Carolina Panthers kickers went 2-for-2 on game-winning field goals this week.
Of course, one was Graham Gano, Carolina’s veteran, who drilled a 48-yard kick as time expired to help the Panthers defeat the New England Patriots 33-30. Gano’s kick lifted the Panthers’ record to 3-1, tied for the best record in the NFC.
But remember Harrison Butker, the Panthers’ other kicker this offseason?
After Gano’s underwhelming 2016 season, when he missed eight kicks, the Panthers drafted Butker in the seventh round of April’s NFL draft out of Georgia Tech.
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Then this offseason, Butker battled Gano for the Panthers’ kicking job. It was close, so close that the team elected to keep both players. Gano won the job and stayed on the 53-man roster, but the team stashed Butker on its practice squad.
Or at least it did until last week. That’s when the Kansas City Chiefs signed him to their active roster after their starter, Cairo Santos, was injured. Kansas City ultimately waived Santos.
Monday night’s game against Washington was Butker’s first NFL regular-season game, and it couldn’t have started worse. On his first kick, a 46-yard try, the ball sailed wide left.
But Butker proved to have a short memory, nailing his next two kicks.
Then with seconds left and the game tied at 20, he got a chance to end the game. After the play clock wound down and Washington took a timeout, Butker trotted back onto the field and knocked the ball 43 yards through the upright for the three-point lead.
While Kansas City scored on a fluky defensive touchdown on the game’s last play to bring the final score to 29-20, Butker’s field goal was the true game-winning play.
Turns out the Panthers were onto something when they picked him, after all.