Stover: 'This is No. 1'

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Kicker revels in making field goal, the first playoff game-winner of his career

January 11, 2009|By From Sun staff reports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Matt Stover calmly answered the questions after his first game-winning field goal in the playoffs, agreeing that of all the kicks of his career, "this is No. 1."

He did, however, also have to answer for the high-stepping, arm-waving, finger-jabbing dance he did back to the Ravens' sideline after the 43-yarder sailed through the uprights with 53 seconds left, leading to the eventual 13-10 AFC divisional playoff win over the Tennessee Titans.

"It was 'praise Jesus, praise Jesus' all the way," Stover said with a grin afterward.

It was the 14th game-winner of his 19-year career - and his first this season - but the others all were in the regular season. Last night was his 12th career postseason game, his 10th as a Raven.

Stover has been kicking for the past four weeks with a high ankle sprain, and he was limited in practice leading up to this game.

Stover got off to a cold start this season, missing three of his first seven field-goal attempts, raising surprisingly loud talk about whether he was finished. He is 27-for-30 since, including the playoffs.

Last night, no Raven seemed to have a doubt about the game-winner; several said they didn't even need to watch it go through.

"That's what playing in the NFL for 40 years gets you," Derrick Mason cracked.

Ray Lewis, the only active Raven who played with Stover on the 2000 Super Bowl team, was more serious. "It's almost unbelievable because we've been together for some game-winning field goals," he said, "and every time I see that it's almost about to come down to that, I always walk over to him and say, 'It's already done.'

"Stover is a man of faith and I'm a man of faith, and I just walked by and tapped him and said, 'It's done,' and smiled at him. And he's clutch, Stover's clutch."

Stover, who turns 41 in on Jan. 27, recalled what Matt Bahr, his predecessor as Cleveland Browns kicker, once told him: "You're only as good as your last kick, and I try to keep that in mind. You'd think that after 18 seasons, it would be easy, but it's not. It's not."

Suggs no slacker

Terrell Suggs brushed off every question about his availability for the AFC championship game next Sunday, even though he sat out the whole second half after spraining his right shoulder in the second quarter. After chasing Titans quarterback Kerry Collins to the right sideline and sacking him, Suggs landed hard on the shoulder, stayed down for several minutes, then left under his own power.

"Check my track record. I don't miss games," Suggs said. "The only way I wouldn't be there is if I didn't have air in my lungs."

As he left the locker room, and was asked again by reporters, he kept repeating: "I'm playing. It's nothing. What did I tell you? I don't even feel it now."

Suggs has played in all 96 regular-season and four postseason games in his career.

Shrewd move

John Harbaugh didn't look like a first-year head coach when he decided to go into the wind in the third quarter so it would be at his team's back in the fourth.

That helped Stover in converting the game-winning field goal.

"To have the wind in the fourth quarter, we just felt like it was going to come down to a field goal in the end," Harbaugh said.

Ryan to interview

Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan will interview with the New York Jets and St. Louis Rams today in Baltimore for their head coaching jobs.

Ryan will first meet with the Jets and then sit down with the Rams.

"A lot of guys don't get this opportunity. So, I am very fortunate to interview with two really good organizations," Ryan said. "We'll see what happens."

No revenge for Collins

As in the 2001 Super Bowl, quarterback Collins couldn't beat the Ravens in the playoffs.

Collins finished 26-for-42 for 281 yards and one interception.

"To say it's disappointing is an understatement," Collins said of his first playoff game since he played for the New York Giants in the Super Bowl against the Ravens. "This is a tough one to swallow, and that's really all you can say."

End zone

Referee Terry McAulay said Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco didn't step on the back line of the end zone in the fourth quarter. "There was green or whatever the color was between the end line and his foot," said McAulay, who was responsible for the call. ... For the first time this season, the Ravens used four offensive tackles on a play (two on each side). The result was an incompletion by Joe Flacco. ... The Ravens wore the uniform combination of white jerseys and black pants for the first time in their playoff history. ... According to WNST, former Titans and Ravens quarterback Steve McNair did attend a Ravens rally in Nashville, Tenn., on Friday night. ... The Ravens' captains included Lewis, punter Sam Koch, special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo and the three former Titans (wide receiver Mason, cornerback Samari Rolle and fullback Lorenzo Neal).

Baltimore Sun reporters David Steele and Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.

calling m*a*s*h

Yesterday's hard-hitting game resulted in several Ravens and Titans leaving because of injury. Some returned, some didn't:

Ravens

* Linebacker Terrell Suggs, sprained shoulder, did not return

* Offensive tackle Willie Anderson, neck stinger, returned

* Running back Le'Ron McClain, ankle (twice), returned once

* Cornerback Samari Rolle, groin, did not return

* Cornerback Fabian Washington, shoulder stinger, returned

Titans

* Running back Chris Johnson, right ankle, did not return

* Defensive end Jevon Kearse, knee, returned

* Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, right knee, returned

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