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Ravens kicker Justin Tucker excels in rookie year

Ravens kicker Justin Tucker excels in rookie year

NEW ORLEANS (AP) No one selected Justin Tucker in the 2012 NFL draft, so he had to wait until late May before the Baltimore Ravens extended an invitation to the former Texas kicker to join them at training camp.

Tucker then had to beat out veteran Billy Cundiff, who scored 122 points one season earlier.

Although Cundiff missed a short field-goal try in the 2011 AFC championship game, he was the odds-on favorite to retain his job. As the saying goes, there's no substitute for experience.

Evidently not.

Tucker beat out Cundiff in a competition that lasted deep into the summer, and now the rookie will be kicking in the Super Bowl for Baltimore on Sunday night against the San Francisco 49ers.

Who'd have thought it?

``I definitely did,'' Tucker said. ``In this whole season, dating back to last year when I was just out of school, it's been kind of a whirlwind. But it's nothing we can't handle. I've never really thought like a rookie because I can't afford to at my position.''

Tucker was one of the three rookie kickers in the NFL this season. Blair Walsh of the Minnesota Vikings and Greg Zuerlein of St. Louis were both drafted in the sixth round.

And here's Tucker, in the Super Bowl.

``(Special teams coach) Jerry Rosburg did a great job of finding Justin Tucker,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. ``He wasn't a highly ranked kicker. He wasn't one of the top guys coming out on all the pre-rankings and those kind of things. Jerry did a tremendous job of evaluating Justin. He saw talent; he saw a gifted guy, went down there and worked him out, loved his personality. He felt like with a few adjustments technique-wise he could become really consistent.''

It didn't take long for Harbaugh to realize Tucker had the potential to excel.

``The first time I liked him was the very first kick,'' Harbaugh said. ``Standing behind him, hearing the ball come off his foot, and seeing how straight it tracked, you could tell that he's just a really talented guy. When we finally decided to make him the kicker, it was really right at the end. Billy Cundiff and he had a really great battle. Both those guys kicked incredibly well. We just felt like at the end, kind of a gut decision, that Tuck would be our guy.''

Tucker went 30 for 33 on field-goal tries during the regular season, including four of 50 yards or longer - a franchise record. He kicked three game-winning field goals, including a 47-yarder in the second overtime at Denver to thrust the Ravens into the AFC title game.

Now he's in the biggest game of his life, and showing not the least bit of concern. Heck, if he can put it through the uprights with the game on the line in chilly Denver, then kicking in the Superdome should be a snap.

``The Superdome is unique in and of itself,'' Tucker said. ``We had a chance to go kick a little bit. It's nice to more or less take the elements out of the game and just focus on hitting a straight ball.''

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Ravens vs. Jaguars in London: Date, time, TV channel, how to watch, online stream

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Ravens vs. Jaguars in London: Date, time, TV channel, how to watch, online stream

The Ravens are looking to go 3-0 this Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The only minor difference in this game than from most, they'll be playing 3,628 miles away in London, England.

MORE RAVENS: RAY LEWIS NOMINATED FOR 2018 PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME CLASS

The Jaguars are coming off a 37-16 loss at home against the Tennessee Titans. In Week 1 however, they defeated the Houston Texans 29-7.

Quarterback Blake Bortles completed 20 of 34 passes in Sunday's game for 211 yards and a touchdown. Bortles also threw two interceptions.

The Ravens are 2-0 after shutting out the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1 and dominating the Cleveland Browns 24-10 at home in Week 2.

One major blow the Ravens took in Sunday's game against the Browns was losing Pro-Bowl guard Marshall Yanda to a season-ending ankle injury.

RELATED: RAY LEWIS CLAIMS RAVENS DIDN'T SIGN KAEPERNICK AFTER GIRLFRIEND'S TWEET

To make up for a major loss on offense, the defense will continue to have to prove they are a powerhouse figure in the league.

In the Ravens' first two regular season games, the defense has had eight interceptions and two forced fumbles.

And as far as quarterback Joe Flacco, who was absent from the preseason with a back injury, he's thrown for 338 yards and three touchdowns.

There will be no sleeping in on Sunday morning with kick off at 9:30 a.m. ET. CSN has all the info you need to watch the guys in the U.K..

Week 3 Ravens vs. Jaguars in London game info:

Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

What: Week 3 NFL's International Series 

When: 9:30 a.m.. ET, Sunday Sept. 24, 2017

Where: Wembley Stadium, London, England

TV Channel: CBS

Live Stream: Yahoo, NFL Game Pass, NFL Mobile, Baltimore Ravens website

Radio: WBAL New Radio 1090 

Point Spread: Baltimore, -3.5

Over/Under: 39.5

Weather: 71 degrees, partly cloudy

BALTIMORE RAVENS 2017 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE:

Week 1 (Sun, Sept. 10): at Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 p.m. (W)

Week 2 (Sun, Sept. 17): vs. Cleveland Browns, 1:00 p.m. (W)

Week 3 (Sun, Sept. 24): at Jacksonville Jaguars in London, 9:30 a.m.

