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Graham Gano comes through in the clutch

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Most people leave kickers alone when games are coming down to the wire.

But wide receiver Devin Funchess had something to say to kicker Graham Gano after the Patriots tied Sunday's game at 30 with just over three minutes remaining.

"He was the only guy, I guess everybody leaves the kicker to do his own thing," Gano said. "He said to me, 'We'll get you in range don't even worry.' I said, 'I'm not, you get me in range and I'll put it through.'"

Funchess and the Panthers offense delivered on their end, driving from their own 24-yard line and setting up Gano for a 48-yard field goal attempt with four seconds on the clock.

And once Carolina crossed midfield, it became pretty clear they were fully intent on putting it on the kicker.

"To get the ball back, drive down and set it up – I mean we weren't trying to score a touchdown, we were trying to get in range for Graham to hit it," long snapper JJ Jansen said.

For Gano, who had missed a point after attempt in the third quarter, it was a chance for redemption. But he didn't look at it that way. Instead, he just focused on putting his foot through the ball and winning the game.

"Those moments are fun," Gano said. "I knew once the ball left my foot it was game over."

Gano's kick sailed through the uprights, securing a 33-30 victory for Carolina over the reigning Super Bowl champs at Gillette Stadium.

He's converted a lot of big kicks in big moments, but this one secured a spot on his short list of greatest hits.

"This one is pretty special, especially doing it here in Foxborough," Gano said. "This one is definitely up there."

It's special for a lot of reasons.

Gano struggled through a foot injury last season, then entered a competition for his job against rookie seventh-round draft choice Harrison Butker this offseason.

Gano won the job – and Butker is now kicking for the Chiefs – but two misses during the preseason created a lot of outside noise and pressure.

Well, with his game-winner against New England, Gano is now 10-for-10 on the year. That third quarter PAT is the only miss he's had.

And he sure made up for it.

"Graham's our guy," linebacker Shaq Thompson said. "We all believe in him."


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