a net average of 38.9. Most impressively, five of Bidwell's seven punts were downed inside the 20 and he didn't suffer a single touchback.
The sixth-year punter hasn't had a bad outing this year, but his last two games have been particularly impressive. In the Bucs' 14-12 loss to the New York Jets at the Meadowlands, Bidwell averaged 51.8 yards on five punts, the third-best single-game mark in franchise history. That also stood as the best single-game performance in an outdoor game, as the Bucs' record of 52.0 was set twice by Tupa inside the Louisiana Superdome. Over his last two games, Bidwell has averaged 50.1 gross and 40.2 net on 12 punts.
That run has put Bidwell very near the top of the NFL's punter rankings. His gross average of 48.0 yards per punt this season is just behind Todd Sauerbrun's mark of 48.1, and Sauerbrun plays his home games in the thin Denver air of Invesco Field. Bidwell has passed Minnesota rookie Chris Kluwe (47.6 gross) for the top spot in the NFC. In terms of net punting average, Bidwell ranks fourth in the NFC and ninth in the NFL with a mark of 38.8.
Buccaneer players have won three Player of the Week awards so far this season. In addition to Bidwell's two selections, linebacker Shelton Quarles took the NFC defensive honors for Week Two.
In his first year as a Buccaneer in 2004, Bidwell compiled a 42.5-yard gross average and a 36.8-yard net average, setting a new career high in the latter category. If he maintains anything near his current pace, he will establish new career bests in both categories and shatter Tampa Bay's single-season punting records.