David Akers: Master of the 39-Yard Field Goal

Bryn SwartzSenior Writer IIISeptember 28, 2008

“Here we go. Detmer takes the snap. The kick is away. It's got the distance. It's GOOOOOOOOOOOD! It's GOOOOOD! And the Eagles head for New Orleans.”

Most Eagles fans will remember this historic moment. This was Merrill Reese's call of David Akers' 38-yard game-winning field goal against the New York Giants in the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs in 2006—probably the biggest kick of Akers' career.

David Akers has been the Eagles' kicker since the 1999 season. During his 10 seasons with the team, Akers has been selected to three Pro Bowls (in 2001, 2002, and 2004). He holds Eagles records for most points in a season (133), most points in a playoff game (15), and most consecutive field goals made (17).


He has also earned a reputation as master of the onside kick, as well as a reputation for being one of the few tackling kickers in NFL history.


He earned a reputation as one of the more clutch kickers in the history of the NFL, and rightfully so. In 2000, Akers nailed back-to-back game-winning field goals in overtime, versus Dallas and Pittsburgh, as the Eagles jumped to a 7-4 record, eventually earning a postseason berth as the NFC's top wild-card team.


In 2001, Akers kicked a 35-yard game-winning field goal with seven seconds to play against the New York Giants on Dec. 30, 2001, giving the Birds their first division title in 12 years.


In 2003, Akers made two of the biggest kicks of his career: a game-tying 33-yard field goal as time expired in the fourth quarter of the divisional playoff game versus the Green Bay Packers and a game-winning 30-yard field goal in overtime of the same game.


In 2004, Akers kicked a 50-yard field goal in overtime to improve the Birds to 6-0, and in 2005, Akers kicked a 23-yard field goal with 12 seconds remaining to break a tie with the Oakland Raiders, after tearing his hamstring on the game's opening kickoff. David Akers was virtually automatic in the clutch.


However, over the past several seasons, this man's performance can be described in one word: garbage. Total garbage.


My frustration as an Eagles fan reached its peak tonight when Akers missed not one, but two long field goals, ultimately costing the Eagles a much-needed victory over the Chicago Bears. I've noticed that Akers' skills have declined significantly over the past several seasons.


What I don't understand is how Andy Reid, as well as other Eagles fans across the nation, don't seem to agree with me. Would you feel comfortable with the Eagles down by one and Akers lining up for a 43-yard field goal with a minute to play in the fourth quarter?


Neither would I.


Give me Nate Kaeding or Josh Brown or just about anybody else in football, and I'm feeling a lot different. I'm still nervous, of course, but I'm confident. With kickers making a record percentage of their field goals in the 2008 season, David Akers is no longer even close to an effective kicker. Bottom line, he cannot get the job done, and he needs to go.


Akers started his decline in 2005, when he tore his hamstring in Week 3 against the Oakland Raiders. Although the injury was to his non-kicking leg, Akers seems to have lost all of his power. He returned late in the 2005 season and finished with 16 field goals in 22 attempts, setting a career low in field-goal percentage.


In 2006, Akers made only nine of 13 field goals above 30 yards, ending the season with his second worst single-season field goal percentage (78 percent). In 2007, Akers posted one of the more horrendous kicking seasons in the history of football. On 10 attempts from above 40 yards, Akers made exactly two of them.


His miss from 57 yards against the New York Giants in Week 14 dropped the Eagles to 5-8 and completely ended any chances of the Birds qualifying for the postseason. He still scored 108 points that season, partly due to the Eagles' red zone struggles, which resulted in several field goal attempts.


So far in 2008, Akers has kicked eight of 10 field goals, while converting just one of three field goals over 40 yards. Currently, Akers has made one of his last 11 field-goal attempts over 40 yards, dating back to 16 games ago (the equivalent of one full season).


Odds have been greater that Kevin Curtis will fall on a fumble for a touchdown than Akers nailing a long field goal.


Throughout his career, and especially in recent years, Akers has struggled on field goals when under the spotlight: specifically in December games, in close and late situations, in prime-time games, and against the New York Giants. Against the Giants, Akers has connected on only 18 of 31 field-goal tries and is at his worst when inside Giants Stadium.


Now almost 34-years old, David Akers has never kicked a come-from-behind game-winning field goal in his entire career. He is correctly described as virtually automatic for any kick under 40 yards, but once that magical number of 40 is approached, Akers is utterly useless.


He has reached the point where he has become a joke—literally a joke. Since the start of the 2007 season, Akers has converted on three field-goal attempts of over 40 yards. However, in that same time period, he has managed to connect with the goalpost on four of his field goal attempts. Imagine that. Akers is more likely to connect with the goalpost on a long field-goal attempt than to hit his target.


He still is and likely always will be Mr. Reliable on chip-shot field goals. The unfortunate part is that his ability to connect on short field goals is not enough to override his long misses. Kickers should be consistent. And unfortunately, Akers has been that. Consistently terrible.