Justin Tucker, the placekicker for the Baltimore Ravens, missed an extra-point kick yesterday on what would have been the game-tying touchdown, and the Ravens lost to the New Orleans Saints, 24-23. It was the first missed extra point of Tucker’s career, after he’d made his first 222.
Tucker was shocked and apologetic, because such a thing had never happened to him before. Game coverage noted that there was a swirly and gusting wind. But who does anything 223 times without messing it up at least once, for no reason whatsoever? Do you go to sleep on 223 consecutive days without even once tweaking a neck muscle or having an arm go dead? Do you brush your teeth 223 times without slipping and jabbing the toothbrush too hard into your cheek?
There must be some limit to how many times a person can do a physical feat to perfection, and Justin Tucker has to be close to it. With yesterday’s miss, Tucker’s rate of missed field goals now stands at 0.45 percent.
What other feats of coordination are analogous to kicking extra points? Not free throws; Stephen Curry is probably the greatest shooter in NBA history and he misses 10 percent of his free throws, with no wind gusts. Making outs in baseball? Mike Trout had 278 defensive chances in center field for the Angels this year and made no errors, but over his full career, he’s made an error 0.6 percent of the time.
Maybe just throwing a pitch? Jacob deGrom had an overwhelmingly dominant season pitching for the Mets this year. He threw 3,212 pitches, and he gave up 10 home runs, threw 2 wild pitches, and hit 5 batters. That’s 17 pitches that could be counted as failures (some of the home runs might have been on good pitches, but presumably some truly terrible pitches were logged as run-of-the-mill balls). That’s a failure rate of 0.5 percent.
Even with his miss, Tucker has the fifth-best percentage on extra points in NFL history. And all of the players ahead of him did their extra-point kicking before 2015, the year the league moved the snap from the 2 yard line out to the 15, to make it tougher. “If you play long enough, you’re going to have a kick that you want back,” Tucker said. He was being brave about it, but he was also probably just correct.