With Nick Novak hurt, Chargers have decision to make at kicker

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said he was surprised to learn kicker Nick Novak's back was acting up to the point that he could not effectively do his job against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday.

"We lost our kicker in the first quarter and that kind of threw us off a little bit," Lynn said. "We were in four-down territory for the rest of the night, but he came in and out of the lineup. That's something we'll have to deal with now the game is over."

Lynn likely still mulled over what that solution will be on the flight back to Los Angeles after the game on Thursday. Lynn said because of the short week Novak did not have as many reps in practice, so he did not fully understand the extent of Novak's back injury.

"You don't have full-speed practices and you don't kick as much," Lynn said. "And we didn't see it during the week. He kicked half the reps that he normally kicks and he was fine."

For his part, Novak said with the extra rest over the weekend he should be ready to go against the winless Cleveland Browns at the StubHub Center next Sunday.

"I was sore today on the lower back and hip," Novak said. "So I'm going to get an MRI tomorrow (Friday) and see what's going on. I just got sore in warm-ups."

Novak pushed a 35-yard field goal wide right early on and winced in pain afterward, grabbing his lower back on the side of his kicking leg.

Novak said he went to the locker room to take a shot to dull the pain and came back into the game. He did make a short field goal from 22 yards. However, he pulled an extra point from 33 yards wide left, and lingered on the ground in obvious pain after the miss.

From there, punter Drew Kaser took over kickoff and field goal duties, not faring much better. Kaser did make one extra point, but missed two other attempts.

"I know I have a strong leg," Kaser said. "I've never had to kick because we've always had pro kickers from high school through college. So, when they call my name for that, I was ready to go."

Kaser's experience kicking field goals included warming up on the sidelines and apparently missing the net with a warm-up kick, with word getting back to Lynn.

"We were at the 25 and I was told he was good from the 25," Lynn said about Kaser. "And then someone told me he was practicing his kicks and he missed the whole damn net, so I decided to go for it."

However, Kaser said the kick went through a hole in the net.

"There was a hole I guess that was already there," Kaser said. "We fixed it with tape and stuff."

Kaser later acknowledged the curious situation on the sideline after the game on twitter.

Whatever Lynn's decision, the Chargers can't have Kaser kick field goals long term. The Chargers cut undrafted rookie Younghoe Koo after four weeks because of a lack of confidence after he started the season 3-for-6 on field goals, which included missing a game-winning attempt from 44 yards against the Miami Dolphins in Week 2.

Now in Week 12 of the regular season, the Chargers find themselves in the same position, dealing with unreliability from a kicker, this time because of injury. Novak has made 9 of 13 kicks since taking over the kicking job in Week 5, but has missed two kicks under 50 yards in the past two games.

Novak also was on the injury report earlier this season with an ankle injury.

"I'll just have to wait and see where he's at injury-wise," Lynn said about Novak. "I know we need a healthy kicker. And if he can get back healthy, we'd love to have him. But if not, we'll see."

For his part, Novak said he'll be ready next week.

"We have 10 days and I'm optimistic that I'll feel better by our next game," Novak said. "I'll do everything I can to get healthy."