Kicking ain't easy

I hate to be the pessimist following yesterday's win over the Browns, especially a win that helped put to rest some worries about whether the Ravens could win on the road against a winnable opponent, but what's up with Billy Cundiff?

Play the weather card if you will, but it hasn't been cold and rainy all season, and something is off with the Ravens kicker.

A year ago, Cundiff was excitingly close to perfection. He missed only three field goals all season, finishing with an impressive 87.9 percent success rate, and went the entire season - including the playoffs - without missing an extra point (45-for-45). Following a missed field goal in Weeks 4 and 5, Cundiff righted the ship and missed just one field goal from then until the end of the season.

As a reward for his accuracy, Cundiff's right foot earned him a trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl and a spot on the first team All-Pro roster.

This year, however, Cundiff shouldn't be making any plans for the trip to the islands. With four games still to play, Cundiff has already missed eight field goals, including two in Sunday's win in Cleveland. He missed a 34-yard field goal midway through the second quarter, then missed on the team's following drive, a 41-yard attempt just before halftime.

It was the first time Cundiff missed a field goal inside of 40 yards all season but the second time he missed multiple field goals in a game this season. Cundiff missed a pair of field goals in the Ravens' Week 3 win in St. Louis, leading skeptics to wonder if something is bothering the 31-year-old.

"It's the worst possible situation," Ravens coach John Harbaugh told reporters after last night's game. "We would have liked to have gotten him in a little better situation there, maybe on the left hash, but what you had was really bad footing, a crosswind coming from that corner in the Dog Pound. We knew that we weren't going to be able to go very deep there because of the crosswind down there in that corner."

True, weather conditions were less than ideal, as swirling winds and a constant rain made it difficult for any kicker to have a career day. But even an extra point attempt in the first quarter was anything but certain, as Cundiff's attempt needed a fortunate bounce off the right upright to fall through.

A quick glance at Cundiff's career numbers, however, suggests that this season isn't the one that's out of the ordinary, but rather his breakout campaign of 2010. As it stands, Cundiff's success rate is 76.5 percent, just .4 behind his career mark of 76.9. If that's truly the case, Ravens fans were spoiled last season, but that doesn't mean a drop in production will be accepted without some gripes.

If the Ravens are fortunate, they'll see Cundiff return to "Cundiff: Version 2010", especially as the team's shot at the postseason and AFC North crown draw closer. If not, another early exit could be in store, with Cundiff one of the culprits.

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