The 49ers are the field goal kickingest team in the NFL, and it’s been that way since Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman took over the team’s offense. Since 2011, the 49ers have attempted a league-high 143 field goals and made 116 (in second place over that time is Jim’s brother’s team, the Ravens, who’ve gone 109-for-126).
The 49ers have also made it to a Super Bowl and three NFC Championships. They’ve finished 39-13-1 in the regular season, second only to New England (40-13), who’ve also lost a Super Bowl and made it to three conference championship games over that time. The Pats aren’t afraid to kick it through the uprights either — they’re 108-for-122 on field goals since 2011.
So I asked Greg Roman about that today, in light of the five-FG day for Phil Dawson against the Chiefs. I wish I would’ve done my research on the Patriots before asking this question, as you’ll see from the brief transcribed exchange, but the gist of what I was getting at remains intact.
Q: A lot of times when there’s a lot of field goals kicked, like on Sunday with five, people say well, that’s the bad point — you didn’t get into the end zone. But since you and Jim have taken over, you’ve kicked way more field goals than anyone else and have the best record over that time.
Q: Does that kind of prove that maybe there’s a little bit of a fallacy there? Field goals aren’t exactly evil?
Roman: Field goals are evil? Who said that?
Q: Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration.
Roman: We’ve got to get them checked. We’re trying to win the football game. And you do so however you can. And the accumulation of points is certainly part of that. Great job by our field goal unit. Phil, the field goal unit. A couple things in the red zone last week, we should’ve scored touchdowns. We’re always striving to do that. However, each game is a little bit different. We’re going to try to get better in every area, but certain games play out different ways and you’ve got to make those decisions based on what’s going on.
Anyone who’s listened to Steve Young enough over the last four years knows that a lot of football people, especially those who made their hay on the offensive side of the ball, equate field goals with losing. You can’t win kicking field goals. Eventually you’ll get outscored.
However, it’s apparent that these 49ers don’t agree. They’d much rather attempt a field goal of 50 yards or greater than punt or go for it on fourth down a lot of the time. That’s where the accumulation of points that Roman mentioned comes in. It’s also about having good, dependable field goal kickers (which they’ve had throughout, save for David Akers’ 2012 campaign) and a top-five defense (the 49ers are currently second in yards allowed per game, something I didn’t even know until today).
The accumulation of points clearly hasn’t hindered the team’s ability to accumulate wins, but the potential concern with leaning too hard on Dawson comes against strong defenses. Red zone chances aren’t as plentiful against the Seahawks as let’s say, the Eagles or Chiefs. The 49ers have to make those trips count against teams like the Seahawks, Cardinals and Panthers, which is why the offense is still very much a work in progress. With all the weapons they’ve accumulated, Roman and Harbaugh surely don’t want to rest on the defense and Dawson in the latter stages of the season. But when it comes to getting the wins necessary to make it to the playoffs, they don’t mind a five-FG day every now and then.