Andy Lee looks like he picked up where he left off last year as the NFL’s best punter.
The reigning first-team All-Pro turned in his finest performance of the young 2012 campaign on Sunday, when he sent three punts inside the 5-yard line that were capable of pinning the New York Jets near their own goal line. While the first punt was ultimately pushed into the end zone for a touchback, Lee and the 49ers special teams still downed two punts inside the New York 5-yard line.
“They’re good,” Lee said of his fellow 49ers special teams contributors. “They’re doing a good job of protecting and they’re doing a good job of covering. Like I’ve always said, having a good coverage team, having a good long-snapper like Brian (Jennings), it always makes my job easier.”
C.J. Spillman made up for his error on Lee’s first punt by beating his opponent down the field on the second attempt and securing the ball at the Jets 3-yard line. Early in the third quarter, Tramaine Brock also downed a punt deep in Jets territory, scooping up the ball at the 2-yard line.
In all, Lee had four punts that averaged 41 yards on the day. There’s some new blood on the coverage teams this year, including rookie Trenton Robinson, and Lee said he thinks the special teams are growing and getting better.
“The more familiar the guys are with their game, the better,” Lee said. “If you get out of your lanes, someone can refill for you. Just having that chemistry going down the field in covering the ball – and also with blocking, knowing your guy beside you, little things here and there – I think it definitely makes a big difference.”
Perhaps Lee can trace some of his Sunday success in New York to the sundaes he ate in Ohio. During the week-long stay in the Midwest leading up to the game, Lee became a regular customer at Handel’s Ice Cream across the street from the team hotel in Boardman.
“That place is amazing,” Lee said. “I went there eight, wait, nine times while we were there.”
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