Last week I made some mention about how special teams would be important in the 49ers matchup with Seahawks, either for good or bad. The 49ers ended up getting huge performances with Andy Lee taking home NFC Special Teams Player of the Week, David Akers booming all his kickoffs for touchbacks and Ted Ginn Jr. putting together a strong performance in returning punts.
The 49ers will now face an Arizona Cardinals squad that Football Outsiders has leading the league in punting, but struggling mightily in punt returns and kick returns. Patrick Peterson is having a decent year in the punt return game, but overall their return units are struggling to do much.
It turns out the Cardinals having been shorthanded in recent weeks with FB Anthony Sherman and LB Reggie Walker sidelined. Injuries impact the offense and defense, but it is easy to overlook the impact on special teams. Coverage and blocking units fly under the radar, but one or two absences can cripple these units. Patrick Peterson is an electrifying returner, but if there are no holes to slide through, PP is not going to be able to make plays.
Given the fact that this could be another defensive battle, special teams very well could prove key. Setting up the Cardinals in poor field position would further complicate their dicey offensive situation. I think we would all be fans of that.