Billy Cundiff: An Open Letter to the Baltimore Ravens' Latest Scapegoat
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Mr. Cundiff Sir,
As you probably didn't need reminding of, it was your bottled kick from 32 yards in the game's dying seconds that cost the Ravens the chance to send the game into overtime. It was a routine kick that people like yourself are generally expected to make on a regular basis.
But in reaction to that game, the first thing I want to say to you, Mr. Cundiff, is that you came out with the season on the line, and you did your best. I know that in NFL culture, that kind of excuse doesn't tend to fly very well, but I'm willing to trust that you've worked hard to get to where you are now and will continue to do so.
To borrow a line from The Simpsons, "Everyone makes mistakes: that's why they put erasers on pencils."
Heck, as far as chokes go, that wasn't even the worst I've seen in my 13 years of watching most of the biggest sports on the planet. That would go to my New Zealand All Blacks in the 1999 Rugby World Cup semifinal, though I may be biased here.
At the end of the day, your mistake was yet another in the long history of sports. It wasn't the first of its kind, it won't be the last and it won't even rank too highly in the scheme of things.
The scene reminds me of last year's AFC Divisional Round fixture at the dreaded Heinz Field. As a result of poor coverage from Lardarius Webb, Antonio Brown was able to score a touchdown on the way to a comeback victory.
My point is that you can rebound from this.
In the face of adversity, Webb went to the gym, the video room and spent that much longer on the training pitch to redeem himself. He is now one of the strongest links in the secondary chain, and if the importance of his presence was ever doubted, it was shown in a big way against the San Diego Chargers.
The Antonio Brown incident is now but an unfortunate footnote in a career that now promises great things. He rebounded from it, and with the right attitude, so can you.
What you are feeling is regret. That failed kick will repeatedly swirl around in your head for some time, haunting you, and you'll think of how you could have, should have, struck it differently, wishing for a shot at redemption. You'll feel like you failed yourself, your teammates, the city of Baltimore and the worldwide Raven Nation.
You have to find a way to get past that. Focus yourself and use the disappointment felt after this game as motivation to become the best kicker out of Baltimore. Don't give Ozzie Newsome a reason to waste one of his draft picks on another kicker—you're too good for that.
For now, people will blame you for the loss. But the reality is that there were plenty of other chances to win the game.
If the first two drives of the game had totaled more than minus-six yards, if that fumble recovery had led to a touchdown instead of a field goal, if Lee Evans had made that final catch, if Torrey Smith had made his after burning the Patriots secondary. All of these things could easily have added more than four points to the score. As Ray Rice was quick to address, the loss came as a team effort. Hang onto that guy, you have good company. Don't beat yourself up over Cam Cameron's play-calling, or the first-half run defence. None of that was your fault.
Lastly, if ever you're in New Zealand, hit me up and I'll buy you a beer to commiserate.
Not all of us hate you right now.
Stephen Gillam, longtime sports fan and part-time writer for the Bleacher Report community. Ravens till I die.
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