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The Carolina Panthers were forced to hold impromptu tryouts to find a make-shift kicker just moments before the start of their clash with the Buffalo Bills on Monday morning (AEDT).
Regular place-kicker Zane Gonzalez had to be helped from the field after injuring his right quadricep during the warm-up. Cue panic stations.
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A host of Panthers players from different positions put their hand up to fill the void, but it’s fair to say none of them really built a strong case with their showing in pre-game warm-ups.
— br_betting (@br_betting) December 19, 2021
Among those considered to step into Gonzalez’s shoes was Australian punter Lachlan Edwards. Edwards was spotted practicing kickoffs and attempting drop-kick field goals prior to the start of the game.
— Steve Boothe ⭐️⭐️ (@Smoothe_1) December 19, 2021
If Lachlan Edwards handles the placements, then you need a new holder. Or the Australian-born Edwards could try drop kicks, which he was doing in warmups.
— Joe Person (@josephperson) December 19, 2021
However, the 29-year-old was eventually overlooked for the role, with NFL on FOX presenter Curt Menefee explaining the reasoning behind the decision.
“You would think a punter could kick but he’s Australian. He didn’t grow up kicking field goals so he doesn’t know how to do it,” Menefee said.
“They’re going to rely on other players to do that.”
Rhule says Lachlan Edwards wasn’t comfortable kicking off. So the #Panthers have a WR do it and he did pretty well.
How is an NFL punter uncomfortable kicking off???
— Nick Carboni (@NickCarboniWCNC) December 19, 2021
Carolina Panthers explain unconventional kicking decisions
Speaking after the game, Panthers coach Matt Rhule elaborated on why Edwards wasn’t called on the kick field goals.
“We tried Lachlan out, but he just wasn’t really comfortable kicking off,” Rhule said.
The Panthers eventually settled on wide-receiver Brandon Zylstra handling kickoff duties while opting not to attempt a field goal or extra point throughout the duration of the contest.
The Panthers' kicker is hurt, so they've got a wide receiver kicking today.
Here's how it's going: pic.twitter.com/nK8lPXXtF5
— BetOnline.ag (@betonline_ag) December 19, 2021
As a result, Carolina were forced to go for it five times on fourth down and only converted one try. The Panther were ultimately unable to match it with the Bills, who ran away with a 31-14 victory on the back of three touchdown passes from Josh Allen.
Rhule said not having the option to attempt field goals and take points on offer was a big factor in the outcome of the game.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t start off by thanking (Brandon) Zylstra for stepping up and kicking off and just kind of doing whatever he could to help the team after Zane’s injury in pregame.” Rhule said.
“Obviously, it precluded us from kicking some field goals at times and keeping it a different game.”
The severity of Gonzalez’s injury is still to be determined, but it doesn’t look promising for the 26-year-old.
“He did his warm-up, went to make his first kick and pulled his thigh,” Rhule said.
“It was pretty sever. We had to help him off the field.. the extent of it beyond that, I don’t know.”
The loss saw the Panthers record drop to 5-9 on the season, all but ending their playoff hopes, while the Bills improved to 8-6, keeping them in the hunt for the AFC East division title.
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