Steelers' Brown is kicking himself: `I lost the game for us ... no excuses'

Usually steady, he misses four field-goal attempts

Ravens 13, Steelers 10

November 05, 2001|By Chuck Finder | Chuck Finder,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

PITTSBURGH -- Afterward, in the locker room, Kris Brown appeared to wince while getting dressed. He bit his lip. He buckled his belt. Then he turned to face the media, if not the music, and proclaimed himself completely healthy and utterly culpable.

"I lost the game for us," the Pittsburgh Steelers' kicker angrily said after the Ravens' 13-10 triumph at Heinz Field. "There are no excuses today. It just came down to me today, and I didn't get the job done. This game was my fault. I expect myself to go out there and make every single attempt I try."

Yesterday, Brown missed four times.

He missed from 41 yards in the second quarter, wide right.

He missed from 33 yards in the third quarter when the ball was tipped by Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister, whose elbow hit Brown's right knee on the kicker's follow-through.

He missed from 48 yards in the fourth quarter, wide right again.

He missed from 35 yards with eight seconds remaining, the potential game-tying field goal straying wide right yet again.

To put this into perspective, Brown, 24, missed five times in all of 2000. He missed four times in 1999, his rookie year. He had missed only twice in 13 tries this season. He beat the Ravens in Week 8 a year ago at PSINet Stadium, 9-6, Baltimore's last loss on its way to a Super Bowl title.

Exasperation and frustration were relatively unknown by Brown, who converted 61 of 72 field-goal attempts before yesterday.

"I felt like a couple of them I hit pretty well," said Brown, who made a 38-yarder on the Steelers' second possession for a 3-0 lead. "They just didn't go through. I didn't make my kicks."

He maintained that the knee on his kicking leg was hale and the contact with McAlister didn't affect his later attempts. "I was fine," Brown said. Josh Miller, his holder and best friend, concurred.

The swirling wind, especially in Heinz Field's south end zone from where he missed the first, third and fourth attempts, wasn't a factor either, he said. Brown focused more on correcting his previous misdirection, especially on the final try. "I tried to hit it a little differently," he said. "Obviously, I didn't, 'cause it went right."

Only once before in his NFL career had he missed as many as two field-goal attempts in a game. That came at the New York Giants last December. Never before had he missed a late-game attempt that affected a game's outcome.

Brown hadn't labored so badly since his first scrimmage with the Steelers in August 1999. Former Steelers kicker Matt Bahr dropped by the team's practice for some tutelage a day later. Brown connected on his first 13 field-goals tries, an NFL record. A career seemed to be jump-started.

Then yesterday, the Steelers' first loss after winning five straight, brought the kind of game that can batter a kicker's psyche.

"We stand behind him," safety Lee Flowers said. "If you want to blame somebody, blame the defense. We gave up a wide-open touchdown" to Shannon Sharpe.

"I've been the Lone Ranger before, where it seems like the world is pointing a finger at you," said quarterback Kordell Stewart. "I told him ... you've won a lot of games for us, and here's one where you just came up short."

Brown placed all fault squarely on his shoulders, the ones on which the Steelers rode a fake field-goal attempt just last Monday night for a key first down in a victory over the Tennessee Titans.

"I'm just going home to think about this for 24 hours," Brown said. "I let every one of the guys in this locker room down. I'm just going to come back and battle."

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