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Jon Kendle is Director of Archives and Football Information at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His biweekly columns tell unique and interesting stories starting from the league’s founding in downtown Canton in 1920 to the present day.
Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker converted a game-winning 66-yard field goal as time expired, the longest made field goal in NFL history, to win a thrilling 19-17 game over the Detroit Lions last Sunday.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson converted a fourth-and-19 to Sammy Watkins, with 26 seconds left in the game, setting up the game-winning attempt from the Lions’ 48-yard line. Tucker’s historic kick was made even more dramatic when it hit the cross bar before bouncing through the uprights.
Tucker, who also converted a 50-yard field goal in the third quarter, now has seven career games with multiple 50-yard field goals. That ties Brandon McManus and Matt Prater for the most such games in NFL history.
Prater also happens to be the kicker who previously held the record for longest field goal made in a game. He booted a 64-yarder as time expired in the first half of a Week 14 contest against the Tennessee Titans on Dec. 8, 2013. His field goal reduced the Denver Broncos’ deficit to 21-20 and served as a huge momentum shift in propelling the Broncos to a 51-28 victory.
The previous record was set 43 years prior to Prater’s kick in Denver by New Orleans Saints kicker Tom Dempsey. He connected on a 63-yard field goal with two seconds remaining in the game to lift his team to a 19-17 victory over the Detroit Lions (sound familiar?) on Nov. 8, 1970.
Dempsey's 63-yarder broke the NFL mark held by the Baltimore Colts Bert Rechichar, who had a 56-yarder against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 27, 1953. His record kick snapped the two-decade-old record of 54 yards by Glenn Presnell of the Detroit Lions on Oct. 7, 1934.
Before Prater’s 64-yarder, Dempsey’s distance was matched three times over the 43 years it stood as the record. The other kickers with 63-yarders on their resumes are Jason Elam of the Denver Broncos, Sebastian Janikowski of the Oakland Raiders and David Akers of the San Francisco 49ers.
Elam etched his name into the NFL record book versus the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 25, 1998. With a minute left before halftime, the Broncos moved the ball across midfield but stalled at the Jacksonville 40-yard line. Elam prepared for a 58-yard attempt. Amid some confusion, the Broncos took a penalty for delay of game, and Elam had to attempt from 63 yards. The kick just cleared the crossbar in the mile-high air.
“I was watching it and gave a big cheer when it went through,” Dempsey later said. “It was a great kick, a great effort. You have to admire it.”
The kicking shoe Janikowski wore on his record-tying field goal is among artifacts at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He topped off Kickoff Weekend in 2011 with his 63-yarder in a Raiders win over the Denver Broncos on “Monday Night Football.”
Janikowski’s 63-yarder was the third in NFL history. The field goal, once again, came on the last play of the first half in Denver and put the Oakland Raiders in front 16-3 over the Broncos. Interestingly, he had nailed a 70-yarder with distance to spare in pregame warm-ups that night.
Akers secured his place in NFL history when he kicked a 63-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the first half of the 49ers’ season-opening win over the Green Bay Packers. The ball firmly hit the crossbar before falling through the uprights to give the 49ers a 16-7 halftime lead.
Tucker now stands alone in the record books for longest field goal made. The questions now: How long does his record last?