Stover's miss makes him, Ravens wonder


Ailing ankle doesn't keep Weaver out of the opener

Nfl Week 1 Panthers 10, Ravens 7

September 09, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In a game that turned out to be as low scoring and close as anticipated, Ravens kicker Matt Stover knew afterward he could have made a difference.

Stover missed a 47-yard field-goal try in the third quarter against the Carolina Panthers yesterday, a kick that would have tied the score at 10. The Panthers, relying on field position, an ultra-conservative offensive game plan and defense, held on for a 10-7 victory at Ericsson Stadium.

"I never make excuses," Stover said. "They pay me to make that kick, from 47 or 57, it doesn't matter.

"It's a shame because we are going to have a shot in almost every game, and when you do, you have to hit those field goals. Third quarter, fourth quarter, you hit that, you go into overtime possibly. And anything can happen in overtime."

Stover's miss came at the same end as Carolina kicker John Kasay's failed 50-yarder. Both kicks sailed wide left.

"Kasay and I talked after the game, and that was a tough way to kick," Stover said. "The wind was in our face and diagonal, pushing the ball to the left. We both aimed right, but it just kept the ball out. But he's been to the Pro Bowl, I've been to the Pro Bowl and we know how to get that ball through the uprights."

Ravens coach Brian Billick pointed to the missed field goal and a few other blown chances that, if converted, might have taken Carolina out of its conservative approach.

"We got down in field-goal position but unfortunately missed a field goal," Billick said. "When you are talking about a 10-7 game, all it takes is one of those things to change the complexion of the game."

Weaver gets going

Defensive end Tony Weaver did not play in the preseason because of an ankle sprain, but that did not stop Ravens coaches from starting the rookie yesterday.

Weaver, the team's second-round pick, played primarily as a run-stopper on first and second downs. He made the first tackle from scrimmage, holding running back Lamar Smith to a 1-yard gain.

"My ankle is more of a bother than anything," said Weaver, who finished with three tackles. "It bothers me somewhat, but it is not going to stop me."

Mulitalo almost perfect

The Ravens' Edwin Mulitalo, who played his first complete game at tackle after switching from guard last season, held end Julius Peppers to one assisted tackle and no real pressures on quarterback Chris Redman.

"He had a motor, kept on coming all the time," Mulitalo said. "I just had to use my veteran wits to be on top of it, and it was a good game for me."

It would have been a perfect game for Mulitalo if not for the Ravens' final offensive play when he hesitated to block down on Panthers defensive tackle Brenston Buckner. That caused running back Jamal Lewis to hesitate in picking up Peppers. As part of an all-out blitz, Peppers got past Lewis, hit Redman and caused an interception.

Little on returns

Cornerback Chris McAlister had a humdrum debut as the Ravens' full-time punt returner.

McAlister finished with 13 yards on three returns. His best chance came on a line-drive 41-yard punt by Todd Sauerbrun in the third quarter, but McAlister, after several moves, netted just 3 yards.

"I didn't really get as many opportunities as I would have liked, but still, it's early," McAlister said. "I'll continue to grow. Like anything else, the more accustomed you get to do it, the better you are."

Out of reach

Because of the loss, Redman might remember an overthrow to receiver Ron Johnson more than the first touchdown pass of his career.

With the Ravens down 10-7 in the third quarter, Johnson was running free down the sideline inside the Panthers' 10 after a mix-up in the secondary. Redman found him, but the quarterback's pass sailed out of bounds.

If not for Redman's error, the Ravens might come away with at least an easy field-goal attempt, if not a go-ahead touchdown.

"That's just the way it goes; you live and learn," Redman said.

Johnson and Redman did connect in the first quarter on an 8-yard touchdown pass.

"I had been thinking all day what I was going to do in the end zone, but it all goes away when you score," Johnson said. "After you make that catch, you don't have any time to think about it."

End zone

The Ravens will re-sign fullback Sam Gash today. If Gash, who was cut Friday, would have remained on the roster through the weekend, his salary would have been guaranteed for the entire season. ... The Ravens' inactive players were Tellis Redmon, James Trapp, Lamont Brightful, Will Demps, Bernardo Harris, Mike Collins and Howard Green. ... Ravens kicker J.R. Jenkins sent his two kickoffs into the end zone. ... Ravens receiver Brandon Stokley set career highs with six catches for 83 yards. ... John Fox is the first Carolina coach to win his Panthers debut. Dom Capers (1995) and George Seifert (1999) lost their openers. ... The Panthers already have bested last season's home record. Carolina was 0-8 at Ericsson Stadium in 2001.

Herb White contributed to this article.

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