The Baltimore Ravens boast the biggest special-teams advantage in the NFL: Justin Tucker.
The league's best kicker once again proved why Sunday night in a 19-17 win over division rival Cincinnati.
After Joe Burrow's goal-line sneak gave the Bengals a one-point lead with just under two minutes remaining, it almost felt like a fait accompli that the game would come down to Tucker's foot. Once Lamar Jackson guided the Ravens swiftly across the 50-yard line, it became more of a question of how long Tucker's attempt would be.
Baltimore got all the way down to the 25-yard-line to set up the 43-yard game-winner, a veritable chip-shot for Tucker.
While the watching world was certain Tucker would nail the victory kick, he did admit he still gets nervous before big boots -- not that you can tell.
"Whether I'm feeling confident, or nervous or outright afraid, that's why I always make it a point to say a brief prayer as I'm lining up the kick," Tucker said, via the team's official website. "I want to make sure I go through my routine as efficiently as possible.
"This was a big team win that we needed to have, division opponent. To be able to come out on top is a great feeling."
Tucker's late-game superlatives are long:
- Sunday marked his 12th "walk-off" field goal to end a game in regulation, tied for third-most in NFL history (Jason Elam 14; Adam Vinatieri 13).
- Tucker has made 61 consecutive field goals in the fourth quarter/overtime, an NFL record -- Tucker was 2 for 2 in the fourth quarter in Week 5 (25- and 43-yard FGs)
- He is the only kicker since 2000 to be perfect on field goals in the final minute of the fourth quarter or OT (minimum 15-plus such attempts). Tucker is 23 of 23 in such situations -- second is Matt Prater, who is 23 of 25.
- Tucker made his 17th career field goal in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter or OT that won his team the game, including playoffs (tied for sixth-most since 1983).
That type of dominance late in games gives Jackson confidence that if he can just move the ball a bit, the Ravens can escape with a win.
"It's just, do what we do in practice. The two-minute drill," Jackson said of his mindset when he got the ball back down one. "We work on that every day in practice for situations like this, and obviously we prevailed. Offense did a great job driving the ball down the field and giving Tuck a chance. You know, we got the G.O.A.T. at kicker. And that's just what it was."
It wasn't just the game-winner that Tucker nailed. He also bashed a 58-yarder in the third quarter. With the game tied, 10-10, at the time, a miss from that distance would have given the Bengals the ball at midfield. Instead, Tucker left no doubt.
His game-sealing boot didn't just sneak in either. It was right down the pipe. Using Next Gen Stats ball-tracking data, Tucker's game-winning field goal went through 5.4 inches off of the exact center of the uprights, meaning if the uprights were half a yard wide, the kick would have still been good, per NFL Research.
Jackson said he didn't have any doubts Tucker would win the game the moment he lined up.
"Nah. I didn't. I still prayed, though," Jackson said. "I really didn't have no doubt because I thank God we have Tuck on our side."