Pundits across the nation are hyping up The San Francisco 49ers, claiming that they’re the best team in the NFL. They continue from last year praising the defense but this year they are also applauding the offense for its improvement. The 49ers retained all 11 defensive starters and made big offseason additions at wide receiver and running back. They brought in Randy Moss and Mario Manningham and drafted AJ Jenkins at the wide receiver position. They also brought in Brandon Jacobs and drafted LaMichael James to further bolster the running game. They really did add a lot of weapons to the offense at the skill positions.
In focusing on bringing in talented offensive weapons, they may have turned the previous year’s biggest strength into this season’s biggest weakness. They forgot about the special teams.
They didn’t bring back Blake Costanzo, their biggest special team’s ace from last year. They let him sign with the bears even though he wanted to stay in San Francisco. They opted to keep Anthony Dixon on the roster as a 5th running back instead of Rock Cartwright. Rock was brought in to replace Costanzo as an ace of the special teams. Meanwhile, Dixon has yet to see an offensive carry, and this is while Brandon Jacobs is sidelined with an injury. They also lost Colin Jones and Brett Swain, two top-notch special teams players.
The result: In both games a large special team’s breakdown has led to points for their opponents and could have significantly altered the game. In week one, The Packers scored a touchdown on a punt return (yes they picked up an obvious block in the back flag that should have been ruled a penalty, but last year he wouldn’t have been able to run more than 10 yards). In week two, The 49ers fumbled a kickoff against The Lions. They were lucky that this only cost them 3 points on the scoreboard. They also allowed The Lions to average 32 yards on kickoff returns. The so-called “Tony Montana Squad” was broken up and it’s definitely showing.
This isn’t to say that The Niners special teams unit is bad. They still have All Pros David Akers and Andy Lee, their kicker and punter. They also still have Ted Ginn Jr, who is currently injured. Maybe his return will help solidify the return aspect of the special teams unit. With their eye on the offense, it seems like they made a slight misstep regarding special teams. Hopefully, it won’t continue to hurt them.
* Remember, if it wasn’t for two fumbled punts against the Giants last year, they would have been in the Superbowl!