Stover ensures placement with perfect day; Although kickoffs remain shaky, he hits field goals from 44, 46 and 50 yards


NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Matt Stover went about saving his job with some eye-catching moments in yesterday's 14-11 loss to Tennessee.

As a place-kicker, Stover could not have been better, unless the Ravens had given him a chance to send the game into overtime with another long field-goal attempt.

At least Stover cashed in on each opportunity the sputtering offense afforded him.

By accounting for every offensive point with field goals from 44, 46 and 50 yards, Stover seemed to strengthen a hold on his job that seemed quite tenuous six days ago, when the team claimed kicker Joe Nedney off waivers from Arizona.

Then again, there was that atrocious kickoff attempt, which came after Stover's first field goal from 44 yards gave the Ravens a 3-0 lead. Stover sent an ugly, unintentional squib kick to the Titans' 25, which was returned 14 yards to the 39. That sparked a 61-yard touchdown drive.

But it started with Stover's errant kickoff. The Ravens had planned to use Nedney for kickoffs, while turning place-kicking duty over to Stover exclusively.

Nedney, however, was deactivated to make room for an extra offensive lineman the Ravens figured they might need. With tackles Harry Swayne and Jonathan Ogden out by the end of the first quarter, that turned out to be a wise move.

Stover has tried to remain unaffected by it all. He seemed to deflect pressure with his strongest place-kicking of the year, as each of his field goals sailed through the uprights with plenty of room to spare.

"The pressure is what you put on yourself. I had to go into this week like I was the only kicker. For the rest of the season, I've got to prepare like I'm the only kicker," Stover said.

"Field-goal wise, it was a good day. I hit the 50-yarder strong. I'm sorry we didn't get another opportunity, even if it would have been a 57-yarder. Part of my job is to kick them wherever they're from."

Ravens coach Brian Billick was impressed with Stover's effort, although not completely. After Stover shanked that first kickoff, Billick approached special teams coach Russ Purnell with some animated gestures.

Stover's second kickoff following his second field goal was also sloppy, but it turned out better, as it hit the 15-yard line, then skidded out of bounds for a touchback.

"[Stover] hit some real good kicks to keep us right there, which is a positive," Billick said. "But then, the kickoffs. Matt is as frustrated as anybody. But he's our kicker."

Billick said he was hamstrung by a banged-up roster, which forced him to deactivate Nedney, who might end up taking Stover's job eventually if Nedney proves he can be reliable as a place-kicker.

"I couldn't afford to [activate Nedney]," Billick said. "I had to carry the extra lineman. All of a sudden, Aaron Pierce is down and I'm down to two tight ends. We had to go with eight offensive linemen. We just didn't have the numbers this week."

Stover said he undercut the ball so badly on his first kickoff attempt that he hit the ground.

"There's no excuse for that," Stover said. "I'm trying to kick the ball right in that situation. I did a nice job for the rest of the game, but I can't make that kind of mistake on a kickoff. Field position is too important."

Pub Date: 10/11/99

Close, but no cigar

The Ravens trail the series with the Oilers/Titans 5-2, but five of the games have been decided by four points or fewer. A look at the series results:

Date Site Result

9-15-96 at Houston L, 29-13

12-22-96 at Baltimore L, 24-21

9-21-97 at Tennessee W, 36-10

12-14-97 at Baltimore W, 21-19

10-11-98 at Baltimore L, 12-8

12-6-98 at Tennessee L, 16-14

10-10-99 at Tennessee L, 14-11

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