SAN FRANCISCO — The 49ers finished the season with a flurry. They won the NFC West for the second straight season and earned a playoff bye. And yet everything is not peachy in Harbaughland.
David Akers, the best placekicker on the planet a year ago, continues to vex the Niners with his inconsistency.
He missed two more field goals in Sunday's victory, from 44 and 40 yards, and is now 29 of 42 for the season. (He also made two kicks, from 43 and 26 yards.)
Last year Akers hit 44 of 52 attempts and set an NFL record of 166 points without a touchdown.
To make matters worse Sunday, he also appeared to injure his left (kicking) ankle while converting an extra point late in the third quarter.
Akers finished the game, but coach Jim Harbaugh twice kept his offense on the field on fourth-and-6 rather than attempting mid-range field goals.
Even after all his woes, Akers, 37, seems to have the support of his teammates.
"Everybody has mistakes," tight end Vernon Davis said. "Guys drops balls, guys miss tackles, people miss kicks. It's OK. I mean, we won the game. It's all right. I mean, he'll bounce back. We can't be hard on him."
FANS CHEER FOR ALEX SMITH
For most of his first seven NFL seasons, quarterback Alex Smith was a dartboard for 49ers fans. They booed him mercilessly and eviscerated him on Internet message boards.
Now that Smith has lost his starting job to Colin Kaepernick, an amazing thing has happened. He has become a sentimental fan favorite.
Sunday, Smith played for the first time since suffering a concussion against the Rams on Nov. 11.
He entered the game to high-volume cheers with 5:57 left. After the offense went three-and-out under his command, the fans didn't jeer. They chanted "Alex! Alex!"
"It was very humbling," Smith said afterward.
"To go out there and get that kind of response was very cool. We've been through a lot, the fans and us, and me. It made it almost that much sweeter. We've come a long way."
Smith is a free agent after this year, and it is widely assumed that he'll seek employment elsewhere rather than settle for backing up Kaepernick.
The veteran would not address that issue Sunday.
"I'm not thinking about that right now at all," Smith said. "There's a lot left ahead for us."
ANOTHER GAME, ANOTHER PAIN
Davis hoped all along that he would be allowed to play against Arizona.
But after suffering a concussion against Seattle last week, he wasn't cleared to play until Saturday.
It didn't take long for the Cardinals to test him. Late in the first quarter, safety Adrian Wilson drilled Davis on a short route.
"It kind of gave me the OK," Davis said. "That was good. It was good that I had that hit. Kind of woke me up, let me know that, &‘OK, get your confidence back. You're OK.'"
Davis caught just one pass for 5 yards despite being on the field for the vast majority of offensive plays. Still, his teammates felt his presence.
"He'll come, he'll come, he'll come. Just having Vernon out there is helping the offense," running back Frank Gore said. "They have different looks with Vernon on the field."
Read all of the PD's fire coverage here