Kaeding proving his worth

Some may remember the angst that kicker Nate Kaeding received during the preseason. After a year in the league, he was done. His own version of Rick Ankiel disease. Since the season began, the Chargers second-year man has been money.

And Sunday, Nate Kaeding proved he is the man for the job, booting four through the uprights against a previously unbeaten foe.

"I really felt coming in that I haven't had a big game or big play," said Kaeding. "I was looking to make some big plays and this is by far the highlight of my career so far."

It wasn't the work in the dome that necessarily brought his ability back to the forefront.

His kicks from 48 and 49 yards had plenty of margin to clear the crossbar.

"I don't think you can say enough about our placekicker," head coach Marty Schottenheimer added. "He went out and made four out of four, two were close to 50 yards, and we did a much better job in the kicking game."

Some had begun to question whether he had the leg, despite a solid college career that proved he did. When the head coach chooses to continually go for it on fourth down rather than try a 50-yard field goal, shades of Steve Christie are recalled.

There is no doubting the success of the Chargers inside the red zone. Their ability to put seven on the board has been masterful. Kaeding, though, is the long-term answer when the touchdown percentages come down from to a normal level.

The Bolts won't always be able to punch it in from the 30. They will need the leg of their kicker. And Kaeding proved he can more than handle the job.

Kaeding is connecting at an 87.5-percent clip this year, hitting on 21-of-24 field goal attempts. He is 8-of-11 on kicks outside of 40 yards but has not tried one from 50-plus yards away.

If you watched his kicks on Sunday, in what was the biggest game of the year, Kaeding left no room for doubt. He would have hit from 55 with a room to spare.

Perhaps it was the dome. Or, perhaps this was the kicker we have been waiting for after being drafted in the second round in 2004. The one with ice in his veins. The one that comes through in the clutch - when his team is relying on his leg to propel them to victory.

Kaeding showed that leg on Sunday. The conditions may have been right but the pressure was as high as any game he has played, including the playoffs last year against the Jets.

Kaeding came through and helped make this season last another week.


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