Normally after a loss I prefer to give out an anti-game ball of the week because a loss rarely deserves a game ball. However, this week there were a couple notable performances that I wanted to discuss and so I figured I'd use this to discuss one such performance. Ted Ginn Jr and Anthony Davis both put together performances worthy of a game ball in spite of the loss.
Davis put together one of the most complete performances of his young career, including contributing to holding Clay Matthews to zero sacks. Matthews wasn't always opposite Davis, but when he was, the rookie right tackle consistently prevented him from getting to Troy Smith. All in all a very solid performance and something that should give 49ers fans at least some level of confidence heading into the offseason.
The other performance that I wanted to focus on was that of Ted Ginn Jr. in the return game. Against the Packers, Ginn had five kick returns for 81 yards (16.2 per return) and two punt returns for 31 yards (15.5 per return). Additionally, he had a 29 yard kick return brought back because an illegal block.
For the purposes of this post, we'll just focus on Ginn's work as punt returner. As a kick returner he's averaging 23.2 yards per return, which isn't particularly great, but not dreadful. Just kind of whatever. However, as a punt returner, Ginn has brought new life to a punt return unit that struggled immensely in 2009. Last season, the 49ers primary punt returner was Arnaz Battle, now a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, might have had the worst season ever for a punt returner with a significant number of returns. Battle returned 21 punts (tied for 25th in the league) for 61 yards. That averaged out to 2.9 yards per return and was good for dead last in the NFL.
Arguably even more important was Battle's apparent inability to often even hold on to fair catches. He didn't fumble all of them or even a majority of them, but it reached a point where I was convinced he was going to drop any punt sent his way. When you've got that kind of soaring confidence, things are not good.
At this point in the season, Ted Ginn is averaging 11.6 yards per punt return, which is good for eighth in the NFL. Earlier in the season there were complaints about too many fair catches by Ginn. He has 11 fair catches, which is good for tenth in the NFL. While sometimes a fair catch can be frustrating, I thankfully find myself not chewing my finger nails on every punt return, concerned that a fumble is inevitable. Sometimes Ginn can frustrate me with his attempts to reverse field and make things happen. That's annoying, but it's much better than constantly coughing up the ball.
Even as the 49ers have lost special teams coverage guys to injury and roster moves, Ginn has shown what a quality punt returner can bring to the table. While he hasn't taken back a punt for a touchdown, he is a consistent threat to give the 49ers excellent starting field position. And for that, I think he's worthy of a game ball.