Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE
Andy Lee is having another outstanding year
Special teams was a big strength of the 49ers in 2011. This season, the story has been entirely different.
Outside of punter Andy Lee, who is having another Pro Bowl-caliber season, the 49ers have not played well on special teams. This is an area they must improve, as mistakes can cost the 49ers a game.
Placekicker David Akers has converted only 70.4 percent of his field-goal attempts, which is the lowest mark of his career.
The 49ers' coverage units had several problems earlier this year, allowing several long returns. This group seems to have improved over the last couple of weeks, as special teams coach Brad Seely has inserted starting linebacker NaVorro Bowman on the coverage units.
Allowing long returns can turn the momentum of a game, and the 49ers' coverage units must become more consistent in this area.
The 49ers' return game has also been lackluster. They have not had a touchdown return all season. The one thing the 49ers cannot afford is to turn the ball over in the return game. Two costly turnovers by Kyle Williams cost the 49ers dearly in the NFC title game last year.
This past Sunday against the Saints, Ted Ginn muffed a punt, which the Saints recovered deep in 49er territory. This is the type of costly mistake that the 49ers simply cannot afford.
If the 49ers are to make it to the Super Bowl, their special teams need improvement and greater consistency.