In a so-called "passing league", the art form of special teams is often forgotten. Yet Thursday night's showdown showed that special teams is very much alive and well in the NFL, and can often be the difference between a win and a loss.
That's exactly what happened when Justin Tucker stepped up and preserved his perfect career record in converting clutch field goals by nailing one to tie it up at the end of regulation, and another one to win the game in overtime. To add to the remarkability of this, Tucker also did it at a stadium that is notoriously tough to kick in. The Elias Sports Bureau says that kickers have missed 74.1 percent of their attempts from at least 50 yards at Heinz Field since its opening in 2001.
There's no dobut in my mind that Tucker won the game for Baltimore.
On the oppsite end of the spectrum, you've got Josh Scobee. Scobee is a replacement for the injured Shaun Suisham, who is out for the year with a knee injury that was sustained in the preseason. Scobee has looked every bit like a 'replacement', missing four field goals and a PAT thus far. Two of those missed kicks came last night, and both would've essentially sealed the game for the Steelers.
You could also say that Josh Scobee won the game for the Ravens as well.
If you had any doubts that kickers about kickers being important, there's your proof. With the league's new extra point policy, the importance of having a quality kicker has never been more important.
That's why ESPN created this 'Expected Points Added' metric. According to the network, "this metric measures the amount of points provided above or below what should be expected based on field position." Basically, the teams on the top of the list have an advantage in the kicking game, and the teams on the bottom suffer because of it.
|Source: ESPN Stats & Information|
It should come as no surprise that the Ravens are at the top here. Fans feel confident when Tucker steps up to kick, and he's almost guaranteed to give the Ravens points every single time.