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Mike McCarthy: Cowboys 'Need' Brett Maher vs. 49ers After Kicker Missed Record 4 PATs

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 17, 2023

Dallas Cowboys place kicker Brett Maher (19) finally makes an extra point after missing his first four on the night during a wild card NFL football playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Peter Joneleit)
AP Photo/Peter Joneleit

Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy stressed the importance of getting kicker Brett Maher right ahead of the team's NFC Divisional Round playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers at the weekend.

In the wake of Maher missing an NFL-record four extra points in Monday night's 31-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Wild Card Round, McCarthy said the following about his kicker, per Pat Doney of NBC5: "We need to get him ready to go [for San Francisco] ... We need him. He's been super clutch for us all year."

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott also gave Maher a vote of confidence, telling reporters: "I just played like s--t a week ago. So, I mean, that happens … Knowing what that guy has done with resiliency he's shown throughout his career, personally, no doubt that he will come back next week and be perfect."

Despite Maher missing each of his first four extra-point attempts, McCarthy stuck with him throughout Monday's game, and he was rewarded when Maher converted the extra point on Dallas' fifth and final touchdown of the contest.

Maher, 33, has had a roller-coaster NFL career and is in his second stint playing for the Cowboys.

After making 80.6 percent of his field goals and all but one extra point as a rookie in 2018, Maher fell off the following season, missing 10 of his 30 field-goal attempts, prompting Dallas to move on.

Maher got back on track in eight games with the New Orleans Saints in 2021, going 16-for-18 on field goals and earning his way back into the Cowboys' good graces.

He won a kicking competition prior to the 2022 regular season, making 29 of his 32 field-goal tries, including nine of his 11 attempts from 50 yards and beyond.

Maher missed a career-high three extra points during the regular season, but few could have expected him to surpass that total in a single game during the playoffs.

Given how explosive the San Francisco offense has been since rookie seventh-round pick Brock Purdy became the team's starting quarterback, Dallas can ill afford to leave any points on the field next week.

San Francisco racked up 41 points in an NFC Wild Card Round win over the Seattle Seahawks, and the Niners have scored fewer than 35 points in only one of Purdy's six starts this season, all of which have been wins.

While the 49ers have a bevy of offensive weapons in running back Christian McCaffrey, tight end George Kittle and wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, the Cowboys are among the few teams that can come close to matching them with running backs Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott, tight end Dalton Schultz, wide receivers CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup, and Prescott at the controls under center.

Sunday night's game is shaping up to be a potential shootout, meaning a single field goal or even an extra point could be the deciding factor.

A win would put the Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game for the first time since 1996, underscoring how important Sunday's game is to the franchise—and how badly they need Maher to be in top form.