July 14, 2024
49ers place kicker Jake Moody kicked three field goals but has room for improvement as Week 1 approaches.

SANTA CLARA — So Jake Moody’s 32-yard field goal snaked through the right upright as the clock ticked to zero and now the 49ers can live happily ever after.

Or can they?

Based on what we saw from Moody in the 49ers’ 21-20 win over the Denver Broncos Saturday night at Levi’s Stadium, it’s not as if the Faithful going to be breathing easy in Week 1 when the 49ers visit the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Same goes for coach Kyle Shanahan and the rest of the team, which pretty much took Robbie Gould for granted as he converted field goal after field goal in all kinds of weather.

For whatever reason, the 49ers moved on from the 40-year-old Gould, instead using a third round selection to take Moody with the 99th overall selection out of Michigan.

Under normal circumstances, it’s high for a place kicker. Too high in most cases. But the 49ers believe they are locked and loaded for a deep postseason run, so using such a high pick on the player who will likely be their leading scorer could prove the exception to the rule.

But if Moody misses a few kicks that cost the 49ers games, which would damage their seeding and playoff setup, it will be looked at as a colossal mistake because kickers are always available. Like Gould, as a matter of fact, who could find a team soon when an NFL team needs someone who has never missed a playoff kick.

Moody wound up 3-for-3 in field goal attempts with conversions from 20, 43 and finally 32 yards.

But he also pushed an extra point badly to the right that seemed headed dead center before suddenly drifting as if it wasn’t struck with authority. It came after an 11-yard touchdown pass from Sam Darnold to Jack Colletto in the third quarter. Instead of a 10-6 lead, the 49ers led 9-6.

And on Moody’s 32-yard game-winner, there are no guarantees it would have been good from 34 because that one got pushed to the right as well. A low snap from long-snapper Taybor Pepper didn’t help matters.

But a make is a make and not a miss, so Moody, after missing from 40 and 58 yards last week in Las Vegas, could call it progress. It was also something he’d never done before in terms of the last kick. Believe or not, Moody had never ended a game with a ball going through the uprights.

“I had one at Michigan when there was like 13 seconds left, so technically (the other team could have come back and scored),” Moody said. “That was the first walk-off game-winner I’ve ever had, so that was pretty cool.”

Walk-off winner! @jmoods13

#DENvsSF on KPIX
NFL+ // https://t.co/KTh0i4oaLh pic.twitter.com/mJwI1qEo6o

— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) August 20, 2023

Shanahan believes in the bottom line and is adamant that that place kicking is far from his area of expertise. Moody made the one that mattered, but it’s not as if the kick was dead solid perfect.

“I mean, yeah, I’d like it to really high and right down the middle every time,” Shanahan said. “I didn’t see that today. But that’s what he’s working through. He’s had two NFL games to get through it. It was better this week than last week.”

Moody has been so good during practice Shanahan believes it will carry over eventually when it matters in games.

Maybe it will.

But even Shanahan knows that being able to hit straight and true shots on the practice range is a lot different than the 17 pressure-packed weeks where bogeys and shots in the rough won’t cut it.

For his part, Moody said he felt fine.

“It felt good to step up when needed and just put the ball through the uprights,” Moody said. “Regardless of what type of game it is, or even practice, we practice those situations for when they do come up so we don’t feel the nerves, like you’ve done it a million times. It felt like a normal kick.”

Moody conceded that the Las Vegas game — in particular the 40-yard miss before the half — got him a little off kilter, something he’s discussed with special teams coordinator Brian Schneider.

“Me and coach have been talking. He said that doesn’t really look like me, from what he’s seen in practice,” Moody said. “It’s different stuff we’re experimenting with. We’re just trying to make me as comfortable as possible, to do what I’ve been doing in practice.

“I’m getting used to games again. It’s a learning process, how to deal with misses, then bounce back and make the next one.”

No way anyone will admit it, but the 49ers surely would love to see Moody nail a few straight and true next week against the Los Angeles Chargers.

But even then, where Moody is concerned, nothing matters until Week 1 and the regular season. Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh (formerly Heinz Field) is a notoriously tough place to kick, and would anybody be surprised if a road game in Pittsburgh was tight in the fourth quarter?

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Levi’s Stadium, with its swirling winds, is no bargain either, although Moody, having kicked in the Midwest, said he has no worries.

“It’s beautiful weather out here,” Moody said. “I won’t have to worry about snow, I hope. As far as wind, nothing that I haven’t dealt with in the past. It can be tricky. It switched a couple of times, which direction it was going. You have to be a little more focus, a little more in tune the entire game to make sure you know the wind patterns.”

So go ahead and breathe easy, 49ers fans. Until Sept. 10 anyway.

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