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Advent Calendar – Dec. 23: The Chargers have failed to kick off…twice!

This is a great time of year to be thankful for what we have, where we have been, and what the future holds. Although the Chargers have lost their way a bit in recent years, the month of December still holds such incredible promise! This advent calendar is an attempt to hearken back to these days of December joy. Each day will bring a new advent from the Bolts’ history that makes it wonderful to be a Chargers fan.

Kickoffs in football are a pretty common part of the game. I know, there’s been rumbles here and there about getting rid of them or making them safer, but until that day—they are just an ever-present part of the game. Well…almost.

Kickoffs are indeed part of the game, but they aren’t necessarily a guaranteed part. We have already delved into the weird truth of the NFL free kick earlier in this Advent Calendar series, but the Chargers have also made their mark with two very rare marks in the record book: failing to kickoff—twice!

  • Kickoff, noun: A kick that puts a ball in to play in American football and other sports.

A kickoff occurs at the start of each half and before each overtime in the NFL. It is also traditionally decided by a coin toss at the beginning of each game carried out by the referee. The visiting team captain calls either heads or tails. The winner of the coin toss elects whether to take first choice in the first half or the second half. The captain with first choice then picks either a team to kick off or an end of the field to defend. The other captain receives the remaining option. At the beginning of the second half, the two captains choose in the reverse order. If overtime is required, another coin toss takes place to decide who gets first possession during the overtime. After a touchdown the scoring team kicks the ball off to the opposing team. In American football a field goal also results in a kickoff by the scoring team.

After a safety a kickoff is an option, but most teams choose to punt the ball on the free kick; the NFL, in contrast to most other leagues, prohibits the use of a kicking tee on a safety free kick.

OK, now that we have re-learned what we likely all already know, we see that kickoffs are an integral part of the game. They MUST kickoff if they score a TD or field goal, and they have a choice if they score a safety. Beyond that, they are offered a choice to kickoff to start one of two halves each game.

Thus, each team in each game has at least ONE guaranteed option to have a kickoff.

Thanks to Quirky, we can see exactly how rare this is.

The only way a team can be on this list and not be shut out is to score a safety, to score at the end of the first or second half or, in a nearly impossible scenario, to score the game-winning points in overtime. Highlighted below, the Bengals are the only known team to never kick off in a non-shutout when the Patriots took an intentional safety in the fourth quarter.

So, in a very strange set of events, the Chargers are on this very exclusive list twice. Once, in their inaugural season (in the AFL) against the Dallas Texans (Kansas City Chiefs), and again in 1987 against the Denver Broncos.

Both times, the Chargers of course lost the game with a grant total of zero points. The wind is almost definitely the reason why the Chargers would take this course of action, but it is still an option that would have watercoolers buzzing the next day.

What’s even stranger is that the Chargers did this once representing LA and once representing San Diego. Both were away games, which also factored into the decision making.

-Jason “Whew knew!” Michaels

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