The postman isn’t the only one who has to deliver in rain, snow, sleet and dark of night. The field-goal kicker is expected to come through in tough conditions, too.
The 49ers’ Phil Dawson has made a franchise-record 20 consecutive field goals, which helped earn him the NFC’s Special Teams Player of the Week award Wednesday. And the streak has included a couple of challenges weather-wise that he said should help the team of snapper, holder and kicker if they go on the road to, say, Philadelphia or Chicago for the playoffs in January.
Dawson, 38, has plenty of experience kicking in snow, wind and ice. He played 14 seasons for the Browns on the shore of wind-lashed Lake Erie, after all. Last year in Cleveland, he made 93.5 percent of his attempts, including all seven from 50 yards or longer.
But his battery mates don’t have that kind of NFL winter wonderland experience, especially rookie long snapper Kevin McDermott. Dawson on Sunday was quick to deflect attention following his 22-yard game winner to McDermott, who beat out the longest-tenured 49ers player, Brian Jennings, for a roster spot in the summer and has been solid since.
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“In a situation like that, the kicker gets all the credit,” Dawson said. “Let’s not forget, we had a rookie bending over and trying to deliver the ball in tough conditions with the game on the line.”
Asked if he had to deal with any wicked weather as UCLA’s long snapper, McDermott laughed and said, “More than you’d think.”
There was snow and ice on the field when the Bruins visited Utah in November 2011. He dealt with snow both times he visited Washington State, and there was rain and drizzle in games at Oregon and Washington.
It even rained once at the Rose Bowl.
“It’s very rare, but it happens from time to time,” he said.
McDermott also pointed out that he didn’t grow up on a Southern California beach but in Nashville, Tenn., where the temperature dipped below freezing by the time the high school playoffs rolled around.
He can add two of the 49ers’ last three games to his bad-weather resumé.
Against the Washington Redskins, the temperature at kickoff was 35 degrees with wind to 15 mph, and Dawson made field goals of 29 and 49 yards. It was 43 degrees when Sunday’s game against the Seahawks started. But the temperature dropped and the wind picked up as the game went on and the sun started to set in San Francisco.
“It was blowing decent in the first half,” holder Andy Lee said. “And in the second half, it was blowing really hard. It was really gusty in there, and (the wind direction) was changing a lot, like it always does.”
On the final drive, Dawson said it was important that the 49ers got the ball as close as possible to the end zone.
“Every yard counted,” he said. “Because on a windy day, sometimes what you don’t want to do is pop the ball straight up in the air because it will move on you.”
Against Seattle, Dawson was good from 23, 48 and 52 yards.
All of which means his confidence – and his comfort with McDermott and Lee – is growing every week.
“Obviously, there were some pretty ridiculous weather games around the league (Sunday), and I don’t know if you can ever really prepare for those,” Dawson said. “But one thing about being a professional is you’ve just got to show up on any given Sunday and do your job.”
Another benefit from Sunday’s game, McDermott said, is it gave him a taste of playoff atmosphere.
McDermott said that as he ran out for the decisive field goal, he kept telling himself, “It’s just like practice. Do what you do every day.”
Dawson said one concern was getting the ball over 6-foot-4, 323-pound Seahawks lineman Red Bryant, who is known for blocking kicks, including one last year against the 49ers that was returned 90 yards for a touchdown.
McDermott, however, was so locked into his job he said he didn’t notice Bryant looming over his shoulder.
“To be honest, I wasn’t paying attention,” he said. “I’m looking through my legs backward.”