CHARLOTTE, NC Entering Sunday's game, in nearly 14-12 seasons as a placekicker in the NFL, Olindo Mare had converted 81.6 percent of his field-goal attempts, including 90 percent from less than 40 yards.
But on Sunday, the reliable Carolina Panthers veteran botched a 31-yard attempt with 26 seconds left, allowing the Minnesota Vikings to escape with a 24-21 victory.
Mare was upset after the miss, holding his head down as he walked off the field while the Vikings celebrated. While Mare took full blame for the team's loss, saying he "let the team down, the coaches down, the fans down, everybody," his teammates didn't see it that way.
"Whoever thinks this game came down to the last possession is a fool," Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said. "Offensively, defensively, we had our opportunities, man. And we just, we just didn't finish it off.
"Olindo is a hell of a kicker, and I will bet my last dollar every time, every time in that situation again."
Tight end Greg Olsen also wasn't interested in pointing the finger at Mare.
"We shouldn't have even been in there at the end," he said. "We left so much out there. They brought me here to make those plays at the end. You have a play in the end zone contested or whatever, but you have to come down with those. The game would have been over right there. It was all of us.
"Olindo has been one of the best guys in the league for what feels like 30 years. It happens to the best of them."
Panthers coach Ron Rivera didn't need to console his kicker. Rivera understands kickers have their own worlds they go to in order to deal with success and struggles, and it's best if the others around them stay away from it.
But he's the head coach, so he had to say something.
"The only thing I did for Olindo was I went and told him to keep his head up," Rivera said. "He's a heck of a football player. He is going to get chances to win football games for us, and I believe that. We brought him here for a reason because we believe he can be our guy for the next few years."
Newton said there were many things the team could have done better to avoid needing Mare's leg just to reach overtime.
"Go back in the third quarter and look at the drives," he said, referring to three consecutive three-and-outs by Carolina's offense in the second half. "We had our opportunities, so I won't sit up here, and I will be damned if somebody sits up there and points the pressure on one particular person where it was a collective loss."