Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Sports

Cundiff angles for his chance

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — There's no questioning how badly Billy Cundiff wants another chance in the playoffs after the way last season ended.

Cundiff and the Baltimore Ravens stayed home after he missed a potential tying 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the AFC title game and New England went to the Super Bowl last season instead.

These days, Cundiff has no qualms discussing his greatest career disappointment. He hopes to soon make a new impression on the NFL's postseason — succeeding as San Francisco's starting kicker.

"You don't have to tiptoe around this. Ask what you want to ask," Cundiff instructed while standing at his locker before Tuesday's practice.

While coach Jim Harbaugh has yet to name Cundiff or incumbent David Akers the top guy for Saturday's NFC division playoff game against Green Bay, Cundiff is preparing as if he will play.

Cundiff went to Candlestick Park on Monday to practice in the elements off San Francisco Bay, though there was little wind during his hour-long session alongside holder Andy Lee and snapper Brian Jennings, as special teams coach Brad Seely looked on.

"It was a fairly calm day from what I understand, and I was told not to get too used to that," Cundiff said. "The conditions were pretty nice."

Last summer, Cundiff figured to get another chance with the Ravens, but they parted ways with him Aug. 26. He then landed in nearby Washington but the Redskins released him on Oct. 9 after he missed five of his 12 field goal attempts.

IN DEMAND: Last year's playoff disappointment hit so hard that Falcons coach Mike Smith needed to change his staff from the top.

It seems Smith made the right decisions when he hired Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator and Dirk Koetter to run the offense.

"In my mind we have the best coaching staff in the NFL," Smith said.

How long he can keep it together is unclear.

Atlanta's success this season helped Koetter earn a head coaching interview last week with Kansas City. Nolan, the former head coach in San Francisco, interviewed for the same job with Philadelphia.

And special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong interviewed for vacancies with Kansas City, Philadelphia and Chicago.

Koetter withdrew from consideration after signing a new contract with Atlanta through 2014. Nolan and Armstrong both sidestepped on Tuesday night whether they hope to meet again with other teams after Atlanta's season ends.

HISTORY LESSON: The Falcons have more than homefield advantage against Seattle in the playoffs. The Falcons also have history on their side. The Seahawks won at Washington and must make another cross-country trip for Sunday's game at Atlanta. According to STATS LLC, the 1989 Los Angeles Rams are the only West Coast team to win back-to-back postseason games on the East Coast — at Philadelphia and the New York Giants.

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