As the San Francisco 49ers prepare for their “Quest for Six,” special teams will undoubtedly be a factor in determining the outcome of the game. Whether it’s 49ers punter Andy Lee’s ability to boom a punt, Safety C.J. Spillman’s speed to cover a return-man, or kicker David Akers making a field-goal, they will all play a huge role in the Super Bowl, especially if the game turns into a defensive struggle. So with two out of the three occurring on a habitual-basis, how will Akers fare in the biggest game of his life? Surprisingly well.
First of all, Akers is playing inside a dome, with zero wind factor, for the second consecutive game. In the NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons, Akers was five for five on kickoffs going for touchbacks. A huge plus for the defense, as the opposing offense will need to sustain a drive of at least 45 yards. A difficult task for any offense to achieve.
Secondly, Akers has played under pressure before, with his first Super Bowl stint as a Philadelphia Eagle, in Super Bowl XXXIX. Although, he did not attempt a field-goal, he went 3 for 3 on extra-points. A small consolation prize for a player struggling with missed field-goals.
Speaking of field-goals, while many NFL pundits predict another David Akers fallout, I think otherwise. It is no surprise that Akers’ leg has been sporadic this year. He led the league with 13 missed field-goals, while also tying the NFL record for the longest field-goal made, of 63 yards. So which Akers, can the 49ers expect today? I’m leaning toward the Akers of 2011. You know, the one who set numerous NFL records and re-wrote the record books.
According to 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, Akers has been extremely accurate in practice, nailing everything in sight. As Harbaugh said of Akers’ accuracy:
David Akers didn’t miss a kick all week.
However, despite Akers’ reported accuracy, it has not translated into games, making him the epitome of a practice player. Nevertheless, Akers’ will succeed because of martial arts. Yes, martial arts. While playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, Akers’ sought advice from Brazilian JiuJitsu instructor Anthony Mangenello. The unorthodox teachings helped Akers develop discipline and control, as Akers said:
I think martial arts would be a great thing for any kicker to get involved in…I want to be that limber and that fierce, and still have the focus and control. That’s all kicking is. You’ve got one fierce kick and you’ve got to be focused on it. You can’t let anything on the outside get in and bother you.
With Akers having two violatile seasons in San Francisco, it will be interesting to see if Akers can regain his form, that made him a six-time All-Pro. And if I had to guess, I would say he realigns his zen and proves his doubters wrong.