The San Francisco 49ers‘ special teams had a weird and an unusual 2012 season where their play as a unit, bar from that of punter Andy Lee, left a lot to be desired. In 2013, the play of the 49ers’ special teams unit has seen a 180 degree reversal of what was seen in 2012, as their play as a whole has been much improved and been a key factor in helping the 49ers win a few games this season. Their stellar play continued last Sunday as the 49ers beat the St. Louis Rams 23-13 in a game where the special teams left a significant imprint.
Whether it was kicking field goals, punting, or kickoff and punt coverage, the 49ers’ special teams has a key factor in the Week 13 win. Kicker Phil Dawson continued a very good season, as he connected on all three of his field goal attempts which were from 32, 43 and 24 yards out. Dawson’s three field goals on Sunday mean that he is now made his last 17 field goal attempts and proven to be the reliable kicker the 49ers did not have last season.
As for punter Lee, he showed once again why he is a perennial All-Pro at the position, as two of his four punts were inside the 20, while just as importantly, the hang time on his punts allowed the 49ers’ punt return defenders to do a very good job of preventing the dangerous Tavon Austin from breaking a big return. Speaking of the the special teams unit, the play of coverage units on both kickoff and punt return did a fantastic job in preventing Austin to break a big return.
The biggest play of the game came early in the fourth quarter with the Rams set to punt the ball. Instead of the snap heading to Rams punter Johnny Hekker, it was a direct snap to gunner Matt Giordano in what was an obvious fake punt play that had no chance of being successful. Anthony Dixon perfectly read that the Rams were going to try and execute a fake punt, and as a result, gave the 49ers a first and 10 from the Rams’ 17 yard line. What did the 49ers do on the next play, you ask? They effectively ended the game as Colin Kaepernick threw a touchdown pass to Vernon Davis to extend the 49ers’ lead to 23-6, and therefore, highlighted how well the 49ers’ special teams unit performed in a winning effort.