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Mick Shots: The rest of "Butta's" dream story


FRISCO, Texas – In case you missed this back in the summer, let me remind you of what brought a smile to my face Sunday night after Brandon Aubrey made his fourth field goal of the game, stretching his NFL record-setting streak to start a career to 30 straight.

But not only that, Mr. 30 for 30 became the first NFL kicker to make two 59-plus-yard field goals in the same game, hitting from 60 and 59 yards against the Eagles. Not to mention the fourth of the four came from 50 yards for the icing on this cake, earning the rookie Dak Prescott has nicknamed "Butta" for being smooth his second NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

Remembering back on July 6 when the Cowboys signed some kicker named Brandon Aubrey, a rookie with no NFL experience, and just two years competitive kicking experience, mind you, in their seemingly never-ending search to replace Brett Maher. And I'm thinking, OK, great, Cowboys taking another shot in the dark to provide some competition for Tristan Vizcaino.

Not much later this text message pops up: "You just signed my kicker Brandon Aubrey. Great kid. I was his ST coordinator this year in Birmingham. Chris Boniol."

You guys remember Chris, right? Kicked for the Cowboys from 1994-96. Then was an assistant special teams coach, really the kicking coach, from 2011-13. He was the guy who put his neck on the line to keep raw rookie Dan Baily coming out of training camp in 2011. Good eye.

We had stayed in touch over the years and hadn't realized he spent the 2023 USFL season with the Stallions, by the way the two-time league champs, after he won a Super Bowl ring coaching in Tampa Bay. So called up Chris to find out about this former soccer player who had only kicked competitively those past two seasons for Birmingham. That's it. No high school. No college. No nothing. Chris was high on him.

Well, at one point during our conversation, I pointed out this is going to be a tough job for the Cowboys to replace Maher, despite his extra-point yips in that playoff game on a lumpy field in Tampa since he had made 90 percent of his field goals in 2022 (29 of 32), knowing two of his three misses were from 59 yards out.

Boniol says, "Well, my kicker made 92 percent of his kicks." Sure enough, 14 of 15 and all 35 of his extra points.


Furthermore, not only is Aubrey the NFL's leading scorer with 129 points and one of two kickers hitting 100 percent of field goal attempts (Kansas City's Harrison Butker, 23 of 23), he is four field goals away with four games remaining from tying the single-season franchise record of 34 (Richie Cunningham and Greg Zuerlein). But he is also just nine points away from passing Maher's franchise single-season record of 137 points.

Oh, also, and Boniol did point this out to me, Aubrey is nails on kickoffs as so far only three of his 88 have been returned, with 84 touchbacks.

Amazing, probably even to Aubrey, who after the game Sunday said, "Going back three years and working as a software engineer and just grinding away in my off time (learning to kick a football after his soccer career), just trying to get an opportunity, and the USFL came around. Very grateful for that.

"And obviously, this is my wildest dreams, and they've come true. I'm just trying to keep it going."

Makes you smile, doesn't it? And guarantee you somewhere Chris Boniol is smiling, too.

