Niner of the Week

Ted Ginn Jr. was a true showstopper vs. Seahawks

Kick returner/wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. is NinersDigest's Niner of the Week for his performance in the 49ers' season-opening 33-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.


Sunday standout: The fifth-year veteran saved his best for last, just when the 49ers needed him most after Seattle had rallied from a 16-point deficit to creep within 19-17 with 4:08 to play in the game. That's when Ginn took Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka's ensuing kickoff two yards deep in the end zone, brought it out between the hash marks, cut across the field to his right when approached by the first wave of defenders, then turned the corner and was off to the races down the sideline for 102-yard touchdown return that was the longest of his career and also the second-longest ever by a 49er at home and the fourth-longest in franchise history. But Ginn wasn't done. After the San Francisco defense forced a quick three-and-out, Ginn took Jon Ryan's punt at the San Francisco 45-yard line, bobbled it momentarily, then veered toward his left before cutting upfield to avoid a tackle and then weaving his way through several waves of defenders. Ginn broke a tackle at the Seattle 30, stumbled momentarily before catching his balance, then slowed to a jog before he reached the end zone to complete a 55-yard punt return that provided the final margin of victory. In the process, Ginn became the first player in franchise history to return both a kickoff and punt for a touchdown in the same game and the 12th player in NFL history to accomplish the feat. Ginn also had a 31-yard punt return in the first quarter to set up San Francisco's first score of the season and later had kickoff returns of 28 and 27 yards. His 268 total return yards are the most in franchise history and the 15th-most in a NFL game since 1950.

Season to date: Ginn leads the NFL with 176 kickoff return yards and is tied for third in the league with 92 punt return yards. His 44.0-yard average on kickoffs is the best for any player with more than two returns, and his 18.4 average on punt returns is the NFL's best for any player with more than three returns. His 102-yard kickoff return is the third-longest in the NFL this year and his 55-yard punt return is the fifth-longest. Ginn leads all NFL returners with two returns for TDs.

Need to note: Ginn was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance against the Seahawks, the second time he has earned the weekly award. He also earned the AFC's version of the honor in November of 2009 after he tied a NFL record by returning two kickoffs for touchdowns for the Miami Dolphins, becoming the first player in NFL history to have two returns of 100 yards or more in the same game with his 101-yard and 100-yard scoring returns. It was the first time since 1967 a NFL player had returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same quarter. Ginn now has six career returns for touchdowns, including a 78-yard punt return for the 49ers in his first season with the team last year, when he ranked second in the NFC and third in the NFL with a 13.6-yard average on punt returns. Ginn was 17th in the NFC and 33rd in the NFL last year with a 21.1 average on kickoff returns. He also finished last season seventh on the team in receptions and third among wide receivers with 12 catches for 163 yards and one touchdown.

Ginn says: "I had the opportunity to go out and show what I had. It's great to put my team up and really close out the game. You do it on the video game a lot, but you don't really see it too much in real life. I have watched so many guys do it whether it's two punt returns, two kickoff returns. It's a blessing in disguise. I've got to give most of it to God because he made it work."

Coach Jim Harbaugh says: "Phenomenal performance by Teddy. Ted's a stud. He is a team guy. There's no doubt that he's a heck of a football player and a great guy. (We) wanted a guy back there who's going to have a cool head and make good decisions. We wanted to pop one and Teddy's speed kills. He was moving."

TE/special teamer Delanie Walker says: "Ted Ginn, he basically won the game for us. Those two big returns, it just set the game. I've never seen anything like that in the NFL so far. But we've got Ted Ginn, and I know he's capable of doing that. He says it all the time when we get in the huddle and say the play, ‘Hey, one block. And I'm going to do the rest. All I need is a couple of blocks and I will get in the end zone.' And you saw it. We're taking everything out of the end zone. We know what type of returner we have and we know he can make plays when he does. So were taking it out, no matter what."

Looking forward: Ginn, who remains listed as the co-starter at split end with Braylon Edwards on San Francisco's depth chart, likely will continue to see double duty as San Francisco's regular return specialist for the foreseeable future. As Harbaugh said earlier this week, "After (Sunday's) performance, you sure hate to take him off the field right now in those roles. He means a lot to us on the offensive side of the ball as well. We weren't really going to have him return the kicks. That was close to a game-day, day-before-game decision, to let him roll on the kickoff return, but glad we did." It probably won't be a game-day, day-before-game decision this week against the Dallas Cowboys.

ALSO CONSIDERED: DT Ray McDonald (team-leading six tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, three QB hits);P Andy Lee (career-best 59.6-yard average and 54.2 net on five punts); QB Alex Smith (15 of 20 for 124 yards passing, 90.4 passer rating, 22 yards rushing, 1-yard TD run); K David Akers (4 for 4 on FGs, 3 for 3 on PATs).

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