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Justin Tucker’s last second, game-winning kick lifts Ravens to eighth straight win

Justin Tucker’s last second, game-winning kick lifts Ravens to eighth straight win

BALTIMORE — When the Ravens began their final drive of the game with 6:28 to play, everyone on the roster knew they had to get inside the 49ers 40-yard line. 

They knew from there, Justin Tucker would handle the rest. 

The Ravens’ offense gained 39 yards in 12 plays, including a 4th down conversion on a quarterback sneak, and set up Tucker on the left hashmark for a 49-yard field goal. 

Tucker’s field goal sailed through the uprights, as all but one has this season, which gave the Ravens 20-17 win at M&T Bank Stadium over the 49ers on Sunday. No one on the Ravens had a doubt.

“I think this whole team is living in the moment for these moments, and it’s a really special group,” Tucker said. “I’m just happy to be a part of it. I’m blessed. We just broke down in there, and the message was ‘trust yourself, trust your teammates and trust God.’ That’s what this team is doing right now, and it’s really cool to see.” 

The Ravens knew they had to get inside 49ers territory to give Tucker a shot, but the 49ers didn’t make it easy.

Baltimore had to convert a 4th and inches in its own territory, and then a 3rd and one with two minutes left to take the chance to wind the clock down. 

Even after the Ravens earned the last first down, they still lost three yards on carries by Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram. But they were across the 40-yard line, and therefore in Tucker’s range.

“’Tuck’ is the G.O.A.T.,” Ingram said. “He’s auto-ma-Tuck. Of course, we’d like to finish that drive or get him closer, but I know he’s going to be money with it. He’s going to come through. That’s what he’s done, best ever to do it. Automatic. Auto-ma-Tuck.”

The Ravens would have preferred a touchdown, but with Tucker on the sidelines, the length of the drive didn’t have to be anything extraordinary to get Tucker in range.

 “All we had to do was get it in close,” Hayden Hurst said. “We know ‘Tuck’ is going to make it. He’s clutch. He’s a guy that’s made 14 or 15 game-winners. The guy is incredible, and sure enough, he did it again today.”

The kick was Tucker’s second last second, game-winning kick of the season, the other coming in Pittsburgh in Week 5. 

Now 22-of-23 on field goals this year (a 95.6 percent make rate), there’s not much reason to doubt Tucker on the field when it matters.

“(He’s) got that golden leg,” Jackson said. “I’ve got all the faith in him. I’m on the sideline praying, but at the same time, I’m like, ‘I know Tuck can do it.’ He (does) it all day in practice. He just walks around play-kicking field goals, 65-yarders, so I’ve got all the faith in him.” 

Tucker, however, offered no specific mark for the Ravens’ offense to reach. He only needed them to get inside 49ers territory.

“When it’s a walk-off kick, it’s wherever,” Tucker said. “It’s wherever Lamar and these guys are able to get us to, we’re going to do everything we can to give these guys a win, because they deserve it.” 

The most difficult aspect of Tucker’s kick was the weather, which hadn’t been friendly all afternoon. 

Rain, which varied from a drizzle to downpour, left kicking conditions less-than-ideal on a cold, rainy, windy day. 49ers kicker Robbie Gould, off an injury, had already missed a 51-yard kick on the opposite end of the field short and to the right after a Raven got a hand on his kick.

The field conditions didn’t matter, as Tucker’s kick sliced through the gray and wet Maryland sky like game was in a dome.

“You wouldn’t rather have anybody else in that situation,” coach John Harbaugh said. “That field, that wind, that rain, all of that stuff that was going on there. That’s the guy you want in that situation. I’m very grateful that we have him on Thanksgiving weekend.”

On a day when the Ravens faced offensive struggles for the first time in weeks, they had to rely on perhaps the team’s best and most consistent weapon. 

And, like always, Tucker delivered.

“He’s one of the best ever,” Patrick Ricard said. “He can kick it from our 20 and we’d be confident in him.”

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Ravens' options in a potential Matthew Judon trade

Ravens' options in a potential Matthew Judon trade

According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Ravens have expressed interest in moving on from Matthew Judon through a trade this offseason. 

