NEW ORLEANS – As Joey Slye was finishing a lonely, slow walk off the Superdome artificial turf Sunday night, he suddenly had some company. Quarterback Kyle Allen put his arm around the kicker who had just suffered the worst game of his rookie year.
Three missed kicks shorted the Panthers five points in a three-point loss. Clearly, blame would fall on Slye's shoulders. Allen knew the feeling.
"I told him I've been in the same exact spot he was last week. After throwing four picks last week, I didn't put us in a chance to win the game at all," Allen said. "I just told him, 'Look, man, it's going to happen.' Especially in a kicker's career, you see if from every kicker. People go through slumps sometimes. People miss kicks. It's not a big deal.
"It's a team game. I told him there's numerous other things in the game that could've went other ways where if we would have made plays on offense, if the defense would've made a couple more plays, he wouldn't have been put in that position. So it's not on him."
It was an impressive leadership moment for Allen, but words likely did little to clear Slye's mind. He did make two field goals, a 41-yarder in the second quarter and a 52-yard bomb in the third that tied him with Graham Gano (6 in 2013) for the most makes from 50-plus yards in a Panthers' single season. But Slye went wide right on two extra-point tries and what would have been a go-ahead 28-yarder with 2:00 left in the fourth quarter.
"If I'm pushing right, it usually means I'm planting too deep," Slye said.
"My heel was past the ball, that's going to leave my hips open to miss right. It's something I've been drilling."
The final miss wasn't without some controversy. As Slye slumped to the ground holding his helmet in his hands, a yellow flag flew. The Panthers began to celebrate and Slye pumped his fist in relief. A penalty would give the Panthers a fresh set of downs.
Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport had jumped over long-snapper J.J. Jansen and center Matt Paradis. Because Davenport was on the line of scrimmage, the leap appeared legal, but it was made possible because defensive tackle David Onyemata pushed Jansen down. Or that's what officials decided before they picked up the flag.
"One of the officials said they pulled me down. A different official said he pushed me down, and that was the difference. They're allowed to push, but they're not allowed to pull," Jansen said. "Two judgment calls and they deliberated and came to the conclusion that they did.
"The back of my helmet got pulled. I felt like it got pulled. They claim that it got pushed."
Nine plays, 65 yards and 1:53 later, the Saints lined up for their own short field goal. When Wil Lutz's 33-yard game-winner went through, Slye put his head down and began his walk.
"Everyone feels terrible, and I'm sure he probably feels worse than everybody else. So there's nothing we can say to cheer him up," Jansen said.
"I have full faith that he will bounce back quickly from this. It'll be a good learning lesson. I certainly have gone through a lot of experiences with guys who've struggled — momentarily struggled — and they go on to have rock-solid finish to their years and it's a blip on the radar. I anticipate that'll be the case here, but today hurts and there's no other way you can put it."
Which isn't to say Allen's attempted pep talk wasn't appreciated by Slye. It's just when you're that guy walking off the field, it must be impossible not to feel the weight of an entire roster.
"With the team and where we're going right now, I feel like people's backs were against the wall. I definitely wanted to be a part of a great win here. Honestly, I just feel terrible," Slye said. "The guys left everything they could on the field. We're a 5-5 team trying to make the playoffs and we needed a win like this against a divisional opponent.
"I had a huge hand in this loss, so I'm going to take it personally."
View photos from Week 12 as Carolina visits New Orleans.