The look on Justin Tucker’s face said it all.
There are still 10 days before Halloween, but it looked like Tucker had just seen a ghost.
The chance of that may be higher than the likelihood of Tucker missing an extra point. He had never done it – not in the NFL, not in college, not even in high school. Never.
But with 24 seconds left and the Ravens just needing that pesky extra point to tie the game and presumably send it into overtime, Tucker missed it wide right.
Something that seemed so automaTUCK for so long suddenly failed, handing the Ravens a hard-to-believe 24-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints that drops Baltimore’s record to 4-3.
“I can’t tell you what happened, but at the end of the day, I feel like I cost us the game,” Tucker said. “Every single one of my teammates has told me the opposite, and no one play wins or loses a game, but that’s a tough thing to grapple with when you’re the guy in that situation.”
Tucker had made 222 straight extra points in his NFL career. Since the NFL moved extra-point attempts back in 2015, making it a 33-yarder, Tucker was the only kicker in the league that had still never missed.
But there’s a first for everything. And unfortunately, it came at just about the worst time.
Not only was Tucker perfect on extra points, but he’s also the most accurate kicker in NFL history. In his seven years in the league, he had never missed a kick in a late-game situation like that.
“Every kicker is going to … you play long enough, you’re going to have a kick that you want back, and tonight was that night for me,” Tucker said.
Tucker said the ball came off his foot just the way he would have wanted. Holder Sam Koch said the snap was perfect and the laces were just right. The wind seemed to be the culprit.
Going the same direction, Tucker just barely sneaked a 31-yard attempt in the first quarter inside the right goal post. Koch said the installation of new corner video boards at M&T Bank Stadium has created more swirling winds, making the outdoor venue even trickier than before.
“It was a challenging day to kick in our stadium,” Tucker said. “But we’re here because we make kicks, not only in our stadium but anywhere we go. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do moving forward.”
Immediately after the kick, Tucker was able to block it temporarily from his mind because he had to execute an onside kick. But after the Saints recovered that, ending the game, Tucker trudged to the sideline, where Koch, long snapper Morgan Cox, quarterback Joe Flacco and others all came over to give him a slap on the back of the helmet.
When Tucker came back into the locker room, he stood in front of his locker as teammates all came by to offer encouragement. When the kicker stepped up to the postgame press conference podium to face the tough questions, Koch and Cox were in the media room with him.
Head Coach John Harbaugh and his teammates all said the same thing. They’re not concerned.
“We’ve got the best kicker in ball, so we’re not going to worry about that,” outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said.
“He’s been automatic, but he’s human too,” guard Marshal Yanda said. “He’s human, too. His job is hard and it’s not easy to make the kicks every time. We don’t bat an eye with him.”
“Same thing I went through two weeks ago,” added wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who dropped a game-winning pass in Cleveland. “The same thing, man. That boy’s a pro. I’m not worried about Tuck.”
If anything, Tucker’s miss shows that nothing – not even an extra point – should be taken for granted. It’s not a slam dunk. Tucker just made it seem that way for so long.
“It’s a tough task,” Harbaugh said. “That’s why I say he’s the best in the business. He works very hard. He’s won so many games for us in the past. He’s our kicker, and we love him.”
A specialist knows how mental the game can be at that position. Koch has seen Ravens kickers come and go over the years, and he’s confident in Tucker’s makeup to get past the miss.
“He’s still the greatest,” Koch said. “We’re going to go out there, start practice next week and do the same thing we do every day. He’s one of those guys that can get through adversity.”
There won’t be any laughs tonight, or maybe for a little while, but Tucker will be back to himself with a little time. Koch said he thinks Tucker’s goofball personality will help.
“I’ll let this hurt for another couple hours, and then I’ll do everything I can to move on,” Tucker said. “Nothing will change for me, I’ll tell you that.”
“I only wish I had some of his enthusiasm and his mindset to get through some of these things like he does,” Koch added. “He has a profound way of doing that. Once we get to Wednesday … he’ll be his normal Justin Tucker self – singing.”