Potential Unexpected Advantage for 49ers in 2024 Super Bowl If Trend Continues

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If there’s one position where the Kansas City Chiefs should have a huge advantage in Super Bowl LVIII, it’s at kicker. 

The Chiefs will be going into the game with Harrison Butker, who was the fourth-most accurate kicker in the NFL in 2023 after a season where he hit a career-high 94.3% of his field goal attempts. On the other hand, the 49ers will be going into the game with rookie Jake Moody, who ranked 20th overall in accuracy. Not only did he hit just 84% of his kicks in 2023, but he’s also missed at least one field goal in each of his past three games, including both playoff games that the 49ers have played. 

Starting a rookie kicker in the Super Bowl sounds like something that could be a recipe for disaster, but as it turns out, that actually hasn’t been the case over the course of NFL history. When he takes the field on Sunday, Moody will become the 12th rookie or first-year player to kick in the Super Bowl, and surprisingly, the rookies who came before him have actually thrived. 

Instead of melting under the pressure of the Super Bowl, rookie kickers have had ice in their veins for the big game. The 11 rookies who have kicked in a Super Bowl have combined to hit 15 of 17 field goal attempts (88.2%), which is drastically better than everyone else. Non-rookies have combined to hit 137 of 187 field goals, which is just 73.2%. 

Moody’s numbers are actually similar to the last two rookies to kick in a Super Bowl: Evan McPherson and Jake Elliott. 

The Bengals kicker only hit 84.8% of his kicks in 2021, just 0.8% better than Moody, but he was perfect in the Super Bowl going 2-for-2 with makes from 29 and 38. As for Elliott, he hit just 83.9% of his field goals during his rookie year, but he was perfect in the Super Bowl with makes from 25, 42 and 46. Elliott has been so good in the Super Bowl that he has since tied the career record for most field goals (5) without a miss in the big game. 

Of the 10 rookie kickers who attempted at least one field goal, eight of them were more accurate in the Super Bowl than they were during the regular season. 

Kicker

Regular-season accuracy percentage

FG in Super Bowl

SB result

Jim O’Brien (1970 Colts)

55.9%

1/2 (50%)

Colts 16-13 over Cowboys (Super Bowl V)

Matt Bahr (1979 Steelers)

60%

1/1 (100%)

Steelers 31-19 over Rams (Super Bowl XIV)

Kevin Butler (1985 Bears)

83.8%

3/3 (100%)

Bears 46-10 over Patriots (Super Bowl XX)

David Treadwell (1989 Broncos)

81.8%

1/1 (100%)

49ers 55-10 over Broncos (Super Bowl XXIV)

Lin Elliott (1992 Cowboys)

68.6% 

1/1 (100%)

Cowboys 52-17 over Bills (Super Bowl XXVII)

Doug Brien (1994 49ers)

75%

0/1 (0%)

49ers 49-26 over Chargers (Super Bowl XXIX)

Adam Vinatieri (1996 Patriots)

77.1%

0/0

Packers 35-21 over Patriots (Super Bowl XXXI)

Ryan Longwell (1997 Packers)

80%

1/1 (100%)

Broncos 31-24 over Packers (Super Bowl XXXII)

Justin Tucker (2012 Ravens)

90.9%

2/2 (100%)

Ravens 34-31 over 49ers (Super Bowl XLVII)

Jake Elliott (2017 Eagles)

83.9%

3/3 (100%)

Eagles 41-33 over Patriots (Super Bowl LII)

Evan McPherson (2021 Bengals)

84.9%

2/2 (100%)

Rams 23-20 over Bengals (Super Bowl LVI)

As you can see above, we haven’t seen a rookie miss a field goal in nearly 30 years, although that miss did come from the 49ers. 

It’s also worth noting that Jim O’Brien more than made up for his miss by hitting the GAME-WINNING field goal in Super Bowl V. 

For whatever reason, rookies have been unfazed by the intense pressure that comes with kicking in a Super Bowl, a game where there’s a fine line between famous and infamous if you’re a kicker. 

Although there will be more than 100 million people watching the game on Sunday, Moody doesn’t think he’ll be feeling any extra pressure. 

“I’ve been in a bunch of big games, whether it’s been in college or the NFL now, going through the playoffs. I feel like I’m prepared for it,” Moody told the media this week,  via NFL.com. “It’s the same kick; Just trust the routine, trust the process. It’s no different than any other kick.”

The former Michigan kicker has been in high-pressure situations before. During the 2023 College Football Playoff, Moody went 3-for-3 in a 51-45 loss to TCU, a total that included hitting a 59-yarder just before halftime. 

“It’s no different than in college,” Moody said of kicking. “The posts are the same size. Ball is the same. Holder and snapper are just as good, if not better in the NFL.”

When it comes to the Super Bowl, Moody will actually be kicking in the same stadium where he attempted his first career NFL field goal. In the 49ers’ first preseason game back in August, Moody went 0-for-2 while kicking at Allegiant Stadium with misses from 40 and 58. 

Despite those numbers, Moody is looking forward to the fact that he won’t have to worry about the weather this week. 

“Can’t really beat indoor weather for being a specialist,” Moody said. 

As for Butker, he’s kicked at Allegiant Stadium several times, going 4 of 5 with his only miss coming from 46 yards. Butker also has plenty of Super Bowl experience with six field goal attempts in three career games. The Chiefs kicker has only missed once and that came when he knocked a 42-yard attempt off the upright in last year’s 38-35 win over the Eagles. 

Butker is one of the best kickers in the NFL, but as last year proved, even the best can struggle in the Super Bowl. On paper, the Chiefs should have the advantage at kicker this week, but when it comes to the Super Bowl, sometimes you have to crumple of the paper and throw it out the window. If Moody performs like the rookie kickers before him, the 49ers could end up having an unexpected advantage at one of the game’s most important positions on Sunday. 

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