In a week where Jammal Charles accomplished the rare feat of scoring five touchdowns, it’s Ravens place kicker Justin Tucker who left week 15 as the most popular name in the game. The second year Longhorn nailed six field goals, a 61-yard game winning field goal, his post-game interview lit up social media, and Tucker even had Aaron Rodgers giving him props for helping his Packers out. Tucker is the most talked about player (in a positive manner. See: Romo, Tony) given he scored all the Ravens points in front of the entire football world in primetime.
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Justin Tucker has swagger. His confidence, the little known facts about him that are starting surface with growing popularity (like the fact that he can sing opera in several different languages) and being active in charities within the Baltimore community are making Tucker easy to root for. But most of all his efficiency is quickly making him a fan favorite.
Folks are starting to mention Justin Tucker in the same breath as long time Ravens kicker and ring of honor member, Matt Stover.
In the 2000 season that produced the Ravens first postseason and Super Bowl run, the offense sputtered early on going over five games without scoring a touchdown. At one point in that streak, Matt Stover kicked nine straight field goals in two Ravens wins. A 12-0 shutout at Cleveland and a 15-10 win in Jacksonville. That was the greatest defense since the 1985 Bears, but they relied heavily on Stover for scoring. Stover would be named to the Pro Bowl after making his career and franchise best 35 field goals on 39 attempts (89.7%).
In 2006, Matt Stover, at the ripe young age of 38 connected on 28 out of 30 field goals which was his best FG% for a season in his storied career (93.3%). Stover’s name is prominent in the NFL record books also. He is third all-time in field goals made with 435 (Gary Anderson 538, Morten Anderson 565), third all-time in FG% at 83.82% (Shayne Graham 85.39%, Mike Vanderjagt 86.47%), third all-time in consecutive field goals made with 36 (Gary Anderson 40, Mike Vanderjagt 42). The 19-year veteran also holds the record for most consecutive games scoring a field goal with 38. A record that stood for 31 years, and will likely not be broken.
Shift the focus back to the man of the week, Justin Tucker. A man the Ravens have leaned on to kick them to victory in more than a few games in his young career, much like they did with Stover. Tucker’s next field goal will be his 36th of the year, a new franchise record. Tucker currently posts a FG% mark of 94.6% for 2013, which would also be a franchise record. A stat that jumps out to me is each kickers FG% from 50+ yards. In a long and distinguished career, Stover made just 13 field goals of 50+ yards in 32 attempts (40.6%). Justin Tucker has been successful on 10 out of 11 from 50+ yards (90.9%). Just three shy of Stover in a fraction of the time.
With two games left in the regular season, “Optimus 9” (Since Tucker said Legatron belongs to Rams PK Greg Zuerlein) is also in the running for the all-time record for field goals in a season. He is five shy of Neil Rackers’ record, 40 FGs made in 2005. Imagine if the Ravens didn’t have every other game affected by rain, heavy winds, tornados, and blizzard conditions. He would probably be there by now.
The one stat that is most intriguing is consecutive field goals made. Tucker has made 33 straight field goals. Very impressive considering the announcers are trying to jinx him every time the field goal unit comes on. “This guy is automatic. He can’t miss. There’s no one better than Tucker. He hasn’t missed in X amount of tries.” Basketball fans know this always happens. “This guy has made 50 straight free throws” and the next one…brick. I digress. His 33 straight makes are three short of Stover’s mark and nine short of the all-time mark. Gary Anderson had made a then record 40 straight field goals (46 including the postseason) when he was called upon to kick an “automatic” 38-yarder in the 4th quarter of the NFC Championship game of 1998. He Finkled it and the Falcons would go on to win in OT. The 98’ Vikings go down as one of the best teams not to play in the Super Bowl.
The point is, all good things must come to an end. Let’s hope Tucker’s streak doesn’t come to an end when we need him most. Even if it does, remember, the Ravens are where they are because of Justin Tucker.
Kickers are usually an afterthought. But at some point the game rides on that one position. The Ravens are lucky to have struck gold with Tucker. The position is a revolving door for some teams where kicking is a game of luck, or chance. With Tucker, it’s as close to sure thing as you can get.***
***Disclaimer: Not a jinx. Repeat. NOT a Jinx.