It was the kick heard around the world, despite the ball having been tapped with all of a whisper from the toe of Greg Zuerlein. With the Dallas Cowboys on the verge of achieving one of the greatest and most improbable NFL comebacks ever in Week 2, they needed but three more big plays — in a row, too — to make it happen. Zuerlein delivered two of the three, with the first being an onside kick that was gently booted and spun like a top before seemingly coming to a stall right before it suddenly broke right to travel the necessary 10 yards. 

As the Atlanta Falcons stood in awe and refused to grab it prior to it going 10 yards as they should’ve, wide receiver C.J. Goodwin jumped on it to give the Cowboys one last possession. They went on to make it count with a critical gain by CeeDee Lamb and the game-winning boot by Zuerlein to seal the 40-39 comeback, in a game where Dak Prescott mounted a historic performance

As for the onside kick itself, it’ll go down as one of the best in football history, and it turns out has its own nickname. 

“We didn’t really have a specific name for it, but it is really the ‘Watermelon Kick’ — where it’s laying on the turf like a watermelon,” said Cowboys special teams coordinator John “Bones” Fassel of the play, in a Zoom call with media. “And you spin it like a watermelon would spin, but it spins a lot better than a watermelon.”

And yes, the Cowboys have been giving it a go a few times in camp to see if it could be a viable special teams weapon.

“We really started practicing in it in training camp with Greg,” Fassel said. “We had just Greg and [punter Chris Jones] trying some different kicks. We really spent 30 minutes kind of just fiddling around honestly with different kicks, and when Greg hit that one, we were like, ‘Ooh. That might be a good one.’ 

“So we practice it a couple more times. And the goal was just to buy as much time as we could to get a couple bodies out in front of the ball and put a couple bodies behind the ball and really just box the ball in. And then, we were prepared for, if they went and attacked it, we had to attack them to try to get them to boot it and make it live. If they didn’t attack it, we had to hover and pounce as soon as it got across the white line. 

“It worked out pretty good.”

That’s saying the least. 

The kick was so abnormal that it completely deleted the NFL rulebook from the minds of every Falcons player on the field at the time. Arthur Blank has since admitted his confusion regarding why his players didn’t jump on the ball prior to it traveling 10 yards — a not-so-subtle jab at Dan Quinn and the Atlanta coaching staff — but also credit the Cowboys for remaining disciplined enough to not get sucked into the hypnotic spin and suffer a backbreaking penalty on the play. It also helped that Zuerlein kicked it toward the Cowboys sidelines and not the other — where Quinn and his coaches would’ve yelled at players to jump on the ball long before Goodwin could.

So, was the direction of the boot also a part of the Watermelon Kick design? Fassel preferred to play coy with that answer.

“[It was] very nice,” he said. “I’m going to leave that up to the imagination if you don’t mind, but that’s a pretty good thought. You’re onto me!”

But to be honest, even though it was practiced, Fassel was still amazed at how Zuerlein spun it in a live game and with so much on the line. 

“You draw it up on paper, and it looks good,” he said. “And then what C.J. did was better than I could have drawn up on a piece of paper. He was a behind-the-ball player, and he was just tracking it. I mean, he was within inches from it, and he knows as soon as it crosses the front part of the white 45 line that it’s live and it’s ours, and he pounced right when it crossed the line. 

“They had No. 17 and I think their tight end for Atlanta pouncing at the same time. It was like nothing I’ve seen, how slow that ball went and then how fast those guys jumped on the ball. I’m a huge fan of the NFL, so just having a great seat for that football game on the sideline, watching that happen as close as I was, was pretty phenomenal. C.J. executed it perfect. It was perfect.”

It literally was, but the Cowboys had to pull all of the tricks out of the bag in Week 2 to overcome a 20-0 deficit and with it all on film now, does Fassel have any more up his sleeve?

“Oh you know it,” he said. “We’re still learning too about ourselves and some other things we can do. I guess that game we emptied it out. But we’ve got a bullpen full of them that we can fill it back up with.”

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