Unlike last year, there’s nothing about the Baltimore Ravens that seems to be pointing towards a season that will end in glory. However, despite not looking impressive or putting up big numbers, the defending Super Bowl champions keep advancing towards a playoff spot, getting over their latest hurdle, the Detroit Lions, with a game winning field goal by Justin Tucker.
It wasn’t just any field goal. Tucker hit one from 61 yards to put the Ravens 18-16 in front, leaving only 38 seconds on the clock for the Lions, letting the lead in the NFC North slip away from them, to somehow win this game. Matthew Stafford, on a day with three interception passes, wasn’t good enough to create some late-game miracle.
The Ravens didn’t score a single touchdown in the game – it was all about defense, forcing three turnovers out of Detroit, and Tucker hitting six field goals. The Lions did have two touchdowns – opening the game with a Reggie Bush run and grabbing a late lead after Stafford found Joseph Fauria, but in a frustrating game of simply doing the little things better and not making any mistakes, the Lions came out on top.
This wasn’t a fine performance from Joe Flacco in a season that doesn’t really make him look like a $20 million quarterback. He was 20-of-38 for 222 yards, but in a game like this it’s important not to throw any interceptions or fumble the ball. Flacco did just that, while his running crew added 90 yards on 21 carries, including 56 from Ray Rice. He really struggled with the Detroit pass rush, completing only 4-of-14 for 45 yards with a sack when the Lions sent five or more pass rushers, and he has the worst yards per attempt against added pressure in the NFL this season.
The Ravens became only the second team this season to win a game without scoring a touchdown, following the Giants’ 15-7 win over the Eagles in week 8. It was mostly made possible with Tucker hitting field goals from 61, 53, 40, 49, 32, 24 and 29 yards. His six are a franchise record for the Ravens, and he’s now hit six field goals of 50 yards or more this season alone. Tucker’s 248 total yards on his field goals was the fourth-highest total in a game in NFL history
On the other hand, it’s interesting to see the collapse of the Lions over the last month or so. They were comfortable at 6-3, leading the NFC North entering week 11. Since then they’ve gone 1-4, dropping the most passes, throwing the most picks and committing the most turnovers in the NFL since then. They’ve now turned the ball over at least three times in five consecutive games, and Stafford has been terrible in the fourth quarter. Two of his interceptions came in the fourth, and over the last five games he has completed 15-of-47 (32%) pass attempts in the fourth quarter, the lowest fourth-quarter completion percentage since Week 11.
The Ravens, despite how under-the-radar they’ve been this season, are in control of their postseason destiny going into the final two weeks. The Lions, despite doing so well in the first half of the season, need someone to help them.