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Akers’ 63-yard FG Highlights Victory

Posted Sep 9, 2012

The fact that David Akers, even at 37 years old, is among the best kickers in the NFL was on full display as the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Green Bay Packers 30-22 on Sunday.

The 49ers win is sure to turn heads across the league as one of the more impressive results of Week 1, but in many ways Akers stole the show at Lambeau Field with one play in particular.

Akers kicked a 63-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, to tie the NFL record for longest field goal of all time, highlighting a day in which he connected for three field goals and three extra points.

The record-tying kick came off Akers’ foot as a low line drive, which struck the crossbar before trickling over in between the two uprights to shock the Lambeau Field crowd.

Akers' mind-boggling connection also caused the San Francisco bench to erupt in celebration before heading into the locker room with a 16-7 lead.

“I tried really hard to get it there,” Akers said. “I didn’t think I actually hit it that great, I was like, ‘Oh well it was fun to give it a shot.’ Then I was like, ‘Wait, it’s still kind of going.’

“When you hit the goalpost, whether it’s the crossbar or the upright, it usually makes a really loud and obnoxious sound coming back at you. It went through and I think that’s about the biggest miracle I’ve seen in a long time.”

That Jim Harbaugh was willing to let Akers make the attempt from inside the 49ers half of the field was evidence enough of the coach’s confidence in his kicker’s strong leg.

When asked what the coaching staff believes Akers’ range to be, Harbaugh joked it’s now around 63 yards.

The coach’s faith in the veteran was rewarded and Harbaugh certainly showed his appreciation as he was part the large group that ran off the San Francisco sideline to rush Akers near midfield in celebration following the kick.

“He kicked a 60-yarder in pregame going the same direction,” the 49ers coach said. “We felt like he could have made it from longer. We felt there was a good shot at doing it. With David Akers you’re talking about maybe the best kicker in the history of the game. We felt like the odds were in our favor.”

Akers’ name goes into the NFL record book in yet another category after he set NFL single-season records in field goals made (44) and points without a touchdown (166) last season.

“It’s one of those things that you’ll never forget,” Akers said. “That’s for sure. I never imagined it hitting the crossbar and bouncing in. It’s like a nice ending of a Disney movie.”

Akers has mastered the art of kicking perfect games as he went 3-of-3 against Green Bay, connecting from 40 and 43 to go along with the 63-yarder. The 15-year veteran couldn’t have asked for a better start to the 2012 season after he posted 11 blemish-free performances last season.

Having shattered his previous career-long of 57, Akers joins Tom Dempsey, Jason Elam and Sebastian Janikowski as the only kickers to connect from 63-yards.

The 49ers specialist has now split the uprights on eight attempts of 50-yards or more since joining the 49ers in 2011, which places him two behind Joe Nedney’s franchise record for the most 50-plus yard field goals.

Akers, a six-time Pro Bowler and 2011 first team All-Pro selection, is still at the top of his game in every aspect.

It was fitting that Brian Jennings was the snapper and punter Andy Lee the holder for Akers’ historic kick. The three Pro Bowlers formed the battery for the kick and their difference-making performance on Sunday could only reinforce the widely-held belief that the 49ers boast a trio of specialists who are as good as any in the NFL.

Lee punted five times for a 51.2 yards average, forcing Aaron Rodgers to start from deep in his own territory for much of the afternoon. The only blemish came early in the fourth quarter when Randall Cobb returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown.

One of Lee’s most effective efforts came when the team needed it most as the 49ers were leading 30-22 with 3:37 remaining in the game. The punt went 41 yards to pin the Packers at their own 15-yard line, further complicating a would-be comeback attempt for the Packers.

Lee’s punting and the stellar play by the coverage units helped the 49ers defense contain an offense led by the reigning NFL MVP.

Vic Fangio’s unit kept the Packers guessing for much of the day, thanks in large part to effective subbing.

The 49ers defense spent a large portion of the game out of its base formation with a heavy dose of nickel against the pass-heavy Packer attack.

Even team captain and perennial All-Pro Patrick Willis watched multiple plays from the sideline to make room on the field for additional defensive backs.

“The majority of the time the nickel defense, the dime defense or the dollar defense was out there,” linebacker Ahmad Brooks said. “It was more pass rush and just playing first and second down football.”

The varied 49ers formations kept the Green Bay offense from establishing any rhythm much of the afternoon, a fact especially evident on the last possession of the game.

After a string of Packers completions to reach midfield, Brooks proved to be a difference maker.

The linebacker retreated from a pass rush to stop a Rodgers scramble for a 1-yard gain at the start of the drive. Brooks then sacked the Packers’ quarterback for a 7-yard loss on a second down at midfield to help stall the drive.

“They needed a touchdown so they were antsy to get first downs and a touchdown,” Brooks said. “I just stayed focused and kept calm. I didn’t feel like I did anything until the fourth quarter, but I got a sack and that made a difference in the ball game.”

Brooks and Ray McDonald on one side and Justin Smith and Aldon Smith on the other consistently got into the backfield to blow up running plays and flush Rodgers from the pocket throughout all four quarters.

Members from all over the 49ers defense contributed at varying moments of the game to help earn the type of total team victory so often advocated by Harbaugh.

NaVorro Bowman led the team in tackles with 11 to go along with a key second-half interception to help stop the Packers’ momentum in the third quarter. Cornerback Tarell Brown had the second most stops with seven, followed by Willis with six.
“When you keep fighting and keep stopping teams that are used to scoring, used to getting first downs and used to at least crossing the 50 and stuff like that -- if you keep stopping them they're going to fold,”  Bowman said. “They're going to start pointing fingers and things like that and that's all we did.

“We just kept fighting, kept punching them in their mouth and just played a full 60 minute game. That's what it all came down to. Coach said it today, it wasn't going to be easy. You have to play a full game and that's what we did.”

It was a credit to each player’s selfless attitude, whether on special teams, defense or offense, that all the 49ers were willing to adjust to a new scheme for a new season to help start the 2012 season 1-0.

“We have the right type of guys here,” Bowman said. “Guys come in on off-days and do the extra. That just shows the commitment they have to this team.”

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