Both units should get their kicks

Stover, Mare among most accurate kickers all-time in the NFL

Ravens' special teams vs. Dolphins' special teams

January 12, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

If it comes down to kicking, both teams have to like their chances.

Tomorrow's game will feature two of the most accurate field-goal kickers in the NFL in Miami's Olindo Mare and the Ravens' Matt Stover.

Mare has made 19 field goals in 21 attempts, the best percentage (90.5) in the league among kickers with more than 20 attempts. Stover has connected on 30 of his 35 field-goal chances and all 25 extra points.

Mare and Stover are second and fourth, respectively, on the NFL's all-time field-goal percentage list (minimum 100 converted).

Stover, who was edged out by Denver's Jason Elam for the Pro Bowl this year, hit four field goals in Monday night's win over the Minnesota Vikings, tying a season high.

While Stover does not have to worry about kickoff duty thanks to Danny Kight, Mare will be kicking to one of the league's most dangerous return men in Jermaine Lewis.

Lewis did not return any punts or kickoffs for a touchdown this season, but finished in the top three in both categories.

The Dolphins' Jeff Ogden finished fourth in punt returns, averaging 11.8 yards, but lost three fumbles and came close to losing his job. He has turned things around lately, including a 48-yard punt return Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

Rookie receiver Chris Chambers and safety Brock Marion both return kickoffs. Chambers at one point was second in the AFC in return average, but finished 10th (22.5 yards).

The major special teams' problem heading into this game for the Ravens is punting - the team had a block two weeks ago and a fumbled snap last week.

Long snapper Dale Hellestrae played his first game of the season Monday night after Joe Maese tore ligaments in his knee (which led to the block the week before) and could no longer handle the duty. Hellestrae's snaps on punts were off in the first half but were fine on the field goals, a positive sign in a game in which both Stover and Mare figure to be important.

With Mare, the Dolphins have had little problem the last five seasons in converting field goals.

"He's a very good kicker. He's leading the league in accuracy," Stover said. "He's a young guy who has a tremendously strong leg. Our work's going to be cut out for us because I don't think we're going to have too many missed field goals this game."

The conditions tomorrow at Pro Player Stadium will be different from Stover's visit last season, when he made two field goals and had one blocked while kicking out of the infield of a baseball diamond because the game coincided with the Florida Marlins' season. The infield has been filled in with grass and the temperature should be in the mid-70s.

"And it's not a hurricane," said Stover, of the windy and rainy conditions that also marked last season's game. "That will be good. Miami, weather-wise, is good, but you can have some wind there."

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