In November, the 49ers pulled out a dramatic win in New Orleans, as kicker Phil Dawson kicked a 45-yard field goal to send the game into overtime. He then won it with a 35-yard field goal.
It was a big game for Dawson, one of many in his 16-year NFL career. He also went 5-for-5 on field goals in a 22-17 victory over the Chiefs in October.
But like the team as a whole, the 40-year-old Dawson had a down year in 2014.
He missed six field-goal attempts (he was 25-of-31), had one blocked and his 80.6 percent success rate was his lowest since 2006.
The usually reliable Dawson – who had been terrific his first year in San Francisco in 2013, with an 88.9 percent success rate (32-of-36) – still showed a strong leg, making six field goals from 50 yards or beyond. But he also missed one kick between 30-39 yards and two more from 40-49 yards.
In 2015, Dawson – who is signed through this coming season -- will be one of many 49ers who will need to improve if the Niners are to get back to the top of the NFC West. Overall, in fact, the 49ers’ special teams ranked just 23rd in the NFL. That, too, will need to improve.
The good news is, Dawson’s leg remains strong. His kickoffs are still consistently deep, and his circumstances in 2014 included working with a new long snapper and getting used to a new home stadium.
As former head coach Jim Harbaugh said of Dawson this past season, Dawson may be much older than his teammates, but he’s still got plenty left.
“No expiration date on Phil Dawson,” Harbaugh told reporters. “Let’s put that down. There is no expiration date on Mr. Phil Dawson.”