Joey Slye's meltdown likely finishes Panthers' playoff hopes

NEW ORLEANS -- Kicker Joey Slye was making a solid case for the Carolina Panthers to keep him over injured veteran Graham Gano next year.

That was before Sunday’s meltdown at New Orleans. Now he’ll be lucky to make it to next week.

Slye missed two extra points and a chip-shot 28-yard field goal with 1:56 remaining and a tie score to spoil a heroic effort by quarterback Kyle Allen and wide receiver DJ Moore. The 34-31 loss to the Saints on a last-second field goal by Will Lutz dropped Carolina to 5-6 with its third straight loss.

Allen was coming off a four-interception performance in a 29-3 home loss to Atlanta that put the Panthers in a must-win situation in the NFC playoff race. He’d had nine interceptions in a four-game stretch and the growing pains were killing playoff hopes.

Allen’s struggles also raised questions about whether he could be the quarterback of the future if the Panthers opt to move on from Cam Newton, on injured reserve with a Lisfranc injury, next season.

Allen completed 23 of 36 pass attempts for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those went to Moore, who had six catches for 126 yards, the third time in four games he has topped 100 yards receiving.

That Allen overcame a 14-0 deficit makes his performance even more impressive. He’s made many of his past mistakes trying to do too much in catch-up mode.

On this day he returned to being the efficient quarterback the Panthers believe he can be.

But it was spoiled by a terrible day by Slye, an undrafted kicker who won the job to start the season after Gano was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury.

Describe the game in two words: Total heartbreak. The Panthers gave it their all in this one only to be denied by missed kicks. Entering the game, NFL kickers were 134-of-134 on field goals 28 yards and in, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

QB breakdown: Allen took a giant leap forward in terms of maturing as a quarterback. A week after a bad loss to Atlanta, facing a 14-0 deficit on Sunday against a Saints defense that ranked sixth in the NFL, Allen gave the Panthers a chance with the type of game management the staff has wanted from him since Newton was shut down after Week 2. He was at his best on the final drive of the first half, directing a 17-play touchdown drive to cut the deficit to 17-15.

Pivotal play: The Panthers put wide receiver Moore back returning punts a few games ago to add more spark and consistency to that unit. But on the second punt of the game, Rashaan Gaulden ran into Moore and the punt hit Gaulden on the ankle, setting New Orleans up for a quick second touchdown and 14-0 lead. Ultimately, that was too much for Allen and the offense to overcome with the defense able to shut down Drew Brees and Michael Thomas.

Troubling trend: Slye had missed only two extra points all season. His three misses on Sunday could have Carolina shopping for options.