The Dallas Cowboys played a nearly perfect game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday; well, except for one player. Brett Maher suffered a total meltdown on a night where he missed a total of four extra points, going just 1 for 5 in the Cowboys' 31-14 win.
The performance wasn't just bad, it was historically bad. With the four misses, Maher became the first kicker in NFL history to miss four extra points in a game.
Maher seems to have caught a case of the yips. Not only did he miss his first four attempts against the Buccaneers, but he also missed his only attempt in Week 18, which brought his streak of consecutive misses to five. However, that streak ended in the fourth quarter Monday when Maher finally made an extra point, which elicited a loud cheer from the crowd at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Despite Maher's historic playoff meltdown, the Cowboys are planning to stick with him for their divisional round playoff matchup against the 49ers.
"I believe in the hot hand, and I believe in the yips, absolutely," special teams coordinator John Fassel said, via ESPN. "And you know, you wonder sometimes how you get into the yips, and you wonder sometimes how you get back into the hot hand. I think it's keep stepping up to the line and shooting that thing. We missed a couple of free throws [Monday] ... He had a hot hand. Let's face it, he only missed [six] kicks all season. The yips happen, so I expect a hot hand coming up."
Dallas has added some insurance, however, as the team announced Wednesday that it signed Tristan Vizcaino to the practice squad. Vizcaino, 26, kicked for the Arizona Cardinals this season with Matt Prater sidelined. In Week 10 versus the Los Angeles Rams, he made both of his field goals and all three of his extra points. He then joined the New England Patriots, where he served as the kickoff man in Weeks 13 and 16.
A 2018 undrafted free agent, Vizcaino has made 11 of his 12 career field goals (47 long) but only 15 of his 20 extra points. Still, don't expect Vizcaino to see the field unless Maher continues to struggle.
"It doesn't take anything away from our trust in Brett," head coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday regarding Vizcaino's signing (via Yahoo Sports). "It's part of the responsibility. We just want to make sure we're in position to always add depth to our football team."
Maher also seems to have the support of his teammates.
Talking with Brett Maher in the Cowboys locker room and several of his teammates shouted out how they support and love him— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) January 17, 2023
One especially supportive teammate was Dak Prescott.
"I'm Money Maher's biggest fan," Prescott said following the win. "I talked to him individually after the game, just told him, 'Hey let that go, we're going to need it' I just played like s--- a week ago, so that happens. So I mean that happens. Knowing what that guy's done, with the resiliency he's shown throughout his career. Personally, no doubt that he'll comeback and be perfect and help us win."
Dak Prescott sticks up for Brett Maher:— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) January 17, 2023
"I'm Money Maher's biggest fan... I just played like s--- a week ago"
🎥: @CBSSportsHQ pic.twitter.com/SZqINWv1FB
The Cowboys kicker struggled on extra points at times during the regular season, but it never got this bad. During the 2022 season, he hit 50 of 53 extra points, which was good for a 94.3% conversion rate that ranked 22nd for any kicker who attempted 15 or more extra points.
Maher will get his shot to bounce back in the divisional round as Vizcaino was not activated from the practice squad.
Although he couldn't hit from short range Monday, Maher has come up clutch multiple times over the year and he's had no problem hitting long kicks for the Cowboys. Not only did he go 9 of 11 from 50 yards or more in 2022, but he also holds the NFL record for most field goals of 60 yards or more with four. It's the short stuff that's been troublesome.
Since the extra point was moved to 33 yards back in 2015, some kickers have struggled, but they almost never struggle like Maher did on Monday night. As a matter of fact, only one other kicker has even missed three extra points in any game over the past seven years and that was Matt Gay, who went 2 for 5 while playing for the Buccaneers in a 35-22 win against the Falcons in November 2019 (Gay now plays for the Rams).
Besides Gay and Maher, you have to go all the way back to 1993 to find a game where a kicker missed three extra points (Roger Ruzek did it while playing for the Eagles), but no one else has missed four.
The upside for the Cowboys is that Maher was the only player who really struggled during Dallas' 31-14 win. The Cowboys destroyed the Buccaneers thanks in large part to a historically big game from Dak Prescott, who set a franchise record by totaling five touchdowns.
For a full breakdown of everything that happened in the game, be sure to check out our takeaways by clicking here.