Justin Tucker wanted to try a game-winning field goal twice on Monday night in Cleveland.
First, he wanted to try a 60-plus yard-field goal with the Ravens at the 44-yard line, quarterback Trace McSorley on the ground injured and Lamar Jackson quickly rushing back onto the field. The Ravens didn’t need Tucker, as Jackson’s 44-yard pass to Marquise Brown gave the Ravens a lead with 1:51 to play.
But after a Browns touchdown to tie the score once more, the Ravens drove into Browns territory for a final time, which set up for a 55-yard field goal for the league’s most accurate kicker in history.
As if there were any doubt, Tucker’s kick was good as he completed a bonkers 47-42 win for the Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium against the Browns. Tucker’s kick was just one of the craziest moments of a frantic Week 14 game in the AFC North -- but it certainly was the most important.
“That was a really tough kick, because the field was really soft,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Obviously, they were rushing everything they had, so the guys that protected (holder) Sam (Koch) and (longsnapper) Morgan (Cox) did a great job. But to make that kick, with the crosswind on that field in December in the open end, in the ‘Dawg Pound’ end, most kickers, that’s un-makeable. The only kicker that I know of that you’d feel confident in making that would be Justin Tucker.”
As the Ravens tried to get into field goal range for Tucker, they knew once they got inside of 60 yards, they’d at least give him a shot.
Nothing came easy for the Ravens in a wild win over their division rivals, and that includes Tucker’s kick, too.
“The wind was definitely whipping around in there going towards the ‘Dawg Pound’ end pretty consistent right to left, and then of course, left to right the other way,” Tucker said. “I’m not trying to talk about how hard the kick was to make it seem like it was way sweeter or anything, but the field was definitely chewed up by that point in the game.”
Tucker’s kick for all intents and purposes sealed the Browns’ fate in the AFC North division chase, but more importantly, almost certainly gave the Ravens the inside lane to a playoff berth. It came on the heels of one of pro sports’ biggest coronavirus outbreaks on the Ravens’ first regularly scheduled game since Nov. 22.
Were it not for Tucker’s kick, or really any moments before, the Ravens would be left with an empty feeling in their stomachs and three must-win games on the docket. Now, they can breathe a bit easier.
“All the stuff that you just said makes me way more nervous now after the fact,” Tucker said with a smile. “And yes, after hearing all that, it’s definitely good that we made that kick given everything that this team is going through right now, given the tumultuous nature of this particular game, but also keeping us in the playoff picture – all of those things. We definitely needed to have this one.”
The Ravens knew Tucker would be true from basically any distance. He’s missed just one kick this season that was shorter than 60 yards. The only extra point he hasn’t made was Monday, but that kick was blocked.
But it still didn’t take away from the intensity of the final minutes.
“All I can say is at the end, I was doing a little bit of praying,” Harbaugh said. “I will say what was said earlier, what ‘Tuck’ said: All praise and glory to God. Our guys had faith and trust and belief, and sometimes, that’s what it takes.”
Tucker’s leg offered support both in the moment and in theory, too.
The Ravens, with the score tied at 42, knew they didn’t need to march deep into Browns territory. Essentially, they needed to cross midfield, and then just gain a few more yards, and they’d leave Ohio with a heroic win courtesy of their most dependable player.
“We didn’t have to score a touchdown,” Jackson said. “Some coaches don’t trust their kicker. We trust ours. We put all our faith in ours. And we just had to get him in great position to kick the field goal. And ‘Automatic Tuck’ -- he did the rest.”