Cundiff deserves respect after owning up to missed kick

Ravens kicker doesn't point fingers, acts like Stover would have after loss

January 24, 2012|Mike Preston

Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff reminds me of his predecessor, Matt Stover.

He'll never be as accurate, but he was just as professional Sunday night when he missed the 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds which would have tied the game. Instead, New England beat the Ravens, 23-20, for the AFC championship and the right to play in the Super Bowl.

After the game, Cundiff spoke at the podium. As expected, his tone was somber but he didn't back away from any questions or become frustrated while being scrutinized by the media.

He blamed no one but himself.

And that's where he reminded me of Stover. When Stover missed, he pointed at himself. When Cundiff missed, he could have come up with excuses, but instead said it was a field goal he had made a thousand times, both in his mind and on the field.

You appreciate his honesty.

There are some who have questioned Cundiff's return next season, but the Ravens should retain him just because of his performance a year ago, the ability to play through pain in 2011, and his accountability.

There were and still are easier ways out for Cundiff to explain why he missed the field goal. Should we call it Jumbotron Gate? Was this another cheating scandal engineered by New England coach Bill Belichick?

According to published reports, the scoreboard at Gillette Stadium was malfunctioning and was a down behind play on the field. Cundiff was late going out for his field goal attempt because he thought it was third down, not fourth.

Apparently, the Ravens sideline became chaotic and players -- including Cundiff -- were rushed on the field. That may have played a part in Cundiff's field goal sailing wide left.

I don't believe it, and if you believe that Belichick cheated, then you probably believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

How about this: He just missed the damn field goal.

It happens. NFL players have missed shorter ones. Some have missed extra points. Stover has had bad days, and so have Adam Vinatieri and Morten Andersen.

The problem is that in this day and age of social media and talking heads, we over-analyze everything. It must really be a slow news day when NBC anchorman Matt Lauer was talking about the Cundiff situation Tuesday morning.

But what is there to analyze? A kicker gets paid to kick off and make field goals. If he puts it through the uprights, he's great. If he doesn't, he's a bum.

It's a simple life. For Cundiff — and most professionals — there are no excuses because you get paid to produce in pressure situations, not have alibis.

We could find one for Lee Evans. I heard he dropped that touchdown pass because his hands were cold. Apparently Belichick put hand warmers on the Patriots' sideline, and not on the Ravens.

It starts to become absurd after a while.

So the Ravens' sideline may have been disorganized while Cundiff was trying to get on the field. Oh, that's a new one, like no team in the history of the NFL has ever rushed to get its field goal unit on the field in the closing seconds.

There is always a certain degree of panic on an NFL sideline. These are emotional, highly driven, big, nasty guys who cuss a lot. What did you expect, bingo at a senior center?

The Ravens prepare every week for moments like Sunday night when Cundiff has to come onto the field. They have a routine during game day, and I know Cundiff had warmed up enough on the sideline before he went out there.

Some want to know why Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn't call a timeout. Maybe he didn't want to risk icing his own kicker, who had struggled in the second half of the season.

So, in other words, he just wanted Cundiff to kick the damn ball.

Few coaches know special teams better than Harbaugh, who built his career coaching special teams in Philadelphia.

Last season, Cundiff earned a position on the AFC Pro Bowl squad. But he isn't perfect and will make mistakes. It happens.

It's fate. There aren't any excuses and we need to stop inventing them. If Cundiff isn't, then why should we?

He just kicked the damn ball and missed.

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