How do you stop the NFL's best kick returner?

Updated: October 9, 2003, 3:08 PM ET
ESPN

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The new challenge in the NFL is how to keep Dante Hall out of the end zone.

The simple answer is not to kick or punt to him. That's also unrealistic.

Kick off out of bounds and Kansas City's potent offense, spearheaded by Priest Holmes, has only a 60-yard trip to the end zone after the penalty puts the ball on the 40.

Try punting it out of bounds and you risk a block or a shank.

Hall has returned a kick for a touchdown in four consecutive games, an NFL record, and the Green Bay Packers (3-2) are bent on stopping the streak Sunday when the unbeaten Chiefs (5-0) visit Lambeau Field.

Punter Josh Bidwell plans to sacrifice distance on his punts for hang-time, and kicker Ryan Longwell hopes to mix up his kickoffs.

There's the strategy. Out in the open.

But special teams coach John Bonamego said the bottom line is that the Packers -- one of the league's top coverage teams -- will have to make some tackles of Hall somewhere along the way.

Bidwell contends it's nearly impossible to punt out of bounds effectively, even for the NFL's best directional punters, of which he isn't one.

"It's definitely tough in today's day and age with K-balls to try to think you're going to kick a ball out of bounds at 40 or 50 yards every time," he said. "Otherwise, it would be done quite consistently and punters would be making quarterback salaries."

So, expect plenty of pooch punts Sunday.

"We'll sacrifice yardage for the big play," Bidwell said.

Bidwell acknowledged that won't work if the Packers are backed up near their own end zone. But he won't necessarily boom it.

"I definitely don't want to hit a 50-yarder," Bidwell said. "Even if I hit a 50-yarder with 5.0 (seconds of hang-time). That's still a long time for guys to cover and gives him a little bit of room. If you give this guy five yards, that's five yards too much."

The Packers have the league's top punt coverage return unit, yielding just 4.4 yards on average, and their kickoff coverage team ranks third in the league at 19 yards, behind Miami (18.3) and Atlanta (18.6).

But they haven't faced the likes of Hall, who has had a 100-yard kickoff return against Pittsburgh, a 73-yard punt return against Houston, a 97-yard kickoff return against Baltimore and a 93-yard punt return against Denver. Dating to last season, he has seven TD returns in 10 games.

Hall said the Chiefs' special teams unit is so confident, it's almost a surprise when he doesn't score.

"We feel like, as a unit, if we do the things that we're supposed to do, there's no reason we shouldn't be able to return one," he said.

Hall knows teams will scheme to stop him now, but he won't worry about their strategies.

"I think we just need to stay within ourselves and stay within our scheme and do the things we do well," he said. "We just need to stay who we are."

Nobody in NFL history had ever returned a punt or kickoff for a touchdown in three straight weeks before Hall did it, and his four TDs tied the league mark for an entire season.

"This guy is special and he definitely makes a lot of plays on his own, and that's the scariest thing about him," Bidwell said.

He also has great blockers and great chemistry with them.

"At this point there's so much momentum you probably have the quarterback wanting to get out there on punt return," Bidwell said. "So, it's definitely kind of scary. But I think we have a good game plan."

Longwell pointed to last week's game against Seattle as an example of what to expect from the Packers on Sunday.

"The ball was going right and left and long and short and all over the place -- and that was on purpose," he said. "So, there's a lot we can do. And I think we have a good game plan. But it all comes down to getting the guy on the ground somehow."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index