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Cundiff hoping for another playoff shot

Cundiff hoping for another playoff shot

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) There's no questioning how badly Billy Cundiff wants another chance in the playoffs after the way last season ended.

Cundiff and the Baltimore Ravens stayed home after he missed a potential tying 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the AFC championship game and New England went to the Super Bowl last season instead.

These days, Cundiff has no qualms discussing his greatest career disappointment. He hopes to soon make a new impression on the NFL's postseason - succeeding as San Francisco's starting kicker.

``You don't have to tiptoe around this. Ask what you want to ask,'' Cundiff instructed while standing at his locker before Tuesday's practice.

While coach Jim Harbaugh has yet to name Cundiff or incumbent David Akers the top guy for Saturday's NFC divisional playoff game against Green Bay, Cundiff is preparing as if he will play.

Cundiff took a field trip Monday to Candlestick Park to practice in the elements off San Francisco Bay, though there was hardly any wind during his hour-long session alongside holder Andy Lee and long snapper Brian Jennings - with the supervision of special teams coach Brad Seely.

Cundiff attempted between 30 and 40 field goals and also launched some kickoffs. Come Saturday, a sellout crowd will pack the place as San Francisco (11-4-1) tries to take a step toward reaching its first Super Bowl since after the 1994 season.

``It was a fairly calm day from what I understand, and I was told not to get too used to that,'' Cundiff said. ``The conditions were pretty nice. I think (I adjusted) the best that I can after one day. Guys get used to stadiums after playing there for many years so I think I know it as well as I can with what the current situation is. ... We're trying to cram in what you would do in the offseason - April, May, June, you get a little bit of July off and then most of August - so you're taking four months and squeezing it into about three days.''

Last summer, Cundiff figured he would get another chance to change his fortunes this season with the Ravens, but they parted ways with him Aug. 26 before Cundiff landed in nearby Washington.

The Redskins then released him on Oct. 9 after he missed five of his 12 field goal attempts.

Three months later and across the country, Cundiff is playing for John Harbaugh's little brother, Jim - perhaps finally poised to get that shot for another Harbaugh. San Francisco signed him Jan. 1 after Akers struggled once again during a 27-13 victory in the regular-season finale against Arizona.

The 32-year-old Cundiff realizes joining a new team at this late stage is a ``unique'' circumstance, but he knows he will fit in as long as he goes about his business and does his job when called upon.

``You're only as much of an outsider as you allow yourself to feel,'' Cundiff said. ``For me, I feel like it's the ultimate compliment that a team that's playing in the playoffs would use a roster spot on a guy like myself. They obviously have a lot of confidence in my abilities or they wouldn't have brought me in here. I feel like that is the ultimate compliment, so I'm going to take that confidence out on the field and not really worry about the rest.''

Harbaugh has said there is a ``leader in the clubhouse,'' but hasn't said who it is. He probably won't until he absolutely has to, either, to keep the Packers guessing.

Cundiff has moved forward from how last season ended, knowing John Harbaugh trusted him to bounce back. Probably not in this very situation, however."Maybe that was a compliment that in the fact that he didn't feel like he had to talk me off the ledge or console me,'' Cundiff said. ``I was obviously disappointed, and if I wasn't disappointed I think he would have bigger concerns. But at the same time I think he knew I would pick myself up. I've been through a lot in my career and I've dealt with some strange situations, and this is maybe just another one of them. I feel the way that I approach things, I think people know that I can handle it. Maybe that's why I keep getting thrown into the fire.''

Notes: San Francisco signed LB Nate Stupar to the practice squad. ... LB Aldon Smith (shoulder) practiced in a non-contact black jersey, along with CB Tarell Brown (shoulder, knee).

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In crunch time, Terrell Suggs rolls with Ravens teammates Joe Flacco and Justin Tucker

In crunch time, Terrell Suggs rolls with Ravens teammates Joe Flacco and Justin Tucker

JACKSONVILLE – In Terrell Suggs fashion, the Ravens’ linebacker described what it felt like to have Joe Flacco as a quarterback, and Justin Tucker as a placekicker.

“You want a quarterback with ice in his veins, and you damn sure want a kicker with ice in his veins,” said Suggs, after the Ravens escaped Jacksonville with a 19-17 victory that kept them unbeaten at 3-0.

Tucker delivered again for the Ravens, making four field goals, including the 54-yard game-winner with 67 seconds left to play. Having a kicker as clutch as Tucker, with range well beyond 50 yards, is another reason why opponents dread seeing Tucker trot onto the field. Leave the game up to Tucker, and it’s game over.

“There’s definitely butterflies,” said Tucker, when asked how he feels kicking game-winners. “We get into these situations and we’ve had a good handful of them in my time here. Do they get easier? I’m not really sure. But I can tell you the more opportunities and we have and I successfully convert, the more confidence I have.”

Flacco will never be the smoothest quarterback in the NFL, but he remains one of the most poised. His performance on Sunday (29 of 40, 214 yards, on rushing TD, two interceptions) was all over the map. There was the good Flacco – at one point he set a franchise record by completing 21 straight passes. There was the bad Flacco – two interceptions during the final seven minutes that almost cost the Ravens the game.

But on the Ravens’ final drive, Flacco completed four passes, including a fourth-down pass to Steve Smith Sr. that helped move Tucker into range.

There was a fine line between winning and losing Sunday, and once again the Ravens cut it close. But in that situation, who would you rather have as your quarterback, Flacco or Blake Bortles of the Jaguars (24 of 38, two touchdowns, three interceptions)? Even when Flacco doesn’t play nearly his best, he doesn’t get flustered.

“I would’ve liked to have made it easier for him (Tucker), myself, and all the people back in Baltimore,” Flacco said. “There’s no need to be giving people heart attacks every single week. But if you win you win.”

And once again, having Tucker and Flacco during the final minutes was a winning combination.

MORE RAVENS: Flacco sets new franchise record vs. Jaguars

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Ravens defense picks off Jaguars in 19-17 win

Ravens defense picks off Jaguars in 19-17 win

The Ravens’ offseason emphasis on creating more turnovers is already paying big dividends, and it played a huge role in the Ravens’ 19-17 win at Jacksonville on Sunday.

The Ravens picked off Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles three times, giving them five interceptions in the first three games. Last season, the Ravens totaled just six interceptions, which ranked last in the league and was a franchise record-low.

Against the Jaguars, C.J. Mosley turned in a highlight-reel, one-handed pick of Bortles to thwart one Jaguars drive late in the first quarter, and rookie Tavon Young recorded his first career interception on a pass that was tipped by Timmy Jernigan. That, too, occurred in Ravens territory and denied the Jaguars a chance to add to their 17-16 lead in the fourth quarter.

The Ravens then clinched the win when Bortles’ desperation pass in the final minute was tipped by Lardarius Webb and picked off by Zach Orr.

The Ravens had not recorded three interceptions in a game since the 2013 finale at Cincinnati.

Throughout training camp, the Ravens worked diligently on turnovers. In one drill, defensive backs had to try to catch tennis balls lofted downfield as a way to get them to track the ball better. The Ravens also worked on tipped passes, on pouncing on incompletions in case one might sometime be ruled a catch-and-fumble, anything to generate more of what John Harbaugh calls “sudden change” plays.

On Sunday, that work paid off, and though it wasn’t always pretty, the Ravens are sitting at 3-0 for just the third time in franchise history.

MORE RAVENS: Flacco sets new franchise record vs. Jaguars