DETROIT (AP) — Justin Tucker had already kicked five field goals, but this one would be an entirely different matter.
A 61-yarder? With the game on the line?
“He said, `I got it,”‘ Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said.
Tucker lived up to his word, making an improbable kick from the Lions’ logo at midfield to lift the Ravens to an 18-16 victory over Detroit on Monday night. Tucker’s 61-yard field goal with 38 seconds remaining helped Baltimore pull within a game of first-place Cincinnati in the AFC North.
Tucker said he’d made one from farther before the game.
“I backed up in pregame to 70 and I doinked one off the crossbar,” he said. “I almost broke one of those like $50,000 cameras that’s on the goalposts.”
Baltimore (8-6) is even with Miami in the race for the last wild card in the AFC. Detroit (7-7) fell to third place in the NFC North and needs Chicago and Green Bay each to lose at least once over the final two weeks of the season.
Otherwise, the Lions will miss out on a postseason berth that once seemed theirs for the taking.
“Our emotions aren’t important right now. We have two games to play, we’re one down in our division,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “So I think that’s the most important thing for us to keep in mind at this point. This was a setback, no question.”
Here are five things to know about Baltimore’s tense victory at Detroit:
TRIUMPHANT TUCKER: The Baltimore kicker was already having a terrific day — and a great season — before his kick in the final minute gave the Ravens the victory. Tucker has made 33 field goals in a row, the NFL’s longest streak since Matt Stover made 36 in a row for the Ravens from 2005-06, according to STATS.
The 61-yarder didn’t clear the crossbar by much, and it almost went wide right.
“I had no doubt that he was going to make it,” Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “I actually played against Tuck in college, and I watched him in warmups kick 65-yard field goals like it was nothing. So when he was out there, I knew we were going to make it and I knew we were going back on the field and have to stop them on defense.”
STAFFORD’S STRUGGLES: If the Lions do miss the playoffs, there will be plenty of questions about their franchise quarterback, who has turned the ball over 12 times in the last five games.
Matthew Stafford threw three interceptions Monday, although in fairness, he was also victimized by some dropped passes. Even star receiver Calvin Johnson dropped two big passes in the first half on his way to a pedestrian day by his standards: six catches for 98 yards.
“I didn’t play my best game by any means,” Stafford said. “We’re capable of playing much better than we did on offense. I thought our defense did a good job of holding them to field goals.”
CRUCIAL PENALTIES: Two of Tucker’s second-quarter field goals were set up by Detroit penalties. The biggest was a personal foul on safety Louis Delmas that turned what would have been a third-down incompletion into another chance for the Ravens.
Baltimore capitalized when Tucker’s field goal on the last play of the half gave the Ravens a 9-7 lead.
The Lions caught a bad break in the second half, settling for a field goal after Stafford’s incomplete pass to the end zone. A replay showed Detroit receiver Kris Durham had his arm held on the play by Lardarius Webb, but there was no penalty flag for pass interference.
WINNING DRIVE: All the Ravens really had to do was reach midfield to get close to Tucker’s range, but even that seemed unlikely when Baltimore faced third-and-15 from its own 28.
Then Joe Flacco found Jacoby Jones for a 27-yard gain to give the Ravens new life.
ELAM’S LAST LAUGH: Matt Elam, Baltimore’s rookie safety, caused a stir in the week leading up to the game by saying that Johnson “is pretty old.”
Then he made a couple mistakes that helped Detroit score a touchdown early in the first quarter. First, Elam gave the Lions a first down with a personal foul penalty — he hit Stafford as the Detroit quarterback slid short of the marker on a third-down scramble. Then Elam missed badly on a tackle, allowing Nate Burleson to gain about 10 extra yards on a dump-off by Stafford.
But it was Elam who followed Tucker’s 61-yard kick with the interception that helped the Ravens seal the game.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)