When it comes to weather and wind patterns, San Francisco 49ers kicker Phil Dawson is a guru.
So when he says things like "Honestly, I don’t know if I’m going to have that place figured out any time soon" regarding the wind in his new home stadium, it could cause concern.
Dawson missed both his field goal attempts in his first action inside Levi's Stadium Sunday from 55 and 44 yards. The wind, which changed direction after pregame warmups, has frustrated 49ers' specialists during their limited experience in the new venue.
"A lot of information was gathered Sunday in a painful way," Dawson said. "I would have enjoyed to learn differently, but I’ll take every kick I can get in there."
Most stadiums have wind patterns, but there's been no uniformity inside Levi's Stadium to this point. And even though the 49ers' practice fields are just yards from where they play their home games, little can be gleaned from their work there, other than knowing what time the wind usually gets moving.
"One thing we’re going to run into around here is your pregame warm up, we’re going to come out around 11:30, and the wind hasn’t really picked up," Dawson said. "Anyone who lives around here knows the wind starts generally around 1:00.
"What you learn in pregame may not necessarily help you at all once the game starts."
Both Dawson and punter/holder Andy Lee have gone into Levi's Stadium nearly every day since the start of training camp to do reconnaissance on the wind, but the unpredictability has made things tough to figure out. They've only been able kick inside the stadium four times aside from their two practices there.
On a positive note, both Dawson and Lee can draw on their experiences in Candlestick Park, the team's former home known for its swirling conditions.
"I got off to a slow start there too and got halfway got confident in what I was doing there. So I expect that to happen here," said Dawson.
Oddly enough, Dawson made 19 of his 20 kicks at Candlestick (95 percent), compared to 13 of 16 on the road (81.3 percent) during the regular season. He was a perfect 9-for-9 in the playoffs, including the last-second game winner in Green Bay from 33 yards in -10-degree conditions.
What's made things confusing are the indicators around the field. The flags at the top of the grandstand on the northeast corner of the stadium are usually blowing the same direction, Dawson said, while the flags on the goal posts are constantly changing.
"I watched the film of every punt, every kickoff, and there were 15-yard differences in the distances of kickoffs," said Dawson. "If one went a little bit here it went deep. It one went here it went short. Some curved to the left, some curved to the right, and all the flags are doing the same thing. So go figure. How do you make sense of that?"
On his first kick from 55 yards Sunday, Dawson was aiming to the right because the wind had been blowing left during warm ups towards the north end zone. But the wind ended up carrying the ball well right of the uprights.
During his pregame routine, Dawson said he missed one kick out of "about 50" tries. He made 58-yarders in each direction. His lone miss came on his shortest attempt of about 30 yards toward the same end zone where he missed from 55, because the wind carried the ball left.
Kickers don't usually face media scrums like the one Dawson dealt with Tuesday, because they aren't usually a topic of conversation unless they miss.
"Unfortunately, that’s the way it works," he quipped. "I’m glad I have an opportunity to explain it. Hopefully I won’t talk to you guys for a long time."
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