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Why Ravens vs. Chiefs is a kicking matchup for the ages

Ravens tackle Orlando Brown on playing beside rookie Tyre Phillips on the offensive line.

It’s not controversial to call the Ravens' showdown Monday night against the Kansas City Chiefs a matchup of the NFL’s two best players.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was honored as the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2018, and Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in 2019. Mahomes earned Super Bowl MVP honors in February, and Jackson was voted the league’s top player by his peers. Their Week 3 battle was being hailed as the NFL’s game of the year before either player even took a snap this season.

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But for all the hype around the superstars' third meeting in as many years, there’s another clash with even more historical significance looming.

It’s at kicker. The Ravens’ Justin Tucker is the NFL’s most accurate ever (90.9% on field goals). The Chiefs' Harrison Butker is the second-most accurate ever (90.2%). They’re the only two kickers in NFL history who’ve made over 90% of their attempts.

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On Friday, Ravens special teams coordinator Chris Horton was asked whether this is the best kicking matchup he’s been a part of. He laughed.

“For my short time being a special teams coach, this might be it,” said Horton, a Ravens special teams coach since 2015. “What we have here in our ‘Wolfpack’ [with punter Sam Koch and long snapper Morgan Cox] and with Justin, obviously, he’s been unbelievable in his career. And then what you’re seeing from Harrison out in Kansas City right now for a young guy, he’s strong mentally. You can see he’s locked in."

Tucker, a five-time All-Pro selection, has the advantage of longevity. He’s converted 270 field-goal attempts over eight-plus seasons in Baltimore; only six active kickers have more career makes. Tucker’s also No. 1 among active kickers in extra-point accuracy (99.0%).

But since joining the Chiefs in 2017, Butker has in some ways had a more predictable track record. While he’s never finished with a field-goal percentage above 90.5% — Tucker’s done it five times — he’s also never finished below 88.9%, something Tucker’s done twice.

Through two games this season, both are a perfect 5-for-5. Tucker nailed four in Sunday’s win over the Houston Texans, and Butker hit a 58-yarder in overtime to complete a comeback over the Los Angeles Chargers.

“So this will be fun to see,” Horton said.

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