Kick­ing-game mis­fires are or­der of day, as chip-shot field-goal tries go awry to cost Saints and Raiders, and Charg­ers give up two kick­off-re­turn TDs in loss.

Los Angeles Times - - Sports - SAM FARMER

Blew Dat. Gar­rett Hart­ley, who eight months ago booted New Or­leans into the Su­per Bowl, missed his chance to bury At­lanta on Sun­day when he shanked a 29-yard field-goal at­tempt in over­time.

“I missed ba­si­cally an ex­tra point,” said Hart­ley, who watched the Fal­cons come right back and make a 46-yarder for a 27-24 vic­tory. “It was clearly my mis­take. . . . It’s the highs and lows of be­ing a kicker.”

Don’t worry, Gar­rett, you’ve got dis­tin­guished com­pany.

Oak­land’s Se­bas­tian Janikowski, the high­est-paid kicker in NFL his­tory, missed a 32-yarder as the clock ex­pired on a 24-23 loss at Ari­zona. So sure was Raiders Coach Tom Cable that the vic­tory was in the bag, he charged onto the field with his arms up, only to quickly drop them in dis­be­lief.

Janikowski, in his 11th sea­son, has made 90.2% (74 of 82) of his at­tempts from 30 to 39 yards, and he hadn’t missed from that range since 2007.

Then, there’s the Charg­ers. It wasn’t their kicker who failed them but their kick cov­er­age unit. San Diego gave up two kick re­turns for touch­downs to Seat­tle’s Leon Washington. The run­backs were 101and 99 yards.

Washington is the 10th player in NFL his­tory to re­turn two kick­offs for touch­downs in the same game.

The Charg­ers, off to yet an­other slug­gish start, clearly have some holes to patch. They gave up a 94-yard punt re­turn to Kansas City’s Dex­ter McClus­ter in the opener.

In one of the early shock­ers of the sea­son, those Chiefs are now 3-0 af­ter beat­ing win­less San Fran­cisco, a team that was widely tabbed as the class of the NFC West.

What’s more, it took three weeks for two of the pre­sea­son Su­per Bowl fa­vorites, Dal­las and Min­nesota, to pick up their first vic­to­ries.

“The thing about this league is you ei­ther feel good or feel bad af­ter Sun­day,” Cow­boys Coach Wade Phillips said af­ter his team handed Hous­ton its first de­feat. “We feel good right now.

“Our team . . . showed the way we can play. The lit­tle things that were missing in the first cou­ple of games, I think we came through with. We played solid all the way around.”

Snap judg­ment

Buf­falo, Carolina and Oak­land changed start­ing quar­ter­backs this week, and all three teams lost. But those par­tic­u­lar moves gen­er­ated mixed re­sults.

The Bills’ Ryan Fitz­patrick put up a good fight in a 38-30 loss at New Eng­land, com­plet­ing 20 of 28 passes for 247 yards with two touch­downs and two in­ter­cep­tions.

Bruce Grad­kowski put the Raiders in po­si­tion to win at Ari­zona, com­plet­ing 17 of 34 for 255 yards and a touch­down with one in­ter­cep­tion.

Jimmy Clausen com­pleted 16 of 33 for 188 yards with an in­ter­cep­tion and a fum­ble in a 20-7 loss to Cincin­nati.

Depth charge

In the only game of the day be­tween un­de­feated teams, Pitts­burgh throt­tled Tampa Bay, 38-13. Char­lie Batch, mak­ing his first start in three years, threw three touch­down passes and looked re­mark­ably com­fort­able run­ning the of­fense.

From the look of things be­fore the sea­son, the Steel­ers would have been for­tu­nate to get through Ben Roeth­lis­berger’s sus­pen­sion at 2-2. Now, with a tough home game against Bal­ti­more com­ing up, Pitts­burgh could be 3-1or 4-0 when it wel­comes Roeth­lis­berger back (af­ter an open date) for a Week 6 home game against Cleve­land.

If Batch turns in an­other game look­ing as poised as he did against the Buc­ca­neers, a de­fense that was play­ing very well, the Steel­ers would have to think hard about whether to im­me­di­ately re­place him with Roeth­lis­berger, even though Batch is ul­ti­mately des­tined for the side­line.

Af­ter the game, Batch was quick to dis­pel any no­tion of a bud­ding quar­ter­back con­tro­versy. “Ev­ery­body knows Ben’s the starter,” he said. “One thing I didn’t want to do was be that weak link, to go out there and not be able to pro­vide a spark or put this team in the end zone.”

Go­ing for it

Is punt­ing passé? It seemed that way Sun­day in light of how many teams opted not to punt, and in­stead went for it on fourth down. That used to be a rar­ity.

But in the nine morn­ing games Sun­day, 11-teams chose to go for it on fourth down at least once. The 49ers, Cow­boys and Fal­cons each at­tempted it three times. Dal­las, in fact, did it twice on its open­ing drive, con­vert­ing one and fail­ing on the next.

Job saver?

As kick­ers go, Dal­las’ David Buehler is a phys­i­cal freak, a guy who can out­run some re­ceivers and out-lift some of­fen­sive line­men. But he also hadn’t made a field goal of 50 yards or longer since he en­rolled at USC, and he sel­dom had to kick any for the Tro­jans’ touch­down ma­chine.

So it was huge for Buehler on Sun­day to make field goals of 49 and 40 yards, es­pe­cially be­cause he had missed two in the first two weeks, in­clud­ing the po­ten­tial score-ty­ing kick in a loss to Chicago a week ear­lier.

“I just tuned ev­ery­body out and [did] what I had to do,” Buehler told re­porters Sun­day. “I worked hard and ev­ery­body had faith in me and I had faith in my­self and I wanted to go out and prove it.”

Ex­tra points

8 In beat­ing Washington, St. Louis won at home for the first time since Oct. 19, 2008.

8 In a loss at Seat­tle, San Diego’s Philip Rivers com­pleted 29 of 53 for a ca­reer-high 455 yards.

8 Tampa Bay’s LeGar­rette Blount, the con­tro­ver­sial Ore­gon run­ning back who sat out most of last sea­son af­ter slug­ging a Boise State player in the jaw fol­low­ing a loss in the 2009 opener, resur­faced Sun­day with a one-yard touch­down run.

8 The New York Giants have had at least three turnovers in each of their three games. They haven’t done that in three con­sec­u­tive games since 1999.

Chris Graythen Getty Im­ages

FAL­CON SHOWMAN: Quar­ter­back Matt Ryan cel­e­brates af­ter throw­ing a touch­down pass for the At­lanta Fal­cons, who de­feated New Or­leans, 27-24, on a field goal in over­time — af­ter Saints kicker Gar­rett Hart­ley had missed a 29-yard at­tempt.

Chris­tian Petersen Getty Im­ages

OFF-LINE: Se­bas­tian Janikowski missed from 32 yards on last play of Oak­land’s 24-23 loss to Ari­zona.

Otto Greule Jr. Getty Im­ages

TO THE HOUSE: Seat­tle’s Leon Washington re­turned kick­offs 101 and 99 yards against San Diego.

Mike Ransdell

K.C. SUN­SHINE: Quar­ter­back Matt Cas­sel, giv­ing re­ceiver Dwayne Bowe a lift af­ter throw­ing a 45-yard touch­down pass to him, has taken the Chiefs to a 3-0 start, mak­ing them per­haps the biggest early sur­prise of the NFL sea­son.

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