SANTA CLARA, Calif. – When the San Francisco 49ers placed the franchise tag on Robbie Gould three years ago, the kicker had a decision to make.
He could re-sign or hang up his cleats after a long, successful career and head back home to the Chicago area to be with his wife and three kids.
Gould opted to keep playing, and it was for moments just like Saturday night when his 45-yard kick in a cold, snowy Green Bay delivered the Niners a 13-10 victory that left them two wins shy of Gould's ultimate goal.
“I want to win a Super Bowl,” he said. “If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be playing football. I could care less to play football, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. My kids are at an age — they’re 8, 6 and 3. I’ve spent the last six years away from my kids and they mean the world to me. You know, at some point, Dad’s going to come home and be Dad for them.”
The 39-year-old's experience paid dividends in Green Bay. He was able to tap into his network of former kickers to get some advice from Lawrence Tynes, who kicked a playoff winner at Lambeau Field in the 2007 NFC title game for the New York Giants.
He took advantage of an extra point try early in the fourth quarter to get a better sense of the footing on the field, and knew it would be soft so he'd have to be “lighter on my feet” for the approach.
Then he did what he's done every other time he's tried a playoff kick — split the uprights. Gould has made all 20 postseason field-goal attempts, the most ever without a miss. He's also perfect on 32 extra-point tries as he has helped both the Bears (2006 season) and the 49ers (2019) make it to the Super Bowl.
“I think the big thing for me is, I never try to get too high and I never try to get too low when I miss,” Gould said. “So I think kicks like Saturday night’s kick gives me more confidence. I think our operation has really come into form over the last couple of weeks. I feel like our rhythm is in probably the best form it's been all year.”
Gould's clutch performance was part of a rare good day from San Francisco's special teams. Jimmie Ward blocked a field goal attempt by Mason Crosby late in the first half, Deebo Samuel set up a score with a 45-yard kickoff return and Jordan Willis blocked a punt that Talanoa Hufanga returned for the Niners' only touchdown on the day.
Gould then won it with his foot.
“I have faith in the guys and we have faith in each other and I have confidence in them to be put in those situations and to make the plays when it’s time to make those plays,” special teams coordinator Richard Hightower said.
The Niners will have a tough task this week against the Rams, who have one of the league's better special teams units. Brandon Powell has provided a big spark in the return game since joining Los Angeles midway through the season, Johnny Hekker has been one of the better punters for years and Matt Gay was the NFC's Pro Bowl kicker.
Gay made 32 of 34 field goal attempts in the regular season, including four of five from at least 50 yards. He is five for six in the playoffs but was short on a 47-yarder in the fourth quarter last week.
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