While the game was indeed a meaningless one, there were some causes for concern, headlined by kicker Jake Moody’s struggles from close range.
In the loss, Moody missed a 38-yard field goal, as well as his first extra point of the season, which could’ve ultimately sealed the game for San Francisco.
It was the second time this season that Moody has fallen short, ultimately costing the 49ers a game, as he missed a game-winning field 40-yard goal against the Cleveland Browns in Week 5 as well.
In the end, the two games didn’t ultimately matter, as the 49ers still sealed up the No. 1 seed, but should San Francisco be worried about their kicker heading into the playoffs after Moody’s Week 18 struggles?
The answer has to be yes.
If it were any other position on the field apart from punter, I would be obliged to move forward and head into the playoffs without caution, but kickers are such an integral piece to the game that it has to be a concern.
Should another player from a different position group struggle in a playoff game, there are different aspects of the game that can shoulder the load. If the quarterback struggles, the team can rely on their skill position players, running game, and the defense. If the defensive line struggles, the team can rely on their secondary to pick things up and on and on.
However, if the kicker struggles, there isn’t anybody to pick them up. It’s ultimately up to them to do their jobs and execute at a high level because of how much a game can change in their hands. That’s why Robbie Gould was such an asset to the 49ers, as he was perfect on all kicks in the playoffs.
Moody could very well be perfect in the playoffs and the concerns would be swept away, but the confidence in him has lowered, given that he went through a series of struggles earlier in the season, and that his mistakes came right as the 49ers are entering the playoffs.
Moody finished the year converting 84 percent of his field goals (21/25), while hitting 98.4 percent of his extra points (60/61).
On the horizon, those numbers don’t seem half bad for a rookie, but the 84 percent conversion rate ranks 20th in the NFL among qualified kickers.
“It’s never good when you miss him, especially having two like that and the extra point. I think it was his first one inside the 40, maybe all year,” Shanahan said about Moody. “He’s had a hell of a year. He has done a hell of a job up to this point and just had a rough day today.”
“He’s been great all year. He was rough on those two today, but no, we’re good with Jake.”
At this stage, the 49ers don’t really have another option. I don’t think Kyle Shanahan would have more confidence in entrusting a player off the street to man the starting role, and San Francisco committed to this option when they drafted Moody in the third round this offseason.
Prior to this game, Moody had been perfect in nine straight games on both field goals and extra points, as he had shaken off his early-season issues against the Browns and Vikings.
But, there has to be some cause for concern going into the playoffs, knowing how close playoff games can be, and how important kickers are in those moments as a result.