P Mike Scifres (Stu Forster/Getty)
SDBoltReport.com has used its new Four Pillars series to honor the four most important players on the Chargers roster. Philip Rivers, Quentin Jammer and Stephen Cooper locked up the first three spots, giving the offense and defense their representatives. So it only makes sense that the team’s fourth pillar comes on special teams.
Mike Scifres is the best punter in the League and one of the four best players on the San Diego Chargers. He is coming off a career season in which he set personal bests in net average (40.9 yards) and return yards allowed (146).
Scifres taught the NFL world a lesson in just how valuable a punter can be when single-footedly lifted the Chargers to a wildcard win over the Indianapolis Colts.
Scifres unleashed six punts against Indianapolis -- pinning the Colts at the 10, 19, 3, 7, 9 and 1 -- to become the first punter in playoff history to land six kicks inside the 20-yard line. His fourth kick traveled 67 yards, the longest playoff punt since 1992.
Of course, the Chargers wouldn’t have even been in the playoffs were it not for Scifres. His season-saving kick came in Week 15 against the Kansas City Chiefs when he served up a beautiful onside kick with 1:13 left to play and the Chargers trailing by five. Kassim Osgood recovered the ball and the Chargers marched for the game-winning touchdown in a game they had to win to stay playoff-eligible.
Despite his strong season, Scifres was snubbed for the Pro Bowl in favor of Oakland Raiders punter Shane Lechler. The numbers support the notion that Scifres got robbed; he allowed fewer return yards per punt than Lechler (2.86 to 4.72) and forced more fair catches (12-11) despite having 39 fewer punts.
But while Lechler was punting in Hawaii, the talk in Football Town was still all about Scifres.
One example is Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber, who talked with SDBoltReport.com during Senior Bowl week about Scifres' performance against the Colts.
“He had some crazy punts in that game,” Huber said. “He had a great postseason and he’s someone I like to watch because he’s such a great punter.”
Scifres did more for Huber than put on a show. He may have also boosted Huber's draft stock by reminding NFL personnel just how impactful a great punter can be.
“It’s the best when they actually start showing stats and get to talk about the punter in a good way,” Huber said. “It’s kind of motivating -- not only to me, but to other punters as well -- to see someone perform that well in games and get that recognition.”
Scifres earned every bit of recognition he received, which is why he is recognized here as one of the four core members of the San Diego Chargers.
Read more about San Diego's other three pillars:
--Pillar One: QB Philip Rivers
What do you think of our Four Pillars? Talk about it in the message boards.
--Pillar Two: CB Quentin Jammer
--Pillar Three: Stephen Cooper
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.