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After another critical miss, is Panthers kicker Graham Gano’s job in jeopardy?

Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano jogs off the field after Sunday’s 41-38 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Gano missed an extra point that ultimately didn’t figure in the outcome, but he didn’t get a ringing endorsement from coach Ron Rivera afterward.
Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano jogs off the field after Sunday’s 41-38 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Gano missed an extra point that ultimately didn’t figure in the outcome, but he didn’t get a ringing endorsement from coach Ron Rivera afterward. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Graham Gano missed another critical kick for the Carolina Panthers on Sunday and afterward he did not exactly get a ringing endorsement from his coach.

After Carolina scored with 9 minutes, 38 seconds to go in the fourth quarter to slice the New Orleans lead to 31-30, Gano pushed an extra point wide right. The Panthers would ultimately make up for this by converting on a two-point play on their next touchdown to tie the game at 38-all, so Gano’s kick did not figure in the final outcome.

Still, his errant kick was noticeable in this errant season.

Said coach Ron Rivera when asked after the game if he had any concern about his kicker: “We’ll see. You’ve got to look at what’s happened – not just now, but what’s happened over the period of time. There’s some things that we’re going to look at and evaluate obviously, and we’ll see what happens.”

Gano has made 9-of-12 field goals this season, but the misses have been big. He missed from 43 yards against Tampa Bay last week in a game Carolina ultimately lost by three. He also missed a 50-yard field goal in the high altitude at Denver that would have beaten the Broncos in the final seconds. Gano is in the third year of a four-year, $12.4 million deal that runs through 2017, so the Panthers would take a substantial salary-cap hit if he was released.

Gano said the misses have been “frustrating” but defended his overall season.

“I feel like I have been having a good year, overall, looking at it,” he said. “It’s been a good year. There are some I wish I could have back at inopportune times for sure. I don’t have any excuses for it, I just have to make them.”

Gano said on the extra-point miss that he hit the ball well but “I just stayed straight.” He did make his only field-goal attempt, from 42 yards, and his kickoffs, as usual, were sound.

“Overall I had a great game and put all the kicks where they wanted me to put them,” he said.

▪ Cam Newton threw an end-zone interception in the second quarter, but wide receiver Devin Funchess took the blame for it. On the play, Funchess was trying to get to the corner of the end zone but did not, as Saints cornerback Sterling Moore delivered a legal bump within 5 yards and then made an acrobatic interception.

Said Funchess: “I messed up on the play. It was a miscommunication. ... Nothing on Cam. That’s why he picked the ball off.”

▪ It’s no consolation for Carolina, but Newton set one team record and tied another. He threw for 322 yards, giving him 19,559 for his career – the most in team history. Jake Delhomme held the previous record.

With his 2-yard rushing touchdown, Newton earned the 46th rushing TD of his career. That tied DeAngelo Williams for the most in team history.

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