Billy Cundiff and the 5 Biggest "Goat" Kickers in NFL Playoff History
Billy Cundiff had a rough night on Sunday. He missed a short (32-yard!) field goal try that would have tied the Patriots and Cundiff's Ravens at 23 and sent the AFC Championship into overtime. Ravens fans lashed out, blaming their kicker and burning his jersey. Despite reaching the Pro Bowl just last year, he's become Baltimore football's Bill Buckner- a reasonably respected athlete whose one mistake will define his career, at least in the short term- and will endure plenty of questions and possible competition for his starting spot come this off-season.
Of course, Billy Cundiff is not Bill Buckner. He's young and has plenty of time to redeem himself. He's certainly not the only kicker to ever miss a big, important goal in the playoffs, either. Perhaps it's unfair to even tag Cundiff (or any kicker, really) with the "goat" label: they are one small cog in a larger machine, and are there to score supplemental points if their offense can't pull it off. Who else has empathy for Cundiff's situation? In the following list, we'll examine the biggest "goat" kickers ever to swing their legs in a playoff game.
HONORABLE MENTION: Mark Moseley, Cleveland Browns (1986)
Mark Moseley is far more hero than goat: he holds a few incredible distinctions as an NFL placekicker: in 1982, as a member of the Washington Redskins, Moseley won the NFL Most Valuable Player award, the only placekicker to ever do so.
He also stands alone in one other respect among place-kickers: he is the sole holder of an NFL record for the shortest kick ever missed in NFL post-season history: a 23-yard miss against the New York Jets in the 1986 Divisional Playoff round in double-overtime.
While Moseley went on to kick a game-winner, saving himself from true goat status, had the Jets made a successful scoring drive after his miss, he surely would have been remembered as one of the biggest goats in playoff history.
HONORABLE MENTION: Doug Brien, New York Jets (2004)
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Doug Brien started off his career on a heroic note: he was on the Super Bowl XXIX Champion 49er squad during his rookie year, and set (and still currently holds) the record for PATs in a post-season with 17. After that, he played for the Colts, Bucs, and Vikings before landing on the Jets roster in 2003.
During the 2004 playoff season, Brien's Jets were playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in an AFC Divisional Playoff game. The game was tied near the end of the fourth quarter, 17-17, and with just two minutes left to play, Brien missed a 47-yard field goal to give the Steelers back the ball.
The Jets intercepted and gave Brien a chance to redeem himself, but, sadly for both Brien and the fan base of the New York Jets, he decided not to take the opportunity. Instead,he missed a 43-yard attempt, sending the game into overtime, where the Steelers' kicker, Jeff Reed, nailed a 33-yard attempt to win the game and send the Steelers to the AFC Championship Game.
(h/t reader Justin Smartz)
NO. 5: Gary Anderson, Minnesota Vikings (1999)
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Gary Anderson had a great year for the Vikings in the 1998-1999 season, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl and becoming the first placekicker in NFL history to make 100% of his field goals in the regular season. His first miss of the year, however, couldn't have come at a worse time: with just over 2 minutes to go in the 1999 NFC Championship game, the Vikings were up by 7 over the Falcons and in great position to score again.
Anderson had a 38-yard field goal attempt in his domed, weather-proof (at the time) home field, the Metrodome, but unfortunately, the kick sailed wide left, putting the Falcons in great position to drive back, tie the game with a touchdown, and win in overtime.
NO. 4: Nate Kaeding, San Diego Chargers (2010)
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Many of the kickers on this list have incredible distinctions to their name, and yet many will go down in infamy for one bad game or one bad kick, proving, again, how fickle fans are with their kickers. Kaeding is currently the most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history, with a completion rate of 86.5%. In the 2009 regular season, Kaeding was the most accurate kicker in the NFL, with a completion rate of 91.4%.
Unfortunately, the post-season was less than kind to Kaeding. In the AFC divisional round against the Jets, Kaeding missed 3 field goals, one from 57 (a long, understandable miss, tied with Kaeding's record-long), 40 (long, but definitely doable), and 37 (Oh, dear...)
The Jets went on to win the game 17-14, meaning that if Kaeding had managed to make even one field goal, he would have at the very least tied the game for the Chargers. While it's tough to heap too much fault onto the placekicker when the offense can't score, the close margin of the game, combined with three misses, really leaves Kaeding with a lot of the blame.
NO. 3: Billy Cundiff, Baltimore Ravens (2012)
Billy Cundiff, after being the starting AFC Pro Bowl kicker just one year prior, had a mediocre season going into the 2012 playoffs. He was perfect at home, but only went 11-for-20 for field goals on the road during the 2011 regular season. It was understandable, then, that Cundiff may have had a bit of trouble kicking a game-tying field goal at Gillette Stadium during the 2012 AFC championship game.
Even if his kick had been good, it only would have been game-TYING; still, Cundiff's failure to kick a 32-yard field goal (the third-shortest miss in NFL postseason history) or even to call a time-out when they had one left to give himself a bit more time to prepare, leaves Cundiff high on the list of biggest goats in NFL playoff history.
NO. 2: David Treadwell, Denver Broncos (1991)
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Despite successfully nailing a critical onside kick to try and gain the lead back in the final minutes, David Treadwell couldn't overcome three missed field goals to help bring his Denver Broncos over the Buffalo Bills in the 1991 AFC Championship Game.
The offense had been playing fairly well, all things considered, and Treadwell's three missed field goal attempts turned what could have been a 9-0 score at the half into 0-0 for the Broncos. His misses lead to what ended up being a 10-7 loss and a missed shot at the Super Bowl for Denver. As a matter of fact, the only bigger goat in NFL playoff lore is the kicker who beat Treadwell that day and whose field goal helped bring the Bills to the Super Bowl...
NO. 1: Scott Norwood, Buffalo Bills (1991)
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Who else? Even if you don't know his name, if you have even a passing knowledge of NFL history, you either know of or remember watching the "Wide Right" field goal in Super Bowl XXV. With eight seconds left to go in the fourth quarter, trailing the New York Giants 19-20, the Buffalo Bills elected to have Norwood attempt a 47-yard field goal to send the game into overtime.
It was hard not to see this miss coming: with Norwood's longest field goal ever made having been 41 yards, 47 was a bit of a stretch. Norwood, of course, kicked the field goal, missed it, again, wide right, and the Giants ran out the clock to win the Super Bowl, putting Norwood's name at the top of NFL playoff goats.