49ers kicker Jake Moody ready for regular-season home debut on new grass field

Moody is tied for second in the NFL with 24 points heading into home opener vs. Giants

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Jake Moody, it turns out, wasn’t nearly as nervous attempting a 57-yard field goal as he was taking practice kicks during the week.

To Moody, being tasked with dialing long distance in the 49ers’ 30-23 victory over the Los Angeles Rams was nothing like his days at Michigan under the watchful eye of coach Jim Harbaugh.

Although Moody admits it makes “zero sense,” his explanation aids in understanding the mind of a kicker.

“At practices, I’d have coach Harbaugh standing directly next to me,” Moody said on Tuesday. “I could almost feel him breathing on me. You don’t notice the crowd or the coach on the sidelines when you’re out there during a game.

“You, the snapper, the holder, and the guys are the only ones protecting you.” Instead of coaches breathing down your back, I feel a little more calm out there.”

Moody, 23, has recovered well from a rocky preseason in which he wasn’t hitting the ball squarely and had fans wondering if releasing the dependable 40-year-old Robbie Gould was the right move for a team that could be a kick away from a championship.

Moody is tied for second in the NFL with 24 points for the 49ers, who are 2-0. He’s 6-for-6 on field goals and 6-for-6 on extra point attempts. He also contributed significantly to the 49ers’ 20-17 victory over the Rams, kicking a 57-yard field goal with 1:21 remaining in the third quarter.

With Brock Purdy missing a deep pass to Deebo Samuel on third-and-7 from the Rams’ 39, Shanahan could either give Moody a chance at the long field goal or have punter Mitch Wishnowsky try to pin the Rams inside the 10.

In a 17-17 game, if Moody had missed, the Rams would have started their possession at their own 47.

Shanahan sent out Moody, who converted the 49ers’ longest field goal attempt since David Akers’ 63-yarder in 2012. Gould’s longest converted field goal in six seasons with the 49ers was 54 yards.

“It was really cool that he trusts me, especially being a rookie, in a situation like that, to go out and make the kick and not give them the ball near midfield,” Moody said.

Moody added field goals of 26 and 27 yards to his 3-for-3 performance against Pittsburgh in the road opener. The 49ers face a new challenge Thursday night when they play their home opener on a new grass field installed after an Ed Sheeran concert at Levi’s Stadium.

The ground will be a mystery until Moody, holder Wishnowsky, and snapper Taybor Pepper warm up.

Moody does not appear to be concerned.

“I guess we’ll see how the grass is Thursday night,” said Moody.

Moody was put to the test during the preseason after displaying a strong, accurate leg during training camp practices. In the preseason against the Raiders in Las Vegas, he missed wide left from 40 yards and wide right from 58 yards.

Moody converted 20-yard, 43-yard, and 32-yard attempts against the Broncos in the second preseason game. However, he also pushed an extra point attempt to the right, and the game-winning 32-yarder was also pushed to the right and would have been ineffective if a few yards further back.

Moody missed the preseason finale against the Los Angeles Chargers due to a strained right quadriceps.

How powerful is Moody’s leg? He admitted that he didn’t hit the 57-yard attempt very cleanly.

“I didn’t hit it square, but I hit it well enough,” said Moody. “I didn’t get it all, but I got enough for it to go in.” We work on that during warmups because I’m not going to hit the ball perfectly every time. That’s what I’m aiming for, but it’s not going to happen.”

Shanahan admits he doesn’t know much about kicking science, but the early misses, as well as Moody’s recovery from a quadriceps injury in time to play against Pittsburgh, have left an impression.

“It’s been impressive just getting to know the guy,” said Shanahan. “From the moment he arrived, he handled himself extremely well. That rough patch appeared out of nowhere because practice was not like that. To see him go through that, then go through the injury, it was impressive to see him prepare for these two games, and he’s done a fantastic job in both of them.”

In Los Angeles, Moody made one error, kicking the ball out of bounds on the kickoff following his 27-yard field goal. This put the Rams on the 40-yard line, from which they drove 60 yards for a touchdown.

“It bugged me a lot, but it was just a little bit of a footing issue,” Moody explained. “There was nothing I could do about it.” Simply move on, be mindful of not slipping, and proceed from there.”

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