Stover legs it out in win

The Baltimore Sun

On the eve of a new year, Matt Stover felt like he was caught in a time warp.

The 17th-year kicker, who turns 39 on Jan. 27, converted four field goals, providing the brunt of the scoring in the Ravens' 19-7 victory over the Buffalo Bills at M&T; Bank Stadium yesterday.

Stover chuckled when he was reminded that the franchise used his leg in a similar fashion en route to the Super Bowl championship in the 2000 season.

"That's really what it came down to, putting up enough points on the board," Stover said. "We need to put touchdowns on the board, but 19 points was enough to get them. I'll kick field goals all day long if that's what it comes down to. I'm happy to do it."

Stover converted field goals in each of the first three quarters, staking the Ravens to a 9-0 lead. His 29-yarder with 4:48 left in the fourth quarter closed out the scoring and cemented the team's hold on the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs and a first-round bye.

Stover's four-field goal showing was his third of the season -- he kicked four in a 28-6 win against the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 17 and four more in a 26-20 triumph over the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 5 -- and the 19th of his career. Stover has also registered five field goals in a single game five times.

Unlike previous years, however, Stover has been handling extra duties as he has been kicking off for the Ravens.

Stover took over the kickoff assignment from rookie punter Sam Koch, who pulled his quadriceps before the Ravens' victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 24.

Stover credited special teams coach Frank Gansz Jr. with helping him ward off exhaustion.

"I've learned how to maintain and not get too tired," Stover said. "These next five days will be really good for me, too."


Ravens quarterback Steve McNair joined an exclusive club yesterday when he completed an 8-yard pass to wide receiver Derrick Mason on the opening series.

That completion pushed McNair past the 30,000 passing-yard mark in his 12-year NFL career. McNair became only the third quarterback in league history to throw for 30,000 yards and run for 3,500.

Fran Tarkenton passed for 47,003 yards and rushed for 3,674, while Steve Young threw for 33,123 and ran for 4,235. Both are Hall of Famers.

"It feels good to be mentioned with those guys," said McNair, who has 30,191 passing yards and 3,558 rushing yards. "It's always a team effort. They got me to this point. I think when you look back at my career, it's been a blessing for me to do the things I've done on the field."

Said Coach Brian Billick: "Wish I was around for the first 29,500 or whatever it is. He's an incredible guy to be around."


A unit once regarded as the biggest question mark for the Ravens' offense set a franchise record yesterday.

The offensive line gave up just 17 sacks this season - including none against the Bills. That broke the team record for fewest sacks in a season when the Ravens gave up just 35 in 2004.

Reminded of the mark, center Mike Flynn - in his ninth year with the Ravens ---joked: "Man, that line must've stunk. Who was on that team?"

Later, Flynn said of the record, "It's great. It's always pride. Steve [McNair], he's a vital cog to our team obviously. He's the guy that makes us run. So the last thing we want is that guy on his back."


The Ravens almost became the first team in NFL history with four defensive players with at least 10 sacks each.

Defensive end Trevor Pryce (13 sacks) and linebacker Adalius Thomas (11) already had reached double digits, and linebackers Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs were just short of joining their teammates.

Suggs sacked Buffalo quarterback J.P. Losman in the waning moments of the second quarter, but that's all he would get. Scott was blanked, and both players finished the regular season with 9 1/2 sacks each.

Suggs didn't seem too upset about missing out on the achievement.

"We can't have everything," he said with a smile. "We didn't get the sack record, but we're glad we got the first-round bye, and we know that this team is destined for greatness. All we've got to do is show up every week."


Linebacker Gary Stills' bid to surpass the single-season record for special teams tackles would appear to have fallen just short yesterday.

Stills, who entered yesterday's game with 43 special teams tackles, was credited with zero tackles. If that number does not change after team officials review game film this week, that would leave Stills four tackles shy of passing former San Diego Charger Hank Bauer's 46 special teams tackles registered in 1980.


Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said there were no new injuries to report from the game. ... Receiver Mark Clayton's second career pass attempt sailed past the back of the end zone, which was one of two options on that play in the second quarter. "We just thought we'd be able to sneak behind them and make the play," Clayton said. " ... But it wasn't open. Either [tight end] Todd [Heap is] open or that's it." ... Assistant special teams coach John Fassel, who suffered an elbow injury after being struck by a car while riding his bike near the team's training facility in Owings Mills on Friday, had his left arm in a black sling.

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