Chargers kicker Nick Novak was in the locker room getting pain-killing injections in his lower back and hip flexor in the first quarter of Thursday’s game when he heard the television announcers referencing a video that was quickly spreading on social media.
Novak’s emergency backup, punter Drew Kaser, who hadn’t attempted a field goal in high school, college or the NFL, was practicing kicks on the sideline when one of his attempts appeared to miss the net a few feet in front of him and sail into the AT&T Stadium air.
“It actually didn’t miss the net at all,” Kaser claimed afterward. “There was a hole in the net, and it went through the hole. We ended up fixing it with tape. I gotta make sure that gets corrected, because I don’t want that bad publicity there.”
Kaser could laugh about the incident because the Chargers beat the Dallas Cowboys 28-6 in a “bizarre” game in which he did not punt once but attempted three extra points, making one and missing two, and kicked off four times, two going to the end zone for touchbacks.
But it was no laughing matter for coach Anthony Lynn, who, instead of attempting a field goal on fourth-and-13 from the Cowboys 16-yard line early in the second quarter, opted to go for it, with Philip Rivers’ 12-yard pass to Austin Ekeler leaving them one yard short.
“I was told (Kaser) was good from the 25, and then someone told me he was practicing his kicks and he missed the whole damned net,” Lynn said. “So I decided to go for it.”
Novak practiced this week despite being listed on the injury report, but he said his back got sore during warm-ups, and it “didn’t feel good at all” when he pushed a 35-yard field-goal attempt wide right with 8 minutes 58 seconds left in the first quarter.
Novak returned from the locker room and spent much of the second quarter stretching and kicking balls into the net. He kicked a 22-yard field goal about two minutes before halftime for a 3-0 lead.
But when Novak’s extra-point attempt after Hunter Henry’s 3-yard touchdown catch sailed wide left with 6:01 left in the third, Novak knew he couldn’t continue.
“I tried to grind through it, but it just kept getting worse,” said Novak, who will undergo an MRI test Friday. “They decided to go with Drew the rest of the game, and he did a great job.”
With the kickoffs, yes, Kaser did a commendable job there. Kaser even nailed his first-ever extra point after Tyrell Williams’ 27-yard touchdown catch gave the Chargers a 16-0 lead late in the third quarter. But Kaser pushed both of his extra-point attempts wide right in the fourth.
“I’ve never had a game in which I had no punts, and my reward for that is getting to kick and kick off, so it was a very interesting day,” Kaser said. “Having not kicked in eight years, I thought I was decent.
“My first extra-point kick came out solid, it was a good kick, and the next two I pushed a little, but I thought the kickoffs got gradually better. I tried to help the team as best I could.”
Novak, a 10-year veteran who kicked for the Chargers from 2011-2013, was re-signed in early October to replace struggling rookie Younghoe Koo. The Chargers will have nine days before their next game to determine whether they will have to make another change at kicker.
“I’m optimistic that I’ll feel better by our next game — I’m not worried about that,” Novak said. “I will do everything I can to get healthy. Thankfully, we have a little break.”
Lynn said he considered going for two-point conversions, but the Chargers’ cushion — and their ability to reach the end zone instead of settle for field goals in the second half — allowed him to stick with Kaser.
“We were prepared to go for it on fourth down the whole game,” said receiver Keenan Allen, who caught 11 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown, “but that (stuff) was gonna hurt us.”
It would have been even more painful if Kaser got hurt and the Chargers had to go to their third-string kicker.
“I was probably next in line — I kicked in high school,” Allen said. “But I’m a toe guy, so I’m liable to miss unless I could kick off a tee.”
DiGiovanna writes for the Los Angeles Times.
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