  • Defer This: If I'm the Cowboys to start a game, win or lose the coin toss, you know what, I want the ball. And I understand why teams defer, hoping they can get a two-fer possession. Like, have the ball to end the first half and then get the ball to start the second half. Found a stat from 2022 that on 272 coin flips, teams deferred 250 times and took the ball just 22. Yet again, if I'm the Cowboys and I'm leading the league in scoring with 32.4 points a game, I want the ball. I want to score first, get the lead and make my opponent play from behind. Take the last two games. The Cowboys won the coin toss with Seattle and chose to receive. They promptly drove 63 yards to kick a field goal, up 3-0. This past Sunday night, the Eagles won the toss and deferred. The Cowboys promptly drove 75 yards for a touchdown, up 7-0. With this defense and its ability to get after quarterbacks or intercept passes, I want my opponent playing catchup as often as possible. Can remember in Game 2 the Cowboys won the toss and elected to receive, head coach Mike McCarthy said going against the grain, "We wanted to get going." And "going" they did, driving 75 yards for a touchdown. Just don't understand why, if you win the toss, you'd give your opponent the opportunity to take the lead. Let me decide that. And when the Eagles Sunday night won the toss, deferring, and with AT&T rocking, was saying to myself, "Thank you very much." As Jason Garrett used to say, "The ball, the ball, the ball."
  • Here We Goooo: You know, what Dak yells before he starts his pre-snap cadence every time. Well, curious minds wanted to know, so asked Dak this past Thursday the origin of those three words the TV mics generally pick up, like previously a quarterback yelling, "Omaha! Omaha!" Well, Dak was like, hmmm, good question. So he called over center Tyler Biadasz for help. Biadasz said Dak would always yell, 'Let's go! Let's go!" trying to get everyone's attention the snap count was about to begin. But Tyler said Dak once just went like, "Come on, here we go!" to get everyone's attention, actually meaning everyone just shut up, no more talking, the snap count is about to begin. And it stuck. And there you have the accidental origin of those now famous three words. So, there we go.
  • Big Hank: Cowboys hefty defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, all listed 325 pounds of him, left the game Sunday night with what's considered to be a high-ankle sprain. Those are bad enough, probably worse when there is 325 pounds on an ankle. Those injuries can be two to four weeks, and head coach Mike McCarthy said Hankins would be "hard-pressed to play this week," and did not practice on Wednesday. So the Cowboys must make contingency plans and, according to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, "from within" to compensate for Hankins' absence. Those alternatives would include more snaps for rookie Mazi Smith, who has only averaged 16.5 snaps a game with a high of 25 in the blowout win, 49-17, over the Giants. The Cowboys also have the ability to elevate off the practice squad the likes of nine-year veteran Carl Davis Jr. (6-5, 335) or Willington Previlon, a 6-5, 285 first-year player. But those guys ain't Hank, Quinn pointing out, "He's a really important factor inside. He's square, he's strong, ton of experience," especially against the run, though the big guy now has three sacks.
  • Pint-Sized Shots: Remember, it's the Bills signing Cowboys starting offensive lineman Connor McGovern in free agency, who has started all 13 games this year in Buffalo, playing 98 percent of the offensive snaps. But then McGovern's absence and Tyron Smith's resurgence is why Tyler Smith has started the past 11 games at left guard, and is why the Cowboys refrained from spending big bucks to keep McGovern … Oh, and let's not forget it was the Bills spending a 2012 first-round draft choice on Stephon Gilmore, where he spent five years, finishing with 14 interceptions … Another statistical clash on Sunday, the Cowboys forcing 30 three-and-outs on 130 opponent possessions (23.1 percent) while the Bills offense has only suffered three-and-outs on just 11.3 percent of their possessions … The Cowboys offense has scored at least 30 points in nine games so far this season, matching the second most in franchise history, and need just one more to match the franchise mark set in 2014 for the top spot … And sure like this one: CeeDee Lamb has a receiving touchdown now in five consecutive games and with another one against the Bills, the six straight would be the most since Terrell Owens' six in a row in 2007 … Lamb is one of the reasons Dak has thrown for multiple touchdowns in seven straight games and would set the franchise record at eight with at least TDs against Buffalo.

And, uh, right here we go to McCarthy for this week's last word, the head coach talking about the necessity of having a two-headed monster at the running back position. Currently, Tony Pollard leads the Cowboys with 796 yards rushing on 196 carries and five touchdowns while Rico Dowdle is next at 307 yards rushing on 75 carries with two rushing and two more receiving touchdowns. And both are averaging 4.1 yards a carry, which just happens to be the team's overall average.

But of late the two-back system seems to be moving the chains.

"Definitely, you have to have it," McCarthy said. "It's a long season, 17 games. To think running backs are going to touch the ball 20-25 times, that's probably not realistic. So I think, No. 1, you have to have it, and we have been very fortunate to have it with Zeke (Ezekiel Elliott) and Tony the last three years and now to have it with Tony and Rico. And we have some young guys we love, too.

"We are very fortunate with our running back room."

And now this late in the season, and having to play two of the next four games up in the northeast at Buffalo and Washington and then another in what could be humidity-filled Miami, your running game better be top notch if you're going to do what you need to do offensively to win those games.

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