In an awards that will surprise nobody, San Francisco 49ers kicker Phil Dawson was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for Week 17. This marks Dawson's fourth career player of the week honor, and his second of the 2013 season (Week 14).
Dawson finished Sunday's game against the Cardinals knocking through 3 of his 4 field goal attempts. He hit the game-winner from 40 yards out, but the more clutch kick had to be his 56-yarder. The 49ers were tied 17-17, and a miss would have set the Cardinals up right near midfield. With less than two minutes remaining, there is a good chance Arizona would have been able to put through a game-winning field goal.
What was just as impressive was the handling of the one missed field goal. Dawson came on for a 24-yard field goal that we all generally refer to as a "chip shot". The ball was snapped, and Dawson proceeded to shank the ball wide left. It might have been a chip shot, but even chip shots can miss.
After the game, Dawson was the first person to the media podium after head coach Jim Harbaugh. Dawson quickly took the blame for the kick. He said, "Just poor execution on my part. You can't take anything for granted, that's why the two most hated words for me in football are chip shots ... I was focused, just poor execution. You live and learn on every kick whether you make or miss them. I missed the early kick, so I tried to learn what I did wrong, and try to apply those to future kicks ... that just me, just a good ol' fashioned miss."
He was then asked if the laces were in or out, and he said "You know what, I can't even remember. Arizona has one of the best field goal rush units in the league. It puts a lot of pressure on the whole operation, and if anything goes wrong, including a bad kick, it just gets exaggerated."
If you watched the game, you saw on the replay that the laces were in on the kick, which would seem to be the reason for the miss. Kevin McDermott's snap was a bit high and tight to holder Andy Lee, and Lee then didn't get the laces spun around. But Dawson showed veteran leadership in falling on the sword. I imagine Lee and McDermott would have done the same if they were approached by the media, but it was Dawson who took the fall. It did not appear to be his fault, but it didn't matter, and I really appreciate that from Dawson.
The 49ers head to Lambeau Field this weekend, with weather expected in the single digits with wind around 17 mph. Dawson has had a chance to learn about crazy wind at Candlestick Park, but he spent most of his career in windy and cold Cleveland. No kick is a gimme, but it's nice to have a guy with serious cold weather experience. And if the 49ers are able to win the next three games and get to Super Bowl XLVIII, all the more so!