Week 4 (Sun, Oct. 1): vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 5 (Sun, Oct. 8): at Oakland Raiders, 4:05 p.m.

Week 6 (Sun, Oct. 15): vs Chicago Bears, 1:00 p.m.

Week 7 (Sun, Oct. 22): at Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 p.m.

Week 8 (Thur, Oct. 26): vs. Miami Dolphins, 8:25 p.m.

Week 9 (Sun, Nov. 5): at Tennessee Titans, 1:00 p.m.

Week 10 (Sun, Nov. 12): BYE week

Week 11 (Sun, Nov. 19): at Green Bay Packers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 12 (Mon, Nov. 27): vs. Houston Texans, 8:30 p.m.

Week 13 (Sun, Dec. 3): vs. Detroit Lions, 1:00 p.m.

Week 14: (Sun, Dec. 10): at Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:30 p.m.

Week 15: (Sun, Dec. 17): at Cleveland Browns, 1:00 p.m.

Week 16: (Sat, Dec. 23): vs Indianapolis Colts, 4:30 p.m.

Week 17: (Sun, Dec. 31): vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 p.m.

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Baltimore Ravens defense forces five turnovers in 24-10 win over Cleveland Browns

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USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens defense forces five turnovers in 24-10 win over Cleveland Browns

BALTIMORE -- The Ravens are making a habit of converting turnovers into victories.

Baltimore relentlessly harassed two Cleveland quarterbacks, Joe Flacco ramped up his production with a pair of touchdown passes and the Ravens breezed past the Browns 24-10 on Sunday.

Building on their season-opening shutout at Cincinnati, the Ravens picked off four passes and forced a fumble -- giving them 10 takeaways in two games.

RELATED: RAY LEWIS NOMINATED FOR 2018 PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME CLASS

The victory carried a stiff price: Six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda fractured his left ankle and will be lost for the season.

"Unfortunately, it's bad news," coach John Harbaugh said. "We'll have to bounce back from it, and we'll have to handle it."

Most of the defense's damage came against Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, who left with a migraine headache in the second quarter after four ineffective series: a three-and-out, a lost fumble, an interception and a punt.

The former Notre Dame starter was replaced by second-year pro Kevin Hogan, who would become the third quarterback in two games to be intercepted by the Baltimore defense.

Kizer said the headaches are hereditary, and that he hasn't had one crop up in a game since high school. He received medication, underwent concussion protocol, and finally received clearance to return in the third quarter with Baltimore up 21-10.

On his second series back, Kizer moved the Browns to the Baltimore 7 before being picked off in the end zone by Lardarius Webb.

Brandon Carr's interception with 6:09 remaining all but sealed the victory.

Coming off a solid performance in his debut against Pittsburgh, Kizer went 15 for 31 for 182 yards with three interceptions and a lost fumble.

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Hogan completed five of 11 passes for 118 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

"The turnovers will always stick out because it stops you from scoring points or leads to points for the other team," coach Hue Jackson said.

Both were outdone by Flacco, playing his second game since returning from a sore back that kept him sidelined the entire preseason. After going 9 for 17 in a keep-it-simple outing against the Bengals, Flacco went 25 for 34 for 217 yards in the encore.

"Get a lead and get pressure on the (other) quarterback is a good winning recipe," Flacco said. "Putting guys in that situation the last two weeks has been big for us."

As he matures, Kizer ultimately will come to understand the problem of holding the ball too long in the pocket -- a mistake that put the Browns in an early hole.

On Cleveland's second series, Kizer was looking for a receiver when sacked by Terrell Suggs. The rookie fumbled, Baltimore recovered, and minutes later Terrance West scored on a 4-yard run.

Kizer's next turnover wasn't entirely his fault: With the Browns at the Baltimore 26, his pass glanced off the hands of running back Duke Johnson into the arms of safely Eric Weddle.

Baltimore went up 14-0 in the second quarter when Flacco completed two straight passes totaling 43 yards to tight end Benjamin Watson before Javorius Allen caught a 9-yard TD throw.

Hogan entered and promptly took the Browns on an 83-yard drive that ended with his first career touchdown pass, to David Njoku.

But Flacco countered with a 2-yard TD pass to Jeremy Maclin on the final play of the half, and that was enough to hand Cleveland its 14th consecutive road defeat.