Controversy, crossbar help crush Lions' upset bid against Ravens

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Detroit — Justin Tucker did it again.

Eight years after burying the Detroit Lions with a 61-yard field goal, the Baltimore Ravens kicker hammered home a record-breaking, game-winner at Ford Field on Sunday, improbably bouncing a 66-yarder over the crossbar to help the Ravens escape with a 19-17 victory.

"As soon as it left my foot, I knew it was gonna have a chance," Tucker said. "But I was short from 65 in pregame, both ways. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t get the ball to just go. Thankfully, we found an extra yard and a half that I didn’t have three hours before and I’m grateful for that."

The kick, which came on the heels of a fourth-and-19 conversion and a potential error by the officiating crew, negated an impressive comeback from the Lions, who had overcome a 13-point deficit down the stretch after being held scoreless in the first half.

BOX SCORE: Ravens 19, Lions 17

It was a gut punch for Detroit (0-3), still looking for its first win under coach Dan Campbell. But in a season that is about making incremental improvements under the new regime, the team is looking at the silver lining of hanging tough against an opponent many expected to dismantle their rebuilding foe. 

"If you really want a sharpened sword, you want something elite, man, you have to put it under a lot of heat and a lot of pressure and that’s what we’re under right now," Campbell said. "I think that we’re going to come out the other end pretty good out of this. We just can’t get discouraged and we can’t stop continuing to believe and fight. Because I see where it’s going. I can see it. I feel like things became a little more clear today and I love the grit of this freaking team, I do."

The Lions' offense, which had been clicking on all cylinders in the first half of last week's game against the Green Bay Packers, went scoreless through the first two quarters against the Ravens, blowing a couple of early opportunities to grab an early lead. 

And the Lions had no early answer for the Ravens' aggressive third-down defense as quarterback Jared Goff threw incompletions or was sacked multiple times when blitzed, resulting in a punt on all seven of the team's possessions. 

The Ravens' vaunted offense also didn't have much success against an opponent that came into the day struggling. The Ravens punted twice and missed a long field goal prior to breaking the scoreless tie five minutes into the second quarter when Tucker knocked home a 39-yard field goal, his first of four on the day. 

Following another punt by the Lions, the defense appeared primed to hold the Ravens to another field goal after quarterback Lamar Jackson's touchdown run was called back due to a holding penalty.

But facing third-and-18, Jackson found receiver Devin Duvernay open in the back of the end zone when Lions safety Will Harris and nickel cornerback AJ Parker got their signals crossed in coverage. 

The Lions caught a pair of breaks at the end of the half when speedy Ravens receiver Marquise Brown dropped not one, but two long throws that likely would have resulted in touchdowns if he made either grab. 

Instead, the Ravens' settled for the 10-point advantage at the half, which they quickly extended to 13 with a 51-yard Tucker field goal early in the third quarter.

The Lions finally got on the board thanks to running back D'Andre Swift, who caught three passes for 44 yards on the ensuring drive before punching it across the goal line on a 2-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to six, 13-7. 

"I just think we focused a little bit more on trying to get Swifty involved," Campbell said. "... Swift kind of had the hot hand, so we were trying to give it to him a little bit. I thought (Jared) Goff played pretty good in the second half, man. He came to life. He gave us a chance, moved us all the way down there. We just have to get going sooner.”

For the fourth time in five drives, the Ravens would put points on the board, but once again were limited to a field goal after a 24-yard pass to tight end Mark Andrews set the offense up with a fresh set of downs in the red zone.

The Lions, as they've done much of the season, stuck with filtering their offense through their running backs. Swift and Jamaal Williams touched the ball 10 times on a 12-play touchdown drive. After Swift was knocked out of bounds at the 1-yard line, Williams charged across the goal line to make it 16-14 with 8:18 remaining. 

As they had done the previous five possessions, the Ravens worked their way across midfield, only to run into a Lions defense prepared to tighten the screws.

After linebacker Alex Anzalone dropped Jackson for a sack on second down, the Lions’ pass rush again brought heat on third down, forcing Jackson to force a downfield throw into tight coverage that was intercepted by cornerback Amani Oruwariye.

With the home crowd buzzing, Goff faked the handoff, rolled out and found Darren Fells for a 24-yard gain out near midfield. Two plays later, Goff connected with a sliding Kalif Raymond for another 19-yard gain in Ravens territory.

After Swift was stuffed for a loss, Raymond came up big again, taking a short throw from Goff and weaving through the Ravens defense for 22 more yards down to the 14-yard line as the clock wound down to the two-minute warning. 

The Lions couldn't find the end zone and settled for a short Ryan Santoso field goal to take the lead with 1:04 remaining.

The defense nearly finished it off, sacking Jackson twice to put the Ravens in a fourth-and-19, but the quarterback found Sammy Watkins, who slipped behind the coverage of Will Harris for a 36-yard gain that set up Tucker's game-winner. 

On the ensuing play, it appeared on the broadcast the officials failed to flag the Ravens for a delay of game. Jackson threw the ball away after the snap, setting up Tucker's record-breaking kick. 

With the loss, the Lions fall to 0-3. The Ravens move to 2-1 on the season with the win.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers