Sport ‘We paid a price’: Jerry Jones on Cowboys kicking woes, whether he still supports Greg Zuerlein
Greg Zuerlein looks broken after two horrific missed kicks
The Dallas Cowboys looked to pull within four points of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but kicker Greg Zuerlein missed the field goal by a mile. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys officially began their 2021 seasons with their first drives ending in punts, but the offenses took over shortly a fterwards. The Buccaneers held an early 14-7 lead over the Cowboys in the second quarter, and it looked as though the Cowboys were going to at least tie things up, before their offense sputtered in the red zone. So, head coach Mike McCarthy called upon kicker Greg Zuerlein to attempt a 31-yard field goal to cut their deficit to 14-10.
TAMPA – Greg Zuerlein did not lose the game for the Cowboys.
Untimely drops, excessive allowance of big plays, always-opportunistic Tom Brady and a stifled run game contributed to the 31-29 deficit the Cowboys flew home with in the wee hours of Friday morning.
But Zuerlein, the Cowboys’ kicker, came up short in key moments. In the second quarter, Zuerlein missed field goal attempts from 31 and 60 yards as well as an extra-point attempt.
“I felt like we really paid the price of not having our kicker in training camp,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Friday morning on Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan. “I look back and when you don’t have a kicker that’s real active in training camp, you may be kidding yourself in early ball games is he really ready to go.
Winners, losers of Buccaneers' season-opening victory vs. Cowboys: Bad day for Ezekiel Elliott, other RBs
It was only the NFL's first of 272 regular-season games, but the Buccaneers' thrilling win over the Cowboys had important stakes for multiple parties.Given the result, it's pretty obvious to everyone who the primary winner and loser was from Week 1's opening matchup. But let's not stop there! It only takes a little extra digging to reveal several other W's and L's from the first NFL game that counts in more than seven months.
“The loss isn’t to be blamed on the kicker. But still, if we had had some execution on (some) of those kicks, it might have made a big difference here.”
DAK'S FAREWELL TO BRADY:
WINNERS, LOSERS FROM COWBOYS-BUCS:
USA TODAY SPORTS' WEEK 1 NFL PICKS:
In his 10th NFL season, Zuerlein has demonstrated a high ceiling. He has received unwavering—and arguably, at times, overly optimistic—faith from Cowboys special teams coordinator John Fassel, who also coached Zuerlein for years with the Rams. The two competed for a Super Bowl together to cap the 2018 season. In 2017, Zuerlein earned All-Pro honors making 38 of 40 field-goal attempts and 44 of 46 extra points.
Did Chris Godwin commit OPI on key catch? Cowboys, Buccaneers weigh in on controversy
Chris Godwin's fourth-quarter catch proved to be a critical turning point for the Buccaneers, but some wondered whether the receiver pushed off.A push? Offensive pass interference? Anything flag-worthy about the contact exchanged on the 24-yard reception that set up the Buccaneers’ game-winning field goal?
But Zuerlein spent nearly all of training camp rehabilitating from offseason back surgery. He was cleared from the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 25 but still ramped up slowly. Should the Cowboys have explored other options to open the season in Tampa?
“I believe in him long term and believe he’ll play better as we get into this season,” Jones said. “(But) do you go into a season with a kicker that’s been on kind of on IR and been easing along maybe when it’s that vital to really be in the swing of things? Do you go with a kicker that didn’t do much in the preseason relative to competition that spent a lot of time on the practice field and working really the art that way?”
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said after the game he had full confidence in Zuerlein, noting the 60-yard attempt after Zuerlein had missed from 31 was an effort to reinstall Zuerlein’s confidence in himself.
Jerry Jones believes in Greg Zuerlein “long term”
Greg Zuerlein‘s struggles were predictable. He underwent offseason back surgery and spent training camp working his way back. Zuerlein kicked in the Aug. 29 preseason finale, missing a 56-yarder. In the season opener Thursday, Zuerlein missed a 31-yard field goal way, way, way wide left and had an extra point bounce off the left upright. [more]He underwent offseason back surgery and spent training camp working his way back. Zuerlein kicked in the Aug. 29 preseason finale, missing a 56-yarder.
In total, on the night, Zuerlein connected on three of five field-goal attempts and two of three extra-point attempts. Zuerlein successfully kicked a 48-yard, go-ahead field goal with 1:29 to play.
Even so, he was kicking himself.
“I feel bad for the guys in there that played their ass off, and I didn’t hold up my end of the deal,” Zuerlein said afterward. “If the team that that’s good, returning every player after a Super Bowl victory, and we’re right there, I just have to do my job.”
Zuerlein declined to attribute the extra-point doink or wide left 31-yarder to his rehabilitation.
“No excuses,” Zuerlein said. “If I’m out there, I should make the kicks. No excuses.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Jori Epstein on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY:
Cowboys' Mike McCarthy: Scoreboard malfunction led to timing 'issues' that forced 56-yard FG .
Ahead of Greg Zuerlein's game-winning kick, Sunday's contest took a confusing turn as the Cowboys appeared to be letting the clock wind down with 30 seconds left to play and the scoreboard knotted up 17-17. According to McCarthy, the bizarre scene occurred because the clock he was viewing at SoFi Stadium went out, and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore's view of the time was blocked by a cameraman."The clock situation was just different," McCarthy said, via NFL.com. "I've never had a clock go off the board on me like that.