The San Francisco 49ers will face a pretty stiff test in the Arizona Cardinals. To me, the Cardinals are a team that are far better than they have any right to be, and I draw most of that from last season. They were supposed to be laughably bad and I'll readily admit I overlooked them. I overlooked them all the way into the regular season, until ... they were suddenly fighting for a playoff spot.
At the expense of the 49ers.
I'm not going to overlook them this year, though I still hold the believe that they are a team that is just better than they have any right to be. But there's one aspect that hasn't been talked about much I'd like to cover and that's special teams. They're pretty good at returning the football, as it happens, and that's particularly interesting given that the 49ers made so many changes on the coverage units.
In Week 2, Ted Ginn Jr. was named the NFC special teams player of the week. It's the fourth time he's earned that honor in his career. He earned the honor thanks to a 71-yard touchdown return. That return gave the Cardinals a 19-14 lead over the New York Giants, and helped them along to an eventual victory.
It's not the first time Ginn has returned a punt for a touchdown, as 49ers fans are well aware. He did that a couple times for us, before he started to struggle. He was always a solid returner, but he did seem to become ... adverse to contact. I still see it every now and then from him, but Week 2 showed he's got all the skills he ever had as a returner and he's incredibly dangerous.
He's even more dangerous given the relative inexperience of San Francisco's special teams units. Thus far, it's been a strong group with Chris Borland and L.J. McCray playing well (aside from a bone-headed penalty last week). And we know the one thing they can handle well is speed, but Ginn is exactly the kind of player who can make a fool out of all of them. One deft move, one tiny little turn and he's gone.
The 49ers can't let special teams swing this game.