OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens most formidable offensive threat these days is Justin Tucker, a quirky fellow whose skill set transcends kicking a football with uncanny accuracy.
Despite scoring only one touchdown in each of its last two games, Baltimore won twice because Tucker kicked four field goals against the New York Jets and five more in a 22-20 victory over Pittsburgh.
"The guy has been really, really good," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said, "and we've won a lot of games because he's hit kicks."
Riding its first winning streak since September, Baltimore (6-6) is in the middle of the playoff hunt heading into Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings (3-8-1).
Tucker has made 27 straight field goal attempts — nine short of Matt Stover's franchise record — and is 29 for 31 in his second NFL season after going 30 for 33 last year.
"I definitely feel like I'm in a good place kicking the ball," Tucker said Wednesday, making sure to give credit to long snapper Morgan Cox and holder Sam Koch.
"Morgan and Sam are doing a great job for me, and that makes my job a lot easier when the ball is there so early," Tucker said. "As far as acknowledging the streak, or feeling like I'm on some sort of roll, it's just satisfying after a Sunday to come out with a win and to do well."
That's all Tucker ever wanted to do since he was a teenager at Westlake High in Texas, where he kicked the ball in addition to playing wide receiver, cornerback and safety.
"When I was one of just a few sophomores on our varsity football team, I had a plan that I wanted to play football for a living," Tucker recalled. "I'd always heard, don't put all your eggs in one basket. But I kind of just did. I put all my eggs in the football basket at a pretty early age."
At the University of Texas, Tucker he beat rival Texas A&M on a last-second kick. But perhaps the most significant thing he took away from the college experience was an astute appreciation for music.
Tucker majored in music because "it was important for me to get my degree in something that I would have a good time doing while I was in school."
These days, Tucker often sings opera in the shower at the Ravens training complex and has been known to break into freestyle rap in the middle of the locker room, much to the amusement of his teammates.
"He's a great locker room guy. He's funny, has a lot of character to him," defensive lineman Arthur Jones said. "He has an awesome voice. He can do opera, he can rap, he can do it all. He's a man of many talents. The music goes on and he starts freestyling, which is cool and unique."