The most wonderful irony about the Chargers’ first season in Los Angeles continued Sunday.
The only team in the league that plays in a soccer stadium continued to be one of the worst when it comes to kicking.
After the team placed Nick Novak on the injured reserve list Saturday, it called on Travis Coons to take over the kicking job. And the third person to hold the position on the Chargers this season looked a lot like his predecessors, promptly knocking a 38-yard field goal attempt squarely off the right upright.
For the third straight game, the Chargers’ opening drive ended with a missed kick. It also happened earlier this season in New England.
Sunday, the pushed attempt didn’t cost the Chargers in a 19-10 win, and Coons responded to make his next four kicks (not including an extra point).
This hasn’t been a Coons problem — Sunday was literally just his second day with the job. And it’s not just a Novak problem. Rookie Youngoe Koo had a game-tying kick blocked in the season opener and missed a potential game winner the next week, setting the tone for the season.
The team made the change to Coons after Novak’s injury in Dallas forced them to send punter Drew Kaser on the field for extra point tries, something he didn’t even do in high school. He made one and missed two.
“The game in Dallas, I believe if it had been a close game, we would have lost because of our kicking situation,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “I just couldn’t think of putting 52 people back in that position again. If he’s not 100% and can’t go out and kick, then we had to make the move.”
Lynn said Novak wanted to work through the lower back injury instead of going on injured reserve.
“They all do,” he said, “but we had to make that decision.”
Novak’s replacement powered his fourth field goal through the hands of a Cleveland Browns special teamer.
But really, the misses — the Chargers haven’t score on an opening drive this season – aren’t much of a joking matter.
As the Chargers move into the final four games of the season, the stakes will be at their highest
“Obviously, if you have a bolt on your helmet, you believe in your teammates,” Rivers said. “Certainly, it hasn’t been ideal with the kicking situation. And now that you’re in December and you know these games, every play matters, hopefully he can settle in and as we move forward and everything will go smoothly.”
Henry, Gates do damage
The Chargers finally figured how to use both of their tight ends, targeting Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates on 13 passes.
Henry caught seven for 81 yards, his second best receiving game of the season, and Gates caught three for 32 yards, a season best. Four of those catches came on the Chargers’ opening drive.
“I think, every week, we feel like we can create matchups,” Henry said. “We have a guy who is going to go into the Hall of Fame. … I think I get happier than when I catch balls to see Gates catch some. It’s awesome.”
Henry briefly left in the fourth quarter after making a terrific catch that left him open to a stiff shot to his right knee. Henry said the knee hyperextended a little, making him nervous, but he came out of the play fine.
The team is now 6-1 in games in which Henry has been targeted five times or more.
Rivers’ touchdown pass to Keenan Allen in the third quarter was the 335th of his career, moving him into sole possession of seventh place on the NFL’s all-time list. … Rivers limped off the field in the fourth quarter after taking a hit to his hip. He said it wasn’t serious and he remained in the game. … Rivers made his 188th-straight start Sunday, becoming the active leader in the NFL after the New York Giants benched Eli Manning. … Defensive tackle Corey Liuget was inactive Sunday because of a toe injury. … Sunday’s game was an announced sellout of 25,320.