Cowboys stick with kicker Brett Maher, expect rebound vs. 49ers

FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys will go into the divisional round of the playoffs at the San Francisco 49ers with kicker Brett Maher battling the yips.

Maher became the first player in any NFL game since 1932 -- a span of 16,207 regular-season and playoff contests -- to miss four extra point attempts, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, in the Cowboys' 31-14 wild-card win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday.

"I believe in the hot hand, and I believe in the yips, absolutely," Dallas special teams coordinator John Fassel said. "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."

The Cowboys plan to stick with Maher as their kicker.

"Hell yeah," Fassel said. "If you ask me, absolutely."

As Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy added, "I think the biggest thing is just to make sure you got a good plan with Brett moving forward. Just make sure he's ready."

In the regular season, Maher made 29 of 32 field goal attempts, missing from 59 yards, twice, and 46 yards. He made 50 of 53 PATs but missed his final attempt in the regular-season finale loss to the Washington Commanders then the four straight against the Bucs.

Maher visited with Fassel early Tuesday morning and described Maher as "distraught," following the performance. Fassel said Maher will follow his normal weekly plan of kicking on Thursday and Friday.

"I think the biggest thing for us is not to pretend like it didn't happen and kind of move on," Fassel said. "We addressed it from kind of what happened mentally and physically."

Regarding Monday's first miss, Fassel said Maher did not commit fully to the swing and flared to the right. The second miss was toed and missed to the right. The third, which was hooked, was an overcorrection. The fourth had more of a mental aspect to it.

Fassel said he dealt with yips issues with kickers Sebastian Janikowski and Greg Zuerlein in his career, but none came at such a pivotal moment of a campaign. While with the Green Bay Packers, McCarthy stuck with Mason Crosby through some struggles at different points of multiple seasons.

"At the end of the day, we all have a job to do," McCarthy said of Maher. "He knows he has to put the ball through the uprights. And he's been super productive and consistent for us ... I think so much in this business, especially this game, you learn from your experiences when it doesn't go the way you like, as opposed to the success of it. So just like our whole football team, we came out of Washington and got punched in the jaw, and I think we clearly responded. I think he definitely has that in him."

Maher did make his fifth extra point attempt versus Tampa Bay.

"I think this week will give him some confidence just getting back out there," Fassel said. "He's probably going to be mentally hurting pretty bad until he can kind of sweat and kick again. There's no medicine like being back on the practice field. I know that. I am optimistic. And a good, professional man who really gives a damn, it leads me to be optimistic about a good rebound. We all want it."

But Sunday's game comes at a tricky venue.

"Levi's Stadium, in my experience, is not an easy place to kick," Fassel said. "There's probably some conditions. There's definitely a wind factor. So, let's go. What else do we want?"