By Dave Thomas
Did you ever stop and think about how important a punter is on any organized football team?
The San Diego Chargers were battling the AFC’s top-seeded New England Patriots this past Sunday evening, leading 14-3 at one point. Before too long, however, the direction of the game and ultimately the final score would change rather dramatically.
Punter Mike Scifres undertook what he thought was a normal punt in the second quarter, but the man in charge of trying to tilt the field in the Chargers’ favor was all but destroyed on a punt, with New England’s Branden Bolden essentially being blocked into him.
After being carted off the field, Scifres would eventually discover that he had a broken clavicle. In a show of class, Bolden apologized to Scifres as he was being tended to.
In comments to Chargers.com, San Diego Head Coach Mike McCoy noted, “Give the player who hit him a lot of credit,” he said. “It was unfortunate that Mike got injured, but to hear the player come over there and apologize for hitting him and the way it happened, this is a physical game. But it meant to me a lot to see someone act the way they did when they came up to him and apologize and say, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t meant to do that.’ It showed a lot of class for him to do that.”
Bolts Select Fill-In Punter
As a result of the almost likely season-ending injury, Scifres is out and former Dallas Cowboys’ punter Mat McBriar is in.
McBriar, who spent most of his career with the Dallas Cowboys, will play in his first game for the Bolts this Sunday (assuming San Diego punts the ball) versus Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
After trying out several different punters early in the week, the Bolts decided to go with McBriar to handle the punting duties for the remainder of the season, allowing kicker Nick Novak to stick with placekicking duties.
Game Changed With Injury
Although Novak filled in admirably for Scifres after the injury Sunday evening in front of nearly 69,000 in attendance and a nationwide audience, Novak had trouble at times pinning Tom Brady and New England’s offense deep. In fact, Brady and company started several drives not far from midfield following Novak punts.
With San Diego’s offense struggling to move the ball (Chargers were held scoreless in the second half), giving New England the ball with rather decent field position on a number of occasions put San Diego’s defense in precarious spots the remainder of the game.
To most fans, guys like Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates and Eric Weddle are the stars of the team (and rightfully so).
Sunday evening’s injury to one Mike Scifres showed just how important a team’s punter can be to the mix.
With three tough games coming up (Denver, at San Francisco, at Kansas City) to finish out the regular season and what the Chargers hope is back-to-back playoff appearances, one Mat McBriar will be called upon to pin opposing offenses deep in their own territory.
For more Chargers news and updates, visit Chargers Central.
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.