“It’s a kick I’ve kicked a thousand times in my career,” Cundiff said. “The timing was just a little off.”
The snap was good. Holder Sam Koch set it down, although the laces weren’t completely facing forward. Still, it was only 32 yards.
As Cundiff’s kick from the right hash mark sailed to the left of the goal post, running back Ray Rice stared in disbelief from the sideline, mouth wide open. Receiver LaQuan Williams clasped the back of his head with both hands.
And why shouldn’t they be surprised? Cundiff was a first-team All-Pro last season and hadn’t missed a fourth-quarter field goal in two seasons. Of his nine misses this season, none was shorter than 34 yards. And throughout the NFL, kickers made all 24 attempts from exactly 32 yards during the regular season.
“You have to take it personally,” Cundiff said. “I get paid to make field goals.”
Harbaugh didn’t even let him try on the Ravens previous series. With a fourth-and-six at the Patriots 33, Flacco threw an incompletion to Pitta. The kick would have been at least 50 yards and Cundiff had missed five of his six attempts from 50 yards or more this season.
“From a percentage standpoint, we probably had a better chance of getting the first down,” Harbaugh said. “We were throwing the ball well there. That’s a long field goal.”
The much-criticized Flacco played one of his best games of the season, completing 22 of 36 passes for 306 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. His rating was 95.4. Tom Brady’s was just 57.5, his lowest since a 49.1 in a 33-14 playoff loss to the Ravens on Jan. 10, 2010.
“He played his tail off,” Ravens safety Bernard Pollard said, “and for the people who keep dogging him, man, if you never played this game, shut up.”
Then Baltimore started its final drive of the season.
There was the pass to Evans.
“I feel like I had it, but it came out,” Evans said. “I don’t know how to put it into words. Honestly, it’s the most disappointing part of all of this that I feel personally that I let everybody down.”
Then came the pass to Pitta.