Stover has angles covered

Veteran kicker uses wind to aid 52-yard game-winning field goal

Ravens Gameday

Ravens 15 Browns 14

September 25, 2006|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN REPORTER

CLEVELAND -- In golfer's parlance, Matt Stover hit a little fade.

Recognizing that the wind at Cleveland Browns Stadium was blowing almost left to right at the eastern end of the stadium, the Ravens kicker figured his best angle at converting a 52-yard field-goal attempt with 20 seconds left yesterday was to take aim at the left upright and use the wind to push the kick back to the right.

Stover was correct, and when the low line drive sailed over the crossbar, Stover's field goal propelled the Ravens to a 15-14 win against the Browns and a 3-0 record.

"I hit a knockdown 7-iron," Stover said. "I kicked it a little left to right, thinking that that's exactly what it was going to do, and it did. It was fun."

Stover's field goal capped a 12-play, 47-yard drive from the Ravens' 20-yard line that began when cornerback Chris McAlister halted a Cleveland scoring opportunity with an interception in the end zone.

When special teams coordinator Frank Gansz Jr. approached Stover to gauge his range, Stover didn't give Gansz a specific number.

"There was no limit because you can't have limits at that point," Stover said. "If you're pushed to your limit, you're pushed to your limit. What was that [limit]? I told him, `Whatever.' "

Stover's performance - which included two more field goals and extended his streak of consecutive field goals made to a career-best 29 - is yet another chapter in a prolific 17-year career.

The 52-yarder was Stover's 12th game-winning field goal in his career and his longest kick since converting a 53-yarder against the Houston Oilers on Dec. 12, 1993.

During warm-ups before the game, Stover said he kicked a 52-yard field goal in the eastern end of the stadium and a 50-yarder in the western portion.

Still, after the ball came off Stover's right foot with 20 seconds remaining, even he wasn't sure that it was good.

"I didn't get it up as high," he noted. But holder Sam Koch "hugged me and was screaming, `You got it!' I was thinking, `Man, get through.' So he knew it before I did."

Stover, who is a devout Christian, pointed out that on Saturday night, the team chaplain had preached to some of the players that God gives strength to his believers in difficult situations. The chaplain then used Stover as an example, saying that the kicker - when confronted with a 51-yard field-goal attempt, could draw power from his faith in God.

"And here it was, a 52-yard field goal," Stover said. "The irony of that is just really funny."

Several of Stover's teammates said they had no doubt that Stover would make the long attempt.

"The guy's accurate, man," center Mike Flynn said. "He's very impressive. I've been with him for 10 years, and I would've been more surprised if he had missed it."

Asked to describe his emotions after Stover's kick, McAlister, who leads the team in interceptions and returned one 60 yards for a touchdown in the season opener, said, "Happy. That was probably the happiest moment for me this season, watching Matt seal the game with that field goal."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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