Judon, who isn’t under contract for next season, was tied for 19th in the league in sacks with 9.5 — a team-high. He was also the team-leader in quarterback hits with 33. The next best pass-rusher was Tyus Bowser, who registered 10. 

Lined up for a big payday, and with a high-priced franchise tag an option, the Ravens could lose their second pass-rusher in as many years on the free agent market should they elect to not pay Judon the elite pass-rusher money he’ll likely command.

Which brings the Ravens to the report from Schefter that indicated the team could move on from Judon, 27, through the sign-and-trade route. 

Should Judon, or the Ravens, walk away from the negotiating table in free agency, two options exist: The Ravens could either let him walk freely to another team and likely receive a 2021 third-round pick as compensation, or place the franchise tag on Judon. 

With the franchise tag option, the Ravens could keep him for a season and essentially kick the can down the road for a year, or trade him for a return that would likely be greater than the compensatory third, and more importantly, the help would be immediate. 

A few weeks ago, coach John Harbaugh said re-signing Judon would be, “pretty hard,” but that the team was going to try.  

But if the Ravens aren’t able, or are unwilling, to sign Judon, a potential blueprint for a future trade might have been laid out last year by the Chiefs. 

Last season, the Chiefs traded Dee Ford to the 49ers for a second-round pick just a month before they sent first and third-round picks to the Seahawks for Frank Clark and a third-round pick.

Ford had 13 sacks in 2018 and 29 quarterback hits while Clark had 13 as well and 27 quarterback hits. They both immediately signed long-term, expensive contracts with their new teams. 

Baltimore could make a move similar to that with Judon and get better, and more immediate, compensation for him and later add a pass-rusher with the draft capital than the team added.

The Ravens have just under 29 million dollars in cap space, meaning they’ve got the space to sign Judon to a long-term deal or keep him on the franchise tag, but they’d need to make some moves to be able to field a full roster. And that full roster, if Judon isn’t in Baltimore in 2020, needs pass-rushing help. 

Baltimore had 37 sacks as a team, and just over a quarter of them came from Judon. It also had 111 total quarterback hits, and 29.7 percent came from Judon. 

So the report that the Ravens could move Judon could play out, perhaps the most interesting aspect of a Judon trade would be the replacement the Ravens would need to have lined up.

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With big decision looming, Ravens guard Marshal Yanda mum on retirement plans

With big decision looming, Ravens guard Marshal Yanda mum on retirement plans

Ravens guard Marshal Yanda has a decision to make on his playing future, but he's in no rush to make it.

The 35-year-old is under contract with the Ravens through the 2020 season, but will take the next month or so to decide if he wants to continue playing or hang up the cleats.

"I'm going to take my time now," Yanda told Ravens.com regarding his future. "Done playing for the year, just take some time over the next month and basically just go with my heart and see how I feel."

The eight-time Pro Bowler was a vital piece in the NFL's best rushing attack in 2019. Yanda, the leader of the offensive line, started and played in 15 games this season for Baltimore, missing the regular-season finale as the Ravens rested multiple starters with the No. 1 seed already clinched.

Following Baltimore's upset divisional playoff loss to the Titans, a visibly disappointed Yanda refused to address his future, but he was definitely thinking about it then.

But if Sunday's Pro Bowl was the last time Yanda put on the pads, he didn't treat the game or experience any differently.

"Not necessarily," Yanda said if he cherished Sunday's Pro Bowl differently. "You're not in that frame of mind. I definitely didn't think about [my retirement decision] too much today, just because it was the Pro Bowl. It's more of a relaxed game, not like a really intense game.

"I didn't have those feelings as much as the Tennessee game," he continued." Yeah, it's a possibility. But those feelings were more in the Tennessee game."

Even at age 35, Yanda remains one of the best guards in the game. He's made the NFL's second-team All-Pro squad the past two seasons and has been a Pro Bowler every season since 2011, minus the 2017 season where he played just two games due to a season-ending ankle injury.

There's no debate: Baltimore would greatly benefit from Yanda returning.

"You want people that want you back," Yanda said. "You want to be playing very well when you end. Nobody wants to fade out; you want to go out strong."

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