Greg Zuerlein's 48-yard field goal put the Cowboys ahead of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the final two minutes of Thursday's heart-pounding season opener.
But the veteran kicker lamented two earlier missed kicks (a 31-yard field goal try and a failed extra point in the first half) that would have provided four more points in a two-point defeat to Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champs.
"If I do my job, we win that game," Zuerlein said after the Cowboys' 31-29 loss at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. "So I feel bad for the guys in there that played their ass off and I didn't hold up my end of the deal."
Zuerlein spent most of 10th NFL training camp working back from offseason back surgery. He returned for the Aug. 29 preseason finale against Jacksonville and attempted one field goal, a 56-yarder that just missed.
He refused to say rust was the reason for the 31-yard attempt that hooked far right into the stands or the extra point that hit the left upright.
"No excuses," he said. "If I'm out there I should make the kicks. There's no excuses."
Zuerlein said he'll review the film to see technically what went wrong on the 31-yarder. He also missed one from 60 yards just before halftime, but the ball was well struck and almost got through the uprights.
He did rebound with successful field goals from 35 and 21 yards in the second and third quarter. And his 48-yard attempt with 1:24 left in the game was dead center, putting the Cowboys ahead 29-28.
"I have great faith and confidence in him, and we need him," Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said. "He made the clutch, clutch kick there at the end to give us the lead before the two-minute drive by Tampa."
Brady had other plans, though, and led the Bucs 57 yards in 11 plays to set up Ryan Succop's winning kick from 36 yards with two seconds remaining.
"With a team that's that good, returning every player from a Super Bowl victory, we're right there," Zuerlein said. "We're right there. And I just have to do my job."