Brett Maher’s yips: NFL fans, media invoke Ankiel, Knoblauch during 49ers-Cowboys

The 49ers have one of the NFL’s most solid kickers in Robbie Gould, giving them confidence in their playoff game Sunday against the Cowboys. But Dallas did not have that same luxury entering the second half.

Kicker Brett Maher missed four of his five extra-point attempts last Monday night in the Cowboys’ win over the Buccaneers. His first attempt Sunday in Dallas’ divisional-round game against the Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium was blocked by 49ers defensive end Samson Ebukam, making him 1-of-6 this postseason. The kick appeared to be hooking wide left even before Ebukam got a hand on it.

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Maher made 29 of his 32 field goal attempts and 50 of his 53 extra-point tries in the regular season, so the sudden difficulty is a surprise. Dallas brought in free agent kicker Tristan Vizcaino as another option this week, but chose to stick with Maher for Sunday’s game.

After Maher’s blocked PAT attempt Sunday, his name became Twitter’s top trending topic. “Yips”, “Rick Ankiel” and “Chuck Knoblauch” were also among the top 30 topics in the United States as fans invoked other famous instances of athletes suddenly losing their nerve.

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Ankiel was a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals who suddenly lost his control during the 2000 playoffs and never recovered it, also struggling in 2001. He eventually made a remarkable return to the major leagues as an outfielder in 2007.

Knoblauch, known as a strong fielder early in his career with the Minnesota Twins, began losing his touch on simple throws to first base after joining the Yankees in 1998, making 26 errors in 1999 and 15 more in just 82 games the following season.

Gould made all three of his field-goal attempts in the first half Sunday, drawing a stark contrast against Maher as the pressure mounts, but Maher responded by making his first two second-half attempts, first from 26 yards out in the third quarter and then from 43 early in the fourth quarter.

This is a tough watch for Maher.. that would’ve been hooked left by a mile if it wasn’t blocked. We’ve reached Rick Ankiel territory

— trey wingo (@wingoz) January 23, 2023

Wow. That PAT was low and left. Cowboys really got Chuck Knoblauch kicking for 'em

— Marcus Thompson II (@ThompsonScribe) January 23, 2023