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Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Return game sparking 49ers

By Bill Williamson

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers' special teams unit has been improved all season.

The coverage units have been outstanding.

However, what may be most satisfying to the unit is the return team is starting to make a splash. After struggling early in the season, the 49ers are seeing success on returns. LaMichael James has produced long kick returns in the fourth quarter to help the 49ers win.

"That’s what’s exciting to us," said 49ers' special teams ace Bubba Ventrone. "We are getting our own return game going while continuing to have success on coverage units. When Green Bay took the lead (17-13), we all knew we had to get something going like we did against Arizona the week before. LaMichael had the big return and it helped us."

The 49ers seemingly have been waiting for this spark all season. Coach Jim Harbaugh is happy it's happening now. He said he thought James' overall play in frigid conditions was a major factor for the 49ers at the Green Bay Packers.

"A very admirable job on Sunday," Harbaugh said of James. "A blue-collar effort on his part. Catching the balls in the elements and the wind and the factors that were there. I thought he did a great job and was able to set up a 37-yard kickoff return to help us answer the scoring drive of the Packers. He was rock solid."