Go figure: New kickoff rules produce more touchbacks, TDs

The NFL's new rule moving kickoffs up five yards produced a huge number of touchbacks during the opening weekend, yet a record-matching three kicks were returned for touchdowns.

The league moved kickoffs up to the 35-yard line hoping to address safety concerns, and that produced nearly triple the number of touchbacks from last year, according to STATS LLC.

Heading into Sunday night's game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets, 49 percent of kickoffs (63 of 129) were touchbacks. Last season only 18 percent (24 of 137) were not returned the opening weekend.

For whatever reason, it also produced more touchdowns than usual. The three returns -- up from one last year -- matched the opening weekend mark set in 1970 and equaled in 1998.

Packers rookie Randall Cobb tied the NFL record for longest kick return with a 108-yard score on Thursday night against New Orleans.

Minnesota's Percy Harvin returned the opening kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown against San Diego on Sunday. It was costly for the Chargers as kicker Nate Kaeding hurt his left knee on the play and missed the rest of the game.

Ted Ginn Jr. also had a 102-yard touchdown return for San Francisco against Seattle.

"I got an opportunity to go out and show what I had," Ginn said. "It's great. You do it on the video game a lot, but you don't see it a lot in real life."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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