SAN FRANCISCO -- Fans groaned, booed and watched through splayed fingers every time David Akers trotted on the field for the 49ers by this time last season.

Nowadays, it's almost a given that the 49ers are pocketing three points any time Phil Dawson is summoned by coach Jim Harbaugh to attempt a field goal.

Such was the case again Sunday, when Dawson's fourth successful field goal provided the decisive points in a 19-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks at Candlestick Park.

Dawson's final field goal conversion came with 26 seconds left and helped the 49ers remain in the thick of the NFC playoffs hunt and on the fringe of the race for the NFC West title.

"It's a great feeling when you know that you got a guy that can come in and seal the deal when it comes to close games like it was today," 49ers special teams ace C.J. Spillman said.

In the process, Dawson extended his streak of consecutive field goals made to 20, breaking the franchise record of 18 held by Joe Nedney.

Dawson also joined Olindo Mare and Neil Rackers as players who currently hold franchise records for consecutive field goals made with two teams.

Dawson also holds the Browns' record for most field goals made in a row. He signed with the 49ers this past offseason after his 14-year run with Cleveland ended.

Records are nice, he said, but he's getting far more joy out of being in the midst of the competition for a playoff berth. He played in only one playoff game during his Browns tenure.


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"This is fun," Dawson said. "I've always been appreciative to play in the NFL. I'm very grateful for my years in Cleveland. But to have a chance now to be in the hunt and have a say about the playoffs and just to experience it all, it's been worth the wait."

Dawson is just the kind of steadying force the 49ers needed after they endured a season of major ups and downs with Akers last year.

Akers went from an All-Pro kicker in 2011 to a he-needs-to-go kicker in 2012. He made 29 of 42 field-goal attempts during the regular season and was forced to beat out Billy Cundiff in a kick-off the week before the 49ers' first playoff game.

The 49ers finally severed ties with Akers -- he has made 15 of 20 field-goal attempts for the Detroit Lions this season -- once the season ended. Signing Dawson became a high priority.

"I hold David Akers in really high regard," Dawson said. "So, if people were writing about his struggles, I felt like I had enormous shoes to fill. I've tried to do that all year.

"I've never thought about it in terms of improving the team or anything like that. I'm just trying to fill the shoes that a really good kicker left."

Those shoes are bursting at the seams right now, especially when you consider that Dawson's last miss came Sept. 26 in the 49ers' fourth game.

Dawson's consistency isn't lost on his teammates, who tired of fielding questions about Akers' struggles all last season.

"Phil is very important to this football team," 49ers safety Donte Whitner said. ... We knew if he could kick in (Cleveland) and be an excellent kicker, we knew he could come here and be a great kicker. We needed him today, and he put a lot of points on the board."

Dawson accounted for 13 of the 49ers' 19 points Sunday. Overall this season, he is 23 of 26 on field-goal attempts.

Yet, he isn't taking anything for granted, not when he entered the league as an undrafted free agent and waited a year until he caught on with the Browns. And certainly not when he knows the line between success and failure is about the width of an upright.

"I've been around long enough to know that, every now and then you kind of get on these rolls and everything goes in," Dawson said. "Then there will be times when you're kicking great and you can't make one. You just got to enjoy it when things are going your way and try to hold off those slumps as much as you can."