In early December, after missing a field-goal attempt in overtime that would have given the 49ers a victory in a game they eventually lost, 49ers kicker David Akers was upset.
“(I) just feel horrible for letting my teammates, organization and fans down,” he said.
Now, as the 49ers head into the postseason, Akers’ horrible feeling may get even worse.
Based on his inconsistent kicking over the second half of this season – including two more field-goal misses in Sunday’s victory over the Cardinals – Akers’ job may be in jeopardy.
The veteran kicker – who was so accurate and dependable in 2011 – was successful on just 69 percent of his field goals in 2012 (29-for-42) and he missed 10 of 19 tries from 40 yards or longer (including two vs. Arizona).
When 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh was asked about Akers’ performance and his confidence in his kicker, he didn’t exactly give him a vote of confidence.
“Well, it’s his job to make the field goals, you know,” Harbaugh told the media. “(This is) not to his standard.”
Harbaugh said in practice, Akers has been fine. In games, however, “(I) can’t exactly say what’s going on.”
Harbaugh said, “We’ll evaluate the position.”
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote after Sunday’s 49ers victory that Akers isn’t assured of a postseason roster spot. He noted that earlier this season, the 49ers brought in two veterans, Billy Cundiff and Nate Kaeding, for auditions, and Cundiff is still available.
Not everyone believes Akers will lose his job. Some teammates, who’ve seen Akers at his best and seen him work in practice every day, still believe in him.
“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown told Branch, about the prospect of Akers being released. “He’s a veteran. He’s been there, he’s done that. He missed two field goals, but he came back and made two more. It’s part of the game.”
Tight end Vernon Davis, too, offered Akers some encouraging words.
Columnist Tim Kawakami noted that Davis went over to Akers after his missed kicks on Sunday to offer his support.
“He was down a little bit,” Davis told Kawakami. “But that’s OK. It’s football. You’re going to miss some kicks. That doesn’t mean you can’t be great. He might be one of the greatest kickers to ever play this game – if he keeps on going. He can’t put his head down. It’s all right.”
The 49ers, by earning the No. 2 seed and a first-round playoff bye, have the luxury of some extra evaluation time. They won’t play until Saturday, Jan. 12, in a 5 p.m. game against an opponent to be determined by the first weekend of wild-card play. If the Packers beat the Vikings, it will be Green Bay; if the Packers lose, it would be the winner of the Redskins-Seahawks game.
No matter the opponent, worries about the reliability of Akers are growing.
As San Francisco Chronicle columnist Scott Ostler wrote, the place-kicking position has become one of the Niners’ biggest worries.
“This will not be a worry if the 49ers blow out every playoff foe,” he wrote. “But in a close game? Whoa, Nellie!”