‘Ain’t no way he’s making this kick’: An oral history of Justin Tucker’s 66-yard record field goal

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Justin Tucker, essentially the most correct kicker in NFL historical past, knew he wasn’t going to make this one. With the Baltimore Ravens trailing 17-16 at Detroit’s Ford Discipline on Sept. 26, 2021, Tucker was lining up for an NFL-record 66-yard discipline objective try when a thought popped into his head.

“Dude, there isn’t any method you are going to get this there except you simply discover somewhat bit of additional momentum into the ball,” Tucker thought to himself.

Tucker remembered a method he had experimented with over the previous few years, one which was impressed by watching outfielders placing extra into their throws to dwelling plate. So he took a few steps again from the place he usually begins in preparation for a self-described crow hop.

The facility generated in that kick — Ravens particular groups coach Randy Brown stated it gave the impression of a “increase” from the sideline — lifted the Ravens to a 19-17 victory. On Sunday, Baltimore hosts Detroit (1 p.m. ET, Fox) for the primary time since Tucker booted himself into the NFL file e book.

“As technical and as detail-oriented as we now have to be as specialists with the intention to have success, you simply bought to go primarily based off really feel generally, too,” Tucker stated. “You bought to only let your self be an athlete.”

Tucker’s 22 game-winning or go-ahead discipline targets within the remaining two minutes of regulation or extra time are eight greater than any present participant.

Arizona Cardinals kicker Matt Prater, whose 64-yard discipline objective stood because the NFL file for eight years earlier than Tucker broke it, in contrast Tucker’s crow hop to an strategy you’ll make for a kickoff, not a discipline objective.

“I feel that is actually laborious to do,” Prater stated. “It is a formidable kick to hit that. I’ve by no means tried it. I do not know if I might even do it.”

Tucker emphasizes the staff side of the file. He stated he would not have had a shot at making that kick if the snap, maintain and safety weren’t good. Consequently, all 11 gamers on Baltimore’s field-goal staff obtained a framed image of the history-making second.

“It is one of many best performs within the historical past of the Nationwide Soccer League,” Brown stated.

Right here is an inside have a look at Tucker’s 66-yard kick by those that skilled it, and why it was extra unlikely than many realized.

‘He is simply not feeling it at the moment’

Nobody would have predicted Tucker’s history-making day by watching him just a few hours earlier than the beginning of the sport.

Tucker: I had a horrible pregame warmup. I simply couldn’t get the ball to go. I simply felt bodily not there.

Brown: His pregame was erratic, to say the least. After we kick out on grass a lot [in Baltimore], it is only a completely different floor [Ford Field has artificial turf]. And we do not play in Detroit fairly often. So if you’re attempting to get your self accommodated to the environment, it is simply completely different. He actually wasn’t hitting the ball nice in any respect.

Sam Koch, former Ravens holder: Whether or not or not he has a tough pregame, he nonetheless comes on the market and kicks the ball. So, to me, it was only a regular day.

But it surely wasn’t a traditional day for Tucker. His first discipline objective try veered extensive proper from 49 yards for his first miss of the season. Tucker’s subsequent kick was a 39-yarder that hardly snuck contained in the left upright.

Brown: He regarded like a golfer who was babying 3-foot putts and never making them. I vividly bear in mind saying to John [Harbaugh, Ravens coach]: ”He is simply not feeling it at the moment. We bought to be actually good on the place we’ll kick the remainder of the sport.” Then he goes forward and smashes a 50-yarder [2:44 into the third quarter]. I checked out John and stated, ”He is again. We’re good.”

A fourth-and-19 ‘holy cow’ play

The Ravens trailed for the primary time all sport when Lions kicker Ryan Santoso hit a 35-yard discipline objective with 1:04 left within the fourth quarter. Down 17-16, Baltimore started its remaining drive at its personal 25-yard line.

Brown: I stated to John firstly of the drive: ”Can we get it to the 46? That will get us to 64 yards [for a field goal].”

