JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)—The only thing missing was the band … and the extra point.
The result was a 20-19 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars that dropped the Saints out of the playoff race. It will surely go down as one of the most twisted, cruel moments in the 37-year history of the star-struck franchise.
“This seems to be, as far as kickers are concerned, as bad as it gets,” Carney said.
The Saints (7-8), coming off Joe Horn’s cell phone shenanigans last week, looked like they had a play, a moment, to put that whole episode behind them. Instead, they’ll have the whole offseason to wonder about what might have been.
“This is awful,” said Saints receiver Michael Lewis, who was in on the play. “I can’t explain how it feels to go from one emotion to the other.”
With six seconds left and the Saints trailing 20-13, Aaron Brooks passed to Donte’ Stallworth, who flipped the ball to Lewis. He pitched back to Deuce McAllister, who lateraled to Jerome Pathon, who went the final 21 yards and dove in for the score.
“The only thing missing was the band,” Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said, recalling the ending of the famous 1982 Stanford-Cal game, a play that looked eerily similar to this.
A long video review ensued, and after referee Gerry Austin determined all the passes were legal laterals, the teams lined up for the extra point.
Carney, 403-for-408 on extra points over his 14-year career and 35-for-35 this season, hit a dead push, sailing the kick wide right. He stared at the ground in disbelief when it was over. Saints coach Jim Haslett squinted into the sun—yes, that really did happen.
Earlier this season, Haslett said he trusted Carney so completely, he would stake his life on him. Reminded of that statement Sunday, the coach said, “Then, I’d probably be dead right now. He’s one of the great all-time kickers. I never would have guessed this would happen.”
After the miss, the Jaguars (5-10) jumped up and down like they had just won the Super Bowl.
All they really did, though, was improve to 5-3 at home—their first winning record at Alltel since 1999—and give Mark Brunell a nice sendaway in his final home game with Jacksonville.
And really, Carney’s push will only go down as the second most shocking miss in the nine-year history of the Jaguars. In the final game of the 1996 season, Morten Andersen missed a 30-yard field-goal attempt with four seconds left to help Jacksonville hold onto a 19-17 win over Atlanta. That miss sent the Jaguars into the playoffs, an unlikely run that ended in the AFC title game.
More fresh in the Jaguars’ minds was a desperation pass the Cleveland Browns completed last year for a touchdown with no time left. The extra point there gave the Browns a 21-20 win.
“I had a flashback to Cleveland last year,” Jaguars receiver Jimmy Smith said. “That’s just another example that you have to keep playing until the clock hits zero.”
And sometimes even beyond.
That the Saints had a chance in this game was surprising, given the domination by Jacksonville.
Horn, who had four touchdowns last week, caught only two passes for 39 yards, and wasn’t on the field for the final play, due to a shoulder injury. New Orleans allowed Fred Taylor to run for a season-high 194 yards. Still, when the clock hit :00, the Saints were only one wacky play away from tying things up.
Stallworth caught the ball at the 50, slipped three tackles and flipped a lateral over to Lewis at the Jaguars 33. Of the three laterals, that one looked the most like a forward pass—think Music City Miracle—but Austin ruled the pass hadn’t gone forward.
“It was definitely a lateral, backward pass,” Austin said.
Lewis ran a few yards, then turned backward and flipped to McAllister, who saw Pathon in the middle of the field and threw the ball to him. With the help of a block by Brooks, who was moving downfield with the play, Pathon went the final 21 yards untouched and dove into end zone.
Carney, meanwhile, was on ice for about two minutes while the review was conducted. Punter Mitch Berger gave him an out, saying his hold wasn’t very good. But the kicker was making no excuses.
“I just came out of the kick early and pushed it,” Carney said. “I wasprepared. I was ready to get back in the game.”
Notes: With 34 carries for 194 yards, Taylor set the franchise records for both carries (323) and rushing yards (1,451) … Jaguars DE Tony Brackens left the game with an injured knee. … McAllister ran for 50 yards and needs 82 more yards to break George Rogers’ franchise record for yards in a season.