CHICAGO - 49ers kicker Phil Dawson wasn't his usual self leading up to Sunday's game at Soldier Field.
Dawson is normally nails during warmups, going out as far as 55 yards to find his range so he could tell head coach Jim Tomsula where the ball needs to be for him to feel confident about going out for an attempt.
Sunday, on Soldier's Field's notoriously sloppy turf, Dawson had a hard time getting the ball to the uprights from 51 yards out, well within his range. Throughout his 17-year career, the 40-year-old made 37 field goals beyond 50 yards, including 13 of 18 during his three seasons with San Francisco.
Dawson, an avid golfer, compared the grass in Chicago to the roughs of a US Open, which are customarily difficult to hit out of.
"Before you know it, there’s lumps and divots and holes. It has a whole different feel about it," Dawson said after Sunday's 26-20 overtime win.
Why was the grass so important? Because two missed kicks, including one to potentially win the game for the Bears, helped the 49ers in a big way. Bears kicker Robbie Gould, one of the NFL's longest tenured kickers, came into the game hitting 94 percent of his kicks. But his two misses in the second half Sunday spurred an unlikely 49ers win.
"I feel terrible," Gould said afterwards. "I have a job to do, and I didn't do that today. I hit the ball really well in the first. I had a lot of confidence going into the last two kicks. I just got quick on both of them. I rushed them; I hurried them. Both are the worst kciks I've had all year."
With 1:42 remaining, Blaine Gabbert's 44-yard touchdown scramble tied the game at 20 after the offense had been anemic all afternoon.
The 49ers were riding the high of an unlikely comeback, but on the next kickoff, Deonte Thompson's 74-yard return had the Bears in field goal range before the offense even came out on to the field. A few plays later, Gould missed from 36 as time expired, sending the game to overtime instead of winning the game for Chicago, who are still in the hunt for a playoff berth.
Gould also missed from 40 yards in the third quarter after hitting from 40 and 51 in the first half. Those misses were the difference between San Francisco remaining winless on the road and falling to 3-9. Instead, the 49ers escaped with the overtime victory thanks to Torrey Smith's 71-yard bomb in overtime.
Considering the way he spoke about the conditions, the 49ers might have been relieved they didn't need a kick from Dawson to win it.
"This is a tough place to kick and the field is a big reason why," Dawson said. "Any time you come to this part of the world late in the year, it’s going to be rough. But as many times as I’ve been here, this is about the worst I’ve seen it."