On the primary three performs, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson bought sacked, threw an incompletion and bought sacked once more. The Ravens referred to as their remaining timeout with 26 seconds remaining, dealing with a fourth-and-19. Baltimore’s win chance was lower than 0.1%, in accordance with ESPN Stats & Info.

Patrick Mekari, Ravens offensive sort out: We needed to get the ball off, and I feel [the Lions] rushed three. So we had a pair double-teams, which helped and gave Lamar somewhat bit additional time. Then, he simply made it occur. He made an important throw.

Jackson accomplished a 36-yard move to Sammy Watkins, who was tackled inbounds on the Lions’ 48-yard line. Jackson spiked the ball with seven seconds left within the sport after which threw the ball away on the following play to wind down the clock to 3 seconds.

Jack Fox, Lions punter: In some way, they get a man extensive open, so you understand how that goes. You assume you are form of screwed as soon as that occurs. It is simply loopy that it might even occur.

Kevin Zeitler, Ravens guard: I imply, it was only a ”holy cow, we did it” kind second. That is by no means a really perfect scenario to be in, but it surely additionally proves you by no means know what is going on to occur if you’ve bought a ton of playmakers.

Nick Moore, Ravens long-snapper: As soon as we bought the fourth and lengthy, everybody was tremendous overvalued on the sideline as a result of we bought an opportunity to win the sport. I do know Tuck, Sam and me have been simply able to do our factor.

‘Ain’t no method he is making this kick’

Tucker had transformed 48 straight kicks within the fourth quarter, the longest energetic streak on the time. However, as he lined up for the 66-yarder, there was loads of skepticism.

Jackson (after the sport): I am trying to see what number of yards it’s. I am like, ”Dang that is completely different proper right here. I’ve by no means seen him on this predicament.”

Anthony Pittman, Lions linebacker: They introduced the sector objective unit out virtually close to midfield, and I am like, ”Ain’t no method he is making this kick.” So, I am prepared for the sport to be over. I had my gloves off and every thing.

Derrick Barnes, Lions linebacker: I ain’t going to deceive you. I used to be able to go to the locker room and rejoice. I do not know the dude. He isn’t on my staff, so I ain’t bought that a lot religion in you.

Tucker: I simply bear in mind within the second being grateful that I might have the chance to redeem myself for letting one go early within the sport. I have to make this to redeem myself and win this sport proper now for everyone else who’s actually pouring their blood, sweat and tears into this factor. I would like to seek out my A-plus-plus ball, although I am feeling like a C-minus proper now.

Moore: It wasn’t till I bought on the market after which I used to be standing within the brand. I used to be like, ”Wow, that is actually far.” I did not know that it was going to be an NFL file. I simply knew it was going to be an extended kick.

Brown: I used to be extra nervous in regards to the safety than Justin getting the ball there. Our common time from snap to kick is 1.3 seconds. On any longer discipline objective the place he’ll take that additional step again, it provides between 10 and 15 hundredths of a second. So now 1.3 turns into a 1.4 or a 1.45. Now as the sector objective coach, you are considering of, ”OK, we have to defend this somewhat in another way.”

Moore: It was undoubtedly somewhat nerve-wracking. I imply, it might be naive for me to say it wasn’t, simply because it was my first game-winning discipline objective.

Brown: You are going to get stress from the frenzy aspect, which was at the moment the appropriate aspect. So I bear in mind speaking with Calais [Campbell, who blocked on the right side on the field goal unit]: ”You must maintain this longer.” That is the brilliance of Calais. He backs up and provides room [to the edge rusher] and he form of rides with the man. This actually purchased us that additional 10 to fifteen hundredths of a second.

‘All I might hear was it hitting the crossbar’

It’s believed there had solely been 12 kicks tried from 66 yards or longer earlier than Tucker’s strive. There was extra drama because the ball descended within the Ford Discipline air.

