The San Francisco 49ers edged out the Chicago Bears last week, and while the 49ers dominated time of possession, they also gave up a huge punt return and nearly another one if not for a penalty. This week, they could face another strong punt returner unit as the Houston Texans welcome back wide receiver Will Fuller.
The 49ers entered last week’s game leading the NFL in fewest yards allowed per punt return. Tarik Cohen had this ridiculous punt return for a touchdown, and a week later the 49ers are now tied for fourth in average punt return. They lost Raheem Mostert to injured reserve the week before, which likely impacted the unit. Cohen is a great returner in his own right, but losing one of your better coverage guys is going to be problematic.
This week, the 49ers travel to face a Texans squad that ranks sixth in the NFL in punt return average. They’ve gotten solid work from several punt returners, but when healthy, Fuller has been the best. He missed the first three games of the season with a broken collarbone, and the last three with a cracked rib. During the six games he has played, he has averaged 14.9 yards per return. If Fuller qualified, he would be third in the NFL in average per return.
Bradley Pinion had a rough go of it last week against Chicago, but his coverage unit was part of the problem. This week, the 49ers are playing a very winnable game in Houston. Red zone mistakes and poor punt coverage almost cost them the win over the Bears. We’ll see if they can improve in one or both of those areas this week in Houston.