Brandon Aubrey has been nothing short of brilliant this season for the Cowboys. The 28-year-old rookie has gone a perfect 21-for-21 this season on field goals, including four from 50+. In Sunday’s 33-10 win over the Panthers, Aubrey set an NFL record for most consecutively made field goals to start an NFL career.
For as impressive as all of that is, it wasn’t the record-breaking kick or the perfect 2023 field goal percentage he’s carrying this season that means the most going into Week 12. It was his missed extra point – or rather, how he responds to the missed extra point.
Cowboys rookie kicker Brandon Aubrey extends NFL-record streak. He is the first player in league history to make the first 20 field-goal attempts of his career. Good from 30 yards. Dallas leads 10-0 in Carolina.
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) November 19, 2023
On the heels of his record setting accomplishment, Aubrey hooked an extra point attempt left. It was his first deviation from flawless in ten weeks and a public test of resiliency and fortitude going forward.
A missed extra point attempt essentially doomed the Cowboys previous placekicker less than a year ago. It was in 2022 when Dallas’ kicker at the time, Brett Maher, was on a similar upward trajectory with the Cowboys.
Like Aubrey, Maher had more doubters than supporters early in the year. Like Aubrey, Maher slowly strung together good kick after good kick and became one of the most accurate kickers of the season. Like Aubrey, he was also one of the most powerful in the sport, residing at the top of the leader board in touchbacks and routinely splitting the uprights from 50+ yards deep. And like Aubrey, a routine missed extra point threatened to ruin it all.
Maher’s missed extra point in Week 18 was easy to laugh off at the time. He had a track record of success by that stage and the miss looked to be nothing more than a hiccup. But that hiccup planted a seed in Maher’s mind and the Cowboys star placekicker went on to miss five of the next six attempts.
It seemed overcoming failure was their kicker’s the biggest obstacle. He was physically capable of being the best in the game but mentally he couldn’t come to grips with the slightest mistake. This highlights arguably the most critical trait of an NFL placekicker: mental resiliency.
Following the missed extra point, Aubrey went on to make a field goal, ending the day on a positive and keeping his field goal steak alive. But Maher’s issue with the extra point “yips” also resided somewhat independently from his field goals.
While Maher only made 14 percent of his extra points to close out the campaign, he went a clean 2-for-2 on field goals through the postseason. For whatever reason, his field goal success didn’t help his confidence in extra points.
This becomes Aubrey’s biggest hurdle going into Week 12.
Brandon Aubrey missed the PAT. It’s fine. Dallas leads 30-10 and this one is over.
— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) November 19, 2023
Aubrey has to simply show the one miss didn’t plant a seed of self-doubt in his head like it did Maher. Luckily for him, it’s a short week. The Cowboys play on Thursday so there’s no time for quiet reflection and midweek ponderings on the matter.
With soccer being the most popular sport on the planet, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people physically capable of being an NFL kicker. But only a handful of them who have the mental capabilities. It’s what sunk Maher in 2022 and it’s what threatens to rerail Aubrey in 2023.
This is all probably making a big deal over nothing, but then again, that’s what last year felt like too. It’s a big week for Aubrey and if he bounces back like many think he will, he’ll be truly battle-tested.
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Title: Placekicker Brandon Aubrey faces his biggest test yet with Cowboys