By Doug Halberstadt
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times … it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. …”
Those words are from the opening lines of Charles Dickens’ classic novel A Tale of Two Cities. They also accurately describe the AFC and NFC championship games from this past weekend.
In the AFC game, it was the worst of times for the Baltimore Ravens’ field goal kicker, Billy Cundiff. A 32-yard field goal with 15 seconds left in regulation was all he needed to make to tie the New England Patriots. Had he made that field goal, he would have evened the score 23-23 and forced an overtime period. The Ravens’ Super Bowl hopes would have still been alive.
Instead, Cundiff’s kick sailed wide left, and the Ravens’ season came to a screeching halt. They lost to the Patriots 23-20.
On the West Coast, it was the best of times for the New York Giants’ field goal kicker, Lawrence Tynes. With the game already extended into an overtime period, he lined up for a 31-yard field goal. Even though the snap from center was low and just inches off the turf, the ball was placed down perfectly. Tynes split the uprights, His kick not only won the game, it assured his team a date with the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl Feb. 5.
It’s somewhat ironic how both games came down to the skill (or lack thereof) of their field goal kickers. With much of the media attention focused on the four quarterbacks involved in these two games and all of the talk about the defenses, both games ended up being decided by the right legs of two relatively unknowns.
Tynes will go down as his game’s hero, and he’ll spend the next week-and-a-half preparing for the biggest game of the year. Meanwhile, Cundiff will have the entire offseason to think about what might have been, if only that ball had not sailed left on him. That will certainly be his personal winter of despair.
By the way, the two cities Dickens’ novel refers to are London and Paris. Since Cundiff is not going to Indianapolis next month, perhaps he should consider heading to either one of those two towns to get away from it all. A week or two out of the country might be exactly what he needs to help ease some of the pain he must be feeling.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Jan. 25-31, 2012, issue