Monday night's win summed up the Baltimore Ravens perfectly.
Baltimore's offense did not score a touchdown. But Justin Tucker hit six field goals, including one of the best clutch kicks you'll ever see, quarterback Joe Flacco brushed off a banged-up knee to complete a huge third-down pass to Jacoby Jones on the game-winning drive, and the defense was magnificent. Then safety Matt Elam, the rookie probably best known for trash talking Calvin Johnson in the lead up to the game, picked off Matthew Stafford to win it.
The Super Bowl champions refuse to die. Their tough, ugly 18-16 win, on Tucker's 61-yard field goal with 38 seconds left, improved their record to 8-6. That keeps them in the final wild-card spot in the AFC, and now they're only a game back of the Bengals in the AFC North race. If the Ravens win out, including a win at Cincinnati in Week 17, they'll win the division. Not bad for a team that was once 3-5 this season.
The Ravens didn't win it in pretty fashion, but they rarely do.
Tucker was the hero. He had never attempted a 61-yarder in his career. His longest make in the NFL was 56 yards. But he has been great for the Ravens, and coach John Harbaugh sent him out for the long kick with the Ravens season likely on the line. Tucker barely got the the go-ahead kick inside the right upright.
Tucker wouldn't have been in that situation had the defense not kept the Ravens in the game.
Lions running back Reggie Bush scored a touchdown in the first quarter, and then the Lions' offense went into a deep freeze. The great Calvin Johnson even dropped two passes that hit him right in the hands. The Lions seemed to be melting under the pressure of blowing first place in the NFC North.
The Ravens hung around on Tucker's first five field goals, and led 15-10 late.
Lions tight end Joseph Fauria, the rookie known for scoring touchdowns nearly every time he touches the ball and dancing afterward, made a great 14-yard touchdown catch with 2:21 left. It was Fauria's seventh touchdown this season on his 12th catch. Johnson couldn't hold onto the two-point conversion, but Detroit led 16-15. That missed opportunity would hurt later.
Flacco was looked at by trainers on the sideline in the fourth quarter after linebacker DeAndre Levy hit him in the knee on a blitz. But Flacco wasn't coming out of the game, especially for the final drive.
On third-and-15, Flacco hit Jones for 27 yards to the Lions' 45. That got the Ravens on the edge of Tucker's range.
The Ravens ran a draw play on third-and-10, and then after leaving the offense out on the field for fourth down, Harbaugh called a timeout and sent out Tucker for the winning kick.
Tucker enjoyed his time in the spotlight after the game, telling reporters, "I'm glad to come through, of course, for my team here, my reality team, but also my fantasy owners, a big thank you, for picking me up. It means a lot to me."
Elam, who made some headlines by calling Johnson "old", then picked off a signature sloppy Stafford pass to seal the win.
The Lions are now 7-7 and fell to third place in the NFC North behind the Packers and Bears. They couldn't handle being in a huge spot on "Monday Night Football" with a division title potentially on the line.
The Ravens had no problem with the big stage. They're built for that situation.
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