The Niners' first-year kicker has been named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance in San Francisco's season-opening 16-13 overtime victory against the Atlanta Falcons. The honor was delayed after last week's games were postponed and was announced by the league on Wednesday.
"It made me feel pretty good," Cortez said. "My teammates, they believe in me now. They're comfortable with me going in and kicking a field goal."
Cortez did that three times against the Falcons - twice with the game on the line. He split the uprights with a 20-yarder with eight seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game 13-13 and send it into an extra period. After the Niners drove 74 yards to the Atlanta 6-yard line after winning the overtime coin toss, Cortez entered and calmly drilled a 24-yarder to give the Niners their first win in a season opener since 1998.
Cortez scored 10 of San Francisco's 16 points, which gave him the NFC lead in scoring among kickers and ranks him fourth in the NFL in that department. Just as importantly, it showed he could perform under pressure, and it helped secure his role as San Francisco's kicker while also building confidence among his coaches and teammates.
Cortez did nothing in the preseason to lose the job, but he didn't do much to distinguish himself, either, and the team had considered bringing in an established veteran if Cortez couldn't handle the role.
"Every kick is like total failure or total success, and I sure like the fact he hit two really big kicks," Niners special teams coordinator Bruce DeHaven said.