As the Cowboys soundly defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night, the team seemed to be firing on all cylinders. This can be said about everyone on the team, with the lone exception being Brett Maher. Maher, prior to the Wild Card game, was coming off a career regular season. The wheels were starting to fall off just a bit in Week 18 when he missed an extra point in a very forgettable game for the Cowboys.
Given the entirety of the regular season, that missed kick was essentially brushed off and chalked up as a bad overall team performance. That was until the Wild Card game happened. In that game the unfathomable happened; he missed an NFL record four straight extra points. To take things a step further, and counting the Commanders game, the total missed in a row was five.
This type of streak is a tough thing to come back from, but to coach Mike McCarthy’s credit, he sent Maher out for a fifth extra point try in which he split the sticks. Now, that isn’t to say that he is fixed and that he will perform well going forward. It is more so to say that if coach McCarthy would’ve stopped sending him out there, then the ramifications of this move could’ve derailed any hopes of fixing Maher’s problem. Kicking is as much of a mental game as it is a physical game.
A career season was happening, until recently...
The 2022 regular season had been a breakout one for Maher as he has converted all of his field goal attempts from inside 39 yards. He has only missed three kicks all year from 40+ yards. The moniker “Money Maher” certainly seemed apt due to his near 91% success rate on field goal attempts. That percentage on extra points starts to tick over 94%. Prior to Week 18, and more recently the Wild Card game, it seemed like the kicking game wouldn’t be an issue. However, this narrative has changed at the worst time possible and that is during the postseason. With games as close as they typically are come postseason time, every single point is very important.
It seems like both players and coaches on the team are still confident in Brett Maher:
It’s easy to assume that a kicker having a night like Brett Maher did on Monday would be getting the cold shoulder on the sideline.— David Helman (@davidhelman_) January 19, 2023
Pretty cool to see him getting words of encouragement not from just anyone, but an All-Pro like CeeDee Lamb. pic.twitter.com/o6tXrFY7mx
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said Brett Maher and Tristan Vizcaino will both kick today in practice. McCarthy said the roster move “doesn’t take anything away from our trust in Brett.”— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) January 19, 2023
Even with the team still having confidence in Brett Maher...
The franchise has brought in an insurance policy in case Maher continues to struggle
After a bad stretch over the last two games, Dallas decided to bring in free agent kicker Tristan Vizcaino, adding him to the practice squad. Vizcaino who prior to becoming a professional kicker, played his college ball at the University of Washington. During that time he made just 60% of his field goal attempts with a career long of 44. However, he did convert on 94.1% of his extra points. Given his track record in college, he ended up going undrafted, and for the entirety of 2018 was out of the game aside from a rookie mini-camp tryout with the New York Jets.
In 2019, he appeared in the preseason for the Cincinnati Bengals and would show off his leg by easily making a 57-yard field goal. Even when he flashed some potential, the Bengals ended up waiving him prior to the regular season. Moving to 2020, he would get his first chance to suit up in a regular season NFL game with the San Francisco 49ers due to their regular kicker, Robbie Gould, sidelined by COVID-19 protocols. In his one appearance with the Niners, he would make the most of his opportunity by hitting all three of his field goal attempts and both of his extra points. With Gould back in the saddle after clearing protocols, Vizcaino’s services on the game day roster were no longer needed.
In 2021, he beat out incumbent Michael Badgley for the starting job with the Los Angeles Chargers. This gig for Vizcaino would last just six weeks as he missed a league high five extra points during this stretch. He would not be signed to an NFL roster until this season where he appeared in games for both the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals. During those three games played, he would make both of his field goal tries and all three of his extra points.
Competition usually brings out the best in a player...
With Vizcaino brought into the mix, Brett Maher clearly got the message as he practiced very well with the new competition in town.
Brett Maher and new practice squad kicker Tristan Vizcaino were both at Cowboys practice today. Maher kicked first, connecting on a perfect 6-for-6 attempts on grass with 11 mph winds. Vizcaino then missed his first attempt, ultimately connecting on 3-of-5. pic.twitter.com/5x9oDAof9j— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) January 19, 2023
With having someone gunning for your job, it may have shifted Maher’s focus in a positive way and to get rid of the yips he had on Monday night. It seems he has shaken off the competition for the moment given that he outperformed Vizcaino in their first bout during practice. If the Cowboys sense any issues with Maher, or he flat out has another bad performance, then Vizcaino will be the next man up. This type of drama is never a good thing knowing how tight playoff games are a good portion of the time.
If the Cowboys are in one of those close games versus the Niners this week, the franchise is hoping Maher is back on track. If he still is off the track and the team still wins, Vizcaino likely ends up getting the call after the game.