The similarity was not lost on Steve Hauschka.

Two weeks after narrowly missing a game-winning 44-yard field-goal attempt in the waning seconds of the Ravens' 33-31 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the second-year kicker found himself staring at a 43-yard attempt with 56 seconds left in the first quarter of Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos.

"It was almost the exact same 44-yarder," Hauschka said. "I learned my lesson, and I stayed down on that one and kicked it straight."

The successful kick set the tone for Hauschka, who made all three field-goal tries in the Ravens' 30-7 victory over Denver. Hauschka's performance was - in a small way - his attempt to atone for the kick against the Vikings that sailed left of the uprights.

"But I know there's still a lot of stuff I've got to do for this team," Hauschka said. "But, yeah, it helps to come back and have a strong effort after that last game."

Hauschka's approach to Sunday's game did not stray from previous weeks of practice, but there were a few more gamelike situations added to last week's sessions. Throughout it all, holder and punter Sam Koch said, Hauschka's confidence never wavered.

"Anybody can miss one, but it's how you react," Koch said. "He wanted to come out here and prove to himself and to the team that he can go out there and do it, and he showed that today."

Hauschka's play should quell some of the critics' calls for a new kicker, but even Hauschka understands that the leave is only temporary.

"At least for a week," Hauschka said when asked if the doubters will back off. "Then we'll see. I have to go to Cincinnati [Sunday] and play well against them."

Ngata's ankle sprain

Haloti Ngata said he doesn't think his sprained right ankle will prevent him from playing against the Bengals next Sunday.

The defensive tackle left the game in the third quarter, had the ankle retaped twice, and tried to stretch it out before undergoing X-rays, which proved negative.

"It feels real sore," said Ngata, who wore a protective cast around the ankle after the game and is expected to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam today. "It's just a little stiff right now, but I think I'll be ready to go."

Drops regretted

No one would accuse outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson of having soft hands, but even they regretted dropping a pair of interceptions.

Suggs dropped a pass from Kyle Orton around the Broncos' 40-yard line in the second quarter, while Johnson mishandled a throw from Orton near the Ravens' 25 in the third quarter.

"I made the play before [he caught the interception] and went to the crib," said Suggs, who finished with six tackles, one quarterback hurry and a recovered fumble caused by free safety Ed Reed. "I wish I had it. It just goes to show that sometimes you've just got to let the play happen. I was too anxious to try to make it. But I guarantee it'll never happen again. I'll never drop another one."

"I was pretty disappointed," said Johnson, who recorded three tackles, one sack and three quarterback hurries. "Everyone was giving me a hard time on the sideline. Thanks for bringing that up."

Mason's emotions

Derrick Mason's emotions boiled over in the first quarter when Broncos cornerback Alphonso Smith got away with holding the back of Mason's jersey on third-and-7 from Denver's 36.

Although Mason was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after he hurled his helmet on the sideline, Mason said the official who was supposed to patrol the area that Mason and Smith were in admitted missing it.

"He said he didn't see it," Mason said. "That's like me watching my kid at the playground and he runs out into the street and gets hit, and I tell my family that I wasn't watching my son. [They would say,] 'You're the only person watching him. So why aren't you watching him?' But it's all good. After 13 years, I guess you still don't get the respect that you sometimes think you deserve."

Ready for World Cup

The World Cup is eight months away, but Reed and Broncos strong safety Brian Dawkins got into the act early, exchanging jerseys after the game.

"I always try to do that when I play against guys that I respect," Dawkins said.

Said Reed: "It's big, just being on the field with him. It's an honor."

Gaither returns

Offensive tackle Jared Gaither, who had been questionable with a neck injury that had sidelined him the previous two games, returned to his usual left tackle position, and rookie Michael Oher moved back to the right side.

"I felt good," Gaither said. "My neck felt fine, and I thought I played pretty well."

Gooden has two tackles

Linebacker Tavares Gooden, who had been dealing with a slight concussion, also played, finishing with two tackles.

"I've been wanting to play this game since I was a boy, and nothing can stop me from playing these Sundays unless it's something life-threatening," Gooden said.

End zone

In a surprising move, the Ravens deactivated Frank Walker, choosing to play against Denver with just four cornerbacks. Walker was not injured, but he committed a 39-yard pass interference penalty that led to a Vikings touchdown and surrendered a 58-yard pass that set up the game-winning field goal in the loss to Minnesota. Walker was not available for comment after the game. ... The team also scratched offensive tackles Tony Moll and Oniel Cousins, linebackers Antwan Barnes and rookie Paul Kruger, defensive tackle Kelly Talavou and running back Jalen Parmele. John Beck was the third quarterback. ... The Broncos deactivated wide receivers Brandon Lloyd and Kenny McKinley, running back LaMont Jordan (Maryland), linebacker Jarvis Moss, guard Seth Olsen, defensive lineman Chris Baker and offensive tackle Brandon Gorin. Tom Brandstater was the third quarterback. ... Before the game, a live feed of a group of Maryland Air National Guardsmen represented by Brig. Gen. Guy Walsh serving in Kandahar, Afghanistan, was broadcast in the video scoreboard at the stadium. ... Defensive end Trevor Pryce, running back Ray Rice and tight end Edgar Jones represented the Ravens for the coin toss.

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