Tucker: I undoubtedly had somewhat little bit of an adrenaline rush as I used to be approaching the ball. And when it got here off my foot and it cleared the road, and I noticed a few third or midway to the uprights, I spotted that ball was f—ing smoke.

Koch: It is a kind of issues, being round Tucker so long as I’ve, you form of get a way of when that ball comes off a foot if it’ll have an opportunity or not. When he hit it, he hit it proper on the screws, as we’d say, or proper within the candy spot. And so I knew once I regarded up, there was a very good probability — so long as it was getting in the appropriate route — I knew we had an opportunity, as a result of he put every thing he had into it.

Pittman: It is straight as an arrow proper down the center, and I am like ”no method he is making it, although.” It goes, and all I might hear was it hitting the crossbar.

Brown: When it hit the crossbar, I simply stated, ”F—!”

Alex Anzalone, Lions linebacker: I noticed it doink the crossbar and I simply was like ”that is bouncing again up.” Then I heard the followers go silent.

Zeitler: I felt prefer it was going sluggish movement. It was an enormous momentary pause. There was absolute silence, after which absolute wildness.

Tucker: I noticed the ball bounce off the crossbar, and from the front-on view, you may’t actually inform if the ball goes ahead or backward off the crossbar. However then I noticed [Ravens team services manager] Avon Bryant’s arms go up [under the goal post]. I spotted, ”Oh man. Oh wow, we made that.”

‘The time of our lives’

All the Ravens sideline erupted and ran onto the sector for Tucker’s seventeenth game-winning kick of his profession. Exterior linebackers coach Drew Wilkins popped a hamstring within the celebration.

Mekari: I do not even assume I used to be wanting on the ball. When the ball went up, it simply felt prefer it was good. I simply went and celebrated with [offensive lineman] Ben Powers. I do not even assume I noticed it go in. I did not look, as a result of he is one of the best.

Barnes: I could not see from the angle. I am ready on the refs. They put their arms up, and my jaw simply dropped. I am like, ”That is loopy.”

Brown: I used to be simply frozen. It is the Jack Buck — “I am unable to consider what I simply noticed.”

Moore: Everybody was simply operating round like chickens with their head minimize off, simply operating in all places. I circled, looking for Tuck, and Tuck’s full sprinting down the sidelines. It was simply utter chaos after that — everybody was operating attempting to chase him.

Tucker: A handful of the offensive linemen have been operating straight down the sector. I turned to rejoice with them. I jumped into Andre Smith’s outstretched arms like I used to be in “Soiled Dancing” and bought lifted up by the blokes. And, boy, did we ever have the time of our lives.

‘It truly is a matter of when’

Earlier than Tucker’s successful kick, there had been eight makes an attempt to interrupt Prater’s file in an eight-year span. Since Tucker eclipsed that file two years in the past, nobody has even tried to surpass 66 yards. Will anybody break Tucker’s file?

Tucker: I in all probability ought to have already, however I am not involved in any respect about when it will get damaged. If it does — I say ”if” but it surely actually is a matter of when. I imply, the sport elevates and evolves yr after yr. Just a little bit selfishly, I hope that we get to go on the market and break it. Or when [Tucker’s 7-year-old son] Easton takes over for me, he will get to interrupt it in the future.

Prater: I feel there’s just a few guys that might do it, particularly in the appropriate circumstances. There are guys which are undoubtedly able to making as much as a 70-yard kick. I might like to get one other shot at breaking it once more.

Koch: So if the appropriate scenario arises, I feel it might doubtlessly be damaged. There’s solely a handful of individuals that might doubtlessly get it that far. But when they get that chance, possibly it occurs.

Brown: I feel it’s going to both be eclipsed in Denver or it’s going to be eclipsed at a sport the place there’s lots of wind. There’s some sturdy kickers now. And hear, there’s nothing saying Justin’s not going to have an opportunity to hit a 67, 68, 69, 70. I imply, I do not put something previous him as a result of he is the best that is ever carried out it.

ESPN’s Eric Woodyard and Josh Weinfuss contributed to this text.

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