BALTIMORE – Justin Tucker has won a dozen games for the Baltimore Ravens with his incredibly accurate right foot.
This one will be remembered as the one he lost.
Tucker missed the first conversion of his career after the Baltimore Ravens scored the potential tying touchdown with 24 seconds left, enabling Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints to escape with a 24-23 victory Sunday.
Brees threw two touchdown passes, locked up two more milestones and engineered a comeback that helped the Saints (5-1) wipe out a 10-point deficit.
It was 24-17 before Joe Flacco directed a beat-the-clock drive covering 81 yards and ending with a 14-yard touchdown pass to John Brown.
That seemingly set up overtime, given that Tucker is the most accurate kicker in NFL history in terms of field goal percentage. Not only that, but he was 222 for 222 on conversions since breaking into the league in 2002, and was the only NFL kicker without a miss (112 for 112) since the placement of the ball was moved back in 2015.
This attempt, however, went wide right – the deciding moment in a matchup between the NFL’s highest-scoring offense and top-ranked defense.
“I can’t tell you exactly what happened,” Tucker said, “but at the end of the day I feel like I cost us the game.”
The Saints were relieved to escape with their fifth straight victory.
“You’re talking about one of the top kickers,” coach Sean Payton said. “I’m sure we’ll watch the tape tomorrow and think it shouldn’t have come down to a missed extra point.”
Brees brought back the Saints from a 10-point deficit against a unit that allowed only 12 second-half points all season. The 39-year-old quarterback threw a 5-yard TD pass to Michael Thomas with 4:58 remaining to put New Orleans ahead 21-17, and the Saints tacked on a field goal just before the two-minute warning.
Earlier, Brees threw his 500th career touchdown pass, connecting with tight end Benjamin Watson for a 1-yard score to put New Orleans up 7-3 late in the second quarter.
The NFL leader in career passing yardage, Brees joined Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks in league history with 500 TD passes.
“It’s a significant benchmark, yet you’re in the middle of the game and you’re not really paying attention to it,” Payton said. “I think more importantly, it’s the final team he needed to beat.”
Indeed, Brees defeated the Ravens for the first time. Previously 0-4 against Baltimore, Brees is one of three quarterbacks – along with Favre and Manning – to beat every team in the league.
Brees went 22 for 30 for 212 yards. Facing a defense that made 11 sacks one week earlier in Tennessee, Brees escaped the tenacious Baltimore rush with the exception of a fourth-quarter sack by Terrell Suggs.
Joe Flacco completed 23 of 39 passes for 279 yards for the Ravens (4-3), including a 56-yarder to Brown that set up a 1-yard touchdown run by rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson for a 10-7 halftime lead.
An 8-yard pass from Flacco to rookie tight end Mark Andrews put the Ravens ahead 17-7 with 3:30 left in the third quarter.
ALL FOR NOTHING
After converting three fourth-down plays during the opening series – including a successful fake punt – New Orleans misfired on its fourth attempt of the drive.
New Orleans held the ball for 20 plays and 9 minutes, 58 seconds. But the Saints came away empty when backup quarterback Taysom Hill fumbled on fourth down from the Baltimore 4.
It was the longest drive to result in no points since the Browns went 9:59 against the Jets in the first week of the 2015 season.
Coming into the game, Baltimore’s opponents were 0 for 4 on fourth down.
Saints: Guard Josh LeRibeus left with an ankle injury in the second quarter.
Ravens: OL Bradley Bozeman left in the second quarter with a left calf injury, returned to action and left again in the fourth quarter. … CB Marlon Humphrey (thigh), OL Alex Lewis (neck), OL James Hurst (back) were on the inactive list.
Saints: A Sunday night game in Minnesota is next for New Orleans, continuing a stretch of three road games in four weeks.
Ravens: Baltimore faces Carolina next Sunday, its fourth road game in five weeks.