49ers notes: Harbaugh more puzzled than irked by Akers' whiffs

Published: Monday, Dec. 31, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 5C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 - 2:49 pm

SAN FRANCISCO – Jim Harbaugh, who has publicly supported David Akers during a slump that's lasted most of the season, wavered for the first time after the kicker missed two more field goals Sunday.

Akers was wide left from 44 and 40 yards as the 49ers tried to rally from behind in the second quarter. In the second half, Harbaugh twice elected to go for it on fourth down rather than attempt long Akers field goals from 54 and 48 yards. The 49ers converted both attempts.

Asked if the 49ers need to make a change before their first playoff game in two weeks, Harbaugh hesitated, then said, "I don't know if we have to. We'll evaluate the position. … It's his job to make the field goals, you know. It's not to his standard."

Akers mostly has been solid inside of 40 yards, connecting on 18 of 23 attempts. Beyond 40 yards, however, he has been hit and miss. The 14-year veteran is 6 of 10 between 40 and 49 yards and is just 2 of 6 beyond 50 yards. That includes an NFL-record-tying 63-yard field goal in the season opener in Green Bay.

Earlier this year, Akers was dealing with a pelvic injury. Harbaugh said he didn't think the kicker, voted to the Pro Bowl last year, was doing anything wrong mechanically.

"Not that I know of," Harbaugh said. "The practices have been good mechanically. No, I can't exactly say what's going on."

The 49ers have given tryouts to at least two veteran kickers, Nate Kaeding and Billy Cundiff, both of whom have a history of playoff misfires.

Kaeding was signed by the Miami Dolphins last week.

Akers was not available after the game. The 49ers can add as many free agents as they want until Wednesday at 1 p.m. After that, they only are able to make four roster moves beyond promoting their current practice squad players to the 53-man roster.

Warm welcome back – Alex Smith improved his completion percentage, albeit only slightly.

The now-backup quarterback was given mop-up duty late in the game, connecting on his only pass attempt – a six-yard throw to fullback Bruce Miller.

It was Smith's first action since Nov. 11, when he suffered a concussion. Smith, who was having his best season in eight years, was replaced after recovering from that injury.

Perhaps sympathizing with his twist of fate, the Candlestick Park crowd – which hasn't always been on his side – gave Smith a nice ovation as he entered the game and even chanted, "Let's go, Alex."

"Very humbling," Smith said. "To go out there and get that sort of response – it was very cool."

The 49ers will owe Smith $7.5 million on April 1, and the two sides likely will part ways if Colin Kaepernick is the starter at that point. Asked if he thought this was his last season in San Francisco, Smith said, "Not thinking about that right now at all. There's a lot left ahead for us."

Et cetera – Aldon Smith was held without a sack for the past three games, his longest stretch this season without a sack. He finished with 19 1/2 sacks, one behind Houston's J.J. Watt.

• The 49ers had as many undrafted rookies in uniform – tight end Garrett Celek and defensive end Tony Jerod-Eddie – as they did draft picks, A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James.

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Read more articles by Matthew Barrows



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