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Kaeding still sees playoff kick sailing right

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) _ Nate Kaeding is living the good life in San Diego, a city where it's always spring.

He works by his estimation about three hours a day, gets paid well and plays a lot of golf.

Yet when he closes his eyes, the image that flashes in his mind is not of surf breaking across a golden beach or a lush fairway. Instead, it's the last kick of his rookie season with the San Diego Chargers sailing wide right into the damp California night.

With a chance to send the Chargers into the second round of the playoffs, Kaeding missed a 40-yard field-goal attempt in overtime and the New York Jets won 20-17.

It's going to be there with me a little bit,'' Kaeding said Tuesday.But I'm going to twist it to the positive for me.''

Taking some time off after a long season, Kaeding returned home to visit family and friends _ and find some comfort from a disheartening end to an otherwise solid season. Kaeding starred at Iowa City West High School and the University of Iowa before San Diego took him in the third round of last year's NFL draft.

The Chargers became the surprise of the league and made the playoffs for the first time in nine years. Then, what could have been the biggest moment of Kaeding's young pro career turned into the worst.

Kaeding went 20-for-25 on field goals during the regular season and kicked a 35-yarder earlier in the playoff game. So after San Diego drove to a first down on the Jets 22 in the overtime, San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer called three straight runs and turned it over to his rookie kicker.

The field was wet and the pressure intense, but Kaeding offered no excuses. He missed and took the blame.

I expect myself to be perfect,'' he said.I hate all the misses, but one that you miss at the end for a playoff win, you've got to sit with that for five or six months. That's the toughest situation for me.''

Teammates consoled Kaeding, including former Iowa players Tim Dwight and Mike Goff, though at that point, ``I just wanted to be as far away from anybody as I could.''

It was a strange situation for Kaeding, who had excelled at whatever sport he played in high school and broke just about every kicking record at Iowa.

That's what I thought about after the game _ I've been really fortunate in the last six or seven years in my athletic career to have the kind of success that I've had,'' Kaeding said.This is really the first time like, all right, things didn't go, so I have to buckle down and move forward with it.''

The Jets won the playoff game on veteran Doug Brien's 28-yard field goal with 5 seconds left. In a twist of fate, Brien missed two late field goals last weekend in the Jets' 20-17 overtime loss to Pittsburgh. The second, a 43-yarder, was on the last play of regulation.

I was hoping he'd make it,'' Kaeding said.I didn't want him to have to go through what I went through. It was a tough situation to have that fall on your shoulders, but that's the way it works for our position.''

Still, Kaeding thinks some good will come from his disappointment.

It actually rejuvenated me and made me think about why I play,'' he said.I like to play because it challenges me and challenges my character. I'm looking forward to bouncing back from it and going out and having a good sophomore campaign.''

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