In an emotional season filled with tough tasks, resiliency and unforgettable moments, it was sometimes difficult to look ahead. Week by week, we had to take things just one step at a time and stay focused on the ultimate goal.
In a postseason full of flashy plays and big-time accomplishments, there were many things that were overlooked. Take the brilliant play of the offensive line for instance. It only allowed quarterback Joe Flacco to be sacked six times during games. That’s something that can’t be taken for granted.
A prime example of the most overlooked player not only in the postseason, but the regular season was kicker Justin Tucker. The Ravens’ rookie kicker was dynamite all year long.
Tucker shined from day one, impressing coaches out of training camp and beating out veteran Billy “Wide Left” Cundiff for the kicking job. In his rookie season, Tucker accomplished some things that not even Matt Stover did.
Tucker, the University of Texas product, was tested early during the season as he booted the game-winning field goal to beat New England, and went on to kick several more, proving that he really does have ice in his veins.
Hitting 30 of his 33 field goal attempts, Tucker was considered by some pundits to be a Pro Bowl snub. His only three misses were in the range of 40-49 yards, and he was perfect from beyond 50-yards, making all four of his attempts. He converted a franchise-tying 56-yarder against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week Two.
Tucker also had 49 touchbacks, which were the fifth-most in the NFL.
Many skeptics said that he could falter in the playoffs, simply because it was a bigger stage with more pressure. Think again. The only thing that Tucker did was improve.
During an AFC Divisional Playoff round game in Denver, not only did he continue to drill the ball in the back of the end zone, but he booted a 47-yarder in below-0 wind chill to send the Ravens to the AFC Championship Game.
Being the world champion that he is, Tucker was yet again money in the Super Bowl. He kicked two through the uprights, proving even more crucial in a game that was decided by just three points.
We’ll always miss Stover, and there may never be anyone as great as “Money Matt”. But one thing is for sure: Baltimore has a kicker, and he will be here for the long haul.