Holder McBriar: 'Something in my brain'

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Dallas Cowboys kicker Nick Folk and holder/punter Mat McBriar are friends, but that relationship has started to become a little strained at work.

Everything came to the forefront Sunday when, with the Cowboys trailing 21-17, Folk missed a 42-yard field goal in the fourth quarter of Dallas' 31-24 loss to the Giants.

After the missed kick, Folk yelled at McBriar as if he never met the man.

Friendships go through rough times, and Folk and McBriar are dealing with it.

Missed kicks always are scrutinized, but especially in December as the Cowboys enter the final four games of their season. The miss cost the Cowboys a chance to pull within one point with 10:38 to play in the game. Instead, on the ensuing possession Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes made a 23-yarder with 7:23 to play to push New York's lead to 24-17.

And when Domenik Hixon's 79-yard punt return for a score sealed the victory, it made for the perfect ending for McBriar and Folk.

"Obviously we don't want to play that way," Cowboys special teams coach Joe DeCamillis said. "The thing about the kicking game is anytime you give up a big play it's magnified 100 percent. It's out there for everybody to see. You miss a block on offense and you overthrow something, it's not really talked about. But when we made a big play like that or we give up a big play it's magnified. You have to have guys willing to stand in the heat."

Folk's missed kick stemmed from a bad spot on the hold from McBriar, who said he's reaching for the snap instead of letting the ball come to him so he can place the ball.

When he reaches for the ball, he puts the ball a few inches away from where it's supposed to be. At times, it's messed up Folk's timing. And over the past few games, it's been noted.

Folk has made just six of his past 11 kicks. He's missed from 42, 57, 49, 38 and 40 yards during this stretch. What's alarming is Folk's inconsistency between 40-49 yards, areas where teams need their kickers to be successful -- especially in cold weather and late in the season.

Folk made 10 of his 11 attempts between 40-49 yards last season. He's just 4-for-9 this year.

Coach Wade Phillips is confident in Folk's abilities. DeCamillis said he wouldn't bring in another kicker to shake things up.

But it's clear something is wrong.

McBriar doesn't like to hold. He botched a hold in the 2004 season opener at Minnesota, and that scarred him somewhat. When the Cowboys went to other holders, he was relieved. But when the team released backup quarterback Brad Johnson after last season, it chose McBriar as the holder over Jon Kitna and Tony Romo.

McBriar said he hasn't spoken with Romo about holding, who nodded in agreement that the position is nerve-racking.

"I've always worked with [Folk] even when Brad was here in practice," McBriar said. "Some reason, we get in the games and I get a little bit ahead of myself and I lunge out to catch the ball, which I shouldn't. Every time I should catch the ball over the spot, and I move forward. It's something in my brain, I don't know."

Folk has confidence that he's a quality kicker, but it's not showing on the field.

So the two friends, who hang out together and sometimes drive to home games together, are struggling.

"I know I'm a good kicker, and I think everyone else knows I'm a pretty good kicker," Folk said. "So just keep working at it and fix the whole operation. Sometimes it's me, sometimes it's somewhere else. We'll keep working on the whole deal."

Calvin Watkins covers the Dallas Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail him at calvin.watkins@espn3.com.