DALLAS — Greg Zuerlein missed a 43-yard field goal in the Dallas Cowboys' 25-22 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17 at AT&T Stadium.
The missing three points turned out to be the difference in the game, and ultimately the Cowboys' chance to continue their pursuit of the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.
The Cowboys are already in the postseason having locked up the NFC East prior to Week 16's showdown with Washington, but they are taking a shaky kicker into the playoffs who has missed either a field goal or PAT in seven of his 15 games in 2021.
Cowboys special teams coach John Fassel has been with Zuerlein his entire career going back to the 2012 St. Louis Rams. No one on the Cowboys' coaching staff has more confidence in Zuerlein, mainly because he has been there for all of Zuerlein's 150 career games.
"Through Greg’s career, he’s been hot a lot, and then there has been moments where he just feels like it’s just off by — you can’t see it on film, Coach — but it’s just off by this much, and he’ll find it for sure," Fassel told reporters Jan. 6. "I think over the last couple of weeks he’s just a little bit off and he knows it, and he knows better than anybody, including myself at how to kind of fix it and tighten it up. We’re talking splitting hairs. But I know when Greg’s been counted on he’s produced."
According to Fassel, kickers have the most pressure of any specialist.
"Being a kicker is hard because if you miss as a kicker, it’s wide left or wide right and you missed it," said Fassel. "If you miss it as a punter, it might hit the ground and roll for 20 yards. ‘Hey, that was a great 53-yard net punt.’ So, there’s a lot more critique that goes with kickers’ misses."
The former 2017 first-team All-Pro had off-season back surgery in May, which has been a factor in his 28-34 field goal rate and 36-41 PAT rate.
Said Fassel: "He missed a lot of spring and summer where he usually kind of finds that sweet spot. Training camp was just getting his leg back to being able to swing. And, in a little bit of fairness to him, he’s spent quite a bit of time during the season doing what he’d normally do during the summer, still trying to find that thing."
Fassel has no doubt that Zuerlein will get back to his clutch self.
"He’s going to find it," said Fassel. "He’s going to find it. Mark my words. And if not, put it on me, but he’s going to find it, and it’s going to be the big one. I’ve seen it before.”
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