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A Meeting Of The Most Accurate Kickers In NFL History


Justin Tucker's first and foremost goal is to help the Baltimore Ravens win games. It's something he accomplishes quite often.

But there's a certain stat that Tucker occasionally sneaks a peek at too.

Tucker and Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey rank as the most accurate and second-most accurate kickers in NFL history. Bailey tops the list at 90.4 percent. Tucker* *is second at 89.4 percent.

The two have flip-flopped before.

Tucker became the all-time leader during the 2014 season and held it until he missed one kick in Week 3 last season. Bailey overtook him. That's how narrow the margin is.

"I'd be lying to you if I said I haven't paid it attention," Tucker said, sitting in front of his locker this week.

"In the offseason, when that comes across my desk – which I don't have because I'm not a sportswriter – it's cool to know that I'm on that list."

When the two kickers shake hands and exchange pleasantries before the start of Sunday's game at AT&T Stadium, it will be a meeting of not only two of the best at their craft, but two of the leaders in a revolution of kicking success.

Over the past several years, kickers have become better than ever before.

This year, Tucker and Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri have yet to miss a kick, and we're more than halfway through the season. Tucker is 22-for-22 and Vinatieri is 19-for-19.

Vinatieri has made 44 straight kicks, which has set the all-time NFL record. Tucker's 29 straight splitting of the uprights is the second-longest active streak.

There are currently seven NFL kickers with success rates of 90 percent or above. In 2013, there was an NFL-record 11.

Compare that to a decade ago. In 2006, former Raven Matt Stover finished the year ranked atop the league with a 93.3 field-goal percentage. Only four kickers had a 90 percent success rate or better.

A decade before, in 1996, only one kicker, the Indianapolis Colts' Cary Blanchard, was at 90 percent or above (he was directly at 90 percent). Stover was 19-of-25 (76 percent).

So why have NFL kickers become so good?

Tucker has his own theories. He says the rest of the operation around the kicker – the long snap and the hold – have improved. Tucker has two of the best teammates in the business with* *2015 Pro Bowlers, long snapper Morgan Cox and punter/holder Sam Koch.

"Those 1.3 seconds are very slow for me because of those guys," Tucker said. "I think, if you look across the entire league, snappers have become more specialized. There's more attention to detail with any respective field-goal operation."

There's also the youth component. More kids are interested in kicking, leading to more early experience and more grooming.

"More kids playing football are taking up an interest in learning how to kick a football so they can get on the field," Tucker said. "Young players are maybe starting to recognize more than ever that games are won by kickers quite frequently. A lot of kids want to be that guy, and I think that's really cool."

Bailey is in his sixth season while Tucker is in his fifth. Both were undrafted when they entered the league, and they've only met a couple times. Tucker went to the 2013 Pro Bowl. Bailey went last year.

They both have big legs and have proven their clutch factor time and time again. If Sunday's game comes down to a kicking battle at the end, it's anybody's game.

"Everybody is a little different, but you see a lot of similarities in the two players," said Ravens Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg.

"They are both very good athletes. They both have good heads on their shoulders. You can see that they handle situations in football very well. They are both very skilled fundamentally. There is a reason why their numbers are what they are."

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