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Shutdown Corner

Kyle Williams’ two punt return fumbles sink 49ers Super Bowl dreams

Chris Chase
Shutdown Corner

The goat wasn't even supposed to be back there.

Going into the NFC championship game, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Kyle Williams had returned just five punts in his NFL career. He was compelled into duty on Sunday when the team's regular return man, Ted Ginn Jr., was sidelined with a knee injury. The inexperience showed and may have cost the Niners a chance at the Super Bowl.

The second-year wideout had two crucial fumbles in the title game, both leading to go-ahead scores by the New York Giants. The second, in overtime, led to a field goal that sent the Giants to Super Bowl XLVI.

There may not have been overtime if not for Williams' first error. Early in the third quarter, the second-year vet inexplicably surrounded a bouncing punt that caromed off his leg and into the hands of New York's Devin Thomas.

Williams has no business being anywhere in the vicinity of that bouncing ball. The instant he decides not to field the punt, he has to get away from it. Footballs take funny hops sometimes and can carom into an unsuspecting player if he's not paying attention. In this case, Williams wishes he had that excuse. This ball didn't take a weird bounce, it took a completely normal one. Williams' knee just happened to be in the way.

That fumble led to a go-ahead Giants touchdown. San Francisco came back to tie on the next possession on a drive that was started by Williams' 40-yard kick return. He had saved himself, or so it seemed.

The scoring stopped after that and the game went to overtime. With 9:42 remaining in the extra session, Williams caught a Steve Weatherford punt, turned upfield, ran 5 yards and then had the ball popped loose by Jacquian Williams. Once again, Thomas was there with the recovery.

Five plays later, the game was over. The 49ers' unexpected dream season was done. And Kyle Williams, goat of San Francisco, was left to wonder; why did Ted Ginn Jr. have to hurt that knee?

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