From Wednesday to Sunday of this snooze-inducing bye week, we’re evaluating the performances of several Ravens thus far in the season to determine our “EbonyBird.com Midseason Awards” winners. Today, the Special Teams MVP.
Special teams is the most underrated aspect of any sport, in my humble opinion. “Football is a game of inches”. You’ve probably heard it thousands of times in your football-watching career, and don’t expect for it to stop being said, because it’s absolutely true. Inches away from a first down, from a touchdown, from making a field goal. What better way to get those inches, or prevent your opponent from getting them, then special teams? It could be a punt return, a long kickoff preventing a return, whatever. Special teams is extremely important, and I haven’t even mentioned the big-play factor. A return for a touchdown is a dagger into an opponent’s heart, as is a blocked field goal or a big hit that forces a fumble during an opponent’s return.
Award winner after the jump.
Billy Cundiff, Kicker:
I know that picking a kicker for this award is the choice that an uneducated football fan would make. If I were cool and edgy, I’d give it to a gunner or the long snapper. Even a return man is a more unconventional pick than the kicker. Regardless, I will stand by my decision.
Cundiff has been a stud this season, and when you only do two things (field goals and kickoffs), that can sometimes be hard to do. At the surface, his place-kicking has been stellar, hitting 10 of 12 field goals, with his long being 49 yards. When you think about it, the two he missed were tough kicks. One was about a 53-yard attempt and the other one was kicking into the open end of Heinz Field, an extremely tough task (as Jeff Reed taught us very well). Add a solid 17 out of 17 in extra points, a game-winner on Sunday against the Bills, and the fact that he’s not Steve Haushcka and he’s been nothing but consistent.
Where Cundiff has really shown up this season has been on kickoffs. Smashing the ball almost every time he’s kicked off, Cundiff has kicked a staggering 18 touchbacks in his 32 kickoffs. His average kick is 73 yards, and of the 13 kicks that have been returned (one kick went out of bounds), several of those returns came from inside the endzone. He’s been responsible for the unfavorable field position opposing teams have gotten against the Ravens thus far, giving the defense confidence and Greg Mattison more freedom in his defensive playcalling.
Other contenders for the award were gunners David Reed and Marcus Smith, who have been making plays all over the place, long snapper Morgan Cox (who won Top Rookie yesterday), and Sam Koch for his excellent punting and holding efforts week in and week out. Steve Hauschka was not considered for the award, and neither was Frank Walker. (Might as well throw both of last season’s scapegoats in there, right?)
Defensive MVP will be unveiled tomorrow.