Chargers' kicking crew bobbles game away

October 02, 2006|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Reporter

For the second straight week, the kicking game affected the Ravens' outcome.

Eight days after Matt Stover's clutch field goal produced a win in Cleveland, a special teams blunder by San Diego kept the Chargers from taking a two-possession lead in the fourth quarter and allowed the Ravens to pull off another comeback victory.

The man in the middle of the Chargers' mishap ranked as one of the best punters in the NFL last season.

With 10:48 remaining, Mike Scifres matched his career long with a 71-yarder, the longest ever by a Ravens opponent. It pinned the Ravens back on their 19-yard line. In no time, Donnie Edwards' interception set up a 51-yard field-goal attempt for Nate Kaeding.

He already had hit a 54-yarder at the same end on the second play of the second quarter, but Kaeding, who was wide right from 40 yards in the third quarter, never got a second chance to give San Diego a 16-7 lead, as the snap was bobbled by Scifres, the holder.

"The snap was fine. Everything was fine. I just dropped the ball," Scifres said. "I just mishandled the ball, and that stuff can't happen. Every athlete has a day like that, where you go from doing something great to not doing anything worth [garbage]."

After a three-and-out by the Ravens, long snapper David Binn two-hopped one back to Scifres, who was fair game. Daniel Wilcox got him low and Ed Reed got him high, but not before Scifres somehow got off a 55-yard punt. It became moot as the Chargers had an ineligible man downfield, the ninth of their 10 penalties.

After a timeout, Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer took a safety rather than have Scifres punt again from his end zone. Did Scifres' woozy state affect that decision?

"I could have punted it," said Scifres, who had to compose himself after getting put in the spin cycle by Reed and Wilcox. "I hit him [Wilcox] square in the face mask with my shin, and Ed was right behind me. I didn't feel great right away."

Reed was the first person Scifres sought afterward. They are from the same town in Louisiana, so the men from Destrehan embraced.

"We went to high school together," Scifres said. "I just told him to keep playing like he's playing."

After the safety, Steve McNair rallied the Ravens with the decisive 60-yard drive. Until then, San Diego had limited the Ravens to 146 yards -- including just 34 rushing yards on 15 carries for Jamal Lewis -- as its linebackers produced more big plays than the Ravens' crew.

Stephen Cooper stripped Wilcox on the Chargers' 1-yard line, and former Maryland star Shawne Merriman had the only sack of the third quarter. Edwards had his interception, but he'll remember his missed tackle on Todd Heap's game-winning catch and run.

"We've got to find a way to win, and we didn't today," Edwards said.

The Chargers' only touchdown came on their first possession, and quarterback Philip Rivers converted only one third down the rest of the way, on a swing pass from his 10 in the third quarter.

Conservative play-calling limited the Ravens' take-away opportunities, but it couldn't deliver a 3-0 start for a Chargers team that lost five times by four points or fewer in 2005.

"It seems like I've been in too many of these kinds of games," said LaDainian Tomlinson, who needed 27 carries to get 98 yards. "They get old real fast."

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