Special Teams Harbaucalypse
The NFL announced their Week 15 Player of the Week honors and 49ers punter Andy Lee was named NFC special teams player of the week. Andy Lee was an absolute beast as he completely flipped the field position battle for the 49ers. He had a net average of 49.2 on the game and raised his season net average to 44.14 yards per punt. Shane Lechler holds the single season record with 43.9 yards per punt, so Lee has a realistic shot at breaking his record.
Lee placed four of his six punts on Monday inside the 15-yard line, with two others going 57 and 62 yards. His six punts gave the Steelers starting field position at the five-, 16-, 10-, eight-, 14- and 12-yard lines, which is an average starting spot of 10.8. One of his punts got the benefit of an illegal block, but the rest were on the strength of his leg and his coverage units.
The 49ers special teams coverage has been insane this season and has been a key to the team's success. They maintain their discipline coming down the field, which is not always easy amidst the insanity of punt and kick coverage. Guys like Blake Costanzo, Anthony Dixon, C.J. Spillman and so many others have been huge in return men covered down the field.
As has been the case with so much of the 2011 49ers, it is all about the team effort. Andy Lee is pivotal in his ability to combine power, hang time and accuracy, but he also benefits from the best coverage unit in the NFL. In Coach Harbaugh's post-game speech, he even mentions Lee in the last 30 or so seconds, which leads to some applause from the team. Andy Lee will likely be the NFC punter in the Pro Bowl, but hopefully guys like Blaze Costanzo can pull out a Pro Bowl nod as well.