Journalism won’t die if you donate. Support Voice of San Diego today!
Funny that two guys from Destrehan, La., — pop. 12,166 — would play such a role in determining the next round of the AFC playoffs.
Without Chargers punter Mike Scifres, the Bolts wouldn’t have advanced past the wild-card round to the divisional round with a 23-17 overtime win Saturday against the Indianapolis Colts at Qualcomm Stadiuim.
Without Baltimore safety Ed Reed, the Ravens wouldn’t have upset the Miami Dolphins 27-9 Sunday and, as a result, sent the Chargers to Pittsburgh for the next round Sunday as opposed to Saturday at Tennessee.
Scifres and Reed were teammates at Destrehan High, and although Reed went on to Miami as the big-time recruit and Scifres wound up at Western Illinois, both continued to go home in the offseason as NFL players to help their old high school coach put on football camps.
The trouble is, Reed’s interceptions stand out in the minds of Pro Bowl voters more than Scifres’ booming punts that he sometimes seems to have on a string — like a yo-yo master.
Reed, named to his fifth Pro Bowl this year, had two more interceptions Sunday to thwart Miami’s offense.
Scifres, snubbed again in the Pro Bowl vote, set an NFL record against the Colts with a 51.7-yard net average. Five of his six punts were inside the 11-yard line and all six inside the 20. Five of his punts traveled 50 or more yards — with a long of 67 yards.
The only thing that didn’t go 50 was punted from the Colts’ 47-yard line, but instead of a touchback, it was a 38-yarder the Colts’ Keiwan Ratliff caught as a fair catch at the 9-yard line rather than risk letting the ball bounce closer to the goal line where two-time special teams Pro Bowler Kassim Osgood could down it.
“Everyone I talk to says we’ve got the best punter in the league and he should be in the Pro Bowl,” Chargers head coach Norv Turner said. “He’s the first alternate every year, but the guy is incredible. He truly is the best punter I’ve ever been around, and he showed it tonight.”
Scifres’ six punts went this way:
— First quarter: 51 yards to the 10, fair catch.
— First quarter: 58 yards to the 15, 4-yard return.
— Second quarter: 50 yards to the 3, downed by Kassim Osgood.
— Second quarter: 67 yards to the 5, 2-yard return.
— Third quarter: 38 yards to the 9, fair catch.
— Fourth quarter: 52 yards to the 1 and bounced straight left out of bounds like he had it on a string.
Has a punter ever enjoyed a better night? Ray Guy couldn’t dream that up, and the old Oakland Raider is the only punter who gets mentioned as someone that belongs in the 20 Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“When the defense goes on the field knowing the offense has to 90 yards or 85 yards, I get a high five from them,” Scifres said. “That’s what’s fun for me.”
But for some reason, Scifres keeps getting overlooked in the Pro Bowl voting. Sometimes the NFL players who vote don’t know much more than the average fan, who might simply look at the punter with the longest punting average.
That’s why the Oakland Raiders’ Shane Lechler keeps going to Pro Bowls and Scifres keeps settling for first alternate. Lechler’s net average was 41.2 to Scifres’ Chargers franchise record of 40.9. Surely the players know there’s more to read into a punter’s value than three-tenths of a percentage.
They say players make the Pro Bowl the year after they should have made it. Often times that’s because they have a monster game in the playoffs voters remember the next year (as long as they have another good season).
In Scifres’ case, he should be Pro Bowl-bound next season. But for now he’s just happy to Pittsburgh-bound in the playoffs.
And who knows, if two kids from Destrehan, La., have anything to say about it next week, the Ravens and Chargers could be playing in the AFC Championship Game Jan. 18 at Qualcomm Stadium.