The ability to make a field goal nowadays in the NFL can at times be taken for granted given that kickers are making 80-85 percent of their field goal attempts at a minimum. Given the adventures they had during the 2012 season with David Akers, the San Francisco 49ers realized that they needed to bring in a kicker they could rely upon and trust to win an important game with a late field goal.
That is why general manager Trent Baalke smartly pursued and signed veteran free agent kicker Phil Dawson. He had a lot of success when kicking for the Cleveland Browns despite playing half of his games in a stadium that is known for having tricky wind patterns. The idea was that this experience could come in handy late in a crucial regular season game or in a playoff game with the minds of Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh thinking that the 49ers would be in a push for the Super Bowl once again.
During the regular season Dawson had shown that his signing was an astute one as aside from having had a stretch where he made 27 consecutive field goal attempts, he had game-winning field goals in two crucial NFC West divisional games. The first of these game-winners came back in Week 14 when Dawson hit a kick to give the 49ers a 19-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks in a must-win regular season game. His second game-winner came during the 49ers’ regular season finale against the Arizona Cardinals as Dawson connected on a 40-yard attempt to give the 49ers a 23-20 win.
Sunday is where Dawson’s value was truly seen on the game-winning drive. On said drive, the 49ers were able to make play-calls and selections with the full knowledge that Dawson was comfortable kicking any attempt up to 47 yards out given the conditions on Sunday. This allowed Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman to make play-calls once on the Green Bay Packers‘ side of the field knowing they could rely on Dawson to make the game-winner which he eventually did as the clock hit triple zeroes. That is where the value of a good kicker like Dawson is truly highlighted in its importance.