Tucker was an undrafted rookie out of the University of Texas and Cundiff was a former All-Pro who was coming off the kind of untimely miss that can wreck one’s confidence.
Tucker went on to have a spectacular first season in the NFL. Cundiff failed to hold a job one year after booting a 32-yard would-be tying kick wide left in the final minute of the AFC championship.
Tucker made 30 of 33 field-goal attempts during the regular season, including an impressive 4-for-4 from 50 yards and beyond. He ranked seventh in the league in field-goal conversion percentage (90.9) before making both of his tries during the Ravens’ run to the Super Bowl - one of which was a 47-yard double-overtime winner at top-seeded Denver.
“He’s been awesome,” long snapper Morgan Cox said Wednesday. “The confidence he’s brought to our operation has really improved us. I loved to see it progress throughout the season, so it’s been awesome that he’s brought so much to the table.”
Tucker said the key for him has been not looking too far ahead and taking his job for granted.
“I really have just enjoyed the ride. I think we all have,” he said. “I was telling our special teams coach this week in practice, this entire season, I think part of the reason that I’ve been successful, that we’ve been successful, is just I’ve just been trying to stick around every single week.
“I’ve just been thinking like I’ve been fighting for my life every single week. I think that’s the key to our success - staying hungry and staying humble, and as long as we do those things, we have a chance to be successful.”
It’d be understandable if Tucker felt some extra pressure going into this season considering the fact that it was a missed kick which ended last year’s playoff run.
But Tucker said that hasn’t been the case and that’s been reflected in his performance.
“We have the utmost respect for Billy and what he’s done. Last year was an unfortunate deal, but Justin earned his position and he’s certainly been a huge part of our success this season,” Cox said. “Just being able to contribute the way he has gives me confidence knowing that if I throw back there a good snap that he’s going to make the kick.”
Tucker called reaching the Super Bowl his first year a “dream come true,” and he has certainly contributed to getting the Ravens there.
“It’s definitely a blessing to be able to play with such a good team, a team that’s really a perennial powerhouse in this league, which is a hard thing to do,” Tucker said. “But just to able to share these experiences with the team that we’ve put together is really a cool deal.”