Stover kicks Ravens to first win in a month

BALTIMORE -- Inside the Baltimore Ravens' euphoric locker room, nobody imitated the nonchalant style that veteran kicker Matt Stover displayed after his game-winning field goal. Not after breaking a four-game losing streak with a dramatic 16-13 overtime victory Sunday over the defending AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Not after finally scoring a touchdown after a dozen quarters of treating the end zone as if it was restricted territory.

Especially since Baltimore (3-7) has tumbled into last place, this wasn't the time to act as if winning is a routine exercise. Especially since it was the first triumph over a team with a winning record in an entire year.

"I'm just happy to be smiling on a Sunday," defensive end Tony Weaver said. "It's been a long time. I've been down, and that's just not my personality."

With the football halfway toward its path through the middle of the uprights, Stover turned away from his game-winning 44-yard field goal, congratulated holder Dave Zastudil and pointed toward the sky as he strode off the field at M&T Bank Stadium.

"I just pumped my fist and walked off the field, I tried to act like it wasn't anything new," tight end Todd Heap said. "It's something we need to get used to. It's huge. We've struggled this year.

"This is the best it's felt all year. You definitely can feel the electricity coming in here after a win especially with all we've gone through this year."

Stover connected on field goals from 47, 25 and 44 yards, making his fourth career overtime kick to snap the Steelers' 11-game road winning streak that began in September of last year in Baltimore.

"The satisfaction is great, especially in the locker room," Stover said. "You see the hope that it creates and the resolve that a team needs to bounce back from a 2-7 start.

"We have got to keep building for this year and continue to keep hope alive. If I'm put in more and more situations during the year then bring it on, and we will win it."

That sort of certainty has been missing from an offense whose confidence was shaken from being the lowest-scoring team in the league.

The offense wasn't particularly productive with 241 net yards, but wasn't as error-prone as a week ago when embattled quarterback Kyle Boller tossed three interceptions.

"We need a win around here," Boller said. "It's been a while since we've won, and it means a lot, man. Stover is automatic, so I wasn't really nervous."

Boller completed only 21 of 36 passes for 163 yards, a touchdown, an interception and a 67.2 passer rating. However, he was good enough in overtime when the Ravens needed him to get Stover in position to win the game.

Boller's 12-yard completion to Randy Hymes on 3rd-and-10 kept the drive going, and he later connected with Heap for six yards to get Baltimore down to the Steelers' 34 prior to Stover's game-winner.

"What a great finish, what a great game," said Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, who intercepted struggling Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox. "It feels like we won the AFC North. It's definitely going to change our morale."

In the second quarter, Boller lofted the football high enough for Hymes to make a leaping, left-handed grab behind cornerback Deshea Townsend.

"Kyle put it where the ball needs to be," Hymes said. "I stuck my hand out and barely saw the ball. I made a hell of a catch."

That acrobatic display ended the Ravens' streak of 190 consecutive minutes without a touchdown, and it followed a potentially disastrous mistake by Boller two plays earlier.

Boller stumbled when center Mike Flynn was pushed into the backfield by Steelers nose guard Casey Hampton. The quarterback exacerbated the error by pitching the football directly off running back Jamal Lewis' face mask for a fumble. However, the fumble was overturned as officials ruled that Boller's knee was down.

"I was amazed that nose guard jumped quick, I got my foot pinned down on the ground and I shouldn't have pitched it obviously," Boller said. "Live and learn."

Trailing 13-6 in the fourth quarter, the Steelers were out of timeouts and drove 85 yards to tie the game on Maddox's 11-yard swing pass to running back Willie Parker with 4:29 remaining. Maddox, who was sacked six times with injured starter Ben Roethlisberger on the sidelines, completed all four of his passes for 67 yards on the drive.

Although Suggs intercepted a pass that Ward accidentally kicked high into the air, the Ravens couldn't get past the Steelers' 42 in regulation. It didn't stop them from winning their first game in a month in dramatic fashion.

That doesn't erase what's already transpired in a season of indignities, but it's a step in the right direction.

"It's great that we won, but you've got to keep it all in perspective," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "We don't want to be on a high and then all of a sudden have a letdown. We need to go back to work, be professionals and try to ride this as long as we can."

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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