The 49ers lone touchdown in their 13-10 win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Round came on an incredible special teams play. Defensive end Jordan Willis got past the Packers front line and blocked Corey Bojorquez’s punt with five minutes left in regulation. With the Niners trailing 10-3, safety Talanoa Hufanga came away with the ball and scored a game-tying touchdown.
49ers special teams coordinator Richard Hightower has received plenty of criticism this season for the team’s poor overall special teams performance. However, after multiple big plays, Hightower’s unit has received plenty of praise for its fantastic performance.
In his weekly press conference, Hightower talked to reporters about everything that went into the blocked punt. When asked if the play was caused by an amazing effort by Willis or preparing to attack a weakness in the Packers’ punt-blocking unit, Hightower responded, “I think it’s all of the above.” Hightower credited his staff for noticing some of their weaknesses but also acknowledged how the block was set up by the 49ers players who “did a good job of showing disguises on a lot of different other returns.” As for the play itself, Hightower said Willis “executed the technique perfectly.”
Hightower and the 49ers are gearing up for another big challenge against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game. While it’s hard to imagine San Francisco’s special teams generating a play as important as Willis’ blocked punt for a second week in a row, Hightower will surely hope his unit’s preparation will put them in a position to take advantage of any opportunities that arise.
Regardless of what happens this Sunday, though, the Niners faithful will always have fond memories of this moment:
Here are Hightower’s full comments on the blocked punt returned for a touchdown:
“Yeah, I think it’s all of the above. I mean, I think our coaches did a good job of looking at what they struggled with and what we thought would be our strength against what they do. And I think the players did a good job of showing disguises on a lot of different other returns. And we used it when we needed it and Jordan [Willis] executed the technique perfectly, just like he’s supposed to do. And he got his long arms up there and he blocked the kick and the rest is history, you know, Huff [Talanoa Hufanga] scooped it, and I’m just happy for those guys. I’m happy that it happened for them because they work so darn hard. And sometimes the results don’t always show, but they never change. They come to work every day. I’ve got so much respect for those men in the locker room. They come to work every day, they hold their head high, they try to bust their tail and they to make sure they give us the same effort every week. So I’m just happy for them.”