Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 8/28/12

After mourning a Tim Tebow comeback attempt fallen short in the preseason, it's safe to say that no one values their kickers right now more than Rex Ryan and the anemic New York Jets.

Except Norv Turner and the San Diego Chargers.

On Friday night, Nick Novak nailed a 45-yard game-winning field goal as time expired, notching the undefeated Bolts a 12-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings. He and Nate Kaeding, who blasted scores of 50 and 54 yards, combined to provide all of the Chargers points.

Novak was signed to be the starting placekicker last season, when Kaeding tore his ACL on the opening play of 2011 and was lost for the season, unknowingly dooming the Chargers' campaign.

That being said, despite a decent performance a year ago (converting 27-of-34 field goals) and this recent impressive showing in exhibition clutch, don't expect San Diego to limit Kaeding's 86.5 percent career efficiency to a David Buehler-type role.

However, while Novak has certainly earned the opportunity to audition for other teams, the Chargers need to selfishly retain both kickers on their roster. There's no added smoke or smog in the air - you read that sentence correctly, classy San Diegans.

Unless (or until) injuries to the offensive line and backfield continue to pile up, they might as well carry insurance for the position in light of what occurred last season. Besides, if both remain hot, it is a clear advantage and strength for a franchise that likes to surrender leads and lose close games.

Of course, if it weren't for an unnecessary roughness penalty on Minnesota's rookie safety Harrison Smith earlier in the drive, then Novak could have found himself on waivers at some point this passing weekend.

Shocking as it may be, the Vikings were even more putrid on offense than the Chargers, who were unrecognizably pressuring the opposing quarterbacks and causing turnovers. Still, Sage Rosenfels threw the contest's lone touchdown to Matt Asiata and put the purple up 10-9 with 1:50 to go.

Through resting Philip Rivers, and the struggles of reserve rookie offensive linemen David Molk and Mike Harris, Charlie Whitehurst and company were unable to capitalize on a defensive surge led by Larry English (two of the team's five sacks), and San Diego's backs were ultimately against the wall...or at the 20.

Jarrett Lee (only 5-of-12 for 81 yards) was sacked on second down, negating a 6-yard completion to Phillip Payne on the previous play, but the ensuing flag on Smith cancelled out a third-down incompletion that would've forced the LSU product into a 4th-and-long. The Vikings truly do make enough mistakes to belong in Los Angeles.

Lee proceeded to execute consecutive first-down pass plays of 20 yards (Taylor Embree) and 17 yards (Mike Willie), driving his offense to the Minnesota 28, and the fugue of timeouts soon followed.

The Chargers would have loved to make Novak less of a hero by edging the ball closer, but Jacob Hester and Edwin Baker (who finished with an astounding 13 yards off of 35 carries...wait a minute - strike that - reverse it) were collectively contained for gains of zero, -1, and 2 yards. The running backs are really cashing in on the break granted by Ryan Mathews' clavicle.

Enter Novak, and whether he or Kaeding wins the job, the pending production of special teams will be as imperative as ever in 2012 for the flustering San Diego Chargers.



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