SANTA CLARA (AP) — Before David Akers could sneak away to his car unnoticed and under the radar as he prefers it, Jack Harbaugh stopped the kicker for a quick greeting and congratulations.
Years after Harbaugh recruited the dependable Akers to Western Kentucky only to see him choose Louisville instead, Akers booted four field goals and converted three extra points to help Harbaugh’s son, Jim, win his NFL coaching debut with the San Francisco 49ers in a 33-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
For everybody who figured Jim Harbaugh faced a steep learning curve in his high-profile move down the freeway from Stanford to the NFL, his 49ers got it done against the defending NFC West champions. Akers wanted Ted Ginn Jr. to take the glory in this one after his two late kick returns for touchdowns in a 59-second span sealed it.
“It was fun,” Jim Harbaugh said Monday. “You realize you can’t get to win No. 2 without getting win No. 1.”
Leading 19-17 after the Seahawks got back in it on a touchdown by a former Harbaugh Stanford star, Doug Baldwin, Ginn took any Seattle momentum away for good. He returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown and followed that up by scoring on a 55-yard punt return — the first time in franchise history the 49ers got one of each.
Next up in Week 2: a frustrated and determined Dallas team that blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead in a 27-24 loss to the Jets on Sunday night. Quarterback Tony Romo got home a little after 5 a.m. and was back to work by 10 to start studying up on the 49ers.
The Harbaughs kept their celebrating mellow with a casual dinner in so they could watch the last of the Cowboys-Jets opener.
The modest, soft-spoken Akers headed out after just another solid day’s work. Nailing his kicks through the uprights is what he does and always has done — now with the Niners as the replacement to the retired Joe Nedney.
“Just to win for Coach Harbaugh for the first and to know the family so well over the years, to be part of it is really something special,” Akers said. “This is a franchise with great history and, obviously, the last some years have been a little on the down side. We are trying our best to change that. It takes time, but today was a good start.”
Make that eight years. Eight years out of the playoffs and eight years without a winning record.
The 36-year-old Akers joined the rebuilding 49ers in July after 12 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, where John Harbaugh — Jim’s big brother — served as his special teams coach for eight years.
“They always say special teams are one-third of the game,” Jack Harbaugh said. “It might have been just a little bit more than one-third of the game — it took a lot of pressure off the football team that special teams responded that well. David, he was with John in Philadelphia. Now he’s here, and he kicked those field goals today.”
Akers was named to the past two Pro Bowls and last season set a career high with 23 touchbacks. But the Eagles drafted kicker Alex Henery in the fourth round, making Akers expendable.
He wound up in a good spot out West working with another Harbaugh.
“The only Harbaugh I didn’t end up playing for. I almost did,” Akers said with a smile while addressing Jack. “We’re old-timers, old-time friends.”
“I just couldn’t recruit,” Jack replied, chuckling. “Just keep kickin’ ‘em.”
While the elder Harbaugh has long been a sounding board for his sons, he had only one message planned for his son after Sunday’s win: “The only real thing I’ll say is how proud I am. The way — with the lockout and no OTAs and some of the players he hadn’t met until the latter part of July — he came in and got a lot of work done in August and the preseason, then to come here on opening day against the Seahawks, a divisional team and a team you have to beat if you’re going to have a chance to get to the playoffs, bowed his neck and jetted out his jaw and said, ‘Let’s get it done.”‘
Team Harbaugh went 2-for-2 on Sunday.
Jack Harbaugh and wife, Jackie, also celebrated John Harbaugh’s 35-7 rout with the Baltimore Ravens over Pittsburgh — albeit from afar.
“It was a fantastic day for us to experience John and Jim, who are brothers in the NFL, and then to go back-to-back with wins,” Jack Harbaugh said. “It’s an outstanding feeling. Just imagine all those parents out there, they have their youngsters in academics, music and art and the youngster brings home classwork and the pride that they feel. Jackie and I feel the same pride in our family.”
Notes: The Niners signed RB Ian Johnson to the practice squad and released RB Xavier Omon. … Harbaugh had no update on WR Michael Crabtree’s injured left foot after X-rays were negative Sunday night. The 2009 10th overall pick broke the foot and needed surgery after getting hurt during workouts led by quarterback Alex Smith during the NFL lockout this summer. “When you come back from a long period of being out and then you’re right back in there, there is some soreness, there’s some rust,” Harbaugh said. “I think that’s where he is, he’s working through some things there.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)