It's one of those statistics which can slip through the cracks.
When the B.C. Lions eked out a 20-17 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers last weekend the highlight of the game for many fans was the last-minute drive which resulted in Paul McCallum's 41-yard field goal with no time on the clock.
In analysing the victory Chuck McMann, B.C.'s special team's co-ordinator, points out the Lions held the Bombers to just 15 total yards on four punt returns.
"I attribute our success last week partly to the punting," said McMann. "They have good returners."
"They have a big return and all of a sudden the field position you have gained, you have lost."
The battle of special teams is the game within the game in the CFL. While stars like quarterback Travis Lulay and slotback Geroy Simon often receive the glory, it's the players on special teams that can quietly turn the tide in a game.
"We're almost like the unsung heroes but we do our part," said linebacker Jason Arakgi, who has spent five years as one of the Lions' special teams leaders.
It's special teams which creates instant field position with a big kick return. It's special teams that puts an offence in a hole with a crushing tackle on punt coverage.
"When ever there is a special team's play you are talking 40-plus yards every time," said McMann. "Those things create momentum changes, create
excitement on your team, new energy. It can change things around completely."
The Lions (6-2) will be looking for another big performance from their special teams when they play the Montreal Alouettes (5-3) Friday at Molson Stadium in a battle of CFL division leaders.
"In a really tight, hard-fought game where everything else is even . . . the special teams can make the difference," said Lulay.
It takes a certain mentality to play special teams, especially on punts and kickoffs.
"You have to be a little crazy," admitted Arakgi.
The six-foot-two, 220-pound Montreal native lives for the big hit when defending punt returns.
"We're almost like dogs," he said with a chuckle. "Paul (McCallum, the punter) is throwing the ball and we're running down there trying to get the ball and bring it back to him."
"Just getting down there and making a big hit, you get a big thrill. It's fun when you block a kick. It's a morale-crusher for the other team."
For a player on special teams, harnessing the speed and aggression can be like controlling a missile. You want it to hit the right target but not blow up in your face. A penalty can erase a long return for a touchdown or give an offence some breathing room with better field position.
"You can't be afraid of anything . . . (but) you can't be out of control," said McMann. "You have to understand what the other team is doing."
"You throw everything into the wind but you still have to be under control."
On every kick the spotlight is focused on the player catching the ball. A returner like Tim Brown must remain calm waiting for the ball to fall into his hands while knowing 12 people are stampeding down the field meaning him great harm.
"It takes a lot of patience," said Brown, who has returned 31 punts for 380 yards and one touchdown this season.
"Just to field a kick is tough. One slight mistake, like taking your eye off the ball to see where people are in front of you, can throw you off. You have to find the ball again."
Only five-foot-eight and 190-pounds, the lightening-quick Brown needs just a tiny hole to make a big gain.
"The hardest part is really just catching the ball," he said. "Once the guys in front of you give you lanes, you just run off butts. They do all the hard work."
Against Montreal it will be crucial to not give quarterback Anthony Calvillo a short field to work with. That means putting a net around Alouette return men like Bo Bowling and Trent Guy.
"You want to make it hard for their offence to score points," said B.C. head coach Mike Benevides. "They have some very good returners and good speed guys. You want to make the field long for Anthony."
"When ever you play on the road . . . if you can get a play to get your team momentum and quiet the crowd, that's important."
Arakgi understands the challenge.
"In the CFL, people don't realize how big an impact special teams have," he said. "Just the field position alone."
"Lulay doesn't want to start inside his 20-yard line every time. Our defence doesn't want to start at our 50. If Timmy gets a good return, and Lulay is getting the ball at the 40, that's a huge confidence boost for the offence."
Special teams is a place for rookies to make a name for themselves and for some veterans to keep a job. Wide receiver Shawn Gore earned a spot on the roster covering punts. Backup running backs Stu Foord and Rolly Lumbala play big roles in the special teams package.
"In my first two years all I cared about was running down there and making tackles on kickoffs and punts," said Arakgi, who has nine special teams tackles this season. "That's how I ended up getting noticed."
"It's a lot of guys who are either working their way to a starting role or guys that are role players. It's coming to terms with that and still wanting to contribute to the team. You don't necessarily get Geroy Simon praise. You are kind of the soldiers of the team. You are forgotten sometimes (but) within the locker room that's where you get your praise and respect."