One thing is certain: if the Packers at 49ers game this Saturday night on FOX comes down to the final kick, fans will be complete wrecks. It won’t matter which team is the one attempting the kick.
One could argue that any last field goal attempt in the playoffs is nerve-wracking, and that’s certainly true, but the anxiety felt by either Packers or 49ers fans if they see their team’s field goal unit trot out onto the field late in the game on Saturday will be a special kind of torture.
That’s because neither team has been able to kick field goals with any consistency this season. On the Packers side, placekicker Mason Crosby has experienced his worst season since he entered the league in 2007, converting a meager 21 of 33 field goal attempts and not hitting one from 50+ yards between Week 2 and Week 17.
In San Francisco, David Akers experienced an equally bad — and equally puzzling — season. He made only 29 of 42 attempts in 2012, only a year after setting an NFL record for most field goals in a season with 44 and being named the league’s first-team All-Pro kicker. Things got so bad for Akers that he had to shut down his Twitter account after getting death threats from fans.
Crosby and Akers finished 30th and 301st, respectively, in regular season field goal accuracy in 2012. Each player will get the start at kicker in their team’s game this weekend, but each took a very different path to get there.
The Packers were steadfast in their commitment to Crosby, never entertaining the idea of benching him or even bringing in another kicker to compete for playing time and always saying that they believed he would put his struggles behind him. On the other hand, the 49ers actively sought another kicker to add to the roster to push Akers. Billy Cundiff was signed off the street to come in and potentially win the starting job. Following yesterday’s practice, coach Jim Harbaugh announced that Akers beat Cundiff in the competition and will get the start on Saturday — with one caveat: Cundiff will remain on the roster and Akers will be on a short leash.
In the eyes of fans, kickers are only as good as the result of their last attempt. If either kicker manages to hit a game-winner on Saturday, all those misses from the regular season will be forgiven. There will certainly be some rapidly beating hearts in the crowd in the seconds before such an attempt, though.