There weren’t many positives to come out of Sunday’s 49ers’ loss to the Panthers.
Though the San Francisco defense was solid in the 10-9 defeat, the offense was pedestrian and the passing attack mostly absent. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for just 91 yards and the 49ers offense could generate just 4 yards on 14 plays in the fourth quarter.
The nine points scored by the 49ers – all in the first half – came on three Phil Dawson field goals.
Even with all their offensive woes, the Niners were still in position to win late in the game if they could move the ball into position for one more Dawson field-goal try. Unfortunately for the Niners, Kaepernick was intercepted on San Francisco’s final possession to seal the defeat and Dawson never got the chance.
Dawson, however, has proven to be one of the team’s most consistent performers this season and a significant upgrade over David Akers, who slumped horribly in 2012 after a terrific season in 2011.
Dawson not only was 3-for-3 on field-goal attempts vs. Carolina Sunday, but he’s 12-of-15 this season – and one of his three misses came on a 71-yard attempt against the Rams at the end of the first half that was likely to fail.
Dawson is 5-for-5 on field goals 29 yards or closer, 3-for-3 from 30-39 yards, 3-for-4 on kicks of 40-49 yards and 1-for-3 from 50 yards or beyond, connecting on a 53-yarder vs. the Panthers. He’s also 27-for-27 on extra-point kicks. On kickoffs, he is tied for second best in the NFL, giving opponents an average start at their own 19.5 yard line.
When the 49ers have needed a field goal this season, Dawson – signed as a free agent in March after 14 seasons with the Browns – has been very reliable. Last season, Akers was wildly inconsistent, making only 69 percent of his tries and missing two potential game-winners in overtime periods. He was particularly unreliable within the 40-49 yard lines, making just 9 of 19 tries.
When the 49ers signed Dawson, head coach Jim Harbaugh believed the team had solved one of its biggest problems of 2012.
“He’s a real football player,” Harbaugh said. “That’s a great thing to say about a kicker. He kicks the ball through the uprights in all kinds of situations – pressure situations, inclement weather situations. Those things stand out the most.”
Akers, meanwhile, landed a job with the Detroit Lions and has been better this season, making 12-of-16 field-goal attempts. But his inaccuracy within the 40-49 yard lines has again been problematic. He’s made just three of his six kicks from that distance.
Meanwhile, the Niners (6-3) will work this week to get their offense back on track in time to face the Saints (7-2) in New Orleans Sunday.