Posted September 27, 2013

49ers’ Phil Dawson attempts rare free kick against Rams, misses from 71 yards

NFC West, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams
Phil Dawson is just 3-for-6 on field goals this season.

Phil Dawson (right) is just 3-for-6 on field goals this season. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

The San Francisco 49ers took advantage of a rarely-used NFL rule Thursday night to attempt an uncontested 71-yard field goal against St. Louis.

With time winding down in the first half, Kyle Williams fair caught a St. Louis punt at his own 39. That decision gave the 49ers an opportunity to try a “free kick” — a field-goal attempt that cannot be rushed by the defense. Such a play is only allowed after a fair catch occurs.

Phil Dawson misfired badly on the try (video below), with his kick sailing well wide left and coming up short. It was fielded by the Rams’ Austin Pettis nine yards deep in the end zone, and he was then allowed to return it as if on a kickoff.

There were a couple of other rules specific to the free kick that were in play here. First off, the clock starts rolling as soon as the ball is kicked; on a kickoff, where the clock starts when the ball is fielded or brought out of the end zone.

Also, had Pettis let the ball land untouched, the Rams would have taken over possession at the spot of the kick — in this case, the San Francisco 39, which may have allowed St. Louis to attempt a field goal of its own before halftime.

Give some credit to the NFL Network’s Brad Nessler, who immediately brought up the possibility of a free kick after St. Louis’ punt. The play itself almost never happens — Neil Rackers attempted one (and missed horribly) in 2008, and Green Bay’s Mason Crosby also failed later that same season. No one has actually hit a free-kick field goal since 1968.

Dawson did not really come close to breaking that drought Thursday.

22 comments
dennis.mlns
dennis.mlns

Guess you had to be there, 30+ videos in the "(video below)" and NONE of then showed the play WTF SN?

Tooitchy
Tooitchy

Rarest play in football..... What are the odds that the color commentator calls a free kick, minutes before the play is decided on the field? I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but he called it immediately after the fair catch, and there was at least a timeout and commercial break AFTER he made that comment..... THAT is impressive.

jolleyrancher1968
jolleyrancher1968

Also, had Pettis let the ball land untouched, the Rams would have taken over possession at the spot of the kick — in this case, the San Francisco 39, which may have allowed St. Louis to attempt a field goal of its own before halftime.

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Would St. Louis really have been able to attempt a field goal of its own?  Since the game clock only had 4 seconds prior to the free kick and it starts when the ball is kicked, the game clock was almost certainly at 0:00 when Pettis received the ball.  Free kick rules are used so infrequently, I suppose it isn't out of the question that there would be an untimed down for the Rams at the spot of the kick, but the likelihood of an untimed down is very low.

bobspitonme
bobspitonme

Elam would have made it blind folded

RobbieConnolly
RobbieConnolly

I believe Doug Flutie attempted and made a free kick in the last play of his career.

WHO*IS*ESPN
WHO*IS*ESPN

CHUCK NORRIS made one from 75 for the Cowboys in '98  but they failed to mentioned that !!!!

RomarioDelLago
RomarioDelLago

Bet money that the Vikings kicker, Blair Walsh, would come darn close or make it.  BET!

cbarlow
cbarlow

If a player can kick off strongly to have touch back frequently, perhaps he should practice more and trying to concentrate on kick off as if he were to kicking a field gold.  If you are strong enough to kick the ball out of the end zone, or dropping down to the end one vertically to force a touch back, you should be able to have a legitimate chance of making a free kick. 
However, it seems to me that most strong kick off kickers are actually the punters of the team, and for those rare chances when a team decides to have a free kick, they happened to have a kicker who is clearly incapable of making long field goal.  Dawson, Rackers and Crosby certainly are not legit for such tries.  Zauerlein, Janikowski or a healthy Akers would have a good chance to do it.

mark144
mark144

@RomarioDelLago

> Bet money that the Vikings kicker, Blair Walsh, would

> come darn close or make it.BET!

He would have kicked it through the wrong goal post.

 

Tooitchy
Tooitchy

@cbarlow certainly not legit..... rofl. Dawson is fantastic from long range.

dbauer2000
dbauer2000

@cbarlow Incapable?  Really?  I guess the legend of Dawson never got out of Cleveland.  The guy has been more accurate from 50+ yards than any kicker in the NFL history (67%).  His longest is 56 yards and has kicked 24 from 50+ in his career.  Janikowski = 56% (42 made).  Akers = 51% (24 made).  

For their careers:

Dawson 83.5%

Janikowski = 80.4%

Akers = 80.3%

anon76
anon76

@dbauer2000

Prater is 16 of 21 (76%) from beyond 50 yards, including kicks of 59 yards away from Denver.

M as in Mancy
M as in Mancy

@dbauer2000 @anon76 Prater is a gamer. One of these days the game will come down to a long field goal and I'm glad he's on my team. 

And not just a gamer on the field. A few offseasons ago got lit up, brought a stripper home, but DUI'd his truck enroute. 

dbauer2000
dbauer2000

@anon76 @dbauer2000 I should have prefaced that comment "with 20 or more attempts".  Then I would have been right.  Prater does have a higher percentage from outside the 50, very impressive percentage in fact.  His career percentage is lower at 79% but it still makes you wonder why no one ever mentions his name as one of the greats.