It took the Carolina Panthers a long time to figure out the San Francisco 49ers’ short kickoffs.
Kick returner Ted Ginn Jr. and his blockers struggled with the so-called mortar kicks that Phil Dawson was placing short of the goal line. The low point was Ginn’s muffed kick in the second half that the 49ers recovered at the Panthers’ 2, setting up a Blaine Gabbert touchdown run a play later.
“With the bounce, you’re never supposed to let a ball hit the ground,” said Ginn, adding he was “just trying to be calm, cool and collected (while) trying to find” the ball.
New special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey adjusted after Ginn’s muff, moving Ginn up several yards and putting linebacker Shaq Thompson deep as a personal protector of sorts.
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Ginn said he also adjusted by lining up a little farther left. The result: Ginn took Dawson’s next kick down the sideline for a 59-yard return to set up a field goal.
“With the scheme we had and the mortar kicks, it was kind of a hard deal for us,” Ginn said. “We don’t want a turnover. But we overcame and made a play after the turnover.”