The 49ers are known for their top ranked defense and an offense that minimizes mistakes. The one unit that has stood out over the season is their top ranked Special Teams unit.
The 49ers led the league in kickoff return yards with a 27.2 yard average. They were 5th in punt returns with a 12.4 average yards per return. Their kickoff coverage team was tied for 2nd in the league with 47 touchbacks and held their opponents to 23.1 yards per return. Finally, they showed why their punt coverage team is formidable, forcing Sproles to cough it up twice. That makes many Giant fans nervous, based on a fumble and some near flubs by Blackmon in a few games this past month.
UltimateNYG’s Glenn Warciski wrote back in March of 2010 about Bill Parcells’ theory on hidden yardage. The theory equates for every “100 yards in hidden yardage — through penalties, interceptions, punt and kickoff returns and field position following kickoffs — is worth 7 points.” Given the statistics above, three of the five are areas where the 49ers excel.
Billick of NFL.com believes Special Teams “is the often-overlooked third phase of the game, but special-teams play can be just as important as any offensive or defensive series. These plays determine the hidden yardage of a game that has a major impact on the strategy of the entire game. In addition to the areas mentioned above “the 49ers have benefited from the booming punts of Andy Lee. Even if their offense is backed up deep in their own territory, they can rely on Lee to gain back that hidden yardage by hitting one of his 70-yarders that gives the defense much more room.” Even when you’re “punting from your own end zone, any time you can get it out past the 50-yard line, it is considered a win, but with Lee, the 49ers can literally push the opposition back to their own 30-yard line consistently. Those are yards you don’t find on the box score, and they can be the deciding factor for a team that wins mainly by running the ball and playing good defense.”
Finally as it relates to Special Teams, we cannot ignore the blocked field goal. A stumbling Tony Ugoh missed his block. The 49ers take pride in their Special Teams. Quinn and Izzo need to have the Giants ready. Overall, the Special Teams matchup is an area of concern going into Sunday.
Ian O’Connor, of ESPN-NY, interviewed Bill Parcells about the 1991 NFC Championship game the other day. In that game Parcells “saw Ottis stiff-arm Ronnie Lott five yards downfield,” and he said to himself ‘you know, we are really trying to win this game.” Parcells saw a lot of the 1991 Giants in the 2011 Giants versus Green Bay. Parcells goes on to add, “It was like watching the first ‘Rocky’ movie,” Parcells said of Giants 37, Packers 20, “where Apollo Creed gets knocked down early and his corner man says, ‘You see that SOB over there, he doesn’t know it’s a show; he thinks it’s a fight.”
We read about how Coughlin took the ‘kinder and gentler’ approach after their embarrassment versus the Redskins. Instead “he reminded the Giants that at 7-7, they were fortunate still to be in control of their destiny. His message was simple, yet clear. Forget the past. Seize the moment.” But did he take a page from Bill Parcells? Parcells reminisced about the fact that “no one had ever gone to a Super Bowl with a backup quarterback. We were such an underdog, and everything was about them three-peating, and I wanted my players to know that I had confidence in them, which I did.” Back in ’91 they played the Super Bowl 1 week after the NFC Championship game and Parcells told his team “you can either pack for two days, or pack for 10. I’m packing for 10.” They were a confident team in 1991 beating the long odds versus the supposed 3-peat 49ers and then as underdogs against the high- powered offense of the Bills. Will this confident 2011 Giants achieve the same?