Filling in for Cundiff, Graham excels

Fans probably didn’t know what to expect of Shayne Graham when the veteran kicker trotted out to attempt a 48-yard field goal late in the first quarter yesterday afternoon.

Heck, Graham’s teammates might not have known what to expect, either.

Playing in his first game as a Raven in place of the injured Billy Cundiff, the newly signed Graham was put to the test right away yesterday, as he was called upon to boot two long field goals in somewhat windy conditions.

The 11-year veteran rose to the challenge, nailing both the 48-yarder as well as a 43-yarder mid-way through the third quarter, and his kicks were the difference in Baltimore’s 20-14 win over the Browns.

“It feels good to be a part of it and know you had something to do with helping a team win,” Graham said. “It’s a good feeling. Anytime you get some chances and opportunities to perform and it helps the team win, that’s something that builds your own confidence and it builds the team’s confidence around you. If I’m called upon next week, I’ll be ready to be a part of the team and help the team win.”

The 48-yarder was Graham’s longest made field goal since November of 2009 and likely allowed the kicker, his teammates and the fans to breathe a sigh of relief.

While Graham made the Pro Bowl back in 2005 and is the fifth-most accurate kick in NFL history, he’s been unable to consistently hold a job over the last two seasons. That combined with the fact that Cundiff has struggled on long field goal attempts this season might have given those at M&T Bank Stadium cause for a little concern when Graham got the call on the Ravens’ second drive of the game.

The 34-year-old calmly booted the ball through the uprights, however, giving the Ravens a 10-point lead.

“Going out there and making a 48-yarder and the team doesn’t skip a beat with the momentum and things like that, it definitely feels better than when you miss that and everyone’s kind of like, ‘Oh, the new guy just missed,’” Graham said. “It feels good to make it. Not only do you feel good and you have confidence, but then all the guys on the team are patting you on the back and it just builds and it’s a big snowball like that.”

Graham was signed on Wednesday of last week with Cundiff, the Ravens’ Pro Bowl kicker of a year ago, battling a left calf injury and consistency issues.

When healthy, Cundiff is one of the elite kickers in the league on kickoffs - an area where Graham didn’t exactly excel yesterday - but he hasn’t been consistent on field goals, especially of late. Cundiff is just 2-of-5 on field goal tries in the month of December.

The hope is that the week of rest will allow Cundiff to return this Sunday against the Bengals, but if he needs some additional time off, Graham proved that he can fill an effectively.

“I thought (Graham) was good, especially on the field goals and the extra points,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He did a nice job of knocking it between the poles. It’s not easy to do that, coming in to a new operation. The kickoffs were adequate. It’s not going to be a great kickoff day anyway. So, I think he did a good job of that as well.”

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