Yes, there is a scenario in which 49ers returner Ted Ginn Jr. could prove to be the difference-maker in tonight's matchup with the Chargers. Earlier this week in the first injury report for tonight's game I mentioned the possibility that banged up teams on a short week could potentially lead to big plays in the return game for both teams. Even if the injury reports were completely empty, it's possible that the short week will leave both teams a bit worn out. Maybe it wouldn't be noticeable early on, but by the fourth quarter, would anybody be surprised to see somebody bust a big return?
Aside from the worn down player idea is the fact that the Chargers are fairly abysmal when it comes to their punt return unit. Football Outsiders ranks them dead last in punting based on net yardage. The traditional stats tell us just as much. Chargers punter Mike Scifres leads all NFL punters in gross average with 48.2 yards per punt. However, his net yardage per punt is 32.5 yards which is good for dead last in the NFL. Finally he's last among NFL punters with at least 25 punts in punts inside the 20. That last stat is hard to judge because the Chargers are last in the NFL in total punts given their offense.
Given all this, doesn't it make sense that Ted Ginn could be a real difference-maker in this game? Obviously the 49ers defense has to get the Chargers into punting downs and Ginn will have no affect on that. However, if the 49ers can force some Chargers punts early in this game, the 49ers could find themselves in excellent field position to take a key early lead. The 49ers need to take an early lead if they want to have a chance in this game and excellent field position would be key.
In a perfect world Ginn would take a punt to the house for his first touchdown as a 49er. I'm not holding my breath, but it would certainly be nice. A big return can not only be back-breaker for the opposing team, but could also quiet down what could be a fairly hostile crowd. It's not a necessity in this game, but a big return would certainly be a monstrous boost for the 49ers.