SAN FRANCISCO — Among the many things that went right for the 49ers last year was across-the-board excellence by the special teams.
Andy Lee had a 44-yard net punting average, opposing kickoff returners averaged just 23.1 yards a pop (compared to the 49ers’ 27.2) and kicker David Akers was all but automatic, converting an NFL-record 44 field goals in 52 attempts.
For whatever reason, the situation has deteriorated significantly this year. It seems the Niners have allowed a big kick runback just about every week. This time around it was a 66-yard kickoff return by the Giants’ David Wilson to start the second half.
“We got a few new guys,” said Larry Grant, one of San Francisco’s core coverage specialists. “We’re still trying to find our niche and gel a little bit better. Of course, everybody can see from top down that we’ve got to do better on special teams in order to win games, especially big games like this.”
Akers is no longer Mr. Automatic. After starting the season by nailing his first five attempts, he is just 6 of 11 over the past four weeks.
Coach Jim Harbaugh bluntly answered “no” when asked if he had spotted anything in Akers’ mechanics that might explain the decline.
LEARNIN’ TO STOP VERNON
The Giants apparently made it a priority to stop 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, who came into the game with 20 receptions for 303 yards and four touchdowns. They attacked Davis with a variety of coverage schemes; he finished with three catches for 37 yards, and didn’t make much of an impact.
“It was frustrating for me. I can’t lie,” Davis said. “I mean, they were banging me when I released from the line, the defensive ends. Then when I got into my route, had a guy over the top of me. It was just one of those games where — what do I do? The only thing I can do is just continue to run the routes and hope that my other teammates will get open.”
THE KAEPERNICK EXPERIMENT, PART 6
When things go wrong in the NFL, they tend to go wrong in bunches. For the 49ers on Sunday, that would include the offensive scheme installed for backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He had been an emerging story for the Niners over the past few weeks, but stumbled along with the rest of his teammates against the Giants.