In 2010, the San Diego Chargers had the worst special teams of the last decade, according to Football Outsiders' metrics. They had five of the nine blocked punts last season, and lost at least two games directly as a result of their punt-blocking and kick coverage units. It looked like more of the same in the very first play of San Diego's season opener against the Minnesota Vikings, when Minnesota receiver Percy Harvin ran back the opening kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown.
Not only did the Chargers have to relive some of the things that kept them out of the 2010 postseason despite leading the league in offense and defense per certain metrics, but they lost kicker Nate Kaeding — possibly for the year in what could be the quickest end to a season ever, and most definitely for a kicker — with what has been diagnosed as a torn ACL in his left knee. Kaeding was injured while attempting to make a tackle on the opening-kickoff return. Chargers head coach Norv Turner confirmed on Monday morning that Kaeding will be out for the season, and the team is lining up kickers to audition.
However, if that doesn't work out, the Chargers did discover at least one guy on their roster capable of popping a 40-yard field goal when needed — punter Mike Scifres became the default kicker after Kaeding's injury and boomed this three-pointer in the fourth quarter of a game the Chargers managed to win, 24-17.
It wasn't the first time Scifres had been pressed into kicking duty — at Western Illinois years ago, he nailed a 56-yard last-second field goal to beat Northern Iowa.
"It was my sophomore year in college, and we were tied with seven seconds left," Scifres told USA Today. "If we beat Northern Iowa, we'd win the conference, and if we lost, we would have gotten the second seed in our conference.
"I was able to make it with no time left. But that was another situation where I hadn't kicked a field goal with the team or in practice, and if I would have missed, we still would've gone into overtime and still had a chance. So I went out there and took a swing at it."
Scifres, who signed a new five-year, $18 million extension on Sept. 7, also made all three of his extra-point attempts, and put two of his four kickoffs in the end zone — admittedly, not a tough task these days, with the kickoffs moved up to the 35-yard line.
Still and all, an impressive sub performance by Scifres, who also boomed three punts for 127 yards. It was the first time in a long time that the Chargers have had a special teams standout of any type.
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