Drawing a positive from a negative

So the Oakland Raiders offense has been as potent as the United States in soccer's World Cup, there is one positive to draw from it.

Oakland's offensive struggles enable punter Shane Lechler to indulge in a guilty pleasure.

"I've been able to turn quite a few balls loose this year, which is what I like to do," Lechler said.

Ideally, Lechler would be operating on a high-powered offense, shooting for corners and punting just past midfield.

But with the NFL's most anemic offense, Lechler, the team's best golfer, can grip it and rip it like John Daily.

He is averaging 49.5 yards per punt, second in the NFL to Mat McBriar of Dallas. He is flirting with a 50-yard average, a standard he may never reach but will always strive to attain.

"I haven't done that in a few years," Lechler said.

In 2003, Lechler was averaging 49.9 yards through eight weeks but slumped and ended up averaging 46.9, his single-season average. Lechler's 46.1 career average is the best in NFL history.

Lechler was a key figure in Oakland's 20-13 win over Pittsburgh with a 48.1 average and a season-best 43.1 net.

That included three punts down inside the 20-yard line. Lechler nearly had another one, as a 53-yard boomer barely trickled into the end zone.

"I am just hitting the ball good, knock on wood," Lechler said. "I haven't had a bad game yet. I've hit some big punts."

Lechler has not had a game where he averaged less than 45 yards per punt, and he has a personal streak of 10 consecutive games in which he has outkicked his opponent. It's a competition Lechler takes personally. He had a streak of 13 games in 2001 and into 2002, and a 15-game streak from 2003-04.

"He's the best punter in the league, bar none," coach Art Shell said. "Reminds me a lot of Ray Guy, with his ability to boom the ball out of there and get the hang time."

SB Report Top Stories