I probably don’t need to jog your memory much to think back to October 18, 2009. The game was at Mall of America Field (you may know it better as the MetroDome) in Minneapolis. After trailing 27-10 in the 4th quarter, the Baltimore Ravens stormed back to take a 31-30 lead. After some coverage “issues” from CB Frank Walker, the Vikes drove into field goal range and re-took a 33-31 advantage.
The only video I could find with documentation of how the final drive played out for Joe Flacco and company is below. It was shot from a fan’s camera in the Dome and perhaps doesn’t quite do it justice.
Flacco directed the offense down the field in just 1:54, leaving them on the Vikings’ 26 yard line with two seconds to play. After being iced by a timeout, then Ravens K Steve Hauschka never straightened out a 44 yard field goal try from the right hash, missing badly. The loss didn’t necessarily crush the team (a 10-6 record would have still left them as a Wild Card due to their 0-2 record against the Cincinnati Bengals), but the miss did immediately pave the way for the team to make a change at the position.
There is not a direct parallel between the team’s 2009 kicking competition and the competition the Ravens are currently holding between incumbent Billy Cundiff and rookie Justin Tucker. In ’09, the team had already decided to part ways with future Ring of Honor and former Super Bowl champion K Matt Stover before the season (he would ultimately end up kicking for the Indianapolis Colts later in the season and missing a crucial 51 yard try in the 4th quarter of Super Bowl XLIV).
Instead, the competition in ’09 was between Hauschka and rookie Graham Gano. The team had decided to go into the season without a veteran kicker, meaning they were always going to put themselves in a position where a big kick would have to be attempted by a player with no previous experience. After missing the kick in the Twin Cities, Hauschka was replaced by Cundiff. Cundiff would go on to Pro Bowl status in 2010 before a late 32 yard miss in the 2012 AFC Championship Game left him out of favor with Charm City fans.
It’s worth noting that when I asked John Harbaugh directly about whether or not the team was looking at competition for Cundiff at this past February’s NFL Scouting Combine, the Ravens’ head coach told me (without dancing around the question) a simple “no”. Multiple sources close to the organization told me throughout the offseason the team did not bring in the rookie from Texas to actually “compete” with Cundiff, but just to help inspire the veteran to bounce back from a rough 2011 season.
Cundiff remained defiant about the situation after the second preseason game, telling WNST.net “if I kick well, this is my job” even as Tucker drilled a 50 yard attempt. (Both kickers went 2/2 in FG tries against the Lions.)
It was hard to expect the situation to get this awkward.
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