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It’s Tucker Time Now

Posted Jan 17, 2013

Billy Cundiff’s miss in last year’s AFC championship means nothing to kicker Justin Tucker.

There’s a new phrase in Baltimore this year:

Tucker Time.

Last season ended with Billy Cundiff’s shank in the AFC championship with 15 seconds left, a miss that has haunted Baltimore all year and will likely never be forgotten.

But as the Ravens head back to Gillette Stadium for the conference title game, they’re bringing with them a kicker who has proven himself in the clutch and has a catch phrase to prove it.

“This year, I’ve never been nervous about Justin Tucker kicking a field goal,” defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said.

Tucker is coming off one of the biggest kicks in Ravens franchise history, a 47-yard, double-overtime game-winner in chilly Denver.

The kick propelled Baltimore into Sunday’s AFC championship rematch against the New England Patriots, a team Tucker sunk down with one of his three game-winning boots this season.

Tucker barely made a 27-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Patriots, 31-30, at M&T Bank Stadium on Sept. 23. He got a Gatorade bath afterwards. Tucker also had a 38-yard game-tying kick in San Diego, then another 38-yarder to win in overtime.

The clutch kicks have earned Tucker the respect of his teammates.

Before going onto the field in Denver, safety Ed Reed grabbed the rookie’s head and told him that he had faith in him. Ngata was asked why he has so much confidence in Tucker.

“I think everyone can tell that he has a lot of confidence and he kicks really well. I think, with that, people just believe in him.,” Ngata said.

Punter Sam Koch, who is Tucker’s holder, said it’s a mixture of Tucker’s personality and straight-as-an-arrow kicking style that makes him so clutch.

“His ball doesn’t move nearly as much as Billy’s did and Stover’s always went straight as well. He’s just consistent in that way,” Koch said. “With the way his personality is, the two [factors] combined just make a great, great thing.”

Tucker is keeping a low profile this week following his huge field goal. Asked if he was a clutch kicker, he deflected the question.

“I’m just doing my job,” he said. “They expect me to do my job and I’m glad to be of service.”

But there are signs of Tucker’s fire. He let out a huge fist pump after his successful kick in Denver. It was one of three fist pumps this year, starting with a 56-yarder in Philadelphia in Week 2.

“Then I kind of short-armed one in San Diego. I kind of T-Rex-armed it,” Tucker said in his usual deadpan comedy style Wednesday. “I wasn’t really happy with how I finished that particular celebration.

“You’ve got to crow hop into it, get a little momentum behind it and try to throw your shoulder out.”

Tucker sometimes joked with reporters and other times dodged. Despite beating out Cundiff for the job in training camp and making a name for himself with 32 successful field goals in 35 chances this season, Tucker still is hearing about Cundiff’s miss from a year ago.

Tucker said he doesn’t remember watching it live. He was still in college at Texas. Obviously he knows about the miss, but it’s not on his mind this week.

“This is a new team now,” Tucker said. “What’s in the past is in the past. It has no bearing on what we’re doing this week or this day in practice. The only thing I’m thinking about when I go to kick a ball is my technique and my routine.”

Tucker said he felt calm before taking the field in Denver. He was locked in, focused on following the routine he, Koch and long snapper Morgan Cox have worked on for months.

So will he be as calm if he has to hit another game winner in New England?

“I will,” Tucker said. “We have such great relationships in this locker room, I think we’ll always have a chance to be successful as long as we are sticking together like that.”

WEEK OF WINNING: Today's contest code is AFCREMATCH. Visit the Week of Winning page and enter this code into the entry form for a chance to win an authentic Ravens jersey autographed by Torrey Smith!

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