Justin Tucker has long been regarded as the best kicker in the NFL.
But he has never had a moment like this.
He sent the kicking team out despite Tucker missing the first indoor field goal of his career earlier in the game. Tucker rewarded Harbaugh’s confidence, bombing a kick almost straight down the middle and with just enough distance. The ball bounced off the crossbar, then up and through the uprights as the clock read zero.
Ravens win, 19-17.
Tucker’s dramatic game-winner also set an NFL record, surpassing Matt Prater’s 64-yard kick in 2013 for the Denver Broncos as the longest in league history. And Tucker didn’t have the benefit of kicking in Denver’s mile-high altitude.
Tucker’s heroics fended off a would-be upset at the hands of the now 0-3 Lions, who converted a late Lamar Jackson interception into a go-ahead field goal with 1:04 remaining in regulation. The Ravens responded with a seven-play drive for 27 yards that was just long enough for Tucker to work with.
It was the ultimate redemption for Tucker, who missed a 49-yard field goal in the first quarter that would have given Baltimore a 3-0 lead.
In addition to being the first indoor miss of his 10-season NFL career, the kick that sailed right broke a streak of 27 made field goals for Tucker in road games.
No matter. Tucker and the Ravens will gladly take the sum total of his kicks from Sunday.
Play-clock controversy prior to kick
Tucker’s game-winner didn’t arrive without controversy. On the play prior to his 66-yard field goal, the Ravens failed to snap the ball before the play clock expired.
The Justin Tucker game-winning kick from 66 yards never should have happened. According to CBS broadcast graphic, this should have been a delay of game on Baltimore on the play before the field goal. #Lions #Ravens pic.twitter.com/YnVOuC3KXX
— Jonathan Deutsch (@JonathanD_TV) September 26, 2021
Jackson corralled Bradley Bozeman’s snap on second-and-10 after the play clock clearly read zero. The Ravens didn’t gain yardage on the play, but a delay-of-game penalty would have pushed the Ravens back 5 yards and likely negated a Tucker attempt at 71 yards.
Officials often wait a count to call delay of game in hurry-up situations. This non-call is sure to attract scrutiny. Without it, Tucker wouldn’t have had a chance to hit arguably the greatest regular-season kick in NFL history.
Controversy was the last thing on Tucker’s mind postgame.