Justin Tucker, patron saint of NFL kickers, the only saint to be canonized while still living, did something he had never done before today. He successfully converted an onside kick!
Browns fullback Andy Janovich generously helped Tucker out by deflecting the ball right back to the Ravens. Janovich was gearing up to block and looked like he didn’t even see the football before it bounced off his shoulder pads and landed in a spot where Ravens safety Chuck Clark could jump on top of it. Before this successful attempt, Tucker was 0-for-9 in onside kicks. He even tried and failed with this super-cool back-foot kick (apparently soccer-knowing people call this move a rabona?) last week against the Steelers. In fact, the Ravens had not converted an onside kick since 2001!
After winning on this low-success-rate play (only 5.6 percent of onside kicks were recovered last season), it felt like this game was going to break the Ravens’ way, after nothing else had on Sunday. Baltimore’s run of terrible injury luck continued when quarterback Lamar Jackson was carted off early in the second quarter with an ankle injury, and defensive end Calais Campbell hurt his thigh on the Ravens’ second drive.
In the end the Ravens just needed a field goal to win, and they got the ball at their own 41-yard-line with 1:15 on the clock, nearly midfield with the best kicker in the game! Give me the Ravens every time.
Ravens backup quarterback Tyler Huntley stepped in for Jackson once before this season and put together a last-minute touchdown drive to win at Chicago. He was primed to do it again! On first down, Huntley missed Marquise Brown and then was sacked on the next play for a loss of 10 yards, when he didn’t see Browns defensive end Jadeveon Clowney breathing down his neck from behind. That put the Ravens at third-and-20 with just over a minute left. Huntley found his tight end Mark Andrews for 14 yards to bring up fourth-and-6. He was 3-for-3 on passing attempts on fourth down at this point in the game, and had converted all three of those attempts.
Baltimore went with an empty set and sent five receivers into routes. Cleveland blitzed Huntley, and pressured him into what had to have been the worst choice available (and the only one short of the first down): a short slant to Rashod Bateman, who was three yards short of the sticks when he caught the ball. Browns safety Denzel Ward was in man coverage on Bateman, and he immediately tackled him to secure Cleveland’s 24-22 win.
On the previous Ravens drive, Huntley had thrown a 30-yard dime to Bateman, also on fourth-and-6, to set up the touchdown that would bring Baltimore within two points. A valiant effort from Huntley and Bateman and these injury-depleted Ravens, who are very much still in the playoff hunt at 8-5 (and at the top of the AFC North, pending Bengals outcome). All of that is nice, but we’re here to say that Justin Tucker deserved better.