Justin Tucker’s game-winning field goal in the second overtime of the Ravens’ amazing 38-35 win over the Denver Broncos will go down as one of the biggest kicks in NFL playoff history.
Not just because he drilled a strike from 47 yards out on an impossibly cold night in Denver in an impossibly unlikely victory — but also because of some astute gamesmanship on the rookie’s part. Tucker jumped on the field between the overtime periods and took a practice whack shortly before attempting his game-winner.
Arizona Cardinal kicker Jay Feely, an 11-year veteran, tweeted immediately afterwards that it’s actually “against the NFL rules to kick a practice ball in overtime on the field.”
Feely adds that he had refs tell him that twice this year
However, it’s up to the referees to chase the kicker, Tucker, in this case, off the field. It's also really more of a gray area — and a non-punishable offense — akin to Colorado’s new marijuana laws, for example, as USA Today explained:
“NFL officiating guru Mike Pereira confirmed that there is no penalty but said officials are instructed to not let kickers practice. ‘If it happens they're to tell him to get off the field.’”
Finally, Feely also tweeted that Tucker’s quick check of the wind and footing likely helped with his boot.
Why not, right? Tucker had nothing to lose.
In many ways, the rookie kicker’s move showed moxie and fit right in with the Ravens effort all afternoon — Joe Flacco’s gutsy passes to Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones' alert, deep route down the sideline, Corey Graham's interceptions — to name just a few.
Tucker’s gamesmanship brought to mind a somewhat similar effort 30 years ago, coincidentally, by the New England Patriots in a contest since referred to as “The Snowplow Game.” With the field covered in snow from a heavy, all-day storm, New England’s snowplow operator — a man on work release from a nearby prison — drove out onto the field unannounced and cleared a spot for then-Patriot kicker John Smith, who hit the game-winner with four minutes left of what had been a scoreless tie.
A YouTube clip of that play can be found here.
Don Shula, coach of the losing Miami Dolphins, protested the kick, but there was no rule explicitly forbidding the snowplow operator’s actions.
Whatever takes, we say. 'Attaway to think on your feet, Justin.
Photo Courtesy: Baltimore Ravens' Facebook page