Billy Cundiff knew his job was on the line. At least he had a sense of humor about it.
In a year in which NFL kickers have been making field goals with record accuracy, Cundiff missed three in a tight game. He knew he would get one more chance as he watched Robert Griffin III drive the Washington Redskins down the field, trailing by one.
"I was joking with a guy on the sidelines: 'Well, I'm going to get a game-winner. Just know this — I'm going to make it. If don't make it, just know that it's my last time wearing Redskins gear,'" Cundiff said.
Cundiff is still wearing burgundy and gold, having put the 41-yarder through the uprights with 3 seconds to play in Sunday's 24-22 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"Thank you," Cundiff said. "I kept saying, 'Thank you God' for giving me a chance to go out there and prove that the other kicks were just a fluke. ... Each time they got a chunk of yards I was even more and more confident knowing this was going to be my chance. And as I told (special teams coach Danny Smith), I said, 'Look, I was going to make that kick if I had to throw it through the uprights.'"
By now, kicking drama is as familiar to Redskins fans as an old blanket. The club has struggled for some two decades to find a long-term solution at the position. Graham Gano and Neil Rackers competed for the job at this year's training camp, but coach Mike Shanahan cut both in a 24-hour period to snatch up Cundiff, who had just been waived by the Baltimore Ravens.
Sure enough, the Redskins are back in their familiar position at the bottom of the kicking pile. Cundiff leads the league in missed field goals (4) and is last in percentage (6 for 10).
But there are mitigating factors. Cundiff didn't get a chance to go through a training camp with holder Sav Rocca and long snapper Justin Snow. And Shanahan has twice had Cundiff attempt field goals beyond the kicker's range — a 62-yarder in Week 2 against the St. Louis Rams and a 57-yarder against the wind in the Buccaneers game.
"That's 6 of 8 inside of 56, so it's not that bad," Cundiff said. "But it's still not as consistent as I'd like to be, because the kicks I've missed have been very makeable kicks."
Cundiff's range has always been in question. He is 5 for 21 over his career from 50-plus yards, including 1 for 8 since the start of last season.
He is most remembered, however, for missing a potential game-tying, 32-yarder against the New England Patriots in the waning seconds of last season's AFC title game. In an age in which opposing coaches love to ice the kicker, Cundiff wishes Bill Belichick had done just that.
"It would have worked in my favor," Cundiff said. "Because I ran out there and everything was hurried and it was a rushed situation. If he would have done that, I would have probably gone over and given him a big hug."
Now Cundiff is hoping for hugs from teammates after successful field goals, instead of words of encouragement after a trio of misses. He will again be kicking for the Redskins (2-2) in this week's game against the Atlanta Falcons, but Shanahan made it clear that the margin for error has taken a dive.
"Obviously, if you miss too many," Shanahan said, "your employment's not very long."
Notes: Griffin was selected as the NFL's offensive rookie of the month for September. ... WR Aldrick Robinson, who suffered a concussion in a collision prior to Sunday's game, was cleared to practice and fully participated in Thursday's session.
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