January 18, 2013
If it comes down to kicks, Falcons have edge
By JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency

Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant (R) kicks the winning field goal with holder Matt Bosher to defeat the Seattle Seahawks in their NFL NFC Divisional playoff football game in Atlanta, Georgia January 13, 2013. (REUTERS)

If Sunday’s NFC championship game comes down to a field goal, San Francisco 49ers fans will be wincing, with eyes closed and breath held.

That’s because the shaky David Akers is their team’s placekicker, and Mr. Clutch – Matt Bryant – boots for the Atlanta Falcons.

For 13 years Akers had been one of the NFL’s more dependable, accurate kickers – a six-time Pro Bowler. And he started Year 14 by tying the NFL record with a 63-yarder in Green Bay.

But Akers struggled mightily down the stretch, finishing 29-of-42 for a not-nearly-good-enough percentage of 69.0. From beyond 39 yards he was 9-of-19, and indeed missed seven of his last 11 kicks from 40 yards to end the regular season.

That’s atrocious by today’s NFL standards.

Yet Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh has stuck by the 38-year-old Akers, even after finally bringing in some competition. After trying out various kickers, the Niners added Billy Cundiff – goat for Baltimore in last year’s AFC championship



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