Just short: Panthers miss record field goal, lose to Saints

Carolina lost its second straight game

Carolina Panthers kicker Joey Slye (4) kicks but misses a 65 yard field goal attempt which would have tied the game, in the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Brett Duke)

Kicker Joey Slye missed a 65-yard field goal attempt by inches as the New Orleans Saints gave the Carolina Panthers their second straight loss, 27-24 in the New Orleans Superdome.

Slye’s attempt, which would have set an NFL record by one yard, was straight down the middle but fell short, inches in front of the crossbar, with 1:55 remaining.

The record attempt was necessary after Teddy Bridgewater suffered a sack on third down that cost the Panthers eight yards of field position.

Rhule made it clear that the sack ended any real chance for the Panthers to win the game, barring a miracle.

“Fourth-and-17, we don’t’ have a lot of calls we feel good about,” he said. “(Slye)’s made it from there. Our odds on fourth-and-17, we felt like was less than that, obviously not ideal. We had the ball at 35 and took that sack. You can’t take a sack there, no matter who it is, whether the o-line, receivers, whatever. We just can’t take a sack. The only thing that couldn’t have happened there is that. We shouldn’t even be back there.”

Three thoughts

1. As damaging as the sack was to the Panthers’ chances of success on fourth down, it was also a missed opportunity on third down.

“We had a perfect play call,” Bridgewater said. “We probably would have scored a touchdown if we got it off. They schemed up our protection we had called pretty well. There were no outlets to throw it away. Hats off to them for making a play and forcing us out of field goal range.”

DJ Moore agreed, saying that the third down play call “was there.”

2. The kick attempt capped an odd week for Slye. He spent the early part of the week quarantined due to COVID contact tracing.

“I was self-isolating at my apartment. I was able to go out with my swing coach and get work in while socially distancing,” he said. “I was able to go to the local gym late at night, 1:00 in the morning, to get my workout in without putting anyone else at risk.”

He hit from 58 yards in one direction in pregame and 60 in the other, although he pointed out that he “smoked it,” clearing the bar by 10 yards. “I was smashing PATs,” he said. “I hit a pretty decent ball on the 43 (yard attempt).”

Slye claimed he’s hit from 73 in practice and thought he had set the record on Sunday.

“I laced that ball,” he said. “It was still climbing at the 15-20 (yard line). I said, ‘This is going to be good by two or three yards.’”

Instead, it fell short. “That’s the one miss in my entire career I’m OK with living with,” he said.

3. The Panthers are now 3-4 and riding a two-game losing streak despite having the ball with a chance to win inside of two minutes each of the last two weeks. Carolina won’t have much time to dwell on it, as the Panthers host the Falcons on Thursday night.

“It’s just all about understanding that you’ve got more opportunities,” Bridgewater said. “You’ve got to be able to turn the page fast in this league. We’ve got an Atlanta team coming into town who pretty sure after we played us, they felt same way. They might have been one or two plays away from beating us. We’ve got to attack this week with the right mindset and be smart. I’ll tell the young guys, ‘Thursday’s going to be here. You get a day and a half (to prepare). Nobody’s going to feel sorry for you out there.”

Number to Know

12 of 14 — The Saints converted 12 of 14 third down attempts in the game, including a perfect 5 of 5 in the first half, when they were also perfect— 3 of 3 — in the red zone.

“They did a great job of converting some third-and-longs,” Rhule said. “When you play Drew Brees, you know he’s going to be efficient. We didn’t make the plays or call the plays to get him off the field.”

They Said It

“That sack was a fatal blow there.”

— Panthers coach Matt Rhule

Player of the Game

DJ Moore, Panthers wide receiver —  Moore was targeted five times and caught four of the passes for a team-high 93 yards. He also scored on a 74-yard pass early in the second quarter that kept Carolina in the game, cutting the Saints lead to 14-10. He added a seven-yard score later in the quarter that briefly gave the Panthers the lead. He’s now caught three touchdowns in his last three games after being kept out of the end zone in the previous seven.

Critical thinking

Obviously, the decision to go for what would have been the longest field goal in NFL history, instead of trying to convert a fourth down play, was called into question from the moment Slye’s kick fell short. According to Fox Sports’ analysis, the odds of success in going for it on fourth down was more than 13%, compared to about 3% success with the kick.

Rhule had different numbers, claiming that the odds of Slye tying the game was 30%, while the odds of converting third (or fourth) and 10 or longer is 25%.

Bridgewater seemed on board with the decision, saying that sending Slye out to attempt the kick was an example of Rhule “having supreme confidence in his players.” He also said it wasn’t a lack of confidence in the offense.

“It’s a tough situation,” he said. “I think if we had made it a more manageable down and distance, he probably would’ve went for it.”