The San Francisco 49ers this week handled their place-kicking problems much differently than the Green Bay Packers dealt with theirs.
The 49ers' decorated veteran kicker, David Akers, is having a terrible season. After going 44-for-52 (84.6 percent) and playing in the Pro Bowl last year, he’s only 29-for-42 (69 percent) this season. He’s only 7-for-13 from 40 to 49 yards, and has made only 11 of his last 18 attempts (61.1 percent).
So this week after Akers went 2-for-4 in the regular-season finale, the 49ers signed Billy Cundiff as a second kicker. They’re having both kick regularly in practice, and will choose whoever is kicking better for their divisional-round playoff game next Saturday.
The Packers, on the other hand, made no personnel moves when kicker Mason Crosby had a 12-to-22 stretch from games seven through 14. That included him bottoming out with misses from 42 and 43 yards on his only two attempts at Chicago on Dec. 16
Crosby has gone 4-for-4 since, from 26, 48, 51 and 40 yards.
“We didn’t determine that we needed to light a fire under our kicker,” said Shawn Slocum, the Packers’ special teams coach. “We determined that we needed to get our kicker doing the right thing, and we’ve done that.”
Crosby bought a lot of goodwill with his performance in his five previous seasons since the Packers drafted him in the sixth round. Last year was his best season – he made a career high 85.7 percent of his attempts. The Packers showed unusual patience in a league where some teams change kickers for far lesser transgressions, and they’re hoping Crosby back in rhythm after his long stretch of difficulties.
“I really feel good about the way Mason has responded to everything that’s gone on this season,” Slocum said. “I think he’s put in some very good work, detailed work and he’s got his rhythm and timing back. It looks like he’s striking the ball the way it’s supposed to be struck. I think his mindset is right where it needs to be. His performance in the last two ballgames was just right. As we’ve said, as we’ve moved through the season, we’re going to need him as we progress. Field goals in these games in the playoffs will be very important.”