According to Stefan Fatsis at Deadspin, immediately before Cundiff ran onto the field to attempt the field goal, he was farther away from the field than he normally would have been because he thought third down was coming up.
As Cundiff detailed, his normal process for preparing to kick a field goal involves only moving closer to the sideline on third down, in order to hear whether he'll be needed if fourth down comes up. He had not moved closer to the sideline, however, because he was using the Gillette Stadium scoreboard to know what down it was, and directly before he was called for, the board read that it was third down.
The scoreboard was wrong.
With fourth down upcoming, coaches had to actually retrieve Cundiff from the kicker's warmup area and have him run onto the field. If you watch the video of the actual kick, you can see that Cundiff rushes the kick, causing it to miss by a mile.
Cundiff told Fatsis about what he thought was wrong and what has now been confirmed:
Cundiff told me he initially thought he was at fault, that he had looked at the scoreboard too early, before the down number had been changed. In fact, the Gillette Stadium scoreboard was off by a down. On Monday, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs told ESPN that Ravens players thought the team had made a first down after receiver Anquan Boldin fumbled out of bounds on first-and-10 from the Patriots' 23-yard line. Instead, the ball was marked where Boldin had lost it, a yard short of a first down. On second and third downs—which the scoreboard said were first and second—Ravens threw unsuccessfully into the end zone. Ravens P.R. director Kevin Byrne told me—and Cundiff later learned—that team officials watched the All-22 video of the game on Monday and confirmed the scoreboard malfunction.
While the man still should have made the kick, at least there is a legitimate reason why he was late getting on the field and at least a shred of an explanation for why he shanked the biggest kick of his life.
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