Midseason report: Special teams

Midseason report: Special teams
November 8, 2011, 4:01 pm
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First-half storyline: When Jim Harbaugh added Brad Seely to his coaching staff it was a hire that largely slipped under the radar. But within the NFL, it was viewed a significant coup for Harbaugh and the 49ers.

Seely, the 49ers special-teams coordinatorassistant head coach, had one of the top units in the league the previous two seasons with the Cleveland Browns. Prior to that, he was a part of three Super Bowl champions with the New England Patriots. Seely has a tremendous unit with the 49ers, led by kicker David Akers, punter Andy Lee and return man Ted Ginn. The coverage units are also strong with Blake Costanzo coming with Seely from Cleveland, and holdover C.J. Spillman. When the 49ers talk about a "team effort" enabling them to reach the midpoint of the regular season with a 7-1 record, nobody fails to mention special teams as one of the big reasons for the club's success.MVP: Akers. The 13-year pro has been outstanding. He leads the 49ers in scoring with 78 points. He has made 19 of 21 field-goal attempts, including all four of his attempts from beyond 50 yards. He has already become the first player in franchise history to make four kicks of 50-plus yards in a season. Moreover, Akers has done a tremendous of keeping the opposition pinned deep in their own territory with his kickoffs. The 49ers awarded Akers a three-year, 9 million contract in the offseason to replace Joe Nedney. It has been money well-spent.Biggest surprise: Generally, NFL players do not exactly relish the thought of playing special teams. But even some of the regulars -- such as NaVorro Bowman, Delanie Walker and Bruce Miller -- are making big contributions on the coverage units.Biggest disappointment: With the way Seely has these units performing, there's nothing that even remotely ranks in this category.Best play: Just days after accepting a pay cut to remain with the team, Ginn appeared vastly underpaid while rescuing the 49ers in the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks. Clinging to a two-point lead with four minutes to play, the 49ers were able to breathe easier when Ginn returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown. Then, 59 seconds later, Ginn took a punt all the way for a 55-yard touchdown in the 49ers' 33-17 victory. And, with that, the Harbaugh era was off to a good start.Worst play: Trailing by 17 points early in the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles, King Dunlap managed to get between 49ers protectors Mike Iupati and Chilo Rachal in the center of the line without much resistance to block Akers' 45-yard field goal attempt. The play led directly to three points for the Eagles, who built a 23-3 lead before the 49ers came storming back for the win.Key to the second half: If the 49ers keep doing what they're doing, they have nothing to worry about in this phase of the game.