Hot and cold kickers could decide Super Bowl

Wed Jan 30, 2013 4:58pm EST
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By Larry Fine

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - With four of the last five Super Bowls decided by less than a touchdown, Sunday's title clash could come down to a kicking contest between Baltimore's red-hot Justin Tucker and San Francisco's ice cold David Akers.

"I think special teams can have an impact on every NFL game because games are so close," Baltimore Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg told Reuters on Wednesday.

"We think it's going to be a great match-up and the special teams will be a big part of the game."

Both teams have excelled on kick returns and coverage, but the two special team players most likely to put points on the scoreboard, or cost their team points, are the kickers.

Tucker, 23, comes into the game off an outstanding rookie campaign having connected on 30-of-33 field goal attempts in the regular season and both of his tries in the postseason.

Akers, 38, has missed the most field goals of any NFL kicker this season, hitting on just 29-of-42 opportunities during the regular season and 1-of-2 in the playoffs.

The strong left-footed Akers, who a year ago earned his sixth Pro Bowl selection after converting 44-of-52 attempts, was at a loss to explain his struggles.

"An inch is a mile in this game," Akers told reporters about his frustrating season. "We're not missing by much. We're doing great in practice, doing great in pre-game.   Continued...

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) leads his team in stretching during practice for the Super Bowl in New Orleans, January 30, 2013. Super Bowl XLVII will be played between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens on February 3. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes