ARLINGTON, Texas – Greg Zuerlein earned the nickname "Legatron" for his booming field goal attempts, not dribbling onside kicks.
Sure, he booted a 46-yard field goal Sunday to cap off the Cowboys' improbable – some might say impossible – 40-39 comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons as time expired at AT&T Stadium.
But his biggest kick Sunday came just before that. It was an onside attempt you've probably never seen before: a no-tee, sideways squib attempt that rolled more like a 30-foot putt than a 10-yard kick.
Zuerlein hasn't seen it either. At least not in a game situation.
"With the new rules, you've got to have something slow where your guys can get to the ball," he said. "In years past you could run, so you could do different things. But now, you've got to have something slow. It gives our guys a chance to block and hop on it."
Recovering onside kicks became even more challenging after the NFL made rule changes in 2018 geared toward player safety and fewer collisions. The kicking team can no longer have a running start, and players must be spread out for a potential recovery, not bunched toward the ball's direction.
But Zuerlein's onside try Sunday – an experiment he and special teams coordinator John Fassel formulated during their days with the Rams – went untouched until it reached the required 10-yard mark for Dallas, even with several Falcons players crowded around it with a chance to recover first.
"I knew we were going to get that ball," Cowboys special teams ace C.J. Goodwin said. "I told some of my teammates, 'They've never seen an onside kick like that.'"
Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said the assignment for the front three on Atlanta's return team is normally to block on a high-bouncing kick, not go for the ball first. Playing the assignment first gave the Cowboys a chance.
"It looked like it was a slow roller as opposed to a high bouncer. We've got to go capture it when the moment comes," Quinn said.
Goodwin ultimately recovered the ball at the Dallas 46-yard line with 1:49 remaining, giving the Cowboys' offense a chance to win the game down two points.
A 24-yard pass from Dak Prescott to rookie CeeDee Lamb helped set up Zuerlein for the winning kick with four seconds left.
"Just swing confidently and the rest will take care of itself," said Zuerlein, a nine-year veteran who signed with the Cowboys in the offseason. "Anytime you get in a hurry or don't swing confidently, bad things happen."
The kick was true, and the Cowboys' comeback from a 20-0 first-quarter deficit was complete.
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