Notebook: Stover off the mark

OWINGS MILLS -- Matt Stover is one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, but that strong track record hasn't held true this season. The Baltimore Ravens' veteran has already missed three field goals. He has been errant on every try beyond 40 yards.

Stover has failed to split the uprights on tries from 47, 48 and 45 yards, converting field goals from 21, 33, 20 and 38 yards.

At 40 years old, the question of whether Stover is wearing out in his 19th season has been raised in the wake of him missing a 45-yard try with 10 seconds left in the first half of the Ravens' 13-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

"I'm not concerned with Matt's age," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He's kicked very well in practice, and even the balls he's missed he's hit very well. So, it's not like he's losing leg strength. So, it's not so much age as it is knocking it through the uprights.

"Sometimes, Matt is thinking about the direction of the kick and things like that instead of just punching it right between the sticks. He just needs to go ahead and do what he always does well and knock it between the sticks. We've got confidence in Matt. Matt knows he can kick, and I don't doubt for one second that he's going to make a ton of field goals for us."

A former Pro Bowl selection, Stover ranks third in the league record book for accuracy with 439 field goals made out of 526 attempts.

The last remaining member of the original Cleveland Browns on the roster, Stover made 27 of 32 kicks last season for his fifth consecutive 100-point season. He's the leader among active kickers for most career field goals.

Does he still have it? Or is Stover past his prime?

Speculation about Stover's struggles from longer distances has been tied to his age. However, Stover's distance on kickoffs has been uncharacteristically good this year.

"I don't think it's fair," Harbaugh said. "I don't think that's the issue because he's got the leg strength still to do it, and he's hitting good balls.

"Those balls are tracking well. It's just a matter of directing them in between the uprights, and we know he can do that. He's been doing that for a long time."

Stover acknowledged recently that it's been an adjustment for him to change his approach to each kick since the snap-and-hold operation from long snapper Matt Katula and holder Sam Koch has been accelerated under new special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg.

So far, the change hasn't paid dividends as Stover's accuracy has regressed.

Harbaugh insisted that the change is going to ultimately be helpful to Stover.

"That's going to be a benefit," Harbaugh said. "The fact is that Jerry has changed the stance of the holder a little bit, which opens up the holder to make some catches and Sam is doing a great job with that technique. The ball is getting down faster, so that gives a kicker a better chance to look at the ball longer.

"Sometimes, the factor there is that he thinks that he's moving slower than he is because the ball is down quicker, so he feels like he's got to get to the ball quicker. Matt has worked that out now where he's getting to the ball at the same pace, but he's actually getting a better look at the ball and that should help him."

INJURY REPORT: The Ravens expressed optimism that injured offensive tackle Adam Terry and cornerback Fabian Washington may play Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts after undergoing magnetic resonance imaging exams Monday.

Terry sprained his right knee in the second quarter and was replaced by four-time Pro Bowl tackle Willie Anderson.

"He's got a sprain in his knee, basically," Harbaugh said. "We think he'll be able to play next week. We're waiting for an MRI to come back and see what we got, but there's a chance that he'll be able to play."

Washington sprained his right shoulder in the third quarter, sending reserve Frank Walker into the game. The Ravens were already missing starting cornerback Samari Rolle, who underwent neck surgery last week and is out at least a month.

Washington said he popped out his shoulder and that the injury is painful, but he hopes to play against Indianapolis.

Harbaugh said he is somewhat optimistic about Washington's outlook for playing against Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.

"He felt pretty good this morning," Harbaugh said. "That's not always an indication, though."

Wide receiver Derrick Mason hurt his left thumb on the Ravens' final drive Sunday. He leads the team with 21 receptions for 261 yards.

"Derrick Mason should be fine," Harbaugh said. "He's going through some bumps and bruises. He's going to spend a little time in treatment this week."

Tight end Daniel Wilcox injured his hand against Tennessee, but it's not believed to be serious.

QUICK HITS: The Ravens were penalized for having 12 men on the field during the Titans' game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, a confusion that ensued after Washington left the game. "Yeah, it's definitely a big part of that, the fact that you've got a substitution issue where we've got to put two new guys into a personnel package, and the personnel package comes up quick and doesn't get communicated," Harbaugh said. "At the same time, our guys will be the first to tell you it should never happen. Players shouldn't let it happen. Coaches shouldn't let it happen. The head coach shouldn't let it happen. We've all got to be vigilant to make sure that doesn't happen. We've got to make sure we've got 11 guys on the field." ... The Ravens' top-ranked defense (192.5 total yards per game) also leads the NFL in rushing defense (64.0), passing defense (128.5) and is tied for third in scoring defense (14.0 points per game). ... The Ravens lead the NFL in opposing completion percentage (44.2), quarterback rating (44.6), yards per attempt (4.9) and have allowed a league-low of three passes 25 yards or higher. Last year after four games, the Ravens had already given up a league-high 11 passes of 25 yards or higher. ... The Ravens are 2-5 against Indianapolis all-time and have lost the past five meetings, including a 2006 AFC divisional playoff game. Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.


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