Special teams have helped make 49ers elite

Posted Jan. 11, 2012 @ 3:31 p.m.
Posted By

By Kevin Lynch

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — On Nov. 6, a group of no-name 49ers special-teams players was standing on Fed­Ex Field in Landover, Md., waiting to kick off to the Redskins. The 49ers were huddled in a group as they always are just before they flare out to their positions for the kickoff.

As they stood in the 56-degree weather, the song "Tony Montana" by the rapper Future blared over the P.A. system. One 49er started moving, then another, then a third. Soon all 10 players in the huddle were dancing before the ball was kicked.

The week after the 49ers returned from their 19-11 win over Washington, linebacker and special-teams headliner Blake Costanzo blared "Tony Montana" in the locker room.

Once again players started to move.

"Pretty soon, we were all dancing," said RB Anthony Dixon, another key member of the special-teams unit and one of the team's more demonstrative players.

That's when Costanzo and S C.J. Spillman called public-relations director Bob Lange and said the kickoff team wanted the tune played before every kickoff at Candlestick Park. Starting with the 49ers' home game against the Giants on Nov. 13, the tune has continued to set the team dancing before every kickoff. It's become so prevalent, fans at Candlestick Park have started dancing, too.

QB Joe Montana used to be a phenomenon at Candlestick, but now it's Tony Montana, the subject of the Niners' new special-teams anthem and the main character played by Al Pacino in the 1983 cult classic "Scarface." Pacino plays a brutal drug lord, and the 49ers' special teams want to emulate that mentality.

It's fitting that 49ers fans get excited about a kickoff coverage team, because special teams are at the heart of this 13-3 team. The 49ers' defense, which allowed a league- low 14.3 points a game, and special teams are the two bedrocks of the team's success.

These bedrocks have allowed the 49ers to score despite relatively little output from their offense. The 49ers' points often come as a result of their defense and their special-teams coverage units putting them in pristine field position.

To read the rest of this feature about how the 49ers' special teams, purchase a copy of the current issue Pro Football Weekly online at the PFWstore.com. In this issue, you will also find analysis of what the Packers have to do to improve their struggling pass rush; a feature on how Bill Belichick values versatility in his Patriots players; our in-depth previews of the four divisional playoff games; and our fantasy football and handicapping coverage.