DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Lions could only watch as Justin Tucker’s kick sailed from their team logo at midfield all the way to the uprights and then through.
There was nothing they could do then — and there’s nothing they can do now to make the playoffs unless two other teams lose.
Tucker made six field goals Monday night, including a 61-yarder in the final minute that gave the Baltimore Ravens an 18-16 win over the sluggish, sloppy Lions. Detroit needed a victory to stay tied with Chicago atop the NFC North, but now the Lions are in third place with two games to go.
“Off the foot, I thought it was going to be short just because it had so much height,” Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “Obviously, they have a lot of confidence in their kicker. He’s done a great job for them all year. Tonight was no different.”
Unless the Bears and Green Bay Packers both lose at least once in the final two weeks, the Lions (7-7) can forget about a division title that once seemed to be theirs for the taking.
“We each have to do our job and see what happens,” center Dominic Raiola said. “Finish these last two out, and now we need help.”
Detroit has lost four of five despite leading each of those games in the fourth quarter.
Stafford threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Fauria with 2:21 left, putting Detroit ahead 16-15. But the Lions were unable to make what turned out to be a crucial 2-point conversion, and they couldn’t prevent Baltimore from setting up its sensational kicker for his 33rd successful field goal in a row.
Tucker’s 61-yard kick was booted from the Lions’ logo at midfield. It didn’t clear the crossbar by much — and it also barely stayed inside the right upright with 38 seconds left.
Stafford then threw his third interception of the game while trying to mount a last-ditch drive.
Tucker said he’d made a kick from 70 yards before the game — putting it through off the crossbar.
“I backed up in pregame to 70 and I doinked one off the crossbar,” he said. “I almost broke one of those like $50,000 cameras that’s on the goalposts.”
Tucker’s kick came eight days after Denver’s Matt Prater broke the NFL record with a 64-yard field goal.
The Lions, amazingly, have been on the wrong end of this kind of finish more than once. When Tom Dempsey kicked his famous 63-yarder to win a 1970 game for New Orleans, it was against Detroit.
Tucker also connected from 29, 24, 32, 49 and 53 yards Monday before his game-winner. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, meanwhile, avoided turnovers and made enough subtle moves in and around the pocket to get sacked only once.
The Lions started strong, with Reggie Bush running for a 14-yard touchdown on the opening drive, then held Baltimore (8-6) to a three-and-out. Detroit, though, got in its own way as it often has this year.
Calvin Johnson dropped a pass that would’ve converted a third-and-15 deep in Ravens territory, and the Lions had to punt instead. On the ensuing drive, Tucker kicked his first of three field goals in the first half — two of which were set up by penalties against Detroit.
Tucker’s second field goal was set up by a pass interference call, and late in the first half, Flacco threw an up-for-grabs pass on third-and-8 from the Lions 44 after avoiding a sack. An incompletion was negated by Louis Delmas’ helmet-to-helmet hit on Marlon Brown with 16 seconds left in the half.
That flag put the Ravens 15 yards closer to Tucker’s field goal that gave Baltimore a 9-7 lead at halftime.
Baltimore went ahead 12-7 on Tucker’s 49-yard field goal midway through the third quarter.
David Akers answered with a 40-yard kick for the Lions. The field goal came after Stafford’s pass into the end zone fell incomplete. A replay showed Detroit receiver Kris Durham had his arm held on the play by Lardarius Webb, but there was no penalty flag for pass interference.
Tucker’s 53-yard field goal put the Ravens ahead 15-10 with 8:06 left.
Detroit responded with its best drive since its first one, scoring the touchdown that put the Lions ahead, but only momentarily.
“Our emotions aren’t important right now. We have two games to play, we’re one down in our division,” Schwartz said. “So I think that’s the most important thing for us to keep in mind at this point. This was a setback, no question.”
NOTES: Tucker’s previous career long was 56 yards. … Bush had 101 yards of total offense.
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