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Old 01-06-2009, 09:54 PM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default Scifres gives Chargers big leg up against Steelers

Scifres gives Chargers big leg up against Steelers
Jan. 6, 2009
By Clark Judge
http://www.sportsline.com/nfl/story/11230461

CBSSports.com Senior Writer


The San Diego Chargers hold an enormous advantage over Pittsburgh at a position that could determine the outcome of Sunday's playoff game, and I'm not talking about quarterback, running back or tight end.

I'm talking about Mike Scifres, the team's punter.

Maybe you recognize him as the guy who almost singlehandedly took down Indianapolis last weekend. OK, so that's a stretch, but without him the Chargers never would have won.

All six of his punts wound up inside the Indy 20, four were inside the 10 and the last was a 52-yarder that jammed the Colts at the 1. If I'm Pittsburgh, that has me concerned.

The Steelers aren't exactly Air Coryell on offense. In fact, when they beat San Diego in November they failed to produce a touchdown. With Ben Roethlisberger coming off a concussion, that could happen again. That means we might be looking at a game of field position.

The Steelers better hope not. Because that's a battle they cannot win.


It doesn't take an Einstein to figure out why. Scifres is the league's third-ranked punter, averaging 40.9 yards in net and 45.7 in gross. Furthermore, only five of his 51 punts reached the end zone, while 19 landed inside the 20.

Draw your own conclusions. The Chargers already have.

"We have the best punter in the league," said coach Norv Turner.

Pittsburgh does not. In fact, the Steelers aren't in the same stratosphere. They went through two punters this season, with neither Mitch Berger nor Paul Ernster making much of an impact. They combined to average 39.8 yards per try and 35.6 in net average, and if those numbers seem low you're getting warm.

The first figure ranks 30th in the league, the second 25th, and both are reasons the Chargers can -- and should -- win the all-important struggle for field position.

That doesn't mean I expect San Diego to win, but it does mean the Bolts have the edge in a pivotal area. With one of their stars, running back LaDainian Tomlinson, almost surely out for Sunday's game and another, tight end Antonio Gates, hobbled with a sore ankle they're going to need a difference maker.

And Mike Scifres could be that man.

He has a strong leg, gets great hang time, knows how to kill punts near the goal line and fewer than half his kicks have been returned. All of that was there against Indianapolis, with the Colts returning only two of his kicks for six yards. They took fair catches on two others. The Chargers downed a fifth punt. And the sixth went out of bounds ... at the 1.

In short, they were pushed around by a punter who launched five of six kicks at least 50 yards and whose net average was a staggering 51.7 yards.

I can't imagine Scifres reproducing a performance like that this weekend, but, then, I can't imagine anyone reproducing it. It was the best playoff game by any punter I can remember.

"He was in the zone," said San Diego general manager A.J. Smith. "He has helped us a lot in the past, but that game he was unbelievable. What he did was the equivalent of a quarterback throwing for 450 yards and five touchdown passes, a back running for five touchdowns and 295 yards with 12 catches or a defensive end producing six sacks and 14 tackles, forcing two fumbles, recovering one and blocking a kick."

I think you get the idea. He was more than a punter; he was an honest-to-goodness bazooka. And he helped decide the game's outcome.

He might do that again, provided both teams have as much trouble finding the end zone as they did Nov. 16. The Chargers are handicapped because of Tomlinson's injury, because of Gates' injury and because they face the best defense in the league.

The Steelers are handicapped because they don't know which Ben Roethlisberger shows up, and because, frankly, he hasn't been all that good at home in the playoffs, anyway. Look it up: He has eight interceptions in three playoff games at Heinz Field, and he's won only one of them.

That means the door is open for someone to swing the pendulum, and tell me why that someone could not be Mike Scifres.

I don't say that because of what I saw last weekend. I say it because of what I see almost every weekend. I remember years ago when I asked then-coach Marty Schottenheimer why his Chargers were playing so well, and the first person he mentioned was Scifres -- because, he said, he gave them the field position to win.

That was why Smith chose him in the fifth round of the 2003 draft despite having Darren Bennett on the roster, and why the Chargers kept two punters that season.

"He was the best punter, talent-wise, I'd seen in my career," Smith said. "The only guy who was close was Sean Landeta, whom I scouted when I was with the USFL. He (Scifres) was a terrific punter, and I could not pass him up."

Good thing. The Chargers had him handle kickoffs in 2003, then wheeled him out as their punter one year later when Bennett left for Minnesota. It was, as Smith described it, "a little bit of a unique situation," but it all worked out in the end.

Mike Scifres helped beat Indianapolis a week ago. He hopes he can help beat Pittsburgh this weekend. So go ahead and tell me again why punters don't matter and why they can't decide football games.

I know one who just did.
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Old 01-06-2009, 10:27 PM   #2
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Default Re: Scifres gives Chargers big leg up against Steelers

...... i'm thinking that punting the ball in a nice warm stadium in sandiego,just won't be the same as punting in pittsburgh in january......now lets see those stats on west coast teams coming to the east coast....
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Old 01-06-2009, 10:29 PM   #3
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Default Re: Scifres gives Chargers big leg up against Steelers

Let me get this straight in my little blonde head. Punters get to punt when their team fails to drive the ball 10 yards in 3 attempts. And they fail to score.

Personally, I hope to see alot of this guy.
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Old 01-06-2009, 10:29 PM   #4
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Default Re: Scifres gives Chargers big leg up against Steelers

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Originally Posted by MasterOfPuppets View Post
...... i'm thinking that punting the ball in a nice warm stadium in sandiego,just won't be the same as punting in pittsburgh in january......now lets see those stats on west coast teams coming to the east coast....
Keep leaning on that sad weather crutch you lame Steelers fans love so dearly. You can't use that argument when you routinely get punked at home in the playoffs, and that when you recently won a Superbowl you did it completely on the road...
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Old 01-06-2009, 10:31 PM   #5
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Default Re: Scifres gives Chargers big leg up against Steelers

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Let me get this straight in my little blonde head. Punters get to punt when their team fails to drive the ball 10 yards in 3 attempts. And they fail to score.

Personally, I hope to see alot of this guy.
And let me get this straight. You can't see how pinning bad offenses deep in their own territory, whether the punting team scored or not, might lead the even worse offensive team to have troubles scoring themselves?

If you can't bring yourself to admit that the Chargers have a huge advantage on special teams and how that might be big trouble for you, then you are obviously just a cheerleader and not really a fan of football.
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Old 01-06-2009, 10:34 PM   #6
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Default Re: Scifres gives Chargers big leg up against Steelers

If he's thier #1 weapon, so-be-it.
I anticipate him getting a lot of work.
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Old 01-06-2009, 10:34 PM   #7
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Default Re: Scifres gives Chargers big leg up against Steelers

scifres had 2 punts for 43.5 yds against the steelers in pgh.



...its the least of our concerns. nice try clark.

a much superior team in the ravens pinned us down inside the 20 with less than 2 minutes to go. does clark take into account we have the most clutch qb left in the playoffs?
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Old 01-06-2009, 10:35 PM   #8
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Default Re: Scifres gives Chargers big leg up against Steelers

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Keep leaning on that sad weather crutch you lame Steelers fans love so dearly. You can't use that argument when you routinely get punked at home in the playoffs, and that when you recently won a Superbowl you did it completely on the road...
Expecting a punter to win you a game is the epitome of lame, pal.
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Old 01-06-2009, 10:36 PM   #9
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Default Re: Scifres gives Chargers big leg up against Steelers

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And let me get this straight. You can't see how pinning bad offenses deep in their own territory, whether the punting team scored or not, might lead the even worse offensive team to have troubles scoring themselves?
I'm quite aware of how that works. Our defense is perfectly capable of being the great equalizer........and giving our offense another chance with good field position, if not scoring some points themselves, (if the refs let them count).
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"We're not going to turn our backs on him," Ward said. "We're going to treat him like our brother. We're going to accept him back and be very supportive of him and help him get through this. In this locker room, he's still our quarterback."
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Old 01-06-2009, 10:36 PM   #10
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Default Re: Scifres gives Chargers big leg up against Steelers

And this Crusty idiot is still here because...?
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