CHARLOTTE — As Roberto Aguayo rehearsed his motion, blasting kick after kick into a practice net, his Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammates didn’t know what to do.
Some kept their distance, whispered to each other and stared. A few offered a quick pep talk or a slap on the helmet.
Quarterback Jameis Winston told Aguayo: “Be ready.”
In the end, it would come down to the often-unreliable right foot of the rookie kicker.
But after doinking a 33-yard field goal in the second quarter and hooking a 46-yarder wide left in the fourth, Aguayo connected on a 38-yard boot as time expired Monday night, providing the winning margin in a 17-14 victory over the reigning NFC champion Carolina Panthers.
“Not the game I wanted to have,” Aguayo said afterward, “but at the end of the day, we made the one that counted and got the W.”
The kick kept Tampa Bay’s (2-3) season afloat while dealing a potentially mortal blow to Carolina (1-4).
But Aguayo's misses are a big concern for the Bucs, who traded two picks to get him in the second round of this spring's draft.
Twitter dubbed him "Aguay-No,” “Ag-wide-o,” and “Ughuayo" even though a 3-for-5 evening raised his field-goal conversion rate to 50% on the season. He's also misfired on an extra point.
That's why after Aguayo’s fourth-quarter miss with 3:38 left to play and the score tied, coach Dirk Koetter wanted to drive the ball as close as possible when the Bucs got the ball back with 1:49 to go.
“I wasn’t comfortable,” Koetter said. “We couldn’t have gotten close enough.”
It’s certainly a positive note to win the game, but Aguayo’s inconsistency is clearly making the Bucs uneasy.
“That is awesome that he made it, but we can’t miss those field goals," said Koetter. "What do you want me to say? We can’t miss those. That could’ve lost us the game.”
Winston seemed more supportive of Aguayo, who was also his teammate at Florida State.
“He steps up when it counts," said the quarterback.
Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes