There's an old adage that an NFL kicker is only as good as his last kick. If that's true, then Ravens rookie Justin Tucker is just fine, thank you.
In fact, Tucker has proved to be one of the gems of this year's rookie class and showed why again at San Diego with his game-tying and game-winning field goals that lifted the Ravens to their 16-13 win.
“It’s pretty sweet,” Tucker told BaltimoreRavens.com right after the game. “Being able to come through like this for everybody in this locker room, everybody in the city of Baltimore, and all the fans that came out here, there were a bunch of them, it’s pretty special.”
The Ravens decision to go with Tucker, the undrafted rookie from Texas, over Billy Cundiff, the eight-year veteran, has turned out to be one of their best personnel decisions of the season. Tucker is now 22-for-24 this season, including two game-winners, and has shown poise beyond his years.
"He’s got a great head, as we say. He’s really smart, he’s tough," coach John Harbaugh said.
As Tucker was battling Cundiff throughout training camp, sending 60-yarders through the uprights and generally impressing anyone who watched him, one underlying question was whether the Ravens would dare put their Super Bowl aspirations on the leg of a rookie kicker.
It's obvious that there are no concerns about that any more.
SI.com's Peter King named Tucker his Special Teams Player of the Week this past week, noting that, "The Ravens, who will be playing in January, look to have a playoff-caliber kicker they won't have to worry about in the big spots.”
Tucker has also shown the range that was one of Cundiff's biggest drawbacks; Tucker is 4-for-4 this season from 50-plus yards, including a franchise-record tying 56-yarder at Philadelphia.
Had Tucker missed either of those last two kicks in San Diego, Ray Rice's fourth-and-29 play might have gone down as a fun footnote rather than one of the greatest plays in Ravens history. Tucker's emerging reputation as a clutch kicker ensured that didn't happen.
"He’s meticulous in the way he goes about his work, and he’s got talent," Harbaugh said. "We’re real pleased, but the story is still to be written, as they say.”