The following sequence of events still haunts Raven fans.
It’s last January, and the Baltimore Ravens are in the AFC Championship facing the New England Patriots. The Ravens are in field goal range with just seconds remaining in the game. With a chance to send the game into overtime by converting the field goal, Billy Cundiff jogs onto the field.
As the story goes, Cundiff missed the 32-yard field goal, hooking it wide left to the dismay of Baltimore fans.
The faithful remember the game.
They remember the moment.
They remember thinking their team had a legitimate chance of going to its second Super Bowl in franchise history.
Nearly a year later, the Ravens are in position to make another playoff run. This season, Cundiff will not be lining up for any crucial field goals. The man who will be doing that will be rookie Justin Tucker.
After beating out Cundiff for the kicking duties this season, Tucker, an undrafted rookie out of Texas, has been nearly perfect this season.
Nearly perfect best describes Tucker’s first season in the NFL, as the rookie is 29-of-31 on field goals, with a long of 56 yards. His four field goals of over 50 yards rank fourth in the NFL. Both of his misses were from over 40 yards out.
On kickoffs, Tucker has been just as outstanding.
When the Ravens chose Tucker over Cundiff, they knew he would be a capable kicker. I don’t think they figured he would turn out to be one of the league’s best kickers in just his first season.
With the playoffs just a week-and-a-half away, every attempt will intensify.
One miss could ultimately end Baltimore’s season. Tucker seems to perform well under pressure, as he looks calm and collected before every kick.
The undrafted rookie will certainly encounter a pressure kick in the playoffs. The question should be asked: will that calm demeanor remain, or will the pressure get to him?
Come January, Baltimore fans will be hoping that Tucker does not bring back memories of Cundiff but that he will be able to convert when the season is on the line.