McLaughlin, the new arrival via free agency during the week, became a San Francisco 49er simply because the franchise's ever-reliable veteran kicker Robbie Gould wasn't healthy enough to play. That -- and McLaughlin's four-game stretch in which he made 66.7 percent of field goal attempts and 100 percent of point-after tries -- qualified the rookie to play fill-in on the national stage.
Through four quarters, he was crushing it. McLaughlin made all three of his field goal attempts in regulation, including a long of 47 yards to send the game to overtime. His story was gaining momentum at a blistering pace entering the extra period.
Even ESPN broadcasters Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland had shifted from referring to the rookie as a guy signed off the street to one who had embraced the pressure and was rising to the occasion.
When it came time to attempt it, McLaughlin duck-footed it so far to the left, the ball landed in the stadium's tunnel.
"I don't know exactly what happened," McLaughlin said, per NBC Sports Bay Area. "I'll have to look at it on film, but I rushed it a little bit and hit it a little high. Unfortunately, I missed it."
One has to feel for McLaughlin, who is with his fourth team since June and who was doing all the right things until that fateful attempt in overtime. One also has to feel for Gould, who could be seen agonizing on the sideline each time McLaughlin stepped up for a pressure-filled kick.
"He just said, 'Keep your head up,'" McLaughlin said of Gould. "This game has a lot of highs and some lows. Unfortunately, today was one of them."
Unlike other situations in which a team has to seriously consider a long-term change at the position, the 49ers can rest easy knowing they're 8-1, and they're getting Gould back sooner than later. Here's to hoping that McLaughlin gets another shot elsewhere.