Justin Tucker kicked a game-winning 61-yard field goal to help the Baltimore Ravens steal an 18-16 victory over the Detroit Lions on Dec. 16 at Ford Field in Detroit.

Both teams faced “must-win” scenarios, as the Ravens needed a win to retain the sixth slot in the AFC playoffs and the Lions needed to win to stay alive in the NFC playoff hunt.

But it was Tucker who booted the Ravens forward to an 8-6 record. The second-year kicker out of Texas made six field goals, scoring all 18 of the Ravens’ points. His decisive field goal came with just 38 seconds left in the game.

On the ensuing Detroit possession, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford sailed a pass downfield that was picked off by Ravens rookie safety Matt Elam, sealing the win for Baltimore.

Earlier in the week, Elam endured criticism from the media leading up to the game after telling reporters that Lions all-pro receiver Calvin Johnson was “old” and doesn’t like to get physical. Johnson is only 28 and is considered one of the most physical receivers in the NFL, and the rookie was bashed for his comments until redeeming himself with the game-clinching interception.

Meanwhile, Johnson uncharacteristically dropped two wide-open passes, each drop ending a drive for the Lions. Johnson finished the game with six catches for 98 yards.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had a modest game, completing just 20 of 38 passes for 222 yards and throwing neither a touchdown nor an interception. He did complete a key pass on 3rd down and 16 to receiver Jacoby Jones late in the fourth quarter that helped pushed the Ravens into range for Tucker’s game-winning field goal. Jones led the Ravens with six catches for 80 yards.

The Ravens defense dominated Stafford, who completed 18 of 34 passes for 235 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Ravens linebacker Daryl Smith and defensive tackle DeAngelo Tyson each snagged an interception.

The Ravens advanced to 8-6 and maintained the sixth and final position in the AFC playoffs. If they win their remaining two games, they will win the AFC North division with a 10-6 record. The Ravens will face the New England Patriots on Dec. 22 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor