Head Coach John Harbaugh had a decision to make. Try to get Justin Tucker a little closer by running the ball on third down or just go ahead and give it to him?
In the end, Harbaugh let the clock run down and sent Tucker out.
It was 49 yards … in the rain .. at a stadium that’s not easy to kick in. Not many coaches would have so much faith in their kicker. Then again, nobody else has Tucker.
The best kicker in the NFL – perhaps NFL history – beat the 49ers with a 49-yard field goal at the buzzer for a 20-17 win. It’s Tucker’s 15th career game-winning field goal, and there aren’t many with bigger stakes.
Harbaugh joked that on Thanksgiving weekend, he’s especially thankful to have Tucker on his side.
“You wouldn’t rather have anybody else in that situation,” Harbaugh said. “That field, that wind, that rain, all of that stuff that was going on there. That’s the guy you want in that situation.”
Quarterback Lamar Jackson sprinted onto the field in joy. Jackson got the Ravens just close enough, then handed the reigns to Tucker.
“He’s the G.O.A.T. He’s got that golden leg,” Jackson said. “I’ve got all the faith in him. I’m on the sideline praying, at the same time, I’m like, ‘I know Tuck can do it.’”
It’s Tucker’s second game-winning field goal of the season. He also had a 46-yarder in overtime in Pittsburgh in Week 5.
Tucker hit 17 straight field goals to begin the year, but had his streak ended in Week 11 against the Houston Texans. He missed an extra point two weeks prior against New England.
But the Ravens’ trust in their kicker never wavers, even when the elements put that faith to the test.
“These are as tough of conditions as we’ve had to make kicks in before,” Tucker said. “To be able to come through when it’s really tough, it’s extra satisfying.”
Tucker said that before such kicks, nobody really talks to him. Assistant Special Teams Coach Randy Brown just comes down to ask Tucker which hash he’d like the ball on and what yard line he feels comfortable at taking his normal swing.
“When it’s a walk-off kick, it’s wherever,” Tucker said. “It’s wherever Lamar [Jackson] and these guys are able to get us to.”
Tucker said he lives for moments like Sunday’s game-winning kick. In an offense that has left him with far more extra points than field-goal attempts, he relishes the opportunity when he gets to deliver the decisive blow.
After his kick, the Ravens stormed onto the field, mobbed their kicker and lifted him on their shoulders. Long snapper Morgan Cox had hustled to get the ball and handed it up to Tucker atop the pile.
It’s hardly the first time that’s happened and it won’t be the last, but each one is special.
“I think this whole team is living in the moment for these moments,” Tucker said. “It’s a really special group.”
Then he was interrupted by his coach.
“There’s no better kicker in the National Football League that has every played the game than this man,” Brown said.