Justin Tucker Wins AFC Special Teams Player of the Month

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The best kicker in the business has added another honor to his collection.

Justin Tucker has been named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month after a perfect October – 10-for-10 on field goals and 7-for-7 on extra points. It's the seventh time in his career that Tucker has won the award, the most by any kicker ever, as Tucker continues to build on his illustrious eight-year career.

Tucker could be having his best season, which is saying a lot for the most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history (253 for 279, 90.7%). He has yet to miss a kick this season – 16-for-16 on field goals and 20-for-20 on extra points. Twice during October, Tucker was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week (Weeks 5 & 6), winning that award in back-to-back weeks for the first time in his career. His consistency has been a constant for the Ravens since joining the team in 2012 as an undrafted free agent from Texas.

As the Ravens (5-2) prepare to host the unbeaten New England Patriots (8-0) on Sunday night, Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick views Tucker as one of Baltimore's biggest strengths.

"He's exceptional," Belichick said during a Tuesday conference call. "He's had a great career. We were fortunate to block one on Tucker last time we played them, but that's very hard to do. Once they get into field goal range, it's about as close to automatic as you can get. That's a great weapon to have, and [it] certainly helps the Ravens win a lot of close games when you have a guy that's that dependable to get you three points in those tight situations."

In October, Tucker played a key role in the Ravens' current three-game winning streak, particularly during their 26-23 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Heinz Field in Pittsburgh is one of the NFL's most challenging kicking venues due to swirling winds and tricky footing. But Tucker delivered in the clutch, making a 48-yarder during the final minute of regulation to force overtime, followed by an overtime game-winner from 46 yards.

Tucker was also a weapon on kickoffs in Pittsburgh, accurately placing high kicks inside the 5-yard line that allowed Baltimore's kickoff unit to tackle Steelers returners inside the 20. 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.

"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," Tomlin said. "Why would I sign up for that?" 

The next week against the Cincinnati Bengals, Tucker made three field goals and two extra points to become the fastest kicker ever to reach 1,000 points, doing so in just 118 games. Stephen Gostkowski held the previous record at 119 games.

Tucker often credits long snapper Morgan Cox and holder Sam Koch for the consistency and teamwork that helps him perform coolly under pressure. But Tucker continues to give the Ravens an asset that many teams envy, a kicker with impressive range who can be counted on in any situation.

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