SANTA CLARA In both the first and most recent game of the 49ers' season, David Akers kicked a field goal that hit the goal post.
The first attempt, at Green Bay, hit the crossbar and bounced over from 63 yards to tie an NFL record. The latest, a 38-yarder in Atlanta, clanged unsuccessfully off the left upright.
Akers used those two kicks on Friday to illustrate the difficulty of pinpointing a cause for his field-goal struggles this season. One also could see them as symbolic of how much has changed for the 38-year-old kicker over several months.
Just a year after setting an NFL record for field goals made in a season, Akers this season made a career-low 69 percent of his attempts and had to compete to keep his job before the playoffs. After missing his lone attempt in the NFC Championship Game, he found himself Friday fielding questions again about his confidence and form, nine days before the Super Bowl.
Coach Jim Harbaugh has maintained his support for Akers, saying the 14-year veteran's leg looks strong. Akers echoed that he has "felt good" kicking in practices and pregame warmups. He said the misses including five in his last five games remain mystifying.
"You look at the kicks, they're so minute on how far they're off," Akers said. "We're talking inches on a lot of kicks, and that's the frustrating thing.
"You look at those things, you're like, what's the difference? You look at the film, you see your form, form looks pretty good. It's just one of those things that I just scratch my head, talk to a lot of guys that I talk to when I'm doing well and when I'm not. And they say, hey, just keep fighting through it. And that's the only thing I can do."
Akers said he has talked with other kickers and discussed mechanics with 49ers special-teams coach Brad Seely, but that the results have been a "little bit of a head-scratcher for a lot of people."
He said he will do what he can to push those thoughts aside when he jogs onto the field Feb. 3 at the Superdome in New Orleans.
"I guess it's no different than a relief pitcher or a (defensive back) that got burned on a long play," Akers said. "You've got to go out and let the body mechanics take over."
Last Sunday, Akers lined up for a 38-yard attempt against the Falcons to tie the score in the third quarter. After it bounced off the left upright, TV cameras showed the kicker sitting by himself on the 49ers sideline, staring at the ground.
Harbaugh wasted little time afterward sticking up for Akers, declaring Monday that Akers would kick for the 49ers in the Super Bowl. On Friday, Harbaugh disagreed that Akers is in a slump.
"We all have great faith in David. He's done a lot for our team," Harbaugh said. "I believe he's really been hitting the ball well consistently now for weeks. I can't agree that he is in a slump. All we can do is, we can make the snap, make the hold, give great protection, and him keep hitting the balls. And we'll have confidence that those will go in."
Akers made 20 of 23 regular-season attempts from inside 40 yards, but his accuracy fell off beyond 40 yards, where he was 9 of 19. He is 1 for 2 on field goals in the postseason, converting a 36-yard attempt in the divisional round against Green Bay, and is perfect this season on point-after attempts.
"I haven't had the personal success that I'd like to have this year," Akers said. "But if we end up winning this (Super Bowl), I mean, it'll be one of the coolest team seasons to be a part of.
"For me, I'm just going to go into this looking positive forgetting the fact of 2012, and looking forward to good things in 2013."