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Greg Zuerlein's Winning FG Ends Wild Final Drive


Greg Zuerlein blamed himself 10 days ago.

"If I do my job, we win that game," he said on Sept. 9 after missing two field goals and an extra point in the Cowboys' two-point season-opening loss to Tampa Bay.

Sunday in LA? Different story.

The veteran kicker drilled a 56-yard field goal as time expired to push Dallas past the Chargers, 20-17, and improve to 1-1.

"The mindset for me as a kicker is always that it's going to be a field goal," said Zuerlein, who also made a 34-yard try in the fourth quarter. "I don't ever plan on scoring a touchdown, which ideally if that's what happens, great. But mentally, you're always thinking that it's on you."

Zuerlein's 10th career game-winning kick provided a gripping finish to a wild final possession for the Cowboys.

Tied 17-17, the offense took over at its own 13-yard line with 3:54 on the clock and two timeouts remaining. Plenty of time to drive into position for a field goal, at the very least.

But 33 seconds left at the Chargers' 41-yard line, the Cowboys only got in one more play (a 3-yard run by Tony Pollard, who couldn't get out of bounds) before calling their final timeout with four seconds left and kicking the field goal on third down.

Head coach Mike McCarthy said the clock management was not by design.

"We had a substitution communication (issue) there," McCarthy said. "We were going to run a third-down play. We had a little bit of a clock issue. The clocks went off the boards up top and the one that (offensive coordinator) Kellen (Moore) was watching was blocked (by a camera operator) and we were communicating with the box. We didn't have the personnel set for the third-down call.

"Once you get below 17 seconds, that's a threshold that you just let it run down and take the kick there."

Sounds like the Cowboys wanted to get Zuerlein a little closer for the deciding kick. But the 10-year veteran was prepared.

"I've been situations in the past where I'm like, 'OK, you might get a chance here,'" he said. "Just stay warm (kicking) under the net (on the sideline) and wait."

Zuerlein has the nickname "Greg the Leg" for a reason. He's now made 39 career field goals from 50 yards or longer.

One of his career misses from that distance, a 60-yard attempt against Tampa Bay, might have been the most encouraging part of his uncharacteristic performance in Week 1. He badly missed a 31-yard try and hit an extra point off the upright.

Perhaps it was partially a lack of rhythm. Offseason back surgery kept Zuerlein out of practice for almost all of training camp. Earlier this week, the Cowboys signed Lirim Harjullahu to the practice squad for depth, though he wasn't elevated for Sunday's game.

Clearly, the club was confident that Zuerlein could seal the game despite his struggles against Tampa Bay.

"It's more about trusting the process," he said. "You don't throw out your swing, like I said last week, just because you missed some kicks. You go and you practice and you figure out what you did wrong and you try to correct that. I think that's all it is. Just being confident and trusting the swing."

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