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Brandon Aubrey passes greatest test of the season in Cowboys Week 18 win

Brandon Aubrey had the perfect season nearly locked up. Through 16 games he was a flawless 35-for-35 on field goals. The rookie was nine-for-nine from 50+ yards. He was perfect in routine and clutch situations alike. He even set the record in touchbacks in a single season.

All he needed was to keep doing what he was doing in Week 18, and his season would go down as arguably the greatest ever. Then he went 0-2. After a blocked kick and a 36-yard miss basically kneecapped his perfect year, Aurbey’s dream season turned into a nightmare scenario.

Just one year ago, Brett Maher was also arguably the best kicker in the NFL. He was a league leader in FG%, a touchback king, and had more clutch moments than a 1982 Datsun with a 5-speed transmission (but in a good way). Until he wasn’t.

In 2022’s Week 18 against Washington, Maher took his first true misstep of the season by missing a routine extra point. With no other field goal attempts or extra points on the day, it’s how he concluded the regular season. In case the memories that followed that moment have been subconsciously repressed, allow me to recap: Maher went on to miss five of the next six extra point attempts in the postseason.

With no physical aliment to point to, it was clear the “yips” had officially set in for the Cowboys kicker. Maher never regained the trust of his ballclub and his career with the Cowboys effectively came to an end after that.

As crazy as it sounds, being an NFL kicker is less about physical ability and more about mental fortitude. Standing on the sideline for 97.2% of a game has a way of getting into an athlete’s head. There’s no amount of sideline net kicking or weekly mojo moments that can make up for it. There are quite literally thousands of soccer players physically capable of handling kicker duties, but until they feel the pressure of the moment and have to bounce back after a miss, no one knows how capable they really are in the NFL.

It’s a situation the Cowboys and Aubrey almost entered the postseason completely untested in. Until Week 18 against the Commanders, of course.

While Aubrey would have probably preferred to end the season with perfection, the Cowboys are probably happy he slipped. Because before the game ended, Aubrey drilled a 50-yarder, burying his previous failures and putting the thought of the “yips” behind him.

Aubrey showed he’s capable of bouncing back. It’s something Maher never could and a sign Aubrey’s for real. While everyone will likely still be holding their breath on his first postseason kick, the Week 18 miss(es) is possibly the best thing that could have happened to Aubrey. He showed resiliency and fortitude. Everyone already knew he was elite physically. By bouncing back, he showed he’s also elite mentally.

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Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire