Billy Cundiff, who is still two touchbacks shy of tying the NFL record after getting shut out for the first time all season in Cleveland, made his first Pro Bowl roster, it was announced tonight.
It’s a great honor for Cundiff, and a far cry from his standing just a few short months ago at the start of training camp. Cundiff was the underdog to even make the roster after the Ravens brought in veteran Shayne Graham to compete with him for the kicking job in B’More. Although Cundiff is mainly being recognized for his prowess on kickoffs, the 30-year old journeyman has also had a career-best year booting field goals. His 24 field goals are the most he’s ever had, and his 88.9% success rate is a personal record, and well above his 76.7% lifetime average.
Cundiff is also 6/7 from 40+ yards this year, and 9/10 from that distance since joining the Ravens last year.
It’s been Cundiff’s kickoffs that have been the real story this year though. He has helped the Ravens to effectively neutralize opponents’ return men, including Joshua Cribbs of Cleveland and Denver’s Demaryius Thomas. Billy has recorded four touchbacks in a game four times this season – vs. Denver, Buffalo, Miami, and at Carolina. With warmer temperatures expected this weekend in Baltimore, he still has a decent shot at setting a new NFL record.
The Ravens have had a big edge in field position all season long, and Cundiff is a big reason for that. Unfortunately, the other guy mainly responsible for pinning teams deep in their own territory, punter Sam Koch, was again snubbed for a trip to Hawaii.
Though he was named a first alternate, many expected this to be the year Koch, who has had a wonderful career, finally got recognized for his accomplishments. He finished #1 in fan voting, but perennial Pro Bowler Shane Lechler of Oakland got the nod in the end. Lechler averages 47 yards per punt, nearly four yards more than Koch (43.2). However, Lechler has only landed 26 punts inside the 20-yard line, while booting four touchbacks. Koch, on the other hand, has placed an incredible 37 punts inside the 20, and still with just four going into the end zone.
Not to mention that Sam looks like a linebacker punting, and can be counted on every time to make a tackle if need be. Oh, and he made a fine throw to Cary Williams on a fake punt to convert a first down against Miami. Maybe Lechler, who has already been to six Pro Bowls, will bow out and let Koch take his spot. He’s a Raider though, so it’s doubtful he has nearly that kind of decency.
Other Ravens going to the Pro Bowl are Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata. Defense still rules the roost in Baltimore.
Ben Grubbs and Le’Ron McClain are first alternates along with Koch. Joe Flacco and Michael Oher are third alternates, and Anquan Boldin, Dawan Landry, and Ray Rice fourth.