Cowboys coach Bill Parcells fired kickers coach Steve Hoffman in the offseason because he felt he coddled Cundiff too much.
He wanted Cundiff to show more mental toughness.
The irony this season has been that it was Cundiff who Parcells thought
the Cowboys needed most.
Cundiff was injured and released in training camp. The Cowboys began the
season with the inconsistent Jose Cortez, who missed two makeable field
goals which would have proved to be the difference in losses to the Redskins
and Seahawks earlier in the season.
The Cowboys released him and signed Shaun Suisham, a rookie from Bowling
Green. Suisham was 2-for-2 on field goals during his time with the Cowboys
but he was shaky on kickoffs and the Cowboys didn't trust him to make the
tough kicks down the stretch.
With the team in the playoff chase and facing critical games over the
last half of the season, the Cowboys re-signed a now healthy Cundiff.
He rewarded them in his first game back with a team-record 56-yard field
goal against the Lions.
But much to the Cowboys' dismay, Cundiff proved to be his same old
inconsistent self against the Broncos on Thanksgiving Day.
He missed a 34-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter which
would have given the Cowboys their first lead of the day.
The Broncos went on to win 24-21 in overtime.
"A 34-yarder I should have had," Cundiff said of his kick with 7:42
remaining in regulation. "It's very humbling. Obviously, I cost our team the
game. I take full responsibility for it. A lot of guys put it on the line,
and for me to come up short on a 34-yard field goal is just ... I just feel
bad for them."
A frustrated Parcells said that was precisely the situation the Cowboys
brought Cundiff back for.
"We had our chance there at the end of regulation, but we couldn't make a
play and missed a kick," Parcells said. "Missed it. What do you want to do?"
Cundiff's teammates remained supportive after the game.
"When you are a kicker, you're either a hero or the loneliest guy,"
Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe said. "We just got him back, and we know he
is an outstanding kicker, and we know he is going to have to make big kicks
for us down the stretch if we're going to do what we want to do."
The question is how long Parcells will stay supportive.
Cundiff has connected on 74 percent of his kicks during his career.
Parcells wants his kickers at 85 percent. He definitely wants them to make
kicks under 40 yards with the game on the line.
Cundiff knows he could be gone as fast as he returned, though he wants
"I've been around long enough to know if you see me on Sunday, then
you'll see me on Sunday," he said. "Until then, hopefully, I'll be in
practice. Hopefully, I'll get another chance."
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