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Eddy Piñeiro named NFC special teams player of the week

Eddy Piñeiro

CHARLOTTE — Eddy Piñeiro didn't get a piggyback ride this time, but he did get an award. 

The Panthers kicker was named NFC special teams player of the week Wednesday after his latest walk-off field goal to win a game.

The one he hit against the Texans in Week 8 seems like forever ago, but it was followed by a memorable celebration that saw him riding across the field on the back of punter Johnny Hekker. This time, the part he'll remember forever was the torrential rains and wind conditions they were playing in.

"That was probably one of the craziest winds I've ever played in in my six years in the NFL," Piñeiro said. "It was insane. Just the rain, the wind, and the ball was just heavier; it was just different.

"It was a cool experience; it was awesome. I felt like I was a kid again, playing soccer back home in Miami in the rain. It was awesome."

That kind of reaction was common among players, as the ridiculous weather conditions added a layer to everything about their second win of the season.

Piñeiro's game-winning kick was from 23 yards out, and he also hit from 25 and 34. He said other than adjusting some of his aiming points to account for the conditions, he tried to keep everything the same and not vary his method whether he was kicking from near or far.

"No, I just keep the process the same," he said. "You know, I've always taught myself, growing up kicking, you kick an extra point the same way you kick a 55-yarder. You want to be smooth; you want to get good contact on the ball, and just keep your technique the same because once you start trying to change your technique and change the way you kick the ball is when things go bad."

He did say his range was different depending on which end zone he was kicking into. Interim coach Chris Tabor called a timeout in the first quarter to take advantage of the winds for a punt, and Piñeiro said there was a considerable difference from one end to the other.

He estimated he was good from 48 to 50 yards when kicking toward the east end zone, but turned to the west he would have felt comfortable from 60 yards out.

"Yeah, I would say the way that I kicked the game-winner, the wind was into my face. I think they probably maxed out like 50 yards, 48 or 50. The wind was right in your face, a right-to-left wind. And I would say the other way, maybe even break an NFL record (The NFL record is 66 yards by Justin Tucker in 2021).

"I would say maybe 60 plus going the other way from how the wind was going, but also the ball was drenched, it was super wet, it was super heavy. So I think that plays a part in some distance, but it was definitely going; you can definitely kick the ball farther going the other way from where I hit the game-winner."

Piñeiro has proven himself reliable on most of his kicks since coming here last September.

He's hit 90.5 percent of his field goals in that time (57-of-63), lending some stability to a spot that needed it. He's the sixth kicker they've used to kick field goals in a game since Graham Gano's injury in 2018. Who can forget the Ryan Santoso era? Or the painful and ridiculous luck of Zane Gonzalez, injured twice against the Bills, once in the preseason and once in a pregame, forcing wide receiver Brandon Zylstra to kick off (Zylstra was Kamu Grugier-Hill before Kamu)? Or Chandler Catanzaro, or Lirim Hajrullahu, or offseason and practice squad kickers such as Dominik Eberle or Matt Ammendola, or Taylor Bertolet, or Blake Haubeil? So many kickers.

But now, with Sunday's three field goals, he moved out of a tie with Joey Slye to move into third on the team's all-time field goal list with 57. He's going to need to be here a long time to move up on that list since it's topped by John Kasay with 351 and Gano with 165. But in franchise history, there's those two, and now there's Piñeiro.

Tabor has always been an advocate and grinned when asked Sunday about running the clock down rather than trying to score a touchdown.

"We've got a lot of confidence in our kicker," Tabor said. "You know what, the 2-yard line, 3-yard line ball right in the middle, I like our chances."

Take a look at the best pictures from pregame, in-game, and postgame action from Sunday's win against the Falcons.

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