Hauschka Looking Shakier

Kicker Sees Another Fg Attempt Go Wide Left, Has Extra Point Blocked

November 17, 2009|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,ken.murray@baltsun.com

Steve Hauschka's claim on the kicking job with the Ravens became more tenuous Monday night when he not only was wide left on a 36-yard field goal attempt, but also had an extra point blocked.

The second-year player from North Carolina State came into the game on thin ice after missing critical field goals in Minnesota and Cincinnati, both times hooking the ball to the left.

Last week, the Ravens brought in free-agent kickers Mike Nugent and Billy Cundiff for tryouts, but coach John Harbaugh said Hauschka would remain the team's kicker against the Cleveland Browns.

"I'm not worried about that right now," Hauschka said after the Ravens' 16-0 victory. "I did what I had to do with the next kick. My job is to go out and make kicks."

If the Ravens make a change this week and bring in a new kicker, it will coincide with the return of former fan favorite Matt Stover, who played 13 seasons in Baltimore. Stover was not offered a contract after the 2008 season and signed this year with the Indianapolis Colts after five games.

The Colts visit Baltimore on Sunday in what will be a short week for the Ravens. Stover had hoped to kick again for the Ravens but chose to accept an offer from a team with Super Bowl potential.

In making the decision to let Stover leave, Harbaugh wanted primarily to save a roster spot that was used a year ago to keep Hauschka as the team's kickoff specialist. Stover was almost automatic inside the 40 with field goals, but he was not as dangerous on longer field goals.

"That was disappointing," Harbaugh said of Hauschka's missed kicks. "He's got to kick the ball better. He's got to kick with more confidence."

Through Monday night, Hauschka has made nine of 13 field-goal attempts for the Ravens. But his misses have been big. He missed a 44-yard try in Minnesota's Metrodome that would have beaten the Vikings. After kicking three field goals in a rout of the Denver Broncos, he missed a crucial 38-yarder in Cincinnati that short-circuited a budding comeback by the Ravens in a 17-7 loss.

In Cleveland, Hauschka's attempt from 36 yards was from the left hash mark and hooked left - outside the upright - at the last second. Harbaugh has described a flaw in Hauschka's kicking motion that causes him to hook the ball.

Hauschka said the miss was the result of not kicking with confidence. "I'm definitely disappointed," he said. "I'm not going to question anything I'm doing. I did great out there on the next kick."

As bad as that was, Hauschka was to endure more humiliation in the third quarter after Dawan Landry returned an interception 48 yards for a Ravens touchdown. Hauschka's extra-point try was blocked by the Browns' Shaun Rogers, a notable kick-blocker during his NFL career.

"I'm not sure" what went wrong, Hauschka said. "I thought I hit the ball well and had plenty of elevation."

Harbaugh said he thought there was a problem with both the kick and the protection on the kick. "Shaun Rogers is the best ever for blocking kicks," he said.

On the Ravens' next possession, after another interception, the Ravens stalled at the Cleveland 26 and Hauschka came on to kick a 44-yard field goal.

"I was definitely mentally strong" on that kick, he said. "I know how I missed the first one. It was a stupid mistake. The next field goal, I wasn't afraid of it, although it wasn't easy, a 44-yarder in Cleveland. I kicked with a lot of confidence."

Now the question is whether he gets a next kick.

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