San Francisco 49ers kicker David Akers seemed like a natural candidate for the "falling" category in our weekly NFC West Stock Watch scheduled for later Tuesday.
Akers missed a 41-yard attempt in overtime against St. Louis on Sunday, after all. He has missed six tries this season after missing only 8 of 52 attempts in 2011.
Around the NFC West: Nov. 13, 2012
Clearly, Akers is struggling, right? Only if you're into the "low-hanging" statistical fruit 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh complains about.
Akers, like any kicker, could suddenly lose his touch and spiral out of the league. It happens. There is no evidence it is happening to Akers yet, however.
Akers' overall field goal percentage has fallen from 84.6 last season to 71.4 through nine games this season. The decline stems almost entirely from a reduction in chances from short range. Akers averaged 2.1 attempts per game from inside 40 yards last season. If that rate had held firm in 2012 and Akers continued to make nearly all of them, as he has done with the 49ers, his overall percentage for 2012 would be in the low 80s.
This imaginary "slump" from Akers reflects the 49ers' offensive improvement in the red zone.
The 49ers are scoring touchdowns on 61.5 percent of red zone possessions. That is up from 40.7 percent last season, when Akers set an NFL record with 44 made field goals, 32 of them from inside 40 yards.
Akers has attempted only eight field goals from inside 40 this season. He has made all eight. Akers made 32 of 33 such attempts last season. Those are borderline gimme kicks in the NFL. Attempting lots of them will drive up any kicker's percentage for the season. Removing them from the equation will drive down any kicker's percentage.
Of course, missing from 41 yards in overtime was bad Sunday. But it's misleading to say Akers is mired in a horrible slump.
Akers has made 6 of 10 attempts from 40-49 yards this season. He was 6-of-11 last season. His percentage has actually improved from that range, although it was higher earlier in his career.
Last season, Akers made 7 of 9 tries from 50-plus yards. That was phenomenal long-range production, a once-in-a-career experience. Akers had made 8 of 20 such tries over his previous seven seasons. He has made 1 of 3 such kicks this season, same as he made in 2010 (and 2009, for that matter).
Akers is kicking pretty much how he has kicked in recent seasons. The nature of his opportunities has changed more than Akers has changed.