By Jerrell Richardson
The fate of the Super Bowl could very easily come down to a last second field goal. The 49ers and Ravens are two talented, mentally tough squads, and it would be a surprise if the game does not come down to the wire.
If this was last year, San Francisco would relish a chance to seal the game with a field goal, as David Akers had one of the best years ever for a kicker. This season is another story however, as Akers has missed crucial kick after crucial kick and with the 49ers just 60 minutes (of game time) away from a Super Bowl victory, neither they nor Akers will be confident if it’s the kicker in the 59th minute with the outcome of the game resting on his foot.
Then again, as it appears to be more mental than anything else, he can snap out of his slump at any time, and could find himself on his teammates’ shoulders at the end of Super Bowl 47 as the hero.
Why Akers Will Make His Kicks
The Super Bowl will be played, fittingly in the Super Dome, which will be as good as it gets for kicking situations. Akers will be playing inside, and the only things he needs to worry about will be his mechanics and psyche.
His record 63-yarder in Week 1 proves that he is technically in range once the Niners are on their opponents’ side of the field. That’s important, as Akers may be called upon a few times before this one is over. The moment itself will not be too big for the 14-year veteran, who played most of his career with the Eagles, meaning he made a long career out of kicking in less then ideal conditions and under pressure.
He also has Super Bowl experience, meaning his problem will not be the big lights. Akers problem instead is a matter of inches, but football is a game of inches, and in the end, that could cost his team a win.
Reason For Concern
In the last game, against the Atlanta Falcons, Akers missed his only attempt, clanking the ball off the left goal post from 38 yards out. This game was played in the Georgia Dome, which like the Super Dome is inside, showing that Akers is not even automatic indoors, with an attempt over 35 yards.
This changes the offensive game plan, forcing the need for more aggressive, risk taking plays. Even if Akers does not step on the field, his recent play could still adversely effect the game, as the coaches are certainly aware that they can’t fail to put points on the board against the Ravens, and will need to adjust accordingly.
A Game of Inches
Although the 49ers will be without a reliable kicker, it’s not as though Akers is missing badly on his kicks. The only thing that matters is if he makes it or not, but compare his record breaking kick and his most recent miss. Both hit the upright, it’s just that one bounced the right way. If he can make the minor adjustment, or get a lucky bounce then nobody will even care about his regular season, that both he and the team would like to soon forget.
Akers has not been the sole cause of any defeat this season, but he has certainly had his share of the blame in majority of them. What has enabled San Francisco to make the jump from the bottom of the NFC to a Super Bowl participant is that they get contributions from all phases.
The offense has transformed under the guidance of Colin Kaepernick, and the defense has long since been the teams staple, but it still takes a complete team effort for them to win against a quality opponent.
The one area that kept the 49ers from making it this far a season ago was special teams, and ironically it’s back at the top of the team’s concerns heading into the Super Bowl this year, but not for the same reason.
He Is Due
The team has done everything they could to address the kicking problems, but in the end decided to stick with Akers. They brought in Billy Cundiff to compete for the job, but Jim Harbaugh felt that if the team was to go down due to an errant field goal, it would be Akers and not some new guy.
Cundiff would appear to be the better choice in terms of confidence, but then again, he cost the Ravens a potential trip to the Super Bowl in last year’s AFC Championship Game, and would be karma for him to miss a kick against the Ravens this year.
If called into action Akers is about 50% on his kicks, and after missing his last attempt, if they can save him until the end of the game for his only attempt he is due and will hit a game winner, as predicted in the annual, and always accurate, John Madden Super Bowl simulation.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.