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Harbaugh on Cundiff: "I told him he was a stud"

Faced with the task of possibly putting the football in the hands of Cleveland Browns return specialist Joshua Cribbs, the Ravens coaches considered squib-kicking and skipping grounders off the turf at M&T Bank Stadium. But Billy Cundiff had another idea.

"I told them, 'Hey, I feel pretty good. Let's try to kick it out of the end zone,'" the kicker said. "And they kind of gave me the green light, kind of as if to say, 'Let's see if this kid can actually do what he says he can do.' So I felt really confident with that, and I just did it. And on that last kickoff, same thing. I was just kind of riding that confidence."

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Cundiff rewarded the coaches' faith in him by launching his last three kickoffs into the end zone, forcing touchbacks each time. Those kickoffs and his 49-yard field goal in the fourth quarter after ricocheting a 51-yarder in the third quarter off the left upright had coach John Harbaugh singing his praises.

"I told him he was a stud when he came off the field," Harbaugh said. "I couldn't think of a better word. But he wanted those deep kicks. We were piddling around in our minds of squibbing it and side-kicking it and stuff like that because [Cribbs] is dangerous. And Billy said, 'I want that deep kick,' and he came through twice. And then he came through with a huge field goal, and it wasn't an easy kick at the end of it. So it was a big day for Billy Cundiff."

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Cribbs, who finished with 47 yards on two kickoff returns, said returning Cundiff's deep kicks wasn't worth the risk of possibly getting tackled inside the 20-yard line.

"When he put the kickoff deep in the end zone, I wasn't going to take a chance trying to run it out of the end zone," said Cribbs, the NFL leader in kickoff return touchdowns with eight. "Our offense was moving the ball well, so it wasn't worth the chance."

Cundiff outshined Shayne Graham in the preseason as Cundiff went 3-for-3 on field goals and recorded four touchbacks and Graham converted 2-of-3 field-goal attempts and posted two touchbacks.

So the pressure was on Cundiff to neutralize Cribbs – except that Cundiff didn't view it as pressure.

"You have to realize that at this level, if you want to be successful, you're not going to consider it pressure," he said. "You're going to take it as a challenge. So for us, we knew that we had the top returner in the league, and it's our time as special teams to try to make a difference. [Punter] Sam [Koch] was trying to put the ball out of bounds and as far down the field as he possibly could. For me, it was try to get the ball to the back of the end zone, and if I didn't do that, at least get it close to the sideline. Let's get some hangtime. So for us, it was a big challenge. We wanted to make a difference this game, and that's what we felt like we did."

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