Chargers lucky they didn’t leave Dallas kicking themselves after Nick Novak injury
Chargers kicker Nick Novak was in the locker room getting pain-killing injections in his lower back and hip flexor in the first quarter of Thursday’s game when he heard the television announcers reference a video that was quickly spreading on social media.
Novak’s emergency backup, punter Drew Kaser — who hadn’t attempted a field goal in high school, college or the NFL — was practicing kicks on the sideline when one of his attempts appeared to miss the net a few feet in front of him at AT&T Stadium.
“It actually didn’t miss the net at all,” Kaser claimed afterward. “There was a hole in the net, and it went through the hole. We ended up fixing it with tape. I gotta make sure that gets corrected, because I don’t want that bad publicity there.”
Kaser could laugh about the incident because the Chargers beat the Dallas Cowboys 28-6 in a bizarre game in which he did not punt, attempted three extra points, making one and missing two, and kicked off four times, two going to the end zone for touchbacks.
But it was no laughing matter for coach Anthony Lynn, who, instead of attempting a field goal on a fourth-and-13 from the Cowboys 16 early in the second quarter, opted to go for it, with Philip Rivers’ 12-yard pass to Austin Ekeler leaving the Chargers one yard short.
“I was told [Kaser] was good from the 25, and then someone told me he was practicing his kicks and he missed the whole damned net,” Lynn said. “So I decided to go for it.”
Novak returned from the locker room and spent much of the second quarter stretching and kicking balls into the net. He kicked a 22-yard field goal about two minutes before halftime for a 3-0 lead.
But when Novak’s extra-point attempt after Hunter Henry’s three-yard touchdown catch sailed wide left with 6:01 left in the third, Novak knew he couldn’t continue.
“I tried to grind through it, but it just kept getting worse,” said Novak, who will undergo an MRI test Friday. “They decided to go with Drew the rest of the game, and he did a great job.”
With the kickoffs? Yes, Kaser did a commendable job there. Kaser even nailed his first extra point after Tyrell Williams’ 27-yard touchdown catch gave the Chargers a 16-0 lead in the third quarter. But Kaser pushed both of his extra-point attempts wide right in the fourth.
“I’ve never had a game in which I had no punts, and my reward for that is getting to kick and kick off, so it was a very interesting day,” Kaser said. “Having not kicked in eight years, I thought I was decent.
“My first extra-point kick came out solid, it was a good kick, and the next two I pushed a little, but I thought the kickoffs got gradually better. I tried to help the team as best I could.”
Chargers tight end Hunter Henry (86) celebrates his touchdown catch with teammates Tyrell Williams (16) and Keenan Allen (13) during the second half.(Michael Ainsworth / Associated Press)
Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen breaks a tackle attempt by Cowboys defensive back Anthony Brown and scores a touchdown during the fourth quarter.(Tom Pennington / Getty Images)
Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens (59) attempts to stop Chargers running back Melvin Gordon (28) during a run in the second half.(Michael Ainsworth / Associated Press)
Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (99) forces Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott to scramble from the pocket during the fourth quarter.(Michael Ainsworth / Associated Press)
Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward (26) breaks up a pass intended or Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant along the sideline during the second half.(Ron Jenkins / Associated Press)
Cowboys fullback Rod Smith (45) scores a touchdown against the Chargers during the fourth quarter.(Tom Pennington / Getty Images)
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers unloads a pass against the Cowboys during the first half.(Larry W. Smith / EPA)
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott delivers a pass against the Chargers during the first half.(Ron Jenkins / Associated Press)
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) signals at the line of scrimmage as the Cowboys position their defense during the first half.(Michael Ainsworth / Associated Press)
Chargers running back Melvin Gordon takes the hanfoff from quarterback Philip Rivers during the first half.(Tom Pennington / Getty Images)
Tom the Tailgate Turkey has photos taken in front of the AT&T Stadium before the Chargers-Cowboys game.(Smiley N. Pool / Dallas Morning News)
Dallas Cowboys fans tailgate before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday at AT&T Stadium.(Smiley N. Pool / Dallas Morning News)
Novak, a 10-year veteran who kicked for the Chargers from 2011-2013, was re-signed in early October to replace struggling rookie Younghoe Koo. The Chargers will have nine days before their next game to determine whether they will have to make another change at kicker.
“I’m optimistic that I’ll feel better by our next game — I’m not worried about that,” Novak said. “I will do everything I can to get healthy. Thankfully, we have a little break.”
Lynn said he considered going for two-point conversions, but the Chargers’ cushion — and their ability to reach the end zone instead of settle for field goals in the second half — allowed him to stick with Kaser.
“We were prepared to go for it on fourth down the whole game,” said receiver Keenan Allen, who caught 11 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown, “but that [stuff] was gonna hurt us.”
It would have been even more painful if Kaser was hurt and the Chargers had to go to their third-string kicker.
“I was probably next in line — I kicked in high school,” Allen said. “But I’m a toe guy, so I’m liable to miss unless I could kick off a tee.”
Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna
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