A year after Billy Cundiff limped through a shaky regular season prior to flubbing a chip-shot field goal try during the AFC title game against the New England Patriots, the Ravens' kicking game is no longer an adventure in anxiety.
Since replacing Cundiff during training camp with strong-legged, accurate rookie kicker Justin Tucker, successful field goals have become an expectation.
Tucker connected on 30 of 33 field goals during the regular season, scoring 132 points as he converted all 42 extra points.
Teammates were calm on the sideline as Tucker lined up for his game-winning 47-yard field goal during Saturday's 38-35 double-overtime victory over the Denver Broncos.
"This year, I’ve never been nervous about Justin Tucker kicking a field goal," Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. "I kind of just sat back and then waited. It got kind of close. I got a little nervous, but then when it went through, I just kind of jumped up and got excited. Justin Tucker is a great kicker, and he’ll probably be here for a while.”
A former Texas standout, Tucker has exuded confidence since his arrival in Baltimore.
“I always feel good about going out on the field,” Tucker said. “Not a lot of people get to do this. This is a heck of a lot of fun. More than anything, I try to cherish every opportunity I get, and more than anything, trust our routine."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he wasn't thinking about last year's special-teams breakdown when Tucker lined up for the kicker.
"I didn’t think about that," Harbaugh said. "That really was not what went through my mind. I didn’t think about that comparison. I thought about the field and whether [Tucker] was going to have his footing. I thought about trying to get the ball to the field if we could, trying to get a few more yards, get a little bit closer. I don’t think there has been a field goal that long in the postseason that has been a game-winner. I think I saw that somewhere.
"I didn’t know that. But, we had a lot of confidence in ‘Tuck’ and really the whole operation. We’d had some issues in protection. They slipped through there a couple of times and got some hands in front of some balls, so we were concerned about that. I just wanted to get close to Ray Rice, because he is a good luck charm. That was the key.”