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One yard short. That’s the difference between an all-time NFL record and a painful division loss.
New Orleans knocked off Carolina 27-24, but not before a bit of kicking drama. Joey Slye, a second-year kicker for Carolina out of Virginia Tech, set up from 65 yards out for a kick that would have tied the Panthers’ game against the Saints at 27 apiece.
In the Superdome, in the middle of the field, everything was perfectly primed for Slye to set an NFL record. The longest field goal in NFL history belongs to Matt Prater, who drilled a 64-yarder in Denver while a member of the Broncos in 2013. Tom Dempsey, the legendary Saint, hit a 63-yarder while playing in Tulane Stadium in 1970; that record stood unmatched for 28 years.
With three of its four teams bunched up at the top, every NFC South battle is a potential season-changer, and the game between Carolina and New Orleans was no exception. The contest seesawed back and forth, with New Orleans unable to shake off the Panthers. The game was tied midway through the fourth quarter, when New Orleans’ Will Lutz hit a go-ahead field goal with 7:55 remaining.
The Panthers, led by former Saint Teddy Bridgewater, then crawled downfield for most of the next six minutes of game clock, but a crucial sack just before the two-minute warning left Carolina with fourth down and 19 to go at the New Orleans 47. With no option to punt, Carolina opted for the kick ... and didn’t quite make it.
New Orleans now matches Tampa Bay’s division-leading 4-2 record, pending the outcome of the Bucs’ late game against Las Vegas. Carolina, meanwhile, falls to 3-4, still impressive considering how low their preseason expectations were.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him with tips and story ideas at email@example.com.
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