Placekicker Billy Cundiff said he received a large number of supportive text messages from friends and former coaches throughout the NFL after his rough day in Tampa Sunday, when he missed three field goal attempts but connected on a 41-yard try with three seconds left to beat the Buccaneers, 24-22.
“I think everybody said the same thing. It was like, ‘It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish,’ ” Cundiff said Wednesday at Redskins Park. “They were all proud of how things ended up. Even though they were offering that, I was still extremely frustrated.”
The Redskins also remained supportive of Cundiff, at least for now. The team did not bring in any kickers for workouts this week to audition for Cundiff’s job.
“I’ve been getting a lot of really positive feedback, even though they don’t know me, for what I’ve done in practice and I guess what I’ve done in games leading up to this last game,” Cundiff said. “If anything, I proved that, though I may not be as consistent as I wanted to be on Sunday, I’m mentally tough enough to deal with whatever may happen. When it comes down to the end, they know they can trust me. So I think that’s a really big thing.:”
The Buccaneers grabbed a 22-21 lead shortly after Cundiff’s third miss, a 31-yarder early in the fourth quarter. But Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III took the team down the field in the final two minutes to give Cundiff his opportunity to earn a measure of redemption.
“I was excited,” Cundiff said. “I kept saying, ‘Thank you, God, for giving me a chance to go out there and prove that the other kicks were just a fluke.’ The offense moved the ball so well. Each time they got chunks of yards, I was getting more and more confident knowing this was going to be my chance. As I told Danny [Smith, the Redskins’ special teams coach], I said look, I was going to make that kick even if I had to throw it through the uprights. It was going to go in.”
Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said Wednesday “it would have been a lot easier on my heart” if the team had scored a touchdown on its final drive in Tampa. But he also said he was pleased to see Cundiff deliver in crunch time.
“You always want someone to go out after a tough outing and prove themselves,” Shanahan said. “And he did.”
Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III said the final kick and the win made for a better atmosphere around the practice facility Wednesday.
“We’re a few feet, a few inches, from being 1-3 and not feeling so good today,” Griffin said.
The Redskins signed Cundiff, who was released by the Baltimore Ravens, just before the season began, after holding a kicking competition between Graham Gano and Neil Rackers in training camp and during the preseason. Cundiff has made only six of his 10 field goal attempts this season. But two of his misses have been from extremely long range, from 62 and 57 yards.
“It’s not that bad,” Cundiff said of his six-for-eight accuracy on kicks of 56 yards or less. “But it’s still not as consistent as I’d like it to be because the kicks I’ve missed have been very make-able kicks. At the end of the day, you want to make sure that you make all the kicks that you’re supposed to make. And you’ve got to steal a couple kicks that people say maybe that was a really tough one—longer than 40 yards into the wind, in the rain, whatever the case may be.”
Cundiff said his missed 57-yarder into the wind in the final seconds of the first half Sunday actually was his best kick of the day.
He’s still adjusting to the timing of the Redskins’ field goal operation with snapper Justin Snow and holder Sav Rocca, he said.
“If you look at a lot of successful kickers around the league, most guys have had multiple years with the same snapper and the same holder,” Cundiff said. “That’s not an excuse in any way. You have to understand that I take full credit for my misses. This is one of those things that we’ll continue to get better at. We just didn’t have the luxury of having a complete offseason together like everybody else in the league. It’s just a matter of getting used to when he snaps the ball and getting used to the whole timing of it.”
Cundiff said he moved on mentally from his misses Sunday, even before attempting his final kick.
“I look at the situation that happened on Sunday and say well, I obviously cleared my mind enough to kick the last kick,” he said. “So by the time I kicked the last kick, I was already over the three ones before. So I’ve moved on from there. I’ve obviously checked out the film to see what I’ve done and will make those corrections on the field. As we move forward, it’s really about continuing to do the things I did every other game and then just kind of letting that game be what it is and move on.”
Shanahan told Cundiff on the sideline during the game that the outcome would be decided by another Cundiff kick.
“After the 30-yarder that I missed, Coach Shanahan just came to me and said, ‘Look, just forget about what happened. We’re going to need you. And we’re going to need you for a really big kick coming up here pretty soon. So get your mind right,’ ” Cundiff said. “And I was like, ‘Okay.’ And I felt like he was right. In the NFL, a lot of things happen in a game. Things get accelerated in a game pretty quick…You just have to try to maintain an even keel throughout that roller-coaster of emotions.”