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49ers' road to playoffs had highs, lows, detours

  • 49ers quarterback Alex Smith was injured on this hit by St. Louis Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar on Nov. 11, 2012. (PD FILE, 2012)

David Akers raised his arms triumphantly at midfield and then doubled over, bowing his head to the ground.

Anthony Dixon picked him up and hoisted him into the air. Behold, David Akers! The 49ers dashed from the sideline to midfield to get to him. Jim Harbaugh got to him first, jumped over Dixon and slapped Akers on the helmet.

Akers was the hero. Akers had done it.

He had made a 63-yard field goal, tied for the longest in the history of the NFL. Akers had given the 49ers a nine-point lead over the Packers in Green Bay. And then the first half of the first game of the season ended.

This was the first defining moment of the 49ers' season -- there are five in all. At the time, it seemed to symbolize three simple things: David Akers is a Super Kicker, the 49ers are better than they were last season, and they're going to win the Super Bowl.

But the 63-yard kick didn't end up symbolizing any of those things. The 49ers' season has been complex. They played well, but they lost or tied every third game, and Akers missed 13 field-goal tries.

Now, Akers' big kick is a defining moment for a different reason. For Akers, it symbolizes a level he likely never will attain again.

2. Alex Smith injured

The pocket collapsed around Alex Smith. He pulled the ball down and scrambled to the left. He escaped the pass rusher. He was in the clear.

Smith could have thrown the ball out of bounds. He'd done that plenty of times on broken plays. If there was ever a time to throw it away, this was that time.

But Smith didn't throw the ball away. He tucked it under his left arm and ran past the line of scrimmage, intent on gaining yards. One yard past the line of scrimmage, he saw a linebacker running toward him and he decided to get down.

But Smith didn't get all the way down. He should have slid, but he twisted his torso, turned his back and sat on the ground, leaving the back of his head exposed. He gave the linebacker a free shot, and he took it. Smith left the game a few plays later, and never reclaimed his starting job.

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