Ravens kicker Matt Stover rolled his eyes when he was asked about his field-goal accuracy record, which technically has landed him at the top of his profession.
By converting all three of his attempts in Sunday's 23-10 victory over Cincinnati, Stover regained the top spot on the all-time accuracy list. Qualifiers for the list must have made at least 100 field goals in their careers.
Stover, a 12th-round draft pick of the Giants in 1990, has made 132 of 164 field-goal attempts, or 80.48 percent. That leaves him slightly ahead of retired Chiefs/Jets kicker Nick Lowery (80 percent), San Diego's John Carney (.7991) and Cincinnati's Doug Pelfrey (.7969), who missed three of four attempts against the Ravens on Sunday to fall out of first place.
"Don't worry. I'm still very mortal and very humble," Stover said. "It's good to know that I'm hitting the ball well. I finally got a plus-40 [field goal]. But I'm continuing to work on some things."
Stover, who has made his first five field-goal attempts of 1997, hit from 37, 32 and 41 yards Sunday. His 41-yarder, which sailed through the uprights with about 15 yards to spare, was easily his strongest kick of the season.
One notable contributor to Stover's success Sunday was veteran tight end Brian Kinchen. Normally the team's long snapper, Kinchen was pressed into duty as the short snapper when center Quentin Neujahr was lost to a sprained ankle. Kinchen snapped smoothly on Stover's last two field goals.
The Ravens' special teams, which had been outstanding since the preseason opener, experienced their first major breakdowns against the Bengals.
Return man Ray Ethridge, who came back from ankle and knee injuries and replaced the injured Jermaine Lewis -- who is expected to play against the Giants this week -- struggled several times with punt returns. His most glaring error came early in the fourth quarter when he fielded Lee Johnson's 62-yard punt at the Ravens' 4 and neglected to use the right sideline properly. He tried streaking across the field and was dropped in the middle for no gain.
Fortunately for the Ravens, they turned a possible disaster into a 96-yard touchdown drive that gave them a 20-10 lead.
"Rough day. I didn't make good on what was there for me to take. I've got the speed, but I didn't use it the right way," Ethridge said. "Practice is one thing, but I haven't been in battle for a couple of weeks. I've just got to settle down, get healthier and get back into the heat."
The Ravens also had their first kickoff-coverage breakdown. With 6: 09 left in the third quarter, after the Ravens had pulled to within 10-6, Bengals return man Corey Dillon took Stover's kickoff 58 yards down the left sideline, mainly because Dorian Brew failed to cover the outside lane.
"It didn't look as bad as I thought it was going to look when we watched the film today. It's a very correctable play," Brew said.
Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda was asked about the effectiveness of the team's no-huddle offense, which clearly overmatched the Bengals in the second half Sunday. Marchibroda likened Sunday's victory to last year's season-opening win over the Oakland Raiders. That day, the Ravens turned the game around with their no-huddle attack.
"I like to use it early in the year, because some teams are still working themselves into condition. I don't know that we're in better condition [than the Bengals], but we stress it during training camp," he said.
"The players can see the advantage of it. They know whether the guys [on the defensive line] are coming off the ball as hard as they were earlier."
Catching his breath
Rookie linebacker Peter Boulware is still working himself into prime football condition. Boulware, who had three tackles and 1 1/2 sacks Sunday, tired noticeably down the stretch, but refused to take himself out of the game.
"When you get caught up in a game, especially a close game, you just want to keep stopping them," Boulware said. "Against Jacksonville [in the opener], I had to come out because I was too tired to do the team any good. On Sunday, I never got to the point where I couldn't go the way I wanted to go.
"Pass rushing play after play is the hardest thing to do in football," added Boulware, who signed with the Ravens three weeks ago and figures he is "another week or so" from being in top shape.
Right defensive end Michael McCrary was relieved to wake up yesterday with a left knee that wasn't too sore. McCrary, whose debut Sunday included four tackles and 1 1/2 sacks, had arthroscopic surgery a month ago.
'98 Ravens schedule
With the Ravens playing their first interconference game of the season Sunday against the New York Giants, it's not too early to take a look at the 1998 schedule.
A rotation of interconference games put into effect before the 1995 season enables the league to determine interconference opponents, regardless of how a team finishes in its division.
Barring expansion, each team now will play all teams in the opposing conference four times over 15 seasons (twice at home, twice on the road). In addition to the eight division games, the Ravens' 1998 schedule:
vs. Detroit ...... at Chicago
vs. Minnesota .... at Green Bay
vs. AFC East ..... at AFC East
vs. AFC West ..... at AFC West
* -- Intraconference games determined by Ravens' division finish.
Pub Date: 9/09/97