Reaching the NFL record for touchbacks was important to Billy Cundiff, but the Ravens kicker was shocked that fans were also aware of the accomplishment.
"It's really strange to put the ball on the tee and have everybody go, 'OK, we want this touchback,'" Cundiff said after the team's 13-7 win against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday. "I think they wanted it more than I did."
With two touchbacks, Cundiff posted 40, tying the Minnesota Vikings' Mitch Berger's single-season record set in 1994.
After the achievement, however, Cundiff gently chastised himself for not eclipsing Berger's mark.
"Obviously, I wish I would have broken it, right? I kind of felt like I left two kicks out there," he said. "I just didn't get through them as much as I would have liked. Still, if you would have taken me [aside] at the last game of the season last year and talked [to] me about if I would be disappointed that I only got two touchbacks and I'm playing at the end of the season this year, I think that's a good progression for me as kicker. It's exciting."
Cundiff, who has converted 26-of-29 field goals this season and earned the first Pro Bowl invite of his career last week, said he would likely consider the full breadth of seeing his name etched in the league's record book after the season has ended.
"It's going to be something that I reflect on later," he said. "Obviously as we look at it, I think we set a new standard of what I'm capable of, and I just see myself continuing to strive to get better, and hopefully next year, we'll get even more."
The season is over for the 4-12 Bengals. The same could be said for Marvin Lewis' tenure as the team's head coach.
Cincinnati compiled a 60-69-1 record in eight years under Lewis, the former Ravens defensive coordinator who was in the final year of his contract. Lewis declined an extension last season when the Bengals captured the AFC North and Lewis was named the NFL Coach of the Year.
Lewis, whose name has been linked to a couple of head coaching vacancies at prominent Division I college football programs, said he did not know what the future had in store for him.
"I can't answer where things are with me, personally, professionally, whatever," he said. "I don't know. All I know is officially today, I'm no longer employed. But that's all I know."
Suggs gets away with one
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs acknowledged getting away with a punch that could have changed the outcome Sunday.
Suggs was driven to the turf by Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who also ripped off Suggs' helmet. But Suggs directed his anger at wide receiver Jerome Simpson, connecting on a blow that the officials missed on what had been fourth down-and-1 at the Ravens' 26-yard line with the team clinging to a 13-7 lead in the fourth quarter.
"I could have cost my team," Suggs conceded. "I've got to get better in that area. Luckily, I got away with one. Usually, I don't get away with anything. They were too busy looking for the spot of the ball."
Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer offered a confusing explanation for his decision to throw a pass that sailed over running back Cedric Peerman in the left flat by at least two feet on fourth-and-1 from the Ravens' 2 with 16 seconds left in the game.
"On fourth down, we had three receivers to the left, and they had max coverage," Palmer said. "Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Cedric, but I couldn't get the ball to him because of their pressure."
Asked if the final play should have been a running play, running back Cedric Benson replied, "Yeah, that would have been a nice call, but somebody is in the position to make those calls, and they wanted to pass."
Health concerns didn't prevent tight end Todd Heap from playing in the final game before the playoffs.
Heap had missed the previous three games because of a pulled right hamstring and had been listed as questionable for Sunday. But he fully participated in practice all week and had said on Friday that his wish was to play before preparing for the postseason.
"I felt really good when I went out there," said Heap, who finished with three catches for 53 yards. "It felt good to get out there. I wanted to get some reps and get my feet back under me. So I think I got that accomplished, and to get a win on top of it — albeit not the way we wanted to — 12 wins is 12 wins, and we're excited about that."
Mason joins elite group
With his 9-yard grab in the second quarter — his second catch of the game — wide receiver Derrick Mason joined Jerry Rice and Tony Gonzalez as the only players in NFL history to register at least 60 receptions in 11 consecutive years.
Mason, who also reached 800 receiving yards for the 11th time in his career, called his reception streak "a blessing."