OWINGS MILLS — It was just a week ago that the Baltimore Ravens lost the AFC championship game to the New England Patriots when Billy Cundiff banged a chip shot field goal wide left late in the fourth quarter that would have likely sent the game into overtime.
Days later, Ravens kicking consultant Randy Brown suggested during a radio interview with Philadelphia station WIP that the Patriots had intentionally displayed the wrong down and distance on the scoreboard at Gillette Stadium.
Cundiff has acknowledged he thought it was third down, which caused him to hurry onto the field with no timeout called.
And Ravens coach John Harbaugh issued a statement last week saying the team knew the down and distance and condemned Brown’s inference that a deliberate attempt was made to affect the outcome of the game, calling it nonsense.
Now, Harbaugh said he has listened to the entire radio interview and concluded that Brown was joking around.
"I was a little stunned by it when I saw what a big deal it was," Harbaugh said.
"They were unfortunate comments for sure. I’ve known Randy for a long time. Randy is a very good person. If you listen to the interview, you get a very clear indication that it was in jest. He’s known those guys for a long time. He’s a Philly guy, he’s been on that radio station a bunch, and they were going back and forth.
"There was a lot of laughing going on. It wasn’t meant in a serious way, but it doesn’t come out that way in print. Randy should understand that, and he feels really bad about it right now. So, we in no way at all think that, and we’ve said that already. I just think it was unfortunate."
Meanwhile, Harbaugh doesn’t buy into the theory that Cundiff missed the field goal because the operation was accelerated.
"Running late, they were on the field with 17 seconds," Harbaugh said. "I think it didn’t look rushed to me. I felt like we were in good shape with that. The timing of it wasn’t even on my mind. I never looked at the scoreboard, personally. I never do.
The scoreboard is not what we use to calculate where we’re at down-and-distance-wise. We knew where we were at. We called the field goal team on the field, and the field goal team headed out.
"Sometimes the kicker is in back, he’s on his own, he’s at the net, and they get themselves in that place to kick a field goal. He might be looking at the scoreboard, but he’s also in communication with Randy. Those guys knew, or should have known, what the down and distance was. To me, it doesn’t affect the 32-yard field goal, and that’s what Billy said. He’s got to make that kick, no matter what. So no matter what happened with that, yeah the scoreboard was behind, but it didn’t affect us in any way, what we were doing. That kick should get made and all those other things."
The Ravens signed Cundiff to a $15 million contract last year after he had a Pro Bowl season. However, Cundiff connected on only 1 of 6 kicks from 50 yards or beyond this season. Overall, he slumped to 28 of 37 accuracy.
Do the Ravens still believe in Cundiff after this huge miss?
"He’ll make that kick 99 out of 100 times," Harbaugh said. "Billy Cundiff is one heck of a kicker. He’s an honest guy. He’s a smart guy. He wants to do well.
"It was a tough situation, it was a tough moment. It doesn’t lessen who he is in my mind in any way, or what he’s done. We just move forward and be the best team we can be next year. And, he’ll be the best kicker he can be."