On Sunday, Justin Tucker became the fastest kicker to 1,000 points – just 118 games. He’s the most accurate kicker in NFL history (90.6 percent).
But there’s another reason why Tucker’s milestone and success are even more impressive than they might seem.
His home field, M&T Bank Stadium, is one of the league’s more challenging venues in which to kick.
“Anybody that wants to talk about Heinz (Field), or Cleveland, or anywhere else for that matter, when you start talking about M&T Bank Stadium, this is a tough place to get the ball to go through the uprights,” Tucker said Sunday. “(It’s a) tough place to figure out the wind and all that stuff.”
Since Tucker’s rookie season in 2012, opposing kickers have made just 82.1 percent of field goals at M&T Bank Stadium, more than two points below the league average of 84.2 percent during that span. Tucker has made 87.6 percent of his kicks (120 for 137) at M&T during his career, giving the Ravens a leg up in close games.
Heinz Field in Pittsburgh is another venue that kickers frequently mention as being extremely challenging. However, Tucker been almost perfect in Pittsburgh (22 for 23) during his career. Neither locations, nor situations faze Tucker. His 46-yard overtime field goal to beat the Steelers in Week 5 at Heinz was the 14th game-winning kick of his career.
Tucker has set an extremely high bar, but he could be headed for his best season ever. He is perfect so far in 2019 – 13 for 13 on field goals and 17 for 17 on extra points.
It has reached the point that it’s surprising when Tucker even comes close to missing. His closest call this year was his 49-yarder Sunday against the Bengals, when the ball ricocheted off the left upright through the goal posts.
For a few seconds, Tucker was unsure if he had made the kick, and he was grateful for the favorable bounce.
“That’s the first time I’d experienced that,” Tucker said. “(I’m) thankful that the ball was tracking straight enough for us. Definitely want to get that cleaned up. Want to make them a little bit more down the middle, so everyone’s not holding their breath.”
Tucker’s best season was in 2016, perhaps the best ever for a kicker, when he made 38 of 39 field goal attempts with the lone miss being a blocked attempt. At one point during that season, Tucker connected on 35 straight attempts, a kicker truly locked in the zone.
Nobody is surprised Tucker has reached 1,000 points already, but he never takes his success for granted. He frequently credits long snapper Morgan Cox and holder Sam Koch for the role they play in his consistency.
Tucker is the fastest kicker to reach 1,000 points, but he’s in no hurry to look ahead. He’s always focused on the next kick, even if it’s the next kick in practice. Tucker has found a routine that works for him and he’s not about to change it.
“Getting 1,000 points is absolutely special,” Tucker said. “I find the coolest thing about reaching this milestone is that I get to share it with Sam, who has held for every one of those points, and Morgan who has snapped for almost all of them.
“It is not about looking back at the last 1,000 or thinking about the next 1,000. It’s about thinking about the next one (point) or three (points). Or more importantly the next kick on a Wednesday at practice. Keeping it as simple as that.”