Robbie Gould can conjure up every kick he’s attempted this season.
His two game-winning field goals aren’t the ones he thinks about the most. Instead, the 49ers’ veteran kicker is motivated by his misses.
There aren’t many. A 47-yard attempt in Washington in Week 6 drifted wide right in a game the 49ers lost 26-24. Two weeks later in Philadelphia, a 27-yard attempt was blocked. He also missed an extra point in San Francisco’s two-point loss to the Rams in Week 3, a rare error that ended up haunting the team at the end of the game.
“I go back to those kicks because those are the kicks that fuel me every day,” Gould said after Sunday’s game. “I get mad about those. … I put the two losses we had against Washington, against Los Angeles on my back because I didn’t get my job done.”
Like a lot of veteran kickers, Gould, 35, uses that self criticism to stay sharp.
When the Chicago Bears abruptly released him at the start of the 2016 season after 11 years with the franchise, he decided to, in his words, “reinvent himself.” He said certain aspects of his game had gotten sloppy as he passed the decade mark in the league and became the Bears’ all-time leading scorer, and he spent his time away from the game perfecting his craft.
The New York Giants called him in October of last year, and Gould was ready. He made all 12 field-goal tries with New York. In fact, he didn’t have a field-goal misfire until the 49ers’ Oct. 15 game in Washington. He’s on another roll now, having connected on 20 in a row, including a 45-yard game-winner as time expired Sunday for a 25-23 victory over the Tennessee Titans at Levi’s Stadium.
“Robbie’s playing as good as anyone I’ve ever had,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “Whenever he goes out there, I never think he’s going to miss it. He’s been automatic. I just hope he’s not getting too fatigued. I wish I didn’t have to use him so much.”
Only the Los Angeles Rams’ Greg Zuerlein has attempted more kicks this season (40) than Gould’s 38, and the 49ers kicker is closing in fast. He was 5 for 5 on field goals against the Bears in Week 13, 4 for 4 a week later in the win over the Houston Texans and 6 for 6 against Tennessee, making him the first kicker in NFL history to kick 15 field goals in a three-game span.
That workload has only boosted his confidence.
As the 49ers (4-10) were beginning their comeback in the fourth quarter Sunday, a third-down sack of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo turned a 40-yard attempt into a more daunting 50-yarder, threatening to upend the team’s momentum. Gould was unfazed by the added distance. He sprang onto the field, did a practice swing with his right leg, then lined up like he always does before drilling his longest kick of the day.
Asked if he said anything to Gould before the kicker trotted out for the 45-yard game winner later that quarter, Garoppolo seemed astonished.
“Absolutely not,” he said quickly. “He’s in the zone. I know how that is. Just going out for the two-minute drill, we went and handled our business and he handled his. That’s what a good team does.”
The only one who talks to Gould before he kicks is Gould.
“I usually talk to myself before I get ready to go kick those kicks,” he said. “The kicks that I need to go up by one (point), or the kicks we need to extend it by 10 – I usually kind of get myself excited.”
After the ball goes through the uprights, he’s even more vocal. He directed a hard stare at the Bears’ sideline after his game-winner in Chicago. On Sunday, he was mobbed by teammates before the ball even landed.
“My favorite part as a kicker making a kick like that is watching the other sideline go completely silent, to be honest with you,” he said.
Injury update – Shanahan on Monday said that two players, receiver Aldrick Robinson and safety Adrian Colbert, were in the league’s concussion protocol. Robinson suffered a concussion in the first quarter while Colbert complained about post-concussion symptoms after the game. If Colbert were unable to play Sunday against Jacksonville, Antone Exum likely would step in at free safety.