Stover waits, then delivers

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

After one field goal in past four games, Ravens kicker boots four

Ravens 26 Bengals 20

Ravens Gameday

November 06, 2006|By EDWARD LEE | EDWARD LEE,SUN REPORTER

Matt Stover is a patient man.

In the midst of one of his longest droughts in 10 years, the Ravens kicker found solace in remaining composed.

"I knew that I had one field goal in the last four games and I said, `Let's just be patient. Be patient because they're coming. The opportunities are coming,' " said Stover, who last endured such a stretch in 1996. "I didn't know how, I didn't know when, but I knew they'd be there, and they came today."

Stover's tenacity was rewarded as his four field goals propelled the Ravens to a 26-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium yesterday.

Stover provided the Ravens' final 12 points and entire nine-point output in the second half. Afterward, Stover tried to downplay his role as the team's lone point producer in the second half.

"Being the whole offense in the second half, that's not true because our defense created positive field position and our offense did a nice job of maintaining ball control and getting us in position to score points," he said. "With our team and the way they work it, I knew it would be critical, especially against an explosive offense like the Cincinnati Bengals."

Stover, who has converted a career-best 34 consecutive field goals, earned what he called a "home-field bounce" on his third attempt when the 36-yarder glanced off the left upright and shot straight down over the crossbar.

"It just shows you that this team is making plays when it has to," he said with a wry smile. "Whether it's me or an interception in the first quarter or a fumble on the first kickoff, we're making plays, and that's what winning is about."

There is much speculation as to why Stover didn't get a chance to kick a fifth field goal with less than two minutes left in the game. Rather than attempt a field goal, Ravens coach Brian Billick elected to run time off the clock and give the ball back to the Bengals on their 28-yard line with 18 seconds left.

Stover did not disagree with the move, saying, "I'm going to trust Brian. He's been through that situation enough. You can get a field goal blocked. If you get a field goal blocked in that situation, where are you then? Same thing with a punt. You don't want to get a punt blocked because then where are you? They would've gotten the ball in even better field position or they score."

Stover also got involved in a physical altercation between Ravens linebacker Gary Stills and Cincinnati linebacker Caleb Miller after a kickoff return.

Stover tried to defuse the tension by jumping between both players and absorbed a punch to the jaw for his trouble.

"I got out real quick after that," he said.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

RETURN TO END ZONE

In the first quarter, Ravens running back Jamal Lewis found something he hadn't seen since the season opener: the end zone.

Lewis' 2-yard score to give the Ravens a 7-0 lead just 2:59 into yesterday's game was only his second touchdown this year and his first since scoring on the team's first offensive possession against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1.

For Lewis, the opportunity to rush twice from first-and-goal from the 5 was a welcome call from coach Brian Billick.

"It was good to hear him call my number twice down in that area," Lewis said. "It's just a great thing and shows that he has confidence in me that I can get the ball in the end zone and confidence in the offensive line that they were going to get it done."

INJURY UPDATE

The Ravens' most notable injury concern was middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who suffered a contusion to the spinal cord during free safety Ed Reed's fumble return in the fourth quarter that eventually was overturned on replay.

Lewis, who spent a couple of minutes on the turf but returned to the game on the next play, walked slowly and gingerly in the locker room. But he said he expected to play Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.

Reed bruised his leg on the same return, but he continued to play. Tight end Todd Heap twisted his ankle in the first quarter but did not miss any playing time. Reed and Heap said they will be ready for Sunday's game in Tennessee.

Cornerback Corey Ivy (kidney tear), who had been listed as questionable, was one of eight Ravens who were declared inactive, joining running backs P.J. Daniels and Cory Ross, cornerback David Pittman, linebacker Dan Cody, guard Ikechuku Ndukwe, wide receiver Devard Darling and defensive tackle Dwan Edwards.

SPECIAL START

Linebacker Mike Smith's strip of Bengals returner Chris Perry on the opening kickoff did more than give the Ravens excellent field position at Cincinnati's 34. It also set the tone for the Ravens' mental approach.

"Before kickoff, we made our minds up that we were going to set up the tempo of the game right here and do it right now," Smith said. "We told everybody to just go down and make a play and let's get the game started."

On the play, Smith wrapped his right arm around Perry and punched the ball out. Musa Smith recovered the loose ball. Six plays later, Jamal Lewis rumbled into the end zone from 2 yards.

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