There are so many different angles to Billy Cundiff's doomed field goal attempt from Sunday's AFC title game that the entire sequence has begun to take on a mythical quality. The rush out to the field. The bad hold. The scoreboard incident.
The kick has become more than a kick; it's become a narrative. That happens with a decisive play in an important playoff game. When it happens, all you can say is HOLY SMOKES HE MISSED IT!
And then the days go by and the enormity of it all sinks in, and the little details from the incident begin coming out, adding layers and context to the original play. Twenty years from now, you will see NFL Films quality replays of that kick over and over again any time the Ravens are in an important game. You can sense the legend around it being constructed as we speak.
Of course, this wouldn't be the first time that a missed kick quickly became etched into the collective football consciousness. There are other notorious botched kicks in NFL history. Were any of them bigger than the 32-yarder that Cundiff missed? Here is a list of five (NOTE: I only included kicks that were actually kicked, and not failed snaps like in the 2003 Giants/Niners Wild Card game). I think you know who gets top billing.
1. Scott Norwood, Super Bowl, 1991. Norwood's kick was much longer than Cundiff's (47 yards). In fact, it's hard to blame him for missing a kick that long under such strenuous circumstances. But Norwood's fate served to enhance the tragedy. He was never the same after missing what is still the only game-losing field goal miss in Super Bowl history.
2. Billy Cundiff, AFC Championship Game, 2012. This is the right spot for this kick. If it had happened in the Super Bowl, it would have been No. 1, easily.
3. Gary Anderson, NFC Championship Game, 1999. The Vikings were leading 27-20 in this game with five minutes left when Anderson attempted his ill-fated 38-yarder. This wasn't a situation where the kick would have literally won the game for Minnesota. It was merely for critical insurance points. Anderson, who hadn't missed a field goal all season, hit it wide left, and then the Falcons scored the tying touchdown. The Vikings' defense had been overrated that entire season, and that's what did them in more than Anderson's gaffe.
4. Nate Kaeding, AFC Playoffs, 2010. Kaeding's failure was compounded by the fact that he missed THREE field goals that would have tied the game and kept the Chargers from choking at home against the Jets in the divisional round. The good news about missing three critical field goals is that you can't lock in one just one to immortalize for all time. The bad news about missing critical three field goals is that YOU MISSED THREE CRITICAL FIELD GOALS.
5. Doug Brien, AFC Playoffs, 2005. He could have beaten the Steelers twice. First, he missed a kick from 47 yards out. And then the Jets got a gift interception of Big Ben and had a chance to win at the very end, and Brien missed 43-yarder. Again, the fact that Brien missed TWO field goals means you don't remember one of them quite so vividly. That's why Cundiff has already cracked the top two on this list, and why he may be No. 1 once the full story has been told.