Another game-winning performance, another award for Justin Tucker.
For the 10th time in his career, Tucker has been named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after his clutch effort against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tucker was a perfect 4-for-4 on field goal attempts Sunday, including two kicks late in the game that lifted Baltimore to a 26-23 overtime win.
Tucker’s 48-yarder in the final minute of regulation forced overtime.
That was followed by his overtime game-winner from 46 yards – a difficult kick into the swirling winds at the open end of Heinz Field. Tucker said his plant foot slipped slightly as he kicked the ball, and the footing at Heinz Field is often an issue.
For a moment, it looked like the kick might miss to the left. However, as the ball approached the uprights, it faded it lightly to the right and just inside the left post.
Tucker is the most accurate kicker in NFL history, having made 247 of 273 career attempts (90.5 percent). He has been perfect so far this season – 10 for 10 on field goals and 15 for 15 on extra points.
He was also a weapon on kickoffs Sunday, accurately placing high kicks inside the 5-yard line that allowed Baltimore’s kickoff unit to tackle Pittsburgh’s returners inside the 20-yard line.
Tucker’s proficiency on kickoffs factored into the decision by Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin to kick off in overtime after winning the coin toss, rather than taking the ball first.
“Did you see our kickoff return in this football game?” Tomlin said. “Did you see their kickoff team? Every time, they put the ball on about the 2-yard line and Tucker hung the ball at about 4.5 seconds, and we couldn’t get back to the 15. Why would I sign up for that?”
Tucker credits long snapper Morgan Cox and holder Sam Koch for their consistency and teamwork that helps Tucker perform coolly under pressure. Having delivered in the clutch many times, Tucker admits he’s still a lot more nervous than he looks before he kicks.
“There’s always nerves, butterflies, whatever you want to call it,” Tucker said. “I’d go so far as to say, in the smallest bit of time, there’s terror. But at the end of the day, none of that matters. You can be equal parts nervous, scared, confident, excited and none of it really matters. All that matters is that 1.3 seconds between the snap, the hold, and when the ball leaves my foot just doing our jobs.”
Considering his track record, Tucker should have many more game-winning kicks in his future. At age 29, his success has not made him complacent.
“You want to be consistently great to have a legendary career,” Tucker said. “I know that sounds pretty heavy, but that’s what I’m thinking about. I also know that comes one kick at a time. I should probably slow my roll just a little bit and think about making the next kick in practice on Wednesday.”