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Cowboys kicker Brett Maher got the 'barks' but the plan is to 'move forward' with him

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Things got so bad on Monday night that the Cowboys nearly ran out of balls at Raymond James Stadium. That’s because the top two ended up in the stands after Brett Maher missed wildly on back-to-back extra-point attempts.

If the Cowboys had lost the third, they would have had to use one of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ kick balls.

“Just a perfect storm from a bad kicking day,” said Dallas Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel.

Fassel has been coaching special teams units in the NFL since 2005. He’s never been with a team that had to turn over for their third shot. He also never experienced a kicker missing four consecutive extra point attempts.

Fassel believes Maher was experiencing barking, a term often used in sports to describe a sudden, unexplained loss of an ability. He’s done this with past kickers, specifically mentioning Sebastian Janikowski and Greg Zuerlein.

“I believe in a warm hand and I believe in barking,” Fassel said. “Absolutely. Sometimes you wonder how you get into the barks, and sometimes you wonder how you get back into the hot hand. And I think it’s getting in line and shooting. (Maher) missed some free throws (Monday Night ).

“I don’t know what it is, but I believe in the barking and I believe in the warm hand. He had a hot hand. Let’s face it. … And then the barking happens. So I expect a hot hand coming in.”

Maher had 50 of his 53 extra points during the season. He was 29-of-32 on his field goal attempts, which included going 9-of-11 for over 50 yards. In his career, Maher has 128 of 134 extra point attempts.

But Monday night was alarming. In his third career playoff game, Maher missed his first four extra points before finally making his fifth. Fortunately for him and the Cowboys, the game was never close enough for a few points to matter. Dallas advanced to the divisional round with a convincing 31-14 wild card victory over the Buccaneers.

“I definitely didn’t do my part (Monday night),” Maher said. “This team is too good to move on for me not to, so come back this week.”

The Cowboys plan for Maher to remain their kicker on Sunday in San Francisco.

“Hell yes,” Fassel said. “If you ask me, sure.”

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Tuesday morning that they would “take a look” at his kicking situation. He also said it’s possible Maher’s kick could impact Dallas by going two more often after touchdowns.

“It would be a really big setback to go into the rest of this tournament, the rest of this playoff, with kicker tremors,” Jones said during his weekly radio appearance on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas.

Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said after the game that the plan was to keep Maher.

“Let’s move forward,” McCarthy said on Tuesday. “From now on, that’s the plan.”

“At the end of the day, we all have a job to do,” added McCarthy. “He knows he has to put the ball on the post. And he’s been super productive and consistent for us. It’s like anything, we all work with each other every day and that’s what I believe in and believe in him and his path.

“I think in this business, especially in this game, you learn more from your experiences when things don’t go your way as opposed to success. Just like our entire football team. We left Washington and we got punched in the jaw and I think we responded clearly. I think he definitely has that in him.”

Brett Maher missed three extra points all season before missing four against Tampa Bay. (Kim Klement/USA Today)

Maher, 33, bounced around the NFL over the past decade. This is his third time with the Cowboys. He signed with Dallas as an undrafted free agent in 2013, but was released before the start of the season. After spending the next four years in the Canadian Football League, Maher was the Cowboys’ starting kicker during the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Accuracy issues led to Dallas releasing him near the end of the 2019 season. for the Jets, Washington, Texans, Cardinals and Saints. He returned to the Cowboys in August during training camp after Dallas released undrafted rookie Jonathan Garibay. Maher then beat Lirim Hajrullahu for the job.

“I spoke with Brett (Tuesday morning),” Fassel said. “We had a great conversation about (Monday night) because I think the most important thing for us is not to pretend like nothing happened and just move forward. We approach it from a ‘what happened’ perspective, mentally and physically. We talked about our plan this week. So we’ll go with a normal plan.

“He was distraught, as was I. I share the agony of all players. So how should he be as a competitor. He knows it’s just a bad day at the office. I have full confidence that he will recover. Yeah, it’s part psychology for sure. I don’t think there’s anything physical. The first two, if you ask him, he was a little lazy finishing the first one and kind of touched the second one. Then he kind of overcorrected in the third. And then the fourth is just sort of a mental process.”

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After Maher’s third foul, ESPN TV coverage showed a clearly frustrated Cowboys QB Dak Prescott slamming his helmet on the sideline and saying “Go for f——two!”

Prescott said he spoke with Maher after the game about his emotional reaction.

“I’m the biggest fan of ‘Money’ Maher,” Prescott said. “Obviously (they showed me) the video of me, it’s just emotions, that’s part of it. Talked to him individually, just said after the game to let it go, we’re going to need him. I just played like s – a week ago, I mean this happens. But when you believe in each other, believe in what we’re capable of doing and knowing what that guy did, with the resilience he’s shown throughout his career in person, I have no doubt he’ll come back next week and be perfect and help us win.”

Prescott was not alone. Several teammates and coaches shared their support after the game.

“I feel very fortunate to have the teammates, the dressing room and the coaching staff that I have,” said Maher. “It absolutely lifted me up. I appreciate every one of them. It’s time for me to do my part.”

Fassel noted that where the Cowboys play on Sunday isn’t exactly the most kicker-friendly environment. Levi’s Stadium is an outdoor venue with a grassy field and wind can be a factor. 49ers kicker Robbie Gould is 30 of 31 in extra points this season. Maher never played at Levi’s Stadium.

“Get back to the point,” Maher said of his lawsuit this week. “Hit some balls, have a great week of practice, get ready to go.”

(Brett Maher main photo: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)