With the San Francisco 49ers down 24-21 late in the third quarter, it was up to kicker David Akers to tie the game on a 38-yard field-goal attempt. Everyone, including 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, knew in the back of their minds that it was at best a 50-50 chance. However, Harbaugh opted to trust the kicker that set numerous NFL records the year before, giving Akers the confidence to get it done. That was not the case.
From the moment Akers made contact with the ball, you could already tell the ball had sailed left. In a late effort to make the field-goal, the ball had started shifting back inside, but was already too late, as the left upright welcomed the ball with a nice “boing” sound.
A depressed Akers came off the field in frustration, doubt, and confusion. No 49ers player was seen talking to him as he walked toward the sideline because everybody, including himself, knew it was a play he needed to make.
With that miss, the Falcons regained possession at their own 28 yard-line. And that’s where the blessing in disguise comes into play.
Had Akers made the field-goal, it would have allowed the Falcons to possibly receive better field-position on the kick-off and ignite an already noisy Georgia Dome crowd.
Furthermore the miss broke up the monotony of scoring drives, forcing Atlanta to make something happen. Unfortunately for them, quarterback Matt Ryan felt the pressure of an inside linebacker blitz by NaVorro Bowman forcing Ryan to take his eyes off the ball, which then enabled outside linebacker Aldon Smith to recover the fumble.
It was a big play and a huge momentum swing for San Francisco.
As the 49ers marched down the field and positioned themselves within striking distance on 2nd and goal, wide receiver Michael Crabtree reached out to the goal-line and in the process fumbled the ball at the one-yard line, which was eventually recovered by Atlanta.
Even though the 49ers witnessed two turn of events, the time of possession for both teams was a whopping seven minutes and 27 seconds. This may not seem like much, but with the 49ers scoring touchdowns on three of their last five drives, it provided life that the 49ers were finally running on all cylinders at the right time.
The Falcons, pinned deep in their own territory, eventually had to punt the ball back to San Francisco, allowing return-specialist Ted Ginn Jr., to return it 20-yards down to the Falcons 38-yard line. It provided the 49ers great field-position and the opportunity to go-ahead.
As the fourth quarter was dwindling down, the man known as the “Inconvenient Truth” Frank Gore, took a read-option run and scored on a 9-yard go-ahead score with only eight minutes and 23 seconds left in the game, giving San Francisco the lead 28-24.
The point of this article is time of possession, and up until that score by Gore, 12 minutes and 28 seconds ran off the clock, from the time Akers missed field goal to Gore’s go-ahead score, amazing!
The 49ers pride themselves on being physical and stingy, and if defense wins championships, then Patrick Willis and company would need to come through in the clutch, and they did, as the defense pitched a complete shut-out in the second-half, en-route to San Francisco pulling off a late fourth-quarter victory 28-24.
And although Akers was off the hook, you can’t help but wonder if Harbaugh is willing to carry that uncertainty heading into the Super Bowl, as he gets ready to face his older brother and the Baltimore Ravens in the much anticipated “Harbowl.”