CINCINNATI -- Monday night's overtime thriller was decided by just three points.
That fact isn't lost on Cincinnati Bengals kicker Mike Nugent, who missed a 45-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter of the prime-time game at Denver's Sports Authority Field. In the moments immediately following the Bengals' 20-17 defeat, it was clear Nugent understood the impact a make instead of a miss could have had on the game's outcome.
"I can't stand it when the offense is out there working so hard and I cause us to lose an opportunity like that," Nugent said just before leaving the locker room. "Playing against a team like Denver, points are at a premium, and just ... they're at a premium. You've got to hit those field goals."
The miss was one of two for Nugent in the past three games. He also was just short on a 54-yarder against the Steelers during a Week 14 loss.
Still, 2015 has been for the most part a good year for a player who has taken his share of grief in recent years for missing pivotal kicks. Last October, it was a 34-yard chip shot that Nugent missed right as time expired in overtime against Carolina that left the Bengals with a tie that ultimately had very little impact by season's end.
Since that midseason miss last year, Nugent has made 38 of his 44 field-goal attempts, including a career-long 57-yard blast in a wild-card round playoff loss. His 81.5 percent accuracy so far this season ranks as the fifth-best in his 11-year career.
But those statistics don't change the fact Nugent missed a pivotal kick Monday in a game that could have locked the Bengals into the AFC's No. 2 seed. Now they need help this coming Sunday from San Diego (and perhaps Kansas City) to claim a first-round bye. A win over the Ravens isn't required in order for the Bengals to secure the 2 seed, but it certainly would help.
Later in Monday night's game, Nugent did deliver a 52-yard field goal that brought the game to a 17-all tie before the end of regulation.
"I'm glad I learned from [the miss] and moved on and hit the next one," he said.
As for the miss, Nugent wasn't quite sure how the ball sailed so far right of the uprights. Although he didn't think he struck the ball on the miss as well as he had other balls during the game, Nugent believed it left his foot solidly enough to be good.
"I obviously didn't try to align it the way I hit it," Nugent said. "The way I took my steps back and over, I was just a little close to the ball. And when you're a little close, you push it like that. Because it was a solid hit, it leads me to believe it was just an alignment issue. Even as an 11-year vet, it's something that can get the best of you. I don't like it when that happens because you're setting yourself up. You use those steps for a reason and I messed those up [Monday]."