It's Tucker's world, and I'm living in it

I have a sports confession to make.

My interest in the NFL has waned in the last year, and there are several factors as to why. The product is bad, on the whole. There's a flag thrown on almost every play, and the ones that don't get flagged are instead reviewed. Or not reviewed, when they should be. And I still don't quite know what a catch is.


That the Bears are well on their way to a 3-13 season doesn't help, either.

But enough about those bozos. There's one thing keeping me tuned in, however. A driving football force in my eyes.


Time to just come out and admit it — I can't get enough Justin Tucker.

Go ahead, mock me. Poke fun at my declaration. Although I doubt many Ravens fans will do so.

They know what I'm talking about.

This guy is a bona fide stud. He's brash. He's gifted. He can belt out classical opera! (Seriously!)


So what if he's the team's kicker?

Baritone and Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker sings "O Holy Night, " along with the Concert Artists of Baltimore and the Morgan State University Choir, at the Catholic Charities Christmas Festival at the Basilica. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun video)

Tucker just might be the biggest reason why the Ravens are still in playoff contention this season. You can bet he's the reason why I pay any attention to the team.

Just look at the Ravens' offense — Tucker accounts for 115 of the team's 279 points, more than 40 percent.

Up until last Monday against New England, "Old Faithful" was perfect this year kicking footballs through the uprights. His streak was at 35 in a row, dating back to last season, and he had made 28 straight in 2016.

Of course, the Patriots used a little ingenuity to snap the streak when Shea McClellin (a former Bear no less!) leaped over the long snapper and blocked Tucker's 34-yard attempt before it ever got started.

McClellin's timing was perfect, and it changed the course of that Monday night game.

Tucker, like the boss that he is, shook off the miss and nailed three field goals to keep Baltimore in the game. That included a 50-yarder, which in Tucker's world is a chip shot.

(Speaking about perfection, there must be something in Baltimore water this year, with Tucker and Orioles closer Zach Britton doing their thing. But we all know how Britton's season ended, or didn't...)

Tucker is 9-for-9 from 50 or more yards away, after going 4-for-10 in that range a year ago. His career numbers from 50 yards out? Just 27-for-39, so with six of those misses in 2015 that's considered elite.

See, Baltimore? You do have an elite player that can be counted on for points!

Here's another part of my admission — I'm somewhat late to the Tucker party.

I didn't give him much thought as an undrafted rookie in 2012. The Ravens were coming off that heartbreaking AFC Championship loss to the Patriots, when "He Who Should Not Be Named" missed a 32-yarder that would have tied the game in the final seconds.

"HWSNBN" never kicked again for the Ravens, but they turned a quirky rookie who was a music major coming out of Texas.

(Yes, that was Tucker singing "O Holy Night" at a charity Christmas concert last week inside Baltimore's Basilica. If you haven't seen the video, I may or may not have it saved on my phone.)

His resume is already quite impressive, starting with drilling the game-winner in 2OT (47 yards) in Denver to complete "The Mile High Miracle" before the Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl in 2012.

Tucker's bravado helped him convince coach John Harbaugh to try a fake field goal in that Super Bowl against the 49ers. He came up just short, but I'm sure something illegal took place to prevent Tucker from getting a first down on that play.

Friday was the three-year anniversary of Tucker's five field-goal performance against Detroit on a Monday night. He's the only kicker in league history to connect from 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 yards in one game.

His 61-yarder won it for the Ravens, 18-16, and perhaps right then and there I should have understood the power of one Justin Paul Tucker.

He celebrates like a wide receiver at times, pretending to strum a guitar or raising his hands to the heavens while the fans rain cheers upon him.

I admire from afar, and if I'm lucky enough to make it to some games during the season I even find myself, ahem, rooting for Tucker to blast long field goals through the uprights.

Never publicly, of course. But now that I've let my secret be known, it might be tough to hide.

I'd also like to apologize for jinxing Tucker the other night, as I sat at the office and talked openly about his impressive run of field goals and the possibility of his name being debated for league MVP.

Sounds crazy? I'm not so sure, but seconds after I spoke McClellin timed his leap and blocked Tucker's kick.

The chances of a kicker winning MVP are very slim if said kicker isn't perfect.

But Tucker is about as close as you can get.


Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker (9) walks off the field an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Baltimore, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. The Baltimore Ravens defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 19-14. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker (9) walks off the field an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Baltimore, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. The Baltimore Ravens defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 19-14. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) (Patrick Semansky / AP)