Despite being undefeated through nine weeks, the 2019 49ers had a glaring concern.
Veteran kicker Robbie Gould, who had made more than 95 percent of his kicks during his first two seasons in Santa Clara, suddenly lost his accuracy.
In the first six games of the season, Gould was 12/19 on field goals. The seven misses set a career high for Gould.
For two seasons, Gould was one of the few reliable players on the whole roster. How did one of the best kickers in the NFL suddenly become a liability to an otherwise perfect team?
The abrupt production drop off could easily be attributed to many sources: Gould’s brief hold out, nagging injuries, declining range and a missing long snapper.
Now, with everything seemingly resolved, Gould looks to bounce back and return to the elite form he’s shown for the majority of his career.
As far as personnel, having longtime long snapper Kyle Nelson for a whole season should help. Gould’s struggles coincided with Nelson’s six-game suspension last season.
The 49ers used three different long snappers before Nelson returned, which messed with timing and consistency within the field goal unit. Once the pair re-acclimated, Gould went on a 18/19 run to finish the season.
Another contributing factor to his production was his health. Gould battled a quad injury, which ultimately held him out of weeks 10-12. Once he returned, Gould was near perfect.
That’s nothing new for Gould. He also missed four games in 2014 with a quad injury and set a career low in field goal success (75%) and makes (nine).
In 2015, a healthy Gould made a career high seven field goals over 50 yards, but he also missed six field goals, which was also a career-high at the time.
Yes, Gould doesn’t have Justin Tucker range. He missed 4/5 field goal attempts over 50 yards in 2019, but the one made was a 54-yarder in the NFC Championship. Once Nelson returned, Gould was money (94.7%). His one miss was over 50 yards. Inside the 49, Gould was a perfect 17/17 to finish the season.
His reliability inside the 49-yard line in crunch time far outweighs the potential reward of a long field goal. Gould nailed both game-winning attempts last season, while his younger injury-replacement, Chase McLaughlin, was 1/2 inside the 40 in late-game kicks.
Gould wasn’t alone with his poor performance in 2019. Matt Bryant, Adam Vinatieri, Greg Zuerlien and Stephen Gostikowski, consistent top-10 kickers prior to last season, had their own struggles with injuries and accuracy. Yet, none had the turn around that Gould had.
If Gould stays healthy and continues his 2019 second-half accuracy, he would provide a much-needed dependable late-game weapon for the 49ers in 2020.
Follow Maverick on Twitter @Mavpallack