Niner of the Week

Believe it or not, there was one 49er who had an excellent game during Sunday's 42-3 blowout loss in Philadelphia. For his solid performance while the rest of the team was imploding around him, punter Andy Lee is SFI's NOTW.

Sunday standout: It had little impact on the outcome of the game, but the second-year veteran gave the 49ers a winning performance against the Eagles, averaging 43.1 yards on his seven punts in Philadelphia, often pushing the Eagles far back in their own territory to begin drives. Lee also averaged an outstanding 41.3 net average on his kicks as the Eagles only managed 13 yards on four returns by Dexter Wynn, a miniscule 3.3 average per return. Lee boomed three kicks of 50 yards or more, and even one of his short kicks – a 36-yarder in the third quarter – was perfectly placed near the Philadelphia goal line and had the Eagles beginning their first drive of the second half at their own 3-yard line. The Eagles also started drives at their own 9-, 10-, 14-, and 15-yard lines after Lee punts. Lee's best punt of the day – a 51-yarder on the second play of the second quarter – pushed Wynn back on his heels, and Wynn fumbled the ball after catching it before falling on it himself for a return of minus-2 yards. Even though the Eagles scored on six of their 12 offensive drives in the game, they only scored twice after taking possession of the ball following Lee punts.

Season to date: Lee, the team's sixth-round draft choice in 2004, is off to a strong start after two solid outings. He averaged 41.4 yards on five punts with a net of 38.6 yards in the opener against the Rams, and he currently ranks eighth in the NFC this season with a 42.4 average. His net average of 40.2 ranks third in the NFC and sixth in the NFL. Only six of Lee's 12 punts this season have been returned, and the 4.5 yards opponents are averaging on their returns ranks among the league's lowest figures.

Need to note: Lee was the NFC's top rookie punter last year, averaging 41.6 yards on his kicks with a net average of 35.3, which ranked ninth in the conference. Lee produced at least one 50-yard kick in 10 games last season, including an 81-yard boomer against Tampa Bay that is the third-longest punt in team history. Lee was called upon to punt six or more times in 11 games last season, when he finished with 96 punts, just one short of Mike Connell's 27-year-old team record. At his currrent rate after two games, Lee is on pace for the exact same number of punts in 2005.

Looking ahead: With the San Francisco offense struggling – it ranks 31st in the NFL this week – the Niners will continue to need consistently strong performance from Lee to keep opponents backed up in their own territory when the 49ers can't move the ball. Lee has done his part so far to help the 49ers in the battle for field position, giving opposing offenses long fields to work with. That's his job, and he needs to continue doing it. So far, he has done it in admirable fashion.

ALSO CONSIDERED: DE Marques Douglas (four tackles, one sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery all on same play); WR Arnaz Battle (team-high four receptions for 44 yards – the highest yardage total produced by any San Francisco back or receiver).

PREVIOUS NOTW LIST: Week 1: DE Bryant Young.


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