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Why Justin Tucker Is Even More Valuable Now

120318_TuckerIsEvenMoreValuable

It’s not news that Ravens kicker Justin Tucker is really good, or that he’s arguably the best in the game.

But while rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson, a ground-and-pound run game, and the league’s No. 1 defense have – justifiably – gotten a lot of the credit in the Ravens’ three-game winning streak, Tucker is also instrumental to the Ravens’ new winning formula.

Tucker may be even more valuable than usual right now. The Ravens have scored points in a franchise record 17 straight quarters. A big reason for that is Mr. AutomaTUCK.

Tucker hit four field goals (from 41, 21, 45 and 47 yards) in the Ravens’ 26-16 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. He accounted for 14 of the Ravens’ points, including extra points.

During the Ravens’ three-game winning streak, Tucker has gone 9-for-9. He was named the AFC’s Special Teams Player of the Month in November, and he’s off to a good start for December honors too.

“We kick field goals and this guy makes them all. Those were not easy kicks by any stretch,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said after Sunday’s win. “We’re pretty confident with kicking field goals with Justin Tucker.”

The Ravens’ clock-controlling, run-heavy offensive strategy limits possessions, both for opponents and Baltimore. But it only works if Baltimore is getting points out of those offensive possessions. Sure, they’d always prefer touchdowns, but booting field goals and putting pressure on the opponent to score with fewer opportunities is also powerful.

“I think every point matters,” Tucker said. “It’s tough to win in this league.”

The Ravens and Falcons were tied at 10 at halftime. Tucker booted three field goals in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The last, from 47 yards out, gave the Ravens a nine-point lead and the freedom to send an all-out blitz on first down of the Falcons’ next series, which resulted in a strip-sack and fumble return for a touchdown that broke the game open.

“Awesome weapon,” Jackson said. “Greatest kicker in the game right now, man. Greatest kicker that I’ve seen. He’s the best.”

Tucker will continue to prove his value in the final month of the season, when cold temperatures and tougher conditions can make kicking even more challenging. That will be the forecast Sunday in Kansas City, where a high temperature of 35 degrees is predicted.

Over his seven-year career, Tucker has an 89.7 percent success rate on field goals in December. That’s just a tick below his career average of 90.4.

It’s been a resurgent month-plus for the two-time Pro Bowler after he missed a crucial extra point at the end of the Ravens’ 24-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints. That was the first of what became a three-game losing streak for Baltimore.

The Ravens’ rebound has, in some ways, followed suit with Tucker’s.

“I think it starts with our mentality. I think it starts with the fact that we’re mostly unfazed by the adversity that we’d faced in the previous weeks,” Tucker said. “It’s about just being cool, calm, and collected, and making the most of whatever opportunities come your way.”

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