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49ers Win on Opening Day

Posted Sep 11, 2011

Ted Ginn Jr. did something no player in San Francisco 49ers history had done before. And to make things more special, the wide receiver did it on Opening Day which happened to be on the 10-year Anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, no less.

On an unforgettable day for those in attendance at Candlestick Park and others watching around the world, Ginn became the first player in team history to have two return touchdowns in the same game. He became the first 49ers player to score touchdowns on kickoff and punt returns in the same contest. And last, but certainly not least, Ginn became the first player in NFL history to have kickoff and punt return touchdowns during the league's opening weekend.

Ginn provided two of the team’s three touchdowns, on a day where it defeated the Seattle Seahawks 33-17, which puts it one game ahead of its NFC West rivals and tied with the Arizona Cardinals atop the division.

“Our guys did a great job,” said coach Jim Harbaugh after the game with a look of content. “It’s never easy to get a win in the National Football League.”

It might not be easy, but Harbaugh is now undefeated in the NFL, 1-0.

Harbaugh and his team’s chances of winning picked up dramatically thanks to Ginn’s fourth-quarter dominance.

With the home team clinging to a 19-17 lead after giving up a 55-yard touchdown catch to Seahawks rookie wideout Doug Baldwin, Ginn made the play of the game, returning the ensuing kickoff 102 yards for a 49ers touchdown.

He wasn’t quite done making a difference.

After the ensuing Seahawks possession stalled, Ginn fielded a Jon Ryan punt and returned it 55 yards for his second fourth-quarter touchdown.

It was an amazing sight to see to say the least, but not one that surprised Ginn’s close friend, new 49ers safety Donte Whitner. Ginn’s electric day could be read about instantly, he was trending worldwide on Twitter moments after the game.

“Teddy’s been doing that stuff since high school,” said Whitner, who played with Ginn at Glenville High School in Cleveland and again at Ohio State University. “If you don’t get to those types of guys on special teams, they’ll break loose. All you need is a little room with world-class speed. I don’t know many people who can catch him once he sees the end zone.”

For Whitner, seeing Ginn make such game-changing return plays on Sunday wasn’t a shock to the 49ers starting strong safety. He expected it and so did the confident fifth-year receiver.

“It’s great to put my team up and really close out the game,” said Ginn on a day where he was awarded the game ball from Harbaugh, a University of Michigan alum.

For all intents and purposes, Ginn’s final quarter covered up a lackluster second half for the team.

The 49ers totaled 10 yards in the third quarter alone and gave up 10 unanswered points to start the second half. For the first time of the game, the offense needed to respond to Seattle in a hurry and did so with a 15-play, 72-yard scoring drive that culminated with kicker David Akers’ fourth field goal of the game with just under six minutes remaining. The 13-year pro connected on field goals from 27, 24, 31, and 18 yards out.

“When they made it a one-possession game, we had to answer,” said quarterback Alex Smith on a day where he completed 15 of 20 passes for 124 yards and one rushing touchdown. “We had to get something moving.”

It seemed as if the 49ers were content to make it a two-possession game at that time. In the process, they ran off 9:01 off the clock and called mostly rushing plays down in the red zone.

For the day, the 49ers scored a touchdown in one of their five red zone possessions.

The touchdown came from Smith, who rolled out to his right and threw caution to the wind to score on a 1-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter.

It was a gutsy play from Smith.

With 12 seconds remaining in the first half and no timeouts, Smith knew his options. He either had to throw to one of two receivers, throw the ball the way or keep it himself. Smith elected for the latter, colliding with a Seahawks defender as he reached the ball over the goal line.

“I thought I had it,” Smith said. “Then, the guy defending Frank (Gore) spun on me at the 1 [yard line], luckily I was able to get in.

“I wasn’t trying to run though him. I was definitely trying to make contact and then find any way possible to get in. When it’s a yard, spin, stretch, do whatever you have to do to try and get in the red zone.”

As a whole, the 49ers did what they had to do to win. Although they converted 1-of-12 third-downs in the game, and rushed for 85 yards on 32 carries as a team, the win-loss column reads “1-0,” and that’s what matters most.

“Coming out on 9/11, in a very emotional atmosphere before the game, it’s good to come out and get a win,” Whitner said. “Wins are hard to come by. To go out and win in the fashion that we did today was excellent. It’s great momentum for our football team.”

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