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Finally, Field Position Flips in Bolts' Favor
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It’s been a glaring number for the San Diego Chargers’ punt return team as heading into Sunday’s game, they had just a single punt return yard all season. In addition, the team has been the only club in the league to start drives averaging their own 20-yard line.
While they’ve faced an uphill battle through 11 weeks, the tables turned on Sunday in the team’s 31-25 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“It’s playing complimentary football, we talk about it all the time,” Head Coach Mike McCoy said. “It helps to play on a short field. It’s hard to go 80-yards every series or even further than that…. It’s hard. But the great thing is we’ve got a special quarterback and he’s gotten us out of binds a lot…. When you play the field position game, it makes it a lot easier on the play-caller (and) everybody else on the football team. You can play field position. If you don’t convert a third down, well we’re going to punt it to them, and they’re going to be on a long field now. You go back and forth until somebody makes a play and you get out of that situation.”
In this game, the Bolts’ started their drives averaging from their own 30-yard line. This was aided by two punt returns by Javontee Herndon, one good for 15-yards and the other for 18.
Like McCoy said, playing on a short field is key, and as wide receiver Dontrelle Inman explained, “We capitalized on it.”
The first punt return set the Chargers up at their own 37-yard line and ultimately turned into seven points and a lead for the Bolts. The second was good for an eventual three after a 28-yard field goal by Josh Lambo.
In addition to Herndon’s returns, inside linebacker Manti Te'o set his offense up with a short field after picking quarterback Blake Bortles off and returning it deep in Jacksonville territory. The pick came less than a minute after Philip Rivers found Antonio Gates for a nine-yard touchdown, and was sandwiched between another score from 17 to 85.
“I just dropped into zone and read the quarterback’s eyes and made a play,” Te'o explained. “We understood the situation and the offense just put points on the board and we’re in a two-minute situation and in that field position, we wanted to try and make a play. And I was able to make it.”
“It’s amazing and it couldn’t happen to a better guy,” Safety Jahleel Adde added. “He’s been battling injury and he’s back and he’s a splash player on our defense. It’s a momentum change. We got the ball, offense got the score, and then we got the ball after half so, it was everything that we needed.”