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Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Scoreboard error to blame for Cundiff miss?

By ESPNBoston.com and ESPN.com



Tuesday's "Outside The Lines" (video above) explored the idea that Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff might have been rushed through his pre-kick routine before missing what would have been a game-tying 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds to go in Sunday's AFC title game against the Patriots.

With the Ravens trailing 23-20 in the final minute, Cundiff was seen rushing onto the field before hooking the field goal attempt. The reason: He and a Ravens official contend the Gillette Stadium scoreboard showed it was third down when it was actually fourth down. Ravens public relations director Kevin Byrne told Deadspin the team has video that confirms the "scoreboard malfunction." Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs mentioned the problem with the scoreboard on "First Take" too.

"There was a lot of confusion on that last play," Suggs said. "Those last two plays happened so fast."

Slate Magazine contributor Stefan Fatsis, who once went to training camp as a kicker with the Denver Broncos for the purposes of writing a book about pro athletes, told OTL's Bob Ley that Cundiff explained the situation to him.

"The down marker on the scoreboard was wrong," Fatsis said. "They were off by a down.

"For kickers, they go in their own little bubble and have a routine. They do a particular thing on first down, particular thing on second down, particular thing on third down and then they wait to get the call to run on the field. In this case, Cundiff was effectively one down behind. When you're on the sideline, there are lots of huge bodies, there are dozens of people, there are cables. It's chaos down there and you often can't see the yard markers. So players rely on the scoreboard to know what's going on.

"Cundiff, if you watch the video, ends up running on the field with the play clock at 10 seconds and ticking down. They don't snap the ball until basically the last second. He rushed it, and he said, 'My whole preparation was rushed.' He was thrown off by it. When a kicker rushes, the tendency is to do everything a little too quickly. You bring your hips through the ball a little too quickly. You lift up a little bit and your tendency is to pull the ball to the left, in Cundiff's case. I'm not saying he blames it, it's just the reality. It's what happened."

After the game, Cundiff told reporters that "the timing seemed a little off."

The confusion started when Anquan Boldin caught a first-down pass and ran to the New England 14-yard line before fumbling the ball, which rolled forward and out at the New England 10. The Ravens thought the ball was spotted where it went out of bounds, which would have given them a first down. But the ball was spotted at the Patriots 14, making the Ravens one yard short and leading to second down.

Rushed or not, the Ravens could have called their final timeout and given Cundiff time to set up.

Asked if he thought about using a timeout in that situation, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said after the game, "That never occurred to me. I didn't think that. You know, looking back at it now, maybe there was something we could have done. But in the situation, it didn't seem like we were that rushed on the field. [I] thought we were in pretty good shape."

Asked if Harbaugh should have called a timeout to give Cundiff more time to set up, Suggs paused four seconds before saying, "I don't know. I don't know."

Harbaugh might not have been aware that the Ravens were rushed, but Patriots coach Bill Belichick certainly was. That's why he didn't call a timeout to ice Cundiff.

“I thought they were a little late making the substitution," Belichick told Boston radio station WEEI. "I thought they sent it out a little bit late. It was fourth-and-2, something like that. I thought, well, maybe they might have even lost track of the downs."

Belichick added, "It just seemed to me like they were rushing a little bit. I felt we were better off letting them go, letting them rush and handle it under pressure rather than give them a chance to settle down and get it all lined up properly.”

A Ravens spokesman said he wasn't sure whether the team made the NFL aware of the situation because the coaches left for the Senior Bowl on Monday. The league didn't immediately respond to an email from ESPN.com.

YOUR TURN: What do you think? Could it be that this scoreboard error is the reason the game didn't go into overtime? Vote in the polls above and leave your comments.

AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley contributed to this report.