If you are crying for Stover….

October 18, 2009 | Keith Melchior

…then go root for the Steelers or the Redskins, because you don’t deserve to be a Ravens’ fan anymore.

I was just reading some comments on Facebook and simply cannot believe the hatred blossoming toward Steve Hauschka. I kind of feel sorry for the kid. Granted he gets paid to make those kicks and he missed the biggest kick of his young career but to start hating on the guy? That is just so wrong and typical of the quintessential Ravens fans. First it’s the referees in the Patriot game, then it’s the referees, Cam Cameron and Greg Mattison in the Cincinnati game, and now it’s Hauschka that draws the wrath of the morons.

Not bringing back Matt Stover was a decision based solely on the salary cap. Stover wasn’t going to kick forever in Baltimore and as his salary demands went up every contract year, the front office needed to find a replacement. The last five years they had another kicker taking up a roster spot because Stover had difficulty hitting the ball deep on kickoffs, especially when the weather got colder in November and December. First it was Joe Nedney signed as a kickoff specialist. Rhys Lloyd followed, then came Hauschka. This year all the kicking duties are solely on Hauschka’s shoulders and because he misses a game winner, the chatter goes back 3 months to when people were screaming about Stover not being on the team.

I love Matt Stover. I had many opportunities to talk with him in person while I was refereeing football games for his son’s team at LTRC. Matt was the typical football dad, cheering and running up and down the sidelines taking pictures of his son kicking. Talk about a clone.  I was at Towson’s Meadowood Park one afternoon and between games, saw Matt holding while his son was practicing kicks. As they finished up, I walked over to him and said, “Excuse me sir, but what exactly do YOU know about kicking?”  He looked up and remembering me from a previous game, said, “I don’t know, this is my first time doing this” and we shared a laugh. He was a joy to watch in his 13 seasons with the Ravens and one day will be in the Ravens’ ring of honor.  Sadly he is not with the Ravens but it was time for the team to move forward with their kicking plans.

I think most people are upset because he signed with the Colts earlier this week to replace an injured Adam Vinatieri. And why shouldn’t he? He had an opportunity to play once more and he siezed it. He’s a proven winner but he hasn’t made a kick for the Colts yet. If he misses a few kicks, will people feel any sort of justification?

Baltimore football fans are fickle. I imagine the same things are being said about the New York Jets who are also riding a 3 game losing streak. Only difference between the Ravens and the Jets is the fact that the Jets offense is letting them down while the Ravens defense has been miserable the last three games.

To say Brett Favre dominated them is an understatement. By the time your wing order came out of the kitchen, the Ravens were down by 14 points early in the game. This game was a blowout in the making, but the Ravens offense that struggled in the first half came to life in the 4th quarter and took the lead. That offense was mainly Joe Flacco, Derrick Mason and Ray Rice. They were unstoppable in the 4th quarter as the Ravens forged ahead 31-30. The defense needed a stop and didn’t get it, as the Vikings marched about 80 yards for the go ahead FG. The big play? A pass interference call by Frank Walker, his 2nd in 2 weeks in the 4th quarter. Favre found the matchup he wanted with Walker on the coverage, much like Carson Palmer found the mismatch with Chris Carr covering the taller Caldwell last week and Tom Brady finding Randy Moss faking Domonique Foxworth out of his jock for that game winning TD.  But Flacco and company weren’t done yet and drove the team into Vikings territory with very little time left on the clock. With about 5 seconds remaining, we were all on the edge of our seats as Hauschka lined up for the game winner from 44 yards out. A time out call by Minnesota to ice the kicker worked and Hauschka’s attempt to make people forget about Matt Stover sailed wide left by about 6 feet.

There is no way Hauschka gets any blame for that loss today. He made a FG and 4 extra points. You tell me the Ravens were going to score 31 today I’d tell you they would win the game. But no, this time it was the once vaunted and unbreakable Ravens’ defense that let the team down, AGAIN.  For the third straight week, they missed tackles, they had little or no pass rush,  they allowed receivers to be wide open, they were standing around watching Favre throw the ball all over the place, they got called for pass interference, they missed coverages (I don’t know what Landry was looking at when Favre threw the 3rd TD pass) How many sacks? I counted ONE by Ray Lewis. Where was our pass rush specialist, Terrell Suggs? Oh, that’s right, there WAS no pass rush.

Special teams had much to do with the loss as well. Lardarius Webb did a decent job on kickoff and punt returns, then suddenly we see Chris Carr back there returning punts. THAT experiment should have ended 2 weeks ago. Webb shows bursts of speed that Carr can only dream about. Webb gets a decent return going and there comes the block in the back, the old nemesis of the Ravens return teams.

So, today’s loss can be blamed on a multitude of players and not directly to Steve Hauschka. How about Frank Walker, Domonique Foxworth, Dawan Landry, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Chris Carr? Any others?