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Bucs kicker Matt Gay’s rookie season ends with misses, frustration

Bucs kicker left nine points on the board in Tampa Bay’s overtime loss to the Falcons
Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Matt Gay (9) walks off the field after missing a field goal during the second half at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Sunday, December 29, 2019. The Atlanta Falcons defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28-22 in overtime.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Matt Gay (9) walks off the field after missing a field goal during the second half at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Sunday, December 29, 2019. The Atlanta Falcons defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28-22 in overtime. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Published Dec. 30, 2019

TAMPA — Matt Gay’s rookie season ended Sunday with all three of his field goals wide of the uprights, leaving his coach looking for answers and Gay already counting down until his shot at redemption.

The Bucs lost to Atlanta 28-22 in overtime and had Gay hit just one field goal they might have won in regulation.

His misses were from 49, 44 and 34 yards. His first-quarter miss was wide right, and he missed wide left on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter. Gay’s second miss came after a bad snap.

After Gay missed two extra points and a potential game-winning field goal in a 32-31 home loss to the Giants on Sept. 22, he converted his next 17 of 18 kicks over the next 10 games. He missed five of eight attempts over the final three games.

“Had a great week of practice. Had a great pregame. Even had a great halftime when I came out,” Gay said. “That’s the frustrating part, sitting here thinking, why? Why does that have to happen? The truth of the matter is I left nine points on the board, and I put my team in a really tough spot.”

Coach Bruce Arians said after the game that Gay’s struggles have come at home. Each of Gay’s five field goal misses at Raymond James Stadium were on kicks into the south end. His extra-point percentage was 72.2 at home and 82.3 on the road.

“I don’t think there’s an issue, a curse on that side of the stadium,” Gay said. “… It doesn’t matter where you’re kicking. Some guys have to kick in snow in Buffalo. You have to kick in Chicago.”

But it definitely left Gay, who had a 86.7 percent field goal conversion rate going into the season’s final three games, focused on coming back better next season.

“It’s a tough way to end the season,” Gay said. “There were some ups and downs, but I felt like I had a good year. And then to go out like that, it’s frustrating. It just kind of leaves you thinking about it. If that happens earlier in the year, you’re like, OK solid year. It lights a fire."

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieintheYard