Stover takes over, goes leg up on Pelfrey Ravens kicker, 3-for-3, most accurate now playing

Ravens 23, Bengals 10

September 08, 1997|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

Hertz and Avis swapped places at Memorial Stadium yesterday.

Make that read Doug Pelfrey and Matt Stover, two kickers who played contrasting roles in the Ravens' 23-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Bengals' Pelfrey had entered the game as the most accurate active NFL kicker with a conversion rate of 81.4 percent (105 of 129) over his four-plus seasons in Cincinnati. That was slightly better than Stover's 80.1 percent (129 of 161) in six-plus seasons with the Cleveland Browns and Ravens.

But yesterday they reversed roles. Stover, who was 3-for-3, is now No. 1.

Pelfrey, after making good on a 46-yard kick just before the first half ended, shanked kicks of 51 and 43 yards.

Perhaps even more painful for Pelfrey was watching his final attempt, from 46 yards out, being batted away by Rondell Jones with 7: 02 remaining. At the time, the Ravens led 20-10.

"That was an extremely big play for us," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said. "If Pelfrey had made it, they could have tied us with a touchdown. But now they needed two touchdowns to beat us."

On the Ravens' next possession, Stover gave his team a 13-point cushion, much needed against the Bengals, who had outscored the opposition 108-45 in the fourth quarter of their past 10 games.

Pelfrey had a difficult time recalling the last time he had experienced such an exasperating afternoon kicking a ball.

"I'm used to making eight out of every 10. I think the last time I missed three on the same day was on a golf course," he said, trying to find some humor in the situation.

"But that's the age-old story in the NFL. The kicker is usually the hero or the goat. Today, I guess I played the goat."

Bengals coach Bruce Coslet, who had won eight of 10 games since replacing David Shula last season, acknowledged, "We just didn't play well," underlining the absence of a running game (56 yards).

But Coslet also pointed to Pelfrey's rare off day as a contributing factor to the season's first loss.

"That was really uncharacteristic of Doug," Coslet said. "He's a veteran kicker, but he rushed the first one from 51 yards, jumped at it a little bit.

"When you miss field goals, it affects what you do on your next series and disrupts your overall planning."

Pelfrey said he had little trouble with his accuracy in his pre-game practice and got enough leg into his first two field-goal attempts.

"I was hitting the ball well and I wasn't rattled," said the Kentucky graduate. "I just hooked them left and they kept going left. "In the preseason games, I just didn't have many chances to kick long ones.

"I really can't tell you what happened on the blocked kick. It was just one of those days."

Asked if it meant anything that he had been replaced by Stover as the NFL's most accurate kicker, Pelfrey said, "That really doesn't matter to me. I'm not hung up on individual stats. This is still a team game, with the bottom line wins and losses."

Pelfrey will have a chance to get back on track with an extra week of practice. The Bengals will enjoy a week off before playing the Broncos in Denver on Sept. 21.

"Right now, I'm feeling frustrated," he said. "Personally, I'd rather be playing next week. It will seem like an eternity before we play again, and it's hard to kick in Denver with the wind blowing."

But now being No. 2, Pelfrey is certain to try harder.

Pub Date: 9/08/97

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