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Palmer Puts a Damper on a Strong Outing by Charger Special Teams

September 15, 1987|MARC APPLEMAN | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — After watching the films, Charger special teams coordinator Wayne Sevier's description of Paul Palmer's kickoff return was almost as winding and exciting as the run.

"They have three guys lying in a pile who blocked air, and as we're trying to get to Palmer as he cuts back to the middle and starts up, we had guys trip over the three guys in the pile," Sevier said. "I've never seen anything quite like that.

"And then we have two guys spin off blocks and lose vision of Palmer. It was a great job getting through a little bitty hole by Palmer. It was just a unique set of events. What happened is, it's just an oddity."

What made the game-winning kickoff return even more painful for the Chargers was that they were playing a conservative kickoff return defense with three safeties instead of the customary two.

"We did that just so something like this wouldn't happen," Sevier said.

The Chargers came back from 10-0 and 13-3 deficits and felt they had the momentum at the time of Palmer's return.

"We were very excited that when we got back to 13-13, we legitimately felt we'd stop them on the kickoff at around the 20 (yard-line) and force them to punt from down there or we'd get a turnover," said Ron Lynn, the Chargers' defensive coordinator.

Instead, Palmer went 95 yards to score with 3:19 remaining. The Chiefs won, 20-13.

"As a special teams coach you have to say touchdown returns are inexcusable," Sevier said. "There will be a bunch of 40- to 70-yard returns . . . "

But not returns for touchdowns.

All last season, there were only seven kickoffs returned for touchdowns in the NFL, and three of them were against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"Two guys, Gary Plummer and Daniel Hunter, made super efforts (on the kickoff)," Sevier said. "All we needed was one of nine guys to make another play."

What about Paul Coffman's controversial block on Hunter at the Chief 19-yard line?

"Oh, the clip," Charger Coach Al Saunders said. "But when you get in a pile like that, it happens all the time. That's not the reason they ran it back."

Sevier agreed.

"It was not out in the open where everyone should see it," Sevier said. "Those things happen. It might have been called, but it was not."

Despite Palmer's touchdown return, Sevier said he was encouraged by the performance of the Charger special teams. He was pleased with their coverage of punts and protection on punts and field goal attempts.

But . . .

"The name of the game is big plays," Sevier said.

And Palmer made the big play Sunday.

Charger Notes

Linebacker Thomas Benson, who signed a contract last week after a 40-day holdout, worked out twice Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Charger defensive coordinator Ron Lynn said if Benson is able to play in the home opener against St. Louis Sunday, he will start. . . . Lynn also said Andy Hawkins, who led the Chargers with 12 tackles, played "reasonably well" Sunday while taking Benson's spot. Lynn also praised linebacker Chip Banks, strong safety Martin Bayless and nose tackle Mike Charles. Bayless made 10 tackles and Charles had 11. . . . When asked about the Chargers' No. 1 pass defense in the NFL, which held the run-oriented Chiefs to 58 yards, Lynn smiled and said: "That carries no weight whatsoever." . . . Offensive lineman James FitzPatrick (infected left knee) rode a bike Monday and may be able to practice by Friday. . . . Fullback Barry Redden had only one carry for no gain Sunday. Is Coach Al Saunders disappointed in Redden, who was acquired from the Rams during the off-season? "No. Right now, he's backing up Tim Spencer. We're encouraged by what Tim Spencer has done." Spencer gained 24 yards on 7 carries Sunday. . . . Saunders said there were no injuries of any significance in Sunday's game. . . . Approximately 9,000 tickets are available for Sunday's home opener. . . . What a difference a year makes: Last season, the Chargers (who finished 4-12) beat Miami, 50-28, in the season opener played at home. "Everyone thought we were going to the Super Bowl," Saunders said. "This is reverse psychology."

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