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Thursday, January 12, 2012
What Went Right: Dan Bailey emerges

By Calvin Watkins

This is the fourth installment in ESPN Dallas' five-part series on things that went right for the Dallas Cowboys in 2011.

2. Emergence of kicker Dan Bailey

The Cowboys had a kicking competition at training camp involving Dan Bailey, David Buehler, Shayne Graham, Kai Forbath and Dave Rayner.

Bailey and Buehler emerged as the two kickers to make the 53-man roster. As it was originally designed, Buehler would handle kickoffs and long field goals while Bailey took care of everything else.

But something happened along the way: Bailey couldn't miss. He eventually became Jason Garrett's primary field goal kicker. Buehler suffered leg injuries that sent him to injured reserve and had owner Jerry Jones questioning his conditioning.

Bailey, meanwhile, made game-winning kicks at San Francisco, at Washington and vs. Miami. He converted 26 consecutive field goals, tied for the second-longest stretch in club history and finished tied for third in the NFL with 32 made field goals. Overall, Bailey was ninth in the NFL with an 86.5 conversion percentage.

That is far better than Buehler, who made just 75 percent of his field goals.

One other item of note: Bailey made 10-12 field goals from 40-49 yards, and Buehler made just 8-11 from the same range in 2010.

Bailey did struggle down the stretch when he missed a game-winner at Arizona and had a potential game-winner against the New York Giants blocked.

Besides these late season issues, the Cowboys aren't concerned about their rookie kicker going forward. The team believes it has finally found the field goal kicker necessary to make clutch field goals down the stretch.