ARLINGTON, Texas - You can't ask for much more than perfection. That's exactly what Dan Bailey gave the Cowboys in the preseason. Through four games Bailey did not miss a single field goal. He kicked eight field goals in preseason action and made them all.
After Wednesday's game Bailey talked about what it was like to go through the preseason without missing a kick.
"Any time you can string good kicks together it's always a good confidence booster," Bailey said. "I'm just going to take that into the regular season now and hopefully keep it going."
In Bailey's mind perfection is not an overachievement, but a personal expectation for himself. He explained how that mentality helps him stay focused throughout the season.
"My goal is to go in there and make every kick," Bailey said. "Preseason was good, I made some kicks. Now it's time to move on to the regular season and go from there."
Bailey's longest field goal in the preseason was a 49-yarder against the Chargers. It may seem "boring" to bring so much attention to the kicker, but Bailey's flawless play may be enough to deem him the MVP of the preseason.
Not only has Bailey made all of his field goals and extra point attempts, but he also came into this season hoping to improve on his kickoffs. In the preseason, Bailey has done an excellent job of kicking it into the back of the end zone for a touch back when asked of him or allowing the returner to bring it out depending on the situation.
"We always have different game plans for different teams, especially in the preseason," Bailey said. "You want to give some guys some looks too. It's still an area I'm trying to improve on. I've been working this offseason to improve on that."
Bailey's ability to force a touchback may seem like a simple and relatively insignificant accomplishment, but the Cowboys defense, which has been trying to incorporate a number of new faces, have had the benefit of their opponents starting most drives from their own twenty-yard line. This is an advantage that's not lost on Bailey and he made it a goal in the offseason to be able to provide that for the Cowboys.
"I worked hard this offseason to improve my leg strength, explosiveness stuff like that," Bailey said. "It's more strength and getting a consistent approach to kickoffs."
In a 3-0 victory over Oakland on August 13th, Bailey's one field goal was the difference maker in the game. Low-scoring defensive games are not something the Cowboys have been all that familiar with the past few seasons. But with an increased emphasis on DeMarco Murray's running ability and an improved defense, the Cowboys may not need to rely on offensive shootouts to win. If so, having a reliable kicker will be a big advantage.
The first three games of last season were decided by three points or less. Jason Garrett and Tony Romo have both spoken many times about the need to win close games. Dan Bailey will be a huge part of accomplishing that.* *
There will be a great deal of attention put on the offense's ability to move the ball in late game situations this season. Will the offensive line hold up? Will Romo be able to shake a reputation of not being clutch? There are no guarantees in this game, but Bailey is doing his best to be considered the next best thing: reliable.
The preseason can be a great indicator for the season, but according to Bailey, he tries to put most kicks behind him after they leave his foot regardless of whether or not they go through the uprights.
"You have to take it one kick at a time," Bailey says. "It's nice to string some together, but you can't really dwell on the past too much." Typically a kicker only gets talked about if he is playing poorly. But if Bailey keeps up this level of play in the games that count then he may turn out to be one of the Cowboys' most important assets.