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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

What Makes the 49ers a Special Team?

Sep 15, 2023 at 7:00 AM

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In Week 1, the San Francisco 49ers traveled across the country to face the tough AFC North Pittsburgh Steelers. When the 49ers lost the coin toss and the defense took the field, something special was unveiled in Pittsburgh. Though the team overall played well in their 30-7 victory, five specific players made the fans extraordinarily love this team.

Brock Purdy finished the game 19-29 for 220 yards, 7.6 yards per attempt, and two touchdowns. Coming off of a repaired UCL, many wondered how Purdy's arm would hold up when the games counted. The quarterback was pressured, hit, and sacked in this matchup, yet he still found a way to lead his team to two touchdowns. Both of Purdy's touchdowns came in the first half and went to wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. His most impressive throw was the back shoulder fade throw to Aiyuk over the All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson. His ability to read and react throughout the game made Purdy special. In the fourth quarter, on a 3rd-and-12, Purdy dropped back, read the defense, and took off for 17 yards. His running ability gives the 49ers a chance to run things differently and forces the opposing defense to play true to their form.

Aiyuk's mindset, route running, and ability to block help make the 49ers memorable. He finished the game with eight receptions on eight targets for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Both of Aiyuk's touchdowns were against the All-Pro cornerback, Patrick Peterson. Aiyuk ensured he got open all day for his quarterback and was a valid number-one target on the football field. His mindset of being a dog has resonated throughout the locker room all off-season.

When Aiyuk said he would take off this season, his Week 1 performance showed just that. The receiver's unique blocking skill set separates him from many other wide receivers throughout the league. On the Christian McCaffrey 65-yard touchdown run, Aiyuk made a fundamental block on Peterson, which sprung McCaffrey down the sideline for the score. Aiyuk's blocking ability makes the 49ers an exceptional team.

McCaffrey's toughness, endurance, and durability make the 2023 49ers a special team. He rushed the ball 22 times for 152 yards, a touchdown, and averaged 6.9 yards per carry. McCaffrey also caught three receptions on five targets for 17 yards. The running back was an unstoppable force for the 49ers offense. His ability to net positive yards allows the 49ers' offense to sustain long drives, wearing out the opposing defense. McCaffrey is exceptional, and that makes the 49ers unique.

Drake Jackson was a "Super Freak" out on the football field. Jackson only played 28 snaps, but he finished the game with three sacks on Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett. If Jackson can continue to be used properly, his burst and athleticism will help the team in many ways.

The "Captain," Fred Warner, is playing in his sixth year, and he continues to challenge himself each season to be one percent better. Warner finished Week 1 against the Steelers with eight combined tackles, five solo, one tackle for loss, a pass deflection, and a dropped interception. What makes Warner unique is his speed, ability to shed offensive linemen, and ability to shoot his gaps. Warner is a general on the football field, and his unique skills help make the 49ers a "special team."

Jake Moody impressed with his field goal attempts and extra points, hitting a long of 41 yards. After kicking 60 percent (3-5) in the preseason, many wondered if the 49ers made a mistake in drafting Moody in the third round of this year's draft. The kicker has a big leg and can help his team win games. Expect him to kick off the ball to limit the other teams from returning for significant gains.

Moody seemed poised and confident after he was iced, which was negated by Pittsburgh's Peterson lining up offsides. After the penalty, Moody kicked the ball right down the middle and was perfect on the day. With his big leg, he can add another dimension to how the 49ers score week in and week out.

In conclusion, the 2023 San Francisco 49ers have talent and special players. Each player adds a unique element to the team. If the players continue to show up, the 2023 49ers will remain the NFL's special team.
  • Written by:
    Wayne Breezie is a 49ers content creator. He had his first guest appearance on Ronbosports in 2012. He began writing for a Facebook group called the League of the 49ers. Next, he began writing for Nothing But Niners in 2017. In 2018, Wayne Breezie made his debut on YouTube’s Nothing But Niners show. In 2019, he started his podcast called Nitty Gritty Niners. After putting the pen down for several years, Breezie saw an opportunity to write for His first published article was in January of 2022 with 49ersCap, and he currently writes and produces weekly podcasts.
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.
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1 Comment

  • Ben Sturges
    Small correction, but Aiyuk blocked Kazee and RayRay blocked Peterson. Pointed taken though, if Aiyuk wasn't raising the bar, would RayRay have been there?
    Sep 15, 2023 at 9:40 AM


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