DETROIT — As soon as Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker hit the ball, he veered left hoping he would not come up short like he did on a couple of 65-yarders in pregame warm-ups.
But, after the ball bounced high off the crossbar and through the uprights, Tucker sprinted down the field, where he was swarmed by teammates and lifted up in celebration.
Tucker’s 66-yard field goal — the longest in NFL history — lifted the depleted Ravens to a dramatic 19-17 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
“Thankfully, we found an extra yard-and-a-half that I didn’t have three hours before,” said Tucker, who held the ball from the winning kick in his hand. “I’m grateful for that.”
Tucker’s 66-yarder eclipsed Matt Prater’s 64-yard field goal in 2013 as the longest in NFL history.
Tucker is more than the record holder for the longest kick and the most accurate kicker in NFL history. He’s also the most clutch. Tucker improved to 16-for-16 in his NFL career on field goals in the final minute of regulation.
“He’s the best kicker in history,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “When you have a kicker like that, you want to give him an opportunity like that. For him to come through like that is just historic.”
It was déjà vu for Tucker, whose 61-yard field goal won the Ravens’ last game at Ford Field eight years ago. That had been his previous career long.
There have been only seven go-ahead field goals of 60-plus yards in the final minute in NFL history, and Tucker is the only kicker with multiple ones, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Both have come at Ford Field for Tucker.
“I love Detroit,” Tucker said. “I think I’m going to buy a place here.”
Tucker made history because of a change he made within the past year. On the longer kicks, Tucker takes a few more steps back than usual and approaches the attempt like a kickoff. It’s less about technique and more about power.
Asked how far back he positioned himself relative to his typical kick, Tucker said, “I honestly have to look at it. I was kind of having a little bit of like an out-of-body experience for a minute.”
Tucker’s winning kick was set up by Lamar Jackson converting a fourth-and-19 with a 36-yard pass to Sammy Watkins, which wasn’t the original plan. Baltimore had another play called, but offensive coordinator Greg Roman changed it after the Lions called timeout with 26 seconds remaining.
Jackson still wasn’t sure it was going to be enough for his four-time Pro Bowl kicker who had made 48 straight fourth-quarter kicks, the longest active streak in the league.
“I’m looking and see how many yards it is. I’m like, ‘Dang, this is different right here. I’ve never seen him in this predicament,'” Jackson said. “I was hoping to get him closer. It was like, ‘If we get enough air, he’s going to make it.’ He came through.”
After Tucker’s kick, fans exited Ford Field slowly in disappointment yet again as this latest loss adds to the laundry list of other dramatic endings in Lions franchise history. Lions quarterback Jared Goff said the team will “remain true” and resilient going forward since the narrative could’ve changed completely had the ball bounced on the other side of the crossbar.
“About as big of a gut punch as I’ve ever been a part of,” Goff said. “And, I guess I’ll start this off by saying this team and this city has been through a lot obviously in recent years and has had these gut punches.”
For the Ravens, they escaped with a victory after losing four defensive players to COVID-19 protocol just two days before this game. In total, Baltimore was without 13 players who counted at least $1 million against the cap because of injury or COVID-related issues.
After the game, Harbaugh caught up with Tucker on the field and told him, “We’re going to remember this for the rest of our lives.”
ESPN’s Eric Woodyard contributed to this report.
Source : espn