CINCINNATI — Mike Nugent's kick sailed wide right, but postgame the Cincinnati Bengals placekicker was right down the middle.
"I've got one job to do," said the 10-year-veteran, facing the media in front of his locker at Paul Brown Stadium, "and I didn't do it today."
Never mind he made three field goals.
"A day like today, only one thing sticks out," Nugent said. "It's not the three you made. It's the one you missed."
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And because Nugent missed, shanking a 36-yard field goal at the end of overtime, the crowd of 57,053 witnessed a gridiron rarity, an actual football tie.
The Bengals and Carolina Panthers played 75 minutes. Each team scored 37 points. The Panthers are 3-2-1. The Bengals are 3-1-1.
It's happened before, right here in this stadium. Back in 2008, the Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles played to a 13-13 tie when Cincinnati kicker Shayne Graham missed a 47-yard field goal with seven seconds left in overtime. Afterward, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb gained national attention when he admitted he did not know the NFL allowed such a thing.
To be honest, Sunday, a tie felt about right.
Cincinnati let a 17-10 second-quarter lead slip away. Carolina let a 24-17 third-quarter lead slip away.
After Reggie Nelson intercepted gave Cincinnati the ball at the Panthers' 24 with the game tied 31-31, offensive tackle Andre Smith was called for holding bringing back a Jeremy Hill touchdown run.
In overtime, with the Bengals' up 37-34, Vontaze Burfict committed his third penalty of the day, an illegal contact foul on third-and-10 that kept Carolina's field goal drive alive.
"We moved the ball on offense, but we can't have the turnovers," Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis said. "We can't have the penalties."
Despite Andy Dalton's two interceptions, despite the Bengals allowing Carolina quarterback Cam Newton 107 yards on 17 carries, despite the fact Cincinnati was without star receiver A.J. Green (toe injury), the home team still had a chance to win it.
"Nobody feels worse than Mike," Lewis said.
As the media waited at Nugent's locker for the former Ohio State star to dress, Burfict made one last attempt at playing defense.
"Come on, man," the linebacker told the media. "Don't you have any sympathy?"
Nugent faced the music beautifully.
"The last four games, I've been warming up great, but it doesn't matter," he said. "I've got to do it in the game."
Already, Nugent's 2014 has been hit-and-miss. After making five of six at Baltimore in the opener, Nugent missed four of seven attempts over the next three games. He was eight-of-13 on the season.
Sunday, he started three-for-three. Nugent hit a 44-yard field goal in the second quarter to put the Bengals up 17-10. He drilled a 38-yarder with 2:11 left in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 31. He made a 42-yarder with 8:35 left in overtime to put Cincinnati up 37-34.
Under the NFL's overtime rules, Carolina was allowed a matching possession, and the Panthers kicked a field goal to tie the score one more time.
Back came the Bengals. Wideout James Wright made his first career reception a 24-yard pass from Dalton to put the Bengals at the 16. On the next snap, Dalton took a knee in the middle of the field to set up the 36-yard kick.
"I didn't even look up," said Nugent of what it felt like when foot met leather. "It was probably the worst I've ever hit the ball in a game."
Standing there at his locker, you could tell how badly Nugent felt. He talked about having to face his coaches and teammates. He talked about how some would say there were other mistakes that cost the Bengals more — "We should never have put him that position," Hill said — but he didn't believe that.
He talked about how he wasn't going to change his Sunday night dinner plans, that a kicker has to have a short-term memory.
"You can't freak out over one missed kick," he said.
And yet, Nugent said, "At the end of the year, it's going to be very difficult to see that one at the end of the record."