Many of us will remember that the 49ers special teams were one of only a few bright spots during an otherwise dark time. That time, of course, was before the Jim Harbaugh era began and the team as a whole began to reach new heights. Special teams were pretty good at first, but after the release of ace Blake Costanzo, among others, the coverage units in particular started to worsen.
That has seemingly turned around in 2013 thus-far, though, allowing just 20.7 yards per kick return, down from 26.9 in 2012. That represents moving from 31st in the NFL to fifth, a huge leap. Punt return average-allowed is also down to 6.4 yards, from 6.9 in 2012. Not quite as monumental, but still a slight improvement.
One of the special teams stars this year has been safety C.J. Spillman, who came to the 49ers after the Chargers released him during the 2010 season. Spillman had been something of a special teams staple for San Diego, too, and it was strange that they decided to part ways with him.
Since arriving at the 49ers he's been a mainstay on coverage units, as well as every other special teams unit imaginable. Currently in 2013 he has a team-high six tackles on special teams. Spillman seems to make a play every game where he is the first one down the field, then dives at the returner's ankles and trips them up. He's made an art out of it.
Below are two plays Spillman made against the Titans in the 49ers' week seven matchup.
There's that famous trip-up that Spillman has made famous. Darius Reynaud was cut after this game, for what it's worth, after Spillman and Company made him regret most of his decisions Sunday...
Then we have him flying in here, and despite the angle not being the best, he's still able to slow down the returner enough for Raymond Ventrone to finish the job.
Plays like these really help to flip the field-position in the 49ers' favor, giving the offense a shorter field with which to work. Let's band together and try to get our guy, Spillman, into the 2014 Pro Bowl. VOTE HERE.
Also consider helping myself and Duracell with a campaign in which I'm participating to help get Patrick Willis into the Pro Bowl. Granted you might not think he needs much help, but in this day and age public votes can become a viral type thing, often leaving great players off the list! Click here to help me, Duracell, and Willis! (image shows link to voting page)