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Strickly Panthers: Mare kicking himself

CHARLOTTE - Olindo Mare doesn't know exactly why his potential game-tying field goal sailed wide left, but he knew it was off the mark the instant he lifted his head up.

Following the miss in the final minute of the Panthers' 24-21 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, his teammates told him to keep his head up.

"I'll put my money on Olindo every time," left tackle Jordan Gross said. "That's tough, but he's a great kicker. It shouldn't have gotten to that point.

"Every week that we lose, it seems like we find a way to make it easy on the other team. Today was no different."

While Mare's teammates quickly came to his defense, Mare himself found the miss to be indefensible.

He had made 34 of his last 38 field goals from 30-39 yards, with the 31-yarder obviously on the short end of the range. This season, he had hit 13 of 15 field goals, his only misses coming on a block and a 52-yarder.

"Everything was perfect. I just screwed it up," Mare said. "It's difficult when your team puts you in a position to succeed, and you don't come through.


"It's unfortunate. It's a game we needed to win and should have won. You want to make that kick because you want to go out and contribute to a win."

Mare, in his 15th NFL season, has enjoyed many last-second victories and has endured some last-second losses. He entered the game having made 11 game-winning field goals in the final minute of regulation or in overtime.

"I don't think you get nervous when you've done it before," Mare said. "Excited – maybe overexcited, too anxious – but not nervous."

Even with all his experience, Sunday presented him with his first opportunity for late-game heroics as a Panther since being signed before training camp.

"We brought him in for a reason, because we believe he can be our guy for the next few years," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "He is a heck of a football player. He is going to get more chances to win football games for us.

"It's unfortunate. He had an opportunity, and he knows it. He's a professional. He will fix it."

Mare said everything seemed routine about the kick, from the snap to the hold and even to the feeling of the ball off his foot.

"We've all been there. We've all missed things that are routine to us," Panthers tight end Greg Olsen said. "Olindo has been one of the best guys in the league for what feels like 30 years. It happens to the best of them.

"There's not a confidence issue or anything like that. The next time he gets out there, he'll knock it through."

Mare said if he were in his teammate's shoes, he'd be angry. He got just the opposite treatment, beginning when holder Jason Baker gave him a sympathetic pat on the helmet right after the kick sailed wide.

No one on the team, however, can truly know what it's like to be in the kicker's shoes at such a moment.

"As much of a team sport as it is, it's a very isolated position," Mare said. "This is what makes you good. It's something that I'll remember and learn from. You can't be scared to fail, or you're not going to succeed.

"I'll get through it. I've made kicks and missed kicks before, but this was an important kick for all of us."

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