Setting aside time

The San Diego Chargers have earned praise for their kicking game from the head coach – up until Sunday when a failed extra point on the opening scoring drive changed the face of the game.

Rookie kicker Nate Kaeding had been stellar through the first nine games of the season but on Sunday in Oakland the protection up front failed and Kaeding had his extra point blocked when he could not elevate it past the Raiders line.

"You get an extra point blocked which drives you crazy," Schottenheimer said. "That has nothing to do with physical ability. It is a concentration issue."

It forced the Chargers to rethink their strategy, particularly when they had first and goal on the Oakland one yard line with five minutes to go in the third quarter. The Chargers ran one running play followed by two pass plays and were unable to cross the goal line.

The Chargers were clinging to a six point lead at the time and head coach Marty Schottenheimer made the call for a field goal, explaining the necessity to go up by nine points instead of failing and allowing the Raiders to take the lead with a touchdown score.

"The thing that gnawed at me was the blocked extra point," Schottenheimer reiterated. "That thing stares you in the face the entire football game."

The coach admitted he would have played the game differently had the point not been an issue and said he would have likely gone for the touchdown instead of settling for a 19 yard field goal from the one yard line.

What he didn't talk about was the concept of going for two at any point after they scored a touchdown.

The hard part to swallow was the fact that the coaching staff stressed the importance of blocking 6-foot-8 Langston Walker at the line. With his long wingspan, he had the ability to block any kick and the Chargers' staff wanted to make sure he would be accounted for.

"It was a breakdown in the middle of the protection," Schottenheimer said. "We talked about it all week. You have to see the ball snap. He got the advantage and blew us out of there."

Schottenheimer admitted that the coaching staff has been a bit lax in preparing the special teams unit properly and vowed change. A renewed commitment to the kicking game.

It is a surprising revelation after many weeks' of praise from the coach and players. Kaeding and punter Mike Scifres have been continually praised and Schottenheimer even went so far as to say they were one of the main reasons for the teams' turnaround.

Scifres remains in good standing with another solid game but Kaeding, under pressure to get more depth with his kickoffs has begun to feel the wrath. Kaeding, known for his ability to be cool under pressure, has melted down on several occasions this year. And it isn't talent, but mental preparedness that has plagued him. From the missed extra point to the few kickoffs that have gone out of bounds – it is an issue that Schottenheimer loathes.

"I am not going to tolerate them (mental mistakes)," the coach said point blank. "The shortest play in football is the placement."

This week, the Chargers practice routine will include far more for the special teams unit. Schottenheimer placed the blame on himself for not giving it its due repetition. Even though the week has been shortened because the team had Monday off, a special treat they have enjoyed for the past few weeks as a reward for winning on Sunday, there will be a focus on it this week and likely into the future.

"We are going to find the time," Schottenheimer stressed. "A number of them are regressing but I am going to address it."


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