Sunday's 9-0 win over Washington did not start well for 49ers kicker Robbie Gould, who pushed a 45-yard field-goal attempt wide to the left in a scoreless game in the first half.
But things got a lot better for him and the team in the second half. Gould made field-goal attempts of 28, 22 and 29 yards to provide all of the 49ers' points Sunday in a steady downpour at muddy FedEx Field.
The news keeps getting better for Gould, who should benefit from the return of Kyle Nelson, who has served as the 49ers’ primary long-snapper since 2014.
Nelson completed his 10-game suspension on Sunday for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. The long-snapper is eligible to return off the NFL’s reserve/suspended list to play on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers at Levi’s Stadium.
“Just got to get back to work,” Gould said on Sunday. “Obviously, we got to get consistent. We got to get back into a rhythm. I think that’s been the most challenging part over the last six weeks is there have been a lot of moving parts.
“You know, two-thirds of our operation hasn’t been around. And you’re going back and teaching yourself different things and going through different situations, where those situations were pretty easy in the last two years.”
Gould was nearly automatic with the 49ers after signing a two-year contract on the first day of free agency in 2017. Nelson was the long-snapper for all but the final four games of last season, and punter Bradley Pinion served as the holder.
Gould made 72 of 75 field-goal attempts in 2017 and ’18. It was the most-accurate two-season span for any kicker in NFL history with at least 50 attempts.
But after returning to the team after a contentious contract situation that resulted in Gould signing a four-year, $19 million deal, he has been forced to adjust to three different long-snappers and new holder Mitch Wishnowsky, the 49ers’ rookie punter.
The 49ers determined there were timing issues with the first long-snapper they signed, Colin Holba, and released him. Then, veteran Jon Condo retired after just one game. Garrison Sanborn took over the duties for the past three games.
Now, the 49ers hope Nelson's return will be a boost toward Gould returning to the form of his first two seasons with the team.
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Gould already has more single-season misses than during any time in his 15-year career. He is 12 of 19 on field-goal tries. He is 0-for-3 from 50-plus yards, 2-for-4 from 40 to 49, and 4-of-6 from 30 to 39.
He entered the season as the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history, but Gould has fallen to No. 4 on the all-time list behind Justin Tucker, Josh Lambo and Stephen Gostkowski.
“It’s been a growing experience for me,” Gould said. “I think it’s definitely been an experience where I can take the first six weeks and it’ll help me down the stretch, for sure.”