- The Washington Times
Sunday, November 7, 2021

BALTIMORE — The Ravens capped a hectic, unpredictable game on Sunday afternoon with one of the most reliable things in the NFL — a Justin Tucker field goal.

Tucker walked off the game in overtime with a 36-yarder to give Baltimore a 34-31 win over the visiting Minnesota Vikings.

“Every single time,” Tucker said, when asked if he gets nervous before game-winning field goals. “I was nervous before I attempted the kick, but that goes for any time we go out there. If you’re not feeling a little bit nervous, are you really living?”

Baltimore trailed by 14 points early in the third quarter after the Vikings returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown. The Ravens’ offense then scored on its next three drives to take a one-score lead with about four minutes remaining. Le’Veon Bell ran for a 1-yard touchdown to give the Ravens the lead, but a 1-yard end zone fade from Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins to Adam Thielen tied the game before overtime.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson threw an interception on Baltimore’s first overtime possession, but he got another chance to lead a game-winning drive after the Vikings went three-and-out. 

Despite starting on their own 10-yard line, Jackson orchestrated a 10-play, 72-yard drive to give Tucker a much shorter field goal than his previous game-winner this season, the 66-yard winner at Detroit. 

“We have one of the best kickers of all time on our team, and that adds tremendous value,” said veteran Ravens linebacker Josh Bynes. “Having ‘Tuck’ is just super amazing, knowing we can count on him each and every game to make that kick to win the game.”

After starting the game 6-of-13 passing for 56 yards and an interception, Jackson completed 21 of his next 28 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 120 yards on 21 carries — both season highs.

The comeback victory is the Ravens’ third this season after trailing by double digits in the second half. In Week 2, they came back from down 11 in the fourth quarter to beat the Chiefs 36-35, and in Week 5, they trailed the Colts by 16 points in the fourth before charging back to win 31-25 in overtime. 

“I’d rather not be behind. I’d rather just step on the gas and keep scoring,” Jackson said. “But our team, we’re fighters. We believe in each other, we have faith. … Hopefully we won’t be in [any] more overtime games.”

The Ravens are now 6-2. Before Tennessee’s game against the Rams on Sunday night, the Ravens and the Titans were the only two AFC teams left with just two losses.

After Baltimore opened the game with a field goal on its first drive, Minnesota (3-5) took a 7-3 lead after a 50-yard touchdown pass from  Cousins to wideout Justin Jefferson, who got behind the Ravens secondary for the score.

The Vikings then went up 14-3 early in the second on a 1-yard QB sneak from Cousins. The drive was propelled by a 66-yard dash by running back Dalvin Cook that put Minnesota in the red zone. 

Jackson’s poor start continued on the next drive when the fourth-year signal-caller stared down Mark Andrews up the seam and was intercepted by Vikings safety Camryn Bynum, who returned the ball to the Ravens 16 to set up a Greg Joseph field goal that put Minnesota up 17-3. 

But the Ravens bounced back on their next drive to go down one score entering halftime when Jackson connected with a wide open Devonta Freeman for a 5-yard touchdown. Freeman and fellow veteran running back Le’Veon Bell totaled 127 yards on 24 carries, combining with Lamar’s rushing total to give the Ravens 247 yards on 45 totes. 

Kene Nwangwu’s 98-yard kickoff return touchdown to open the second half put Minnesota back up two scores, which Ravens coach John Harbaugh said was a “gut punch.”

“The fact that our guys just stand back up strong and keep fighting is what makes it special,” he said.

The Ravens offense then responded with two long drives that were kept alive by fourth-down conversions. 

The first was a 10-play, 72-yard drive that ended in a 1-yard touchdown pass from Jackson to 290-pound fullback Patrick Ricard on fourth down. Freeman ran for eight yards on a fourth-and-short at midfield earlier in the drive. 

The second tied the game after an 18-play, 82-yard drive that was capped off by an impressive one-handed grab by Devin Duvernay in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard score. Early in the drive, Harbaugh went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Ravens’ 27-yard line, with Jackson barely getting enough on a QB sneak. 

Harbaugh said the fourth-down decisions weren’t “hard” ones for him to make.

“You just count possessions. We had to get points there,” Harbaugh said. “We can’t afford to punt the ball there.”

The Ravens defense continued to stymie the Vikings in the second half on the following drive, forcing a Minnesota three-and-out. The offense then drove 61 yards in seven plays — ending in a 1-yard rushing score from Bell — to take a 31-24 lead with about four minutes remaining. 

Cousins then drove the Vikings downfield — thanks to a 27-yard wheel route to C.J. Ham and a fourth-and-9 completion to Jefferson — before the touchdown to Thielen

The Ravens couldn’t score at the end of regulation but started overtime with the ball after Minnesota lost the toss. The offense was driving and reached Vikings territory, but Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr made arguably the best play of the game when he jumped at the line of scrimmage to tip Jackson’s pass and then dove to catch the ball for the interception. 

However, the Vikings offense couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity, going three-and-out and punting the ball back to Jackson. 

Despite starting the next drive on its own 10-yard line, Baltimore easily got into Minnesota territory after a 20-yard reception from Marquise Brown, who led all receivers with nine catches for 116 yards, and a 19-yard run from Freeman. Bell then had a 12-yard carry to make Tucker’s kick easier. 

“I felt like the buzz in the stadium when we were at the 34- or 35-yard line was that we were setting up the kick now,” Tucker said. “I was ready to go knock down a 52-, 53-, 54-yarder…but if it’s 36, that would be nice, too.”

Baltimore has a quick turnaround, as the Ravens travel to Miami on Thursday night to play the Dolphins. Minnesota, meanwhile, travels west to take on the Chargers on Sunday. 

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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