After tying an NFL record with 10 successful field goals from at least 50 yards out last season, Ravens kicker Justin Tucker opened the 2017 preseason by nailing a 59-yarder as time expired in the first half in Thursday night's 23-3 victory over the Washington Redskins.
While it appears that Tucker is already in midseason form, he cautioned against taking his long-distance field goal for granted.
"I don't think any kick is routine or ho-hum," he said. "I think every single kick where we happen to play presents a variety of challenges. It's about compartmentalizing that one kick, that 1.3 seconds into smaller, simpler pieces using the data that you gathered in pregame warmups based on the field conditions and the weather conditions. 'How do I need to hit this ball to make it go through the uprights?'"
Entering this season, Tucker is the most accurate kicker in NFL history with a career field goal percentage of 89.8 (168-for-187), just slightly ahead of the Dallas Cowboys' Dan Bailey (89.5 percent on 171-for-191). Last season, Tucker went 38-for-39 on field goals (one was blocked), including 24-for-24 from at least 40 yards, which is an NFL single-season record.
So although Tucker isn't resting on his previous laurels, it is perhaps easy to see why his coaches and teammates consider him automatic.
"Our offense got some good field position, and then Justin hits a 59-yarder in the wind," coach John Harbaugh said. "There was a little wind up there. It's amazing how you start to just expect that from a great kicker like he is."
Tucker, who connected on two other field goals (37 and 21 yards), did bang his first try of 43 yards off the left upright in the first quarter. But an illegal formation penalty on Washington defensive end Stacy McGee gave the Ravens a first down, and the offense capitalized with a 2-yard touchdown run by running back Terrance West (Towson University, Northwestern High School).
Tucker said the miss was a sobering reminder that there is still work to do.
"That was an example of one that didn't cost us anything because there was a penalty that wiped it out," he said. "So it was one of those no-harm, no-foul type of things, but it's still important to go out there and hit the next one well."