Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

How punter Mitch Wishnowsky may be the key to the 49ers beating the Packers

Jan 20, 2022 at 1:52 PM--

"My number one goal is not to lose on special teams."

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan uttered this after the Wild Card win versus the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday. The 49ers fan base would definitely agree with the head coach as memories of the 2011 NFC Championship game comes to mind. During the 2011 campaign, the 49ers won the NFC West and were primed to make a Super Bowl run before special teams miscues in the form of two muffed punts during that game derailed the team's hopes of adding a sixth Super Bowl championship to the franchise's storied resume. While head coach Kyle Shanahan doesn't want to lose the game due to special teams, Mitch Wishnowsky and the punting unit could be the hidden key to slowing down Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense.

Wishnowsky, the 49ers' fourth-year veteran, is a player to watch in Saturday night's Divisional Round matchup. With the below-freezing temperatures at Lambeau Field set to play a role in advancing to the NFC Championship Game, field position will be a critical component on which team emerges victorious. It is no secret that the 49ers will have their hands full with the reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' dynamic passing game, but if the unit is forced to start possessions from the shadow of their own end zone, the likelihood that the 49ers defense stymies the Packers offense greatly increases.

Not only does the playbook tend to shrink when NFL offenses are backed up, but the 49ers have had success defending the run all season. In the Week 3 matchup versus the Packers, Wishnowsky pinned the Packers inside the 20-yard line three times, two of which were inside the 10. If Wishnowsky can put together another performance like this when called upon Saturday night, he could be a key factor in determining the game's outcome.

Wishnowsky was a three-time All-American in college at the University of Utah and, in 2016, was voted the Ray Guy Award winner as the nation's top punter. With over 61 punts of 50 yards or more during his decorated collegiate career, the 49ers' decision-makers not only coveted his leg strength but also his accuracy when they took him in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Wishnowsky routinely pinned opponents deep in their own territory, including, while in college, placing punts inside the 10-yard line a whopping 36 times. Wishnowsky has left opposing teams inside their 20-yard line on 21 of his 57 punts this season.

NFL coaches often use the cliche that their objective is to have every offensive possession end with a kick. This refers to drives ending with either a field goal, extra point, or a punt. With head coach Kyle Shanahan not wanting to lose the game on special teams, Wishnowsky's powerful right leg and pinpoint accuracy may be what puts the 49ers vaunted defense in position to defeat the top-seeded Packers.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

1 Comment

    I couldn't agree more. Turnovers & change of possession could play a big part in Saturdays outcome. Supposed to be 13 degrees. I've played in freezing cold & it's tough to hold onto the football.
    Jan 20, 2022 at 3:01 PM

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