Justin Tucker was all the offense the Baltimore Ravens needed on Monday night to earn a critical victory over the Detroit Lions and keep control of their playoff destiny in the AFC North.
Tucker converted six field goals, but none bigger than a 61-yarder with 38 seconds to play, as the Ravens earned an 18-16 victory over the Lions.
Trailing 16-15 with just over two minutes to play, Joe Flacco connected with Jacoby Jones for 27 yards on a third-and-15 to move to the Lions 45-yard line. After two incompletions, Baltimore ran an inside handoff to Ray Rice for two yards to inch closer and set up a crucial decision for head coach John Harbaugh.
After calling their final time out, Harbaugh elected to send Tucker out to attempt a 61-yard field goal instead of trying to convert the fourth-and-8. Tucker’s attempt just fit through the lower right corner of the uprights to give the Ravens the lead. Matt Elam intercepted Matthew Stafford on the first play of the Lions’ final possession to seal the win for Baltimore.
Tucker converted field goals of 29, 24, 32, 49, 53 and 61 yards on the night. The 61-yard field goal is the longest of Tucker’s career, surpassing a 56-yard field goal made last season.
With the Ravens holding a 12-10 lead in the fourth quarter, Stafford made a puzzling decision to throw to a well-covered Kris Durham across the middle and was intercepted by Daryl Smith. The turnover led to a 53-yard field goal from Tucker to extend the Ravens lead to 15-10 with just over eight minutes left to play.
But Stafford bounced back at a critical time for the Lions. Detroit marched on an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive to take the lead with just over two minutes remaining. Facing a third-and-9 in the Baltimore red zone, Stafford connected with tight end Joseph Fauria for a 14-yard touchdown over Smith in traffic to give Detroit a 16-15 lead.
A failed two-point conversion kept the lead at just one as Flacco and the Ravens took over with 2:14 left. The failed conversion would prove pivotal as Tucker’s field goal was enough to earn the victory and hand the Lions their fourth loss in five games.
The loss now gives control of the NFC North to the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, who each control their own destiny in the division.