Trust in Justin Tucker Pays Off


When he takes centerstage, Justin Tucker knows how to close the show.

The most accurate kicker in NFL history delivered again Sunday night, making a 43-yard field goal as time expired to lift Baltimore to a 19-17 victory over the Bengals. Tucker didn't just make the kick - he literally blasted it dead center between the uprights.

The Ravens trusted Tucker to put points on the board all night, as he made four field goals including a 58-yarder in the second quarter, his longest of the season so far. Tucker loves getting creative with his celebrations, and after the 58-yarder went through, he spread his arms apart and soaked in the ovation from the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium. Meanwhile, several of his blockers on the field goal unit turned toward Tucker and bowed, giving him his props.

Tucker has now made 61 straight kicks in either the fourth quarter or overtime, and he has made 19 game-winning kicks. He's a perfect 17-for-17 during his career on kicks in the final minute of regulation or overtime.

That's clutch, but that's Tucker. Everyone on Baltimore's sideline had full confidence he would make the game-winner, but he never takes his ability to make kicks under pressure for granted. He spends hours every week working on his craft, and he has settled into a routine with long snapper Nick Moore and rookie kicker Jordan Stout.

While nothing seems to diminish the ice water in Tucker's veins, he admits he gets nervous, but he doesn't let that alter his process.

"Whether I'm feeling confident, or nervous or outright afraid, that's why I always make it a point to say a brief prayer as I'm lining up the kick," Tucker said. "I want to make sure I go through my routine as efficiently as possible.

"This was a big team win that we needed to have, division opponent. To be able to come out on top is a great feeling."

Head Coach John Harbaugh admitted it wasn't an easy decision to send Tucker out for his 58-yarder, with the score tied, 10-10, early in the third quarter. Had Tucker missed, the Bengals would have taken over at their own 40-yard line. But on 4th-and-4, Harbaugh sent out the field goal unit and Tucker made sure that decision paid off.

"We're going to put them at the 50-yard line if we miss that field goal and give them an opportunity to do something," Harbaugh said. "That was not an easy choice, but in the end, the scale tipped towards Justin. Justin deserves all the credit, but so does Nick and so does Stout. Those guys did a great job."

Tucker's game-winner came just after the Bengals had taken a 17-16 lead on a Joe Burrow quarterback sneak with just under two minutes to play.

However, the Ravens had ample time to move Tucker into range. Lamar Jackson led the Ravens down the field on a drive that included two completions to Mark Andrews and four runs by Jackson. By this time, Tucker was getting his leg loose on the sideline and everyone could sense it was about to be Tucker time.

Did Jackson have any doubt Tucker would make it?

"No, I didn't. I still prayed though," Jackson said. "I really didn't have any doubt though, because I thank God we've got Tuck on our side."

The Ravens trust Tucker to do what he has done throughout his career. His teammates and coaches have seen it many times, but it never gets old.

"He's clutch, he's clutch," running back J.K. Dobbins said. "Greatest kicker in the history of the game. We are so fortunate to have him, and we knew we were going to win that game with him out there."

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