The brutal start from a man known as Greg The Leg included a PAT doink, a 31-yard shank and a 60-yard prayer.
"No excuses," he said after the loss, via The Athletic. "If I'm out there, I should make the kicks. No excuses. ... I know we played well enough to win. If I did my job, we win that game. I feel bad for the guys in there that played their ass off, and I didn't hold up my end of the deal. If the team that that's good, returning every player after a Super Bowl victory, and we're right there, I just have to do my job."
"Obviously, missing such an easy kick, you don't even practice that," Zuerlein said of the 31-yarder. "It's automatic. You miss something like that and you analyze it for two minutes, figure out what you did wrong. You have to move on."
If Zuerlein makes his kicks, the tenor of the game is certainly different. It could have forced Tom Brady to go for a touchdown instead of a field goal on the final drive. But, of course, any changed play would have had a domino effect on how the entire game would have unfolded, so pinpointing one change as flipping the outcome is nearly impossible when it comes that early in the contest.
The easy misses from Zuerlein were abominable, but the losses can't be pinned him alone. CeeDee Lamb dropped a couple of passes, including one that was intercepted. The offensive line got called for several holds, including on the final drive when Dallas could have played for a touchdown instead of a field goal. The defense allowed 431 yards and couldn't guard Rob Gronkowski. Mike McCarthy elected to kick field goals instead of being aggressive in the red zone.
The blame rarely rests with one man. That's just football.
Zuerlein had a shot at redemption late, when his 48-yarder split the uprights to give the Cowboys a 29-28 lead with 1:24 left. But, alas, Brady being Brady, the Cowboys couldn't hold on.
After the game, McCarthy offered confidence in Zuerlein moving forward.
"Obviously, you'd like to see him make those kicks," the coach said. "Greg was part of the reason I went for the 60-yard [field goal]. I have great faith and confidence in him, and we need him. He made the clutch, clutch kick there at the end to give us the lead before the two-minute drive of Tampa. You get into a game like that, you need all the points you can get."
In the end, the Cowboys came up a couple of points short.
McCarthy is backing the 33-year-old kicker, but if misses pile up, you can bet that patience wears thin quickly, particularly from the front office.