Coaches, teammates lift Maher as 49ers game looms

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Chris Carlson/AP/Shutterstock (13718817de) Dallas Cowboys place kicker Brett Maher (19) watches his extra point miss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of an NFL wild-card football game, in Tampa, Fla Cowboys Buccaneers Football, Tampa, United States – 16 Jan 2023

Coaches, teammates lift Maher as 49ers game looms

On a night when everything seemed to go the Cowboys way, kicker Brett Maher was left to wonder what had just happened.

The Cowboys celebrated a 31-14 win over Tampa Bay, punching their ticket to a Divisional round matchup with the San Francisco 49ers, while Maher was surely in a state of shock over his four kicks missed in the game.

“Super happy for the team, this is a big win for us,” Maher said. “Definitely didn’t do my part tonight. This team is too good moving forward for me not to do that, so we’ll get back at it this week.”

It was the worst night of his NFL kicking journey, missing four-straight extra points – something that had not been done in professional football since Canton Bulldogs kicker Pete Henry did it just over 100 years ago.

But his teammates quickly rallied around a guy that has been rock solid for them this season.

“I feel very fortunate to have the teammates that I do and be in the locker room and have the coaching staff that I do,” said Maher, who made 50 of 53 extra points and 29 of 32 field goals during the regular season. “They absolutely lifted me up (Monday). So, I appreciate every single one of them, and it’s time for me to do my part.”

Maher’s night started with misses wide right on the first two extra-point tries of the game. His third try went wide left, and his fourth hit the upright, as Dallas, luckily, had taken a 24-0 lead.

His final opportunity to put any points on the board for the Cowboys came just two plays after Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy refused to try a very makeable 35-yard field goal. Maher didn’t even get four steps onto the field before being called back to the sidelines on fourth-and-4 from the Tampa Bay 18.

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott hit CeeDee Lamb for a touchdown on that fourth down, before Maher trotted out for a fifth attempt at an extra point. This one was good.

“I talked to him individually, told him after the game to let that go, we are gonna need it,” Prescott said. “I just played like (expletive) a week ago, so that happens. But when you believe in each other, and you believe in what we are capable of doing, and knowing what that guy has done and the resiliency that he has shown throughout his career. Personally, no doubt that he will come back next week and be perfect and help us win.”

Maher has had issues before. He missed 10 of his 30 field goal attempts in 2019, and the Cowboys cut him after a Thursday night loss in Chicago in Week 13.

After being out of football in 2020 and kicking for New Orleans in 2021, the Cowboys brought Maher back after kickers Lirim Hajrullahu, and Jonathan Garibay could not win the job this preseason.

“We need Brett. He understands that” McCarthy said. “We need to get back on it this week and get him ready to go. Obviously, we are kicking in an outdoor stadium out there in Santa Clara. He’s disappointed, but we need him. We need him to focus in. He’s been super clutch for us all year.”

Barring something unforeseen in practice leading up to Sunday’s game, Maher will be the Cowboys’ kicker against San Francisco.

“It was just one of those days,” Cowboys special teams coordinator John Fassel said. “He was distraught like I am – I share in all the players’ agony like he should be; he’s a competitor. He knows it was just a bad day at the office. But I have full confidence that he’ll rebound.”

Maher and the Cowboys take on the 49ers in another road playoff game at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.

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