Kassim Osgood (14) is congratulated after scoring a TD on a muffed punt vs. the Titans earlier this season. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
In 11 games for the 49ers this season, wide receiver Kassim Osgood has zero catches.
But that hardly means he’s made no contribution to the 49ers.
Osgood is a wide receiver in name only. Of course, the 11-year NFL veteran might well be able to contribute in the passing game if called upon. He has 44 career catches for 749 yards and five TDs, and in college at San Diego State was a fine receiver.
But Osgood has made a good living in the NFL as a special teams player, not a receiver, and his contributions to the 49ers in Sunday’s victory over the Seahawks and throughout this season have been substantial.
On Sunday, Osgood blocked a Seahawks punt in the first quarter – breaking through the middle of the line almost untouched – that gave San Francisco the ball on the Seattle 34 and set up one of Phil Dawson’s four field goals. The play proved crucial in a 19-17 victory that gave the 49ers their third straight win and improved their record to 9-4 with three games remaining in the regular season.
Earlier this season, in a 31-17 victory over Tennessee, Osgood recovered the football for a touchdown on a muffed punt.
And, on the season, Osgood ranks tied for 21st in the NFL with nine special teams tackles.
This past offseason, the 49ers made it a priority to improve their special teams play, bringing in a more reliable kicker in Dawson and several new free agents to contribute to punt coverage and kickoff coverage – an area of particular weakness in 2012. The moves have paid off.
This season, the 49ers have three players who rank among the top special teams tacklers in the NFL in C.J. Spillman (13 tackles), Michael Wilhoite (12) and Osgood.
The 49ers rank among the top 10 in the NFL, allowing just 22.2 yards per kick return. Osgood – a three-time special teams Pro Bowler – has been a valuable piece of the special teams mix, along with veteran free-agent additions safety Bubba Ventrone, linebacker Dan Skuta and safety Craig Dahl, rookie linebacker Nick Moody and veteran backup running back Anthony Dixon.
In Sunday’s victory over the Seahawks, Osgood blocked the punt, Ventrone had a key tackle on returner Golden Tate at the 16-yard line after Dawson’s late, go-ahead field goal and Dawson made all four of his field-goal tries to run his success streak to 20 straight. This season, Dawson is 23-of-26 (88.5 percent success rate) and has missed only one field-goal attempt of less than 50 yards.
Earlier this season, the 49ers noted that Osgood brings a fire and performance to special teams play that is contagious.
“His style, I just love it,” Dixon staid. “He’s someone I’m definitely feeding off right now.” Head coach Jim Harbaugh called him a “fabulous contributor.”
Though the 49ers’ offense has been somewhat disappointing this season, San Francisco’s defense and special teams have been a rock.
So when Dawson came on late in the game for what proved to be the game-winning kick, his teammates were certain he’d come through. That wasn’t the case last season, when the erratic David Akers missed several kicks that could have put games away.
“It’s a great feeling when you know that you got a guy that can come in and seal the deal when it comes to close games like it was today,” said Niners special teamer Spillman.
With a big victory over Seattle locked away, the 49ers now get set for a cross-country trip to play at Tampa Bay this Sunday. The Bucs are 4-9, but coming off a 27-6 victory over the Buffalo Bills.