Phil Dawson is approaching Sunday’s game against the Patriots like any other game he’s played over his 18 year career, except he knows it won’t be like any other.
“In the heat of the moment I’ll be in my routine and won’t think about it much. But the build up and lead up to it, it’ll probably bounce around in my head a little bit, and I just got to resist,” Dawson said from in front of his locker after practice this week. “I got to put it on the side and focus on what I gotta do.”
What Dawson has to do is what he’s done 399 times before. One more field goal and the 41-year-old will become the tenth kicker in NFL history with 400 career field goals made and join a group that includes Morten Anderson, Adam Vinatieri and Sebastian Janikowski.
“I look at the names on the list, and they’re guys I grew up looking up to. Now to be amongst them is sobering on one hand but pretty rewarding on the other,” Dawson said. “I think I’ll enjoy it when it’s all said and done. It will be good to get this out of the way and get back into the normal routine, but it means a lot.”
With a 70 percent chance of rain forecast for the game, Dawson is already contemplating his footwear. He’ll chose one of eight cleats that will give his plant foot the best traction given the field conditions on Sunday.
“I’ll bring them all on Sunday, and sometimes you even change throughout the course of a game because you walk out there in pregame and the field looks great, and by the time these big boys get out there and start tromping around out there it gets pretty chewed up. Sometimes you may wear a different one in the second half than you do in the first quarter,” Dawson said.
The shoe on Dawson's kicking foot doesn't change. He prefers the feel of the Nike Tiempo soccer cleat, though his once plentiful supply is nearly gone.
“I’m down to my last two. Trying to make ‘em work,” Dawson said. “That’s a concern for a rain game, because once those things get wet they’re pretty much done. I may wear an older one in this game. I don’t know. We’ll just have to see."
As Dawson explains, poor footing doesn’t allow him to be as aggressive when striking the ball which results in a ball that travels slower. That means the wind will have more of an effect on the ball which in turn affects Dawson's aim. It's all part of the kicking puzzle that Dawson has solved 84.7 percent of the time throughout his career giving him the all time highest field goal percentage in NFL history for those kickers who have made at least 300 field goals.
His wife, Shannon, their three children and his parents are traveling from Texas to Levi’s Stadium with the hopes of seeing him take that honor as a member of the 400 club.
“It’s got the makings of a nice day,” Dawson said though he also has another goal in mind. “Now all we got to do is win the game.”