FRISCO, Texas — Amid 11 mph winds and sun, Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher stepped up to face the western upright at practice Thursday afternoon.
He drilled the first kick down the middle. Maher connected on his second attempt, too.
And soon, he’d knocked 6 of 6 attempts between the lines, further securing the chances he starts on Sunday in the Cowboys’ divisional game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Maher will need to rebound quickly from missing four of five extra-point attempts in a 31-14 wild-card win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Cowboys teammates and coaches believe he can.
“We’ve got trust in him,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said Thursday after practice. “We’ve got faith in him. That’s our brother and we’re not going to turn our back on him. Last week we ain’t really need him. But this week we probably will.”
Elliott laughed: “So get that s*** together.”
In practice, Maher had.
Sure, coaches said Maher’s practice leading up to his Tampa Bay debacle was smooth. No indicators during the week or in pregame warmups pointed to Maher becoming the first kicker to miss four extra-point attempts in a single game, regular or postseason, since the league began tracking the data in 1932.
The Cowboys are 4-point underdogs to the 49ers, per BetMGM.
The Cowboys signed kicker Tristan Vizcaino to the practice squad on Wednesday as insurance. Stepping up to kick after Maher at practice, Vizcaino shanked his first attempt. He ultimately connected on 3 of 5 attempts.
“It doesn’t take anything away from our trust in Brett,” McCarthy said of signing Vizcaino. “I just think it’s part of the responsibility. Player acquisition is a 365-day [focus]. This is nothing out of the norm for us.
“We just want to make sure we’re in position to always add depth to our football team.”
Cowboys special teams coordinator John Fassel said Tuesday he believed Maher had the “yips,” a psychological condition that blocks an athlete’s ability to perform tasks of which they’re usually capable. Fassel also said he believed Maher’s process and practice could return the kicker to a “hot hand.”
In Maher’s career, and this season, he has kicked more reliably than Vizcaino.
Maher made 50 of 53 extra-point attempts during the regular season, only one kick going awry while two others were blocked. He connected on 29 of 32 field-goal attempts as well, his three misses coming from 59, 59 and 46 yards.
In limited play this season, Vizcaino connected on 2 of 2 field-goal attempts and 3 of 3 extra points.
In 2021, Vizcaino connected on 6 of 7 field-goal attempts and 10 of 15 extra points.
Quarterback Dak Prescott said he won’t change his decision-making or sense of urgency in light of the recent kicks.
“No. Shoot, no,” Prescott said when asked. “I’m a ‘Money’ Maher fan. Things like that happen. I haven’t lost any confidence, nor am I going to force my game or do anything outside my box because of uncharacteristic misses by him.
“I think he’ll get back to himself this week as he has done here at practice, and I trust that guy all the way through. As I said: Nobody’s more resilient.”
Follow Yahoo Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein