Ravens kicker Justin Tucker clutched the football Sunday afternoon as he headed up the tunnel into the locker room.
It was worth keeping after Tucker delivered the game-winning field goal on a 46-yard kick to seal the Ravens' 20-17 overtime victory Sunday over the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium.
Long snapper Morgan Cox sprinted over to secure the ball for Tucker after it sailed through the uprights.
"That was the fastest I've ever seen Morgan run," Tucker said. "I'm very appreciative. Morgan made a beeline over there."
The field goal marks the fifth career game-winner for Tucker nine games into his second NFL season, and his 16th kick in a row without a miss since misfiring on two field goals during a 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns in the second game of the season.
Tucker had to account for the elements a bit on a gusty day, but the wind was behind him on the final kick. It had plenty of distance as he connected for the clutch field goal.
"I wouldn't say worried, but we always take it into consideration," Tucker said. "This isn't unusual. We ended up getting the wind behind us, it was kind of a cross-wind. We had a plan. The ball wasn't going to move too much. We just figured we'd just hit it as close down the middle as possible and give it a shot."
During the fourth quarter, Tucker said he had an inkling that he might be called upon for a pivotal kick when the topic was broached by kicking consultant Randy Brown.
"As soon as they scored their first touchdown to bring them within seven, Randy smiles at me and I smile right back at him," Tucker said. "He says, 'You and I are the only two people in this stadium that know exactly what's up right now.' Sure enough, the game comes down to three points in overtime."
One week after a rough outing where he was faked off his feet by Cleveland Browns wide receiver Davone Bess on a touchdown, cornerback Lardarius Webb had a resurgent game.
It was arguably Webb's top performance of the season as he recorded his first interception this year and he deflected a game-high six passes. Webb hadn't intercepted a pass since last season when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament.
"I feel like I'm getting better and better," said Webb, who's been targeted more frequently this season by quarterbacks. "I'm feeling healthy. I had a great week of practice. We got to keep working and build on this game. We had to be on point. We had a nice game."
The last time Webb had intercepted a pass was Oct. 7, 2012 in a 9-6 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. This time, he took the football away from Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones.
“We made an emphasis on it this week, defensive backs, let’s get picks,” Webb said. “Let’s get the ball and bring it back to the sideline, because if we get our hands on the ball, then we win the game. Now, I see it’s true. If we keep getting turnovers, we can win ballgames.”
Except for surrendering a game-tying, 51-yard Hail Mary touchdown to wide receiver A.J. Green, who finished with eight catches for 151 yards on 15 targets, the secondary had a strong game. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was intercepted three times and completed just 24-of-51 passes for two touchdowns and a 52.2 passer rating.
Mohamed Sanu was limited to three catches for 26 yards and Jones had just one catch for two yards on seven targets.
"Our secondary played tremendously well," coach John Harbaugh said. "Everybody is going to talk about the last play, which is a shame. I thought the pressure was very good, but our secondary covered a very talented and gifted receiving corps all day."
Dalton under duress
Led by outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, the Ravens sacked Dalton five times for the second-most they've recorded in a game this sea son.
The Ravens are now 7-0 in games with five sacks or more.
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees occasionally lined up Dumervil and Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs in overloads on the same side. Dumervil led the defense with 2.5 sacks with defensive linemen Arthur Jones and DeAngelo Tyson recording one sack apiece, and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee splitting one sack with Dumervil.
"[Pees] had a hell of a scheme dialed up for us, and props to our linebackers coach [Ted Monachino]," said Dumervil, who has eight sacks this year. "It's good when you have a  Defensive Player of the Year like Suggs that can move around. Not all pass rushers can flip like that, and for me to be able to feed off that is great."
Dalton was hit nine times as the Ravens also forced him to throw it early with Webb blitzing off the edge.
"I thought our defensive coaches did a great job of coaching the pass-rush lanes," Harbaugh said. "Pass-rush lanes were very disciplined. Our one-on-one pass rushes were really excellent. And then the blitzes were just well timed.
"We got some good pressure from our nickel, from our linebackers and our free safeties. [Pees] did a good job of mixing up all of the pressures. What makes that work is the coverage behind the pressures, so you can't get a quick throw out."
Injury wrap up
Left offensive guard A.Q. Shipley left the game in the second half with a neck stinger before going back in the game after being replaced by Jah Reid.
Shipley went through the NFL protocol under league concussion guidelines, but was determined to be free of symptoms.
“I was just kind of stunned from the hit, but there was nothing with the head, just the stinger,” Shipley said. “It took most of the third quarter for me to pass all the tests, and then they threw me back in there. I was good to go.”
Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata injured his left knee in the first quarter, but returned to the game in the second quarter.
Although clearly favoring the left knee, Ngata finished with five tackles and a pass deflection.
Ngata had three early tackles, including a solo stop in which he slammed Bernard to the ground to hold him to a yard.
Middle linebacker Daryl Smith played through hamstring and lower back injuries and had nine tackles. He limped off the field in overtime and was replaced by Josh Bynes, but said it wasn't serious.
“It was bothering me a little bit,” Smith said. “With a little rehab, it should be all right.”
Cornerback Jimmy Smith started and made it through the game without aggravating his groin injury. He finished with five tackles, one for a loss, and two pass deflections.
‘I felt great," said Smith, who returned to practice on Friday after being rested Wednesday and Thursday. "I didn’t really feel whatever I’ve got going on. I just went out there and studied tape more than ever this week for the simple fact that I wasn’t going to be out there.”
Quiet game for Rice
Three-time Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice's season-long trend of limited production continued Sunday. He was limited to 30 rushing yards on 18 carries and six receptions for 26 yards.
However, Rice did contribute in overtime on the game-winning drive as he caught a pass for 13 yards while rushing for only six yards on four carries after regulation.
"It felt good, man," Rice said. "It felt good to actually get open and actually some space where I could run. It's always good for me to help out any way I can. Things happen in games, we happened to overcome this one."
The Ravens scratched wide receiver Brandon Stokley (groin), running back Bernard Scott, cornerback Asa Jackson, safety Omar Brown, center Ryan Jensen, linebacker John Simon and defensive tackle Brandon Williams. … Punter Sam Koch's wife gave birth to a baby girl early Sunday morning. … The Bengals played without tight end Jermaine Gresham due to a groin injury.
twitter.com/RavensInsiderCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun