The home field advantage. It's the best leg up you can have on your opponent in just about any sport. Thousands of fans are cheering you on, in your house. It's where you play your best.
Unfortunately for Justin Tucker, he might just be one of the few players who does worse at home.
The stats are telling. Ever since entering the league, he has been dismal at home, especially with the long ball. From further than 50 yards, Tucker has gone 15 of 16 on his career in road games. The only miss was a blocked attempt from 64 yards out. But when he plays in Baltimore, it is an entirely different story. Tucker is only 1 for 11 when kicking the long ball at M&T Bank.
No one is doubting the talent of Tucker, or Optimus Nine, as some of us like to call him, but this makes absolutely no sense. Why would a kicker be so good on the road, in an unfamiliar environment where he is subject to thousands of jeering fans?
The answer might just be the architecture of Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium. In an interview with ESPN's Jamison Hensley earlier this year, Tucker revealed that he believes that his home field is actually the toughest place to kick.
"I think it’s the toughest stadium to kick in, in the league – at least among the stadiums I’ve had the opportunity to play in. The wind is always swirling in there. It will change directions in between kicks. It will change directions from the time that I’m running out from the sideline to the time I’m lined up to kick the ball. It can get cold out there, so sometimes it’s like kicking a cinderblock."
When you think about it, this makes sense. It seems as if most of his long kicks look good, right up until a stray wind pulls the ball away from the uprights. Maybe some funky wind patterns really are to blame.
I dug even deeper, to see if Tucker wasn't the only victim of the Bank. Going into the Pro Football Reference database, I found that ever since M&T Bank's inception, 21 out of 29 field goal attempts from 50 yards or more were good by Ravens' opponents. Baltimore's kickers are 6 of 24 over that same time period at home. Strangely enough, they were much better on the road, going 22 for 36 to be exact.
For comparison, Tampa Bay's Raymond James Stadium, opened the same year as M&T Bank, has allowed opposing kickers to make 11 out of 21 field goals from long range, and the home team is 23 out of 36.
So what does this all mean? It seems as if Baltimore's kickers might just be cursed at home. Or perhaps M&T Bank is Justin Tucker's kryptonite. Either way, we should probably give Justin Tucker 24/7 access to the stadium, for research purposes.