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Baltimore Ravens’ Justin Tucker stakes claim to being the GOAT of NFL kickers

DETROIT — Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews was asked what it’s like to have Justin Tucker on his side after the four-time Pro Bowl kicker made history with a winning, 66-yard field goal in Sunday’s jaw-dropping 19-17 victory over the Detroit Lions.

“That’s the guy you want,” Andrews said before putting his index fingers on his head as if they were horns. “He’s the GOAT, man.”

The title of “Greatest Of All-Time” is often handed out too frequently these days. For Tucker, the GOAT label isn’t simply hyperbole that comes from the football world watching him kick the longest field goal in NFL history for Sunday’s game winner.

That booming kick just checked the last box for Tucker, putting him squarely in a class by himself. From elite accuracy to perfection in the clutch to — now — record leg strength, Tucker’s resume is unmatched among kickers, including the likes of four-time Super Bowl-winner Adam Vinatieri and seven-time Pro Bowler Morten Andersen.

“He’s the best kicker in history,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Someone came up to me on the sideline and said, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that before.’ It came to me right away — because nobody has ever done anything like that before.”

Here is the argument on why Tucker is the GOAT of NFL kickers:

Bull’s-eye precision: Tucker is the most accurate kicker in NFL history, converting 90.57% of his attempts. This narrowly puts him ahead of Kansas City’s Harrison Butker, who has made 90.51% of his tries. In comparison, Vinatieri connected on 84.3% of his field goals, and Anderson hit 79.7%.

Tucker’s accuracy is even more impressive when you analyze the few he doesn’t nail through the uprights. Of Tucker’s 13 missed field goals since 2016 (a span of 83 games), nine have been on tries over 45 yards. Tucker is an astounding 98.1% on tries inside 40 yards for his career (162-of-165).

It doesn’t get much more automatic than that. Or, as Lamar Jackson once said, “Automa-Tuck.”

Perfection under pressure: Tucker continues to be the king of clutch, going 16-for-16 in his career on field goals in the final minute of regulation. He also has converted 49 straight fourth-quarter attempts, the NFL’s longest active streak (his last fourth-quarter miss was in 2015).

When the game is on the line, Tucker is the coolest of kickers. The anxiety doesn’t hit until later.

“Whenever we’re fortunate enough to have a game-winning field goal opportunity — especially a walk-off — I get more nervous after the fact thinking about, ‘Man, what if that didn’t go the way we wanted it to go?’” Tucker said.

Most prolific: Since joining the Ravens as an undrafted rookie in 2012, Tucker has been converting field goals at a historic rate. Tucker is the first NFL kicker to produce six seasons with 30 or more field goals made. He has also reached 100 field goals made (in 50 games) and 1,000 points scored (in 118 games) faster than anyone else.

And Tucker, who will turn 32 in November, said during training camp that he doesn’t feel like he has hit his prime yet.

“He’s a legend,” Ravens special teams coordinator Chris Horton said last month. “He knows his body [and] he takes care of his body. He’ll kick as long as he wants to kick in this league because he’s doing it at a high level. We have a lot of respect for him, and I think his peers across this league have a lot of respect for him.”

Record leg strength: Tucker has always been able to drive the ball with the best of them. His 44 kicks of 50-plus yards since 2012 rank second to Matt Prater (48).

But Tucker got a leg up on Prater on Sunday. His game winner surpassed Prater’s 64-yard kick, which stood as an NFL record for eight years.

How long will Tucker’s record last?

“I’d like to think that this one is going to be tough to break,” Tucker said.

It might not last as long as Tucker thinks. His next game is Sunday in the thin air of Denver, where Prater set his record.

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