When Ravens kicker Justin Tucker lines up for a field goal, you just assume it's going through the uprights. No need to look up from your nachos.
After Tucker went 38-for-39 last season with his only miss being a blocked field goal, Tucker has earned the reputation of being automatic from basically anywhere on the field. Even Head Coach John Harbaugh admitted Thursday night that he takes long boots from his two-time Pro Bowler for granted.
"I do, honestly. Everyone's cheering, and I'm just thinking, it's good football to me," Harbaugh said. "It's amazing how you start to just expect that from a great kicker like he is."
In Thursday night's preseason opener against the Washington Redskins, however, Tucker showed that he is indeed both human and robot in the same game.
Tucker clanked his first in-game field-goal attempt of the year off the left upright from 43 yards out. The fans at M&T Bank Stadium were baffled, and so was Tucker.
"It is something that hasn't happened in a while," Tucker said. "I think the reality of my position is that there's going to come a time when I miskick. The thing I've got to do is be a pro, bounce back and make the next one."
So wait, Tucker misfires sometimes?
"It's an inevitability of the position that not every single one is going to go through, even if you feel like you hit it well," he said.
Tucker said the problem was that he didn't play the wind well enough. Though the weather report suggested little wind, it can swirl around M&T Bank Stadium, making every kick a challenge – and adding to what makes Tucker's career 89.8 success rate even more impressive.
After his miss (which didn't officially count because of a Redskins penalty) Tucker got back to being his usual self. He drilled a 37-yard field goal to give the Ravens a 10-0 lead, then following a cornerback* *Jaylen Hill interception, Tucker stepped back on to the field at the end of the half for a 59-yard attempt.
Tucker hit it … with room to spare.
Tucker's career long still stands at 61 yards, which he hit on Monday Night Football to beat the Detroit Lions in 2013. His longest field goal last year was 57 yards, and he went 10-for-10 from 50-plus yards,* *tying Blair Walsh's record from 2012 for the most such kicks in NFL single-season history.
While his 59-yard kick doesn't yield the same shock and awe that it would for other kicks, Tucker's dance moves afterward tell a different story.
"I'm definitely stoked. It's pretty sweet," he said. "I'm out here playing a game, having fun, and that's what it's all about."
It's going to be hard to replicate – or improve on – the amount of fun Tucker* *had last season. But that's the goal.
He's had a few misses in practice during this year's training camp, including in both stadium practices thus far, and it's been enough for some reporters to wonder what's up. Tucker said he's still working through some things at this point in training camp.
"Every offseason, there's new challenges and different things I'm working through. This offseason is no different," he said.
"It's not about reinventing my swing, but I'll come back from the offseason and something will be different. I've just got to work through it and make sure that when we're playing games that mean something more significant, that's when I'm firing on all cylinders."