Ravens special teams coordinator Chris Horton feels like he’s got the greatest kicker in all of football in Justin Tucker. But by the stats, Tucker is now No. 2 in career field goal percentage behind the Atlanta Falcons’ Younghoe Koo.
Granted, Koo’s sample size is much smaller. The 29-year-old has made 144 field goals in 72 games, placing him five years, 118 games and 240 field goals behind Tucker. One game could change the standings back in Tucker’s favor.
But rankings aside, Tucker has been uncharacteristically inconsistent this season, and that was on display in the Ravens 20-10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
Tucker was sent out with 3:02 left in the game and the Ravens up three to try to increase the lead to six. The ask: hit a 44-yarder in dry conditions in a covered stadium. In his career, Tucker had only missed 12 of 124 attempts from 40-49 yards. Now, he’s missed 13 of 125.
After the game, Tucker couldn’t say exactly what happened — he wanted to watch the film first — but he could tell quickly that something wasn’t right.
“The only thing I could say is I just felt like I didn’t have my just feet under me in that moment,” Tucker said.
Monday, coach John Harbaugh confirmed that Tucker was rushed on that play. He said the Ravens had some administrative issues throughout the game, especially on the field goal attempts.
“The field goals were running down on us every single time,” Harbaugh said. “We had the one delay of game. That was odd. The guys are pretty much in the same rhythm. ... We can’t afford to call a timeout there. I don’t know why the clock was running so fast and why they didn’t administer it the way they’d normally do, but we knew after the delay of game on the first one that we were going to have to just speed it all up and get it off.”
Still, Harbaugh isn’t making excuses for Tucker, and he knows Tucker wouldn’t want an excuse. Tucker said the same after the game, explaining that he’s veteran enough to know when and how to reset himself. Even if there’s no timeout, he said he needs to take a breath and “find a way to just knock the kick down the middle.”
Tucker said the miss came at an “inopportune” time. In the end, it didn’t make a difference in the Ravens’ 10-point win. Tucker has built a reputation for being clutch in the fourth quarter and overtime, but he’s not living up to his own standard.
One year ago, Tucker went into the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars with a historic NFL streak going. He had made 65-straight field goals in the fourth quarter or overtime. A missed 67-yard field goal in the Ravens’ loss broke the streak. Since then, Tucker has gone 9-for-13 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
On top of that, his season completion percentage of 80.8% is a career low. It’s down six percent from where he finished last season, and Tucker is only two years removed from his NFL-best 94.6% finish in 2021.
However, Tucker’s struggles have been accompanied by — or perhaps been a product of — overall special teams struggles. The Ravens have been known for having solid, reliable units, but rank 19th in special teams DVOA this season (they are fourth and second in offense and defense, respectively). They’ve allowed long returns and blocked kicks and have had miscommunications. Just two weeks ago, the Cleveland Browns blocked Tucker’s 55-yard attempt in their two-point win.
Horton said the people around Tucker have contributed to some of his misses and mentioned multiple times that the special teams need to find some consistency.
So even as Justin Tucker sits 23rd in made-kick percentage among kickers who have attempted at least 15 field goals, Horton isn’t worried. The miss on Sunday was Tucker’s first from under 50 yards this season.
“I don’t think it’s a trend or a theme,” Horton said. “I still think we have the greatest kicker in football — that I can tell you— and we’ll put him out there whenever we need him or whenever we say so.
“So I think we’re going to be OK. We’ll keep putting him out there, and we’ll keep working to just fine-tune what we do.”