The Dallas Cowboys aren't exactly cruising into the 2021 NFC playoffs. But while they work to shore up issues seen in Sunday's loss to the Cardinals and throughout the second half of the season, the Cowboys have to be especially concerned about having one of the league's worst kickers this year in Greg Zuerlein.
In his second season with Dallas, the 34-year-old veteran has essentially copy and pasted his poor 2020 stats. He's made 28 of 34 field goals for 82.4% (82.9% last year) and struggled again with extra points; hitting just 87.8% this year after 91.7% in 2020.
For perspective, among kickers who've played in at least five games or more this year, Zuerlein's currently ranked 21st in field goals and 25th in extra points.
Beyond the stats, we've now reached the dreaded “uneasy feeling” point whenever Greg enters the game. We're a long way from the days of automatic Dan Bailey; Cowboys Nation now breathes a collective sigh of relief when Zuerlein's kicks make it through the uprights.
Sometimes Greg can still pull of a heroic act, such as his 56-yard game winner in Week 2 against the Chargers or that amazing onside kick last year against the Falcons. But his missed kicks in other games have, at least mathematically, been the difference between potential wins and frustrating losses.
After a missed field goal last week against the Cardinals, and an eventual three-point loss for Dallas, the criticism and concern over Zuerlein is on the rise.
The Cowboys have lost 3 games by a combined 8 points.
Greg Zuerlein has left 14 points on the board in those games
— Tom Downey (@WhatGoingDowney) January 3, 2022
Unfortunately, there's nothing the Cowboys can really do about this now. We're only 10-11 days out from Dallas' first playoff game and any kicker brought in today would be an untimely dice roll. There's not even a backup option on the practice squad.
As he did for eight seasons with the Rams and now two in Dallas, Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel is going to ride or die with Greg Zuerlein. We can only hope that loyalty doesn't take the Cowboys' postseason down with them.
Zuerlein's inconsistency is hardly the only issue Dallas has right now. Dak Prescott's been shaky, the run game's been flaky, and Arizona made the defense look much less dangerous last week than we've enjoyed most of the year. Questions about who the Cowboys really are, especially once they face other NFC contenders, are plenty and valid.
But at this point there's no question about Greg Zuerlein. He's never really bounced back from a 2018 groin injury that coincided with hitting the wrong side of 30 years old. He's no longer “Greg the Leg” and is now simply one of the least reliable kickers in the NFL.
And, forever how much longer the Cowboys' season goes, he's the guy that they will be counting on in potentially game-deciding moments.