, Newburyport, MA


December 21, 2013

Kickers meet when Ravens face Pats


Two weeks earlier, he went 5-for-5 in a 22-20 win over Pittsburgh. And the week before that, he went 4-for-4 in a 19-3 win over the New York Jets.

The Patriots hope Tucker can do what he hasn’t done since the second game of the season, fail on a field goal attempt.

“It changes how you call your defense a little bit,” New England cornerback Aqib Talib said. “Usually you’d mark (a kicker’s range) at like the 35-yard line or the 37 or something like that. But, I mean, an extra five yards with this guy, it’s crucial.”

Tucker has two other game-winning field goals this season, a 44-yarder with 1:52 left in a 26-23 victory at Miami and a 46-yarder in overtime in a 20-17 victory over Cincinnati.

Last season, his 47-yarder in the second overtime gave Baltimore a 38-35 win over Denver in a division playoff game. And in the Super Bowl, his 38-yarder with 4:19 left gave the Ravens a 34-29 lead. They beat the San Francisco 49ers 34-31.

“It’s impressive,” Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “He’s doing a heck of a job. But it really doesn’t surprise you, with coach Harbaugh and his special-teams background, that this team is strong in the kicking game.”

Harbaugh was special teams coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1998 to 2006 and became coach of the Ravens in 2008.

Tucker wasn’t drafted out of Texas, but the Ravens signed him as a rookie free agent in May 2012 and he’s made 92.9 percent of his NFL field goal attempts.

“We’ve seen each year young guys come out (of college and) be more competitive, like Tucker was last year,” Belichick said. “Guys are more ready to come into the league.”

Gostkowski has been with the Patriots since they drafted him in the fourth round in 2006 and has made 86 percent of his attempts.

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