SANTA CLARA, Calif. – David Akers' mouth fell open and his eyes popped as he threw his arms into the air in both celebration and disbelief. Somehow, a field goal from 63 yards out had gone in — after bouncing off the crossbar.
Akers knows well that this one easily could have missed badly, and poked fun at himself as he relived the record-tying kick this week.
"It's about like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Akers said, once finally able to reflect and watch the field goal on film. "It was neat to get the opportunity and to finish it off in such a great fashion, because most of my kicks that have hit the poles in years past make that lovely sound like we heard and then it comes bouncing back onto the field."
Moments later, San Francisco's spot-on kicker was mobbed by teammates as the 49ers (1-0) headed into halftime of last week's season-opening victory at Green Bay with a 16-7 lead.
Akers' facial expressions became nearly as big a deal in the highlight reels as the kick itself, which just so happened to tie an NFL record for longest ever. Coach Jim Harbaugh jumped for joy.
Akers compared his feat to a golfer going with just the right club and making a hole-in-one.
"You have to do two things on every kick: You have to get it long enough and you've got to get it between the sticks," Akers said. "The one thing I didn't want to do is overkick it. I almost didn't hit it, I thought, well enough. That's where a lot of the shock came from. To me I just think it's a blessing and a miracle, honestly, for my own little personal deal. That's the way I saw it. I was like, 'There's no way I hit it good enough.'"
And that's saying something coming from the guy who set a single-season record with 44 field goals last year.
On Tuesday, the ball was still at team headquarters but being prepared for its trip to Canton, Ohio, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Many of Akers' teammates remain amazed the Eagles ever let this guy get away after 12 years in Philadelphia.
The 37-year-old Akers, a six-time Pro-Bowler in his 15th NFL season out of Louisville, was considered among the 49ers' most important offseason acquisitions after they signed him to a three-year deal in late July 2011.
He showed just why from Day 1, and the rest of the way as San Francisco fell just short of reaching the Super Bowl in a 20-17 overtime loss in the NFC title game to the eventual champion New York Giants.
Aside from his 44 made field goals last season, Akers also set a record for most attempted at 52 and most points without a touchdown with 166. That far surpassed the 49ers' previous best — by Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice, no less. Rice scored 138 points in 1987.
But Sunday's milestone meant a lot because such kicks just don't come around every day. Thus, his reaction when he nailed it.
"I thought it was amazing. Again, you hit it and you don't think you hit it well enough, then it hits the crossbar. I'm like, 'All right, that's going to be great, you have 63 and you came up an inch short,' and then it was the opposite and it went in," Akers said.
Akers also booted a pair of field goals from 40 yards or beyond, giving him another impressive opener after he kicked four in Week 1 of the 2011 season against Seattle.
"The farther you get back, it's not whether you have the strength, it's whether you can keep it straight for that distance. That's a long way," 49ers punter Andy Lee said. "David hit the ball great and that was awesome."
The Lions (1-0) won't be shocked by Akers' leg strength and accuracy come Sunday night at Candlestick Park. They watched him hit a 55-yarder last fall at Ford Field, where San Francisco rallied to hand Detroit its first defeat following a 5-0 start.
As always with the unselfish, team-first Akers, he was quick to give credit to the offensive line for standing in and giving him ample time to make it at hostile Lambeau Field.
"You can't go out and even attempt stuff like that without them really sticking their nose in there and being the old mudhogs that they are," he said.
Harbaugh last season said he would be comfortable letting Akers kick from 60 yards if the conditions and game situation made it the right move — and Akers has proved himself dependable from way out.
"It doesn't surprise us," safety Donte Whitner said. "We understand that he's arguably the best kicker in the National Football League. I think that Coach agrees with that and the rest of my teammates and the coaching staff. He was a guy who was very reliable last year. We leaned on him so much last year at times when we couldn't get the ball in the end zone. I don't think that Coach would have kicked it if he didn't feel he was going to put his best foot forward and have an opportunity to make it."
The 49ers would rather score more touchdowns than rely on Akers' left leg quite as much as they did last year.
He doesn't think about topping what he did in 2011, either.
"All I care to do, honestly, and this is from the bottom of my heart, is just to make the kicks when the team puts me on the field and to never make a mistake when it's critical for the outcome of the game," Akers said. "Sometimes that happens. That's what my goal is every year, to go and make every kick — whether it's 15 or 52, like we tried last year. That's ultimately my goal."
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