OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With memories of Billy Cundiff’s last-minute miss still as raw as half-shell oysters around Baltimore, successor Justin Tucker, whose final-play field goal beat the Patriots in September, says he’s not worried about pressure to produce a reprise on Sunday.
“I don’t even think about that,” insisted the undrafted rookie, whose 47-yarder in double overtime at Denver last Saturday saved the season. “Like I said, what is in the past is in the past. It’s not about anything that’s happened, even this past weekend. Every week is a new week and any team can beat any other team on any given Sunday.”
Tucker, who beat out Cundiff in camp, made 30 of 33 attempts during the season, with his four from 50-plus yards setting a franchise record.
“He’s got a confident persona,” says special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg. “He’s full of life and full of personality and he enjoys those moments. You could tell when he bounced out there [in Denver] that it wasn’t intimidating to him. He was ready to go seize the opportunity.”
Birk in the moment
Center Matt Birk, who wasn’t counting on playing 15 seasons when he was drafted out of Harvard by the Vikings in the sixth round in 1998, has become the league’s ironman at his position with 112 consecutive starts.
“I was thinking my [NFL career] would be pretty quick,” says the 36-year old Minnesota native, who has played 210 games during his 11 years with the Vikings and four with the Ravens. “Not really a career, more of just an experience. Those first couple weeks of training camp my rookie year were pretty rough. I just kept working hard.
“I’ve been real lucky. I got drafted into a good situation where it was just an awesome offensive line and they didn’t need me to play right away. I could learn from the guys who were the best in the league at what they were doing and learn the game, the program and how to be a pro. I’ve been very blessed to be in great situations all along the way in my career.”
Birk, who describes himself as a “live-in-the-moment-kind-of-guy,” won’t speculate about how much longer he’ll play. But the six-time Pro Bowler doesn’t expect there’ll be much fanfare about his final ride when the time comes. “A guy like Ray Lewis, you send him off properly with press conferences and all that stuff,” he says. “Guys like me, I just disappear and you are sitting around one day, like. ‘Whatever happened to that one guy that his locker used to be over here?’ That’s how it goes.”
After letting Broncos return man Trindon Holliday dash through them for a 90-yard punt return and a 104-yard kickoff return, the Ravens have sworn nevermore. “When you give up two touchdowns, that’s unacceptable in a season, let alone one game,” declared Rosburg, who says he still has confidence in his unit. “I think we’ll play really well and really smart,” he predicted . . . Defensive coordinator Dean Pees knows what’s essential to dealing with the Patriots’ no-huddle offense: “The No. 1 priority is just to get lined up and be ready to play,” says the former New England coordinator. “Don’t be looking around. Don’t be talking back to somebody else and then the ball is being snapped and then you have to try to react to what’s going on. You have to be out, you have to be set, you better be ready to go.” . . . If the Ravens were to become the first team to beat the Patriots in an AFC title match in Foxborough, quarterback Joe Flacco would surpass the Giants’ Eli Manning for the most road playoff victories with six. The others came at Miami and Tennessee in the 2008 season, at Gillette in 2009, at Kansas City in 2010, and in Denver last weekend . . . Coach John Harbaugh said he doesn’t feel disrespected because his team is an 8-point underdog to a rival it defeated during the regular season. “That stuff’s not important to us,” he said. “We don’t have to place any bets, so it really doesn’t matter.”
John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.