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Around the NFC South: Drama afoot


It was a weird Week 7 for Panthers kicker Graham Gano.

That applied around the NFC South.

Gano twice trotted onto the field intent on attempting a field goal Sunday in Philadelphia, but in both cases he headed back without an attempt to his credit. At the end of the first half he twice booted kicks that didn't count because of false-start calls, the second of which took Carolina out of field goal range in the blustery conditions. Then at the start of the second half he was again set to kick a field goal, but a long discussion by officials that led to an intentional grounding penalty took Carolina out of range.

Gano holds the current NFL lead for consecutive field goals made with 25, but he missed an extra point Sunday. As did future Hall of Fame kicker Adam Vinatieri. As did future Hall of Fame kicker Justin Tucker.

That's where we begin.

SAINTS: Tucker seemed to be the only NFL kicker immune to the added challenge created by 33-yard PATs beginning in 2015 – until Sunday. He had made all 222 extra points in his career before picking a rough time to finally miss one. The Ravens had just pulled within one point of New Orleans with 24 seconds left and it was a virtual foregone conclusion that they would tie it. Tucker clearly thought the same based on his shocked look when his kick veered right.

Who knows who would have won the game, but that unexpected moment handed it to the Saints, who as a result maintained the top spot in the division at 5-1. Next up for New Orleans is a trip to a rounding-into-shape Vikings team that bent the Saints all out of shape last season with a stunning last-second playoff victory. The Ravens, meanwhile, will try to bounce back…against the Panthers in Charlotte.

FALCONS: Atlanta has one of the league's most reliable kickers in Matt Bryant, but his 43-year-old body let him down a little when he lifted his team with a 57-yard field goal that keyed a Week 6 victory over the Buccaneers. The Falcons didn't let Bryant's injury hamstring them, not hesitating to run Giorgio Tavecchio out for a 56-yard kick on Monday Night Football. Signed just six days before, Tavecchio's kick gave the Falcons a two-score lead with 1:55 left.

Had he missed it, the Giants would have taken over near midfield with a chance to tie the game. Instead, he sealed a second consecutive victory for a Falcons team trying to claw back into the division race. They're still in last place at 3-4 but at 2-1 in the division are back in position to challenge – though this week they'll be on their bye.

BUCCANEERS: Tampa has endured maybe more kicking issues than any team in the league since trading up to select Roberto Aguayo in the second round of the 2016 draft. The latest drama played out Sunday against the Browns, when Chandler Catanzaro missed a PAT and then a 40-yard field goal on the final play of regulation. In overtime (the Browns' fourth OT game), Catanzaro redeemed himself with the longest overtime field goal in NFL history, a 59-yarder that gave Tampa a 26-23 triumph.

The up-and-down Buccaneers, now 3-3, are set to visit the Bengals on Sunday before visiting the Panthers the next week.