- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ben Kotwica watched pleasantly as the Redskins’ special teams units got off to a solid start in the first quarter of the season opener Sunday at Houston.

Kai Forbath sent the opening kickoff into the end zone for a touchback. Andre Roberts judged his first punt return opportunity well, calling for a fair catch at the 11-yard line. Tress Way hurled his first punt 61 yards, with the coverage unit holding Damaris Johnson to only 12 yards on his return.

“Then we hit the iceberg,” said Kotwica, Washington’s special teams coordinator. “The food was great, the music sounded wonderful, and then we hit the iceberg, so not good.”

Roberts narrowly avoided cornerback Bashaud Breeland before colliding with fullback Darrel Young on his first punt return, which ended after an 11-yard gain. An extra point attempt by Forbath was blocked by Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, keeping the additional tally off the scoreboard.

And a punt by Way in the second quarter was blocked by Houston rookie Alfred Blue, who easily sidestepped the Redskins’ Roy Helu, swatted the ball out of the air and scooped it up for a 5-yard touchdown return.

“I thought we did plenty of good things,” Kotwica said. “Unfortunately, those things get glossed over because you have the [three] mistakes.”

At Wednesday’s practice, Kotwica set out to fix those things. He said he’d take credit for Helu’s mistake because he believed he had not adequately prepared him for that role. The extra point, he said, was a bit low, but long snapper Nick Sundberg and defensive end Kedric Golston, who were pushed back by Watt, have to improve their protection.

Meanwhile, Kotwica praised Way’s punting, noting that his five punts for an average of 49.2 yards — including a 38-yard pooch punt that pinned Houston at its own 8-yard line in the second quarter — were excellent. He also liked the way the coverage units, both on kickoffs and punts, were able to hold Johnson to moderate gains on his returns.

“There are things you can take away and things you can build from,” Kotwica said.

• Zac Boyer can be reached at zboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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