Could Ravens-Patriots come down to a kick again?

Could Ravens-Patriots come down to a kick again?
January 15, 2013, 10:30 am
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There's an old saying which lets us know that "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

That's kind of a way we can look at some parts of this weekend's AFC title game between the Ravens and Patriots. The two teams are the same, the game is the same and it's being played in the same spot. 

But there could be one thing that's very different. 

Last year's game is remembered by many for the two plays the Ravens couldn't make-- Lee Evans' dropped touchdown pass at the end and the missed field goal from Billy Cundiff. The Evans catch would have likely given the Ravens the win, and Cundiff's kick probably pushes the game into overtime. 

Evans isn't on the team any more and neither is Cundiff. Still, a game like that could come down to a late kick. Good football games at the highest levels often do. 

And that's where the biggest different comes in because the Ravens now have Justin Tucker. 

Tucker's a rookie whose 47-yard field goal in the second overtime period gave the Ravens a 38-35 victory over Denver last weekend in the AFC Divisional round. He's now made 32 of 35 kicks so far this season. 

The Ravens brought him in as an undrafted rookie last spring to give him a shot against Cundiff, and Tucker outkicked him from the start. Cundiff wasn't proficient in longer kicks, but Tucker didn't seem to have a problem with them. 

In fact, during the regular season, 17 of the 30 kicks that he made were at least 40 yards. He nailed four over 50 yards including a 56-yard shot, and his teammates are very confident with him back there. 

So if this game comes down to a late kick like last year's, there could be a different result.

"This year, I've never been nervous about Justin Tucker kicking a field goal," Haloti Ngata said when talking with the media on Monday. "I kind of just sat back and then waited [in Denver]. Justin Tucker is a great kicker, and he'll probably be here for a while."