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Notes: Ravens Comfy in Kicking Game


Ravens kicker Steve Hauschka successfully booted a 54-yard field goal last week against the Houston Texans, marking the second-longest kick in franchise history.

Could the precocious rookie from Division III Middlebury College hit from even further?

The Ravens are working to find out.

"We'll have to find out when the time comes," said Baltimore special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg. "You never really know until the time comes what that range is going to be. We'll keep giving him opportunities until he doesn't make it."

Hauschka's kick was an unlikely story for a football, soccer and lacrosse player that started at Vermont's Middlebury, walked on as a graduate student at NC State, and then was cut by the Minnesota Vikings before the 2008 regular season even started.

During his brief stop in Minnesota, Hauschka actually converted three attempts against the Ravens in a preseason matchup, including a 48-yarder, which prompted general manager Ozzie Newsome to snap up the 23-year-old one day after his release.

After spending the first half of the year on Baltimore's practice squad (excluding one active contest in the season opener), Hauschka was activated two weeks ago, in time for him to handle the kickoff duties in Houston.

His field goal attempt was simply a bonus.

"I was as surprised as anyone," Hauschka said. "Sure enough, my first game since the season started, I was to go out there for a 54-yarder. It was a little nerve-wracking, but that's what you train for. That's why you practice your routine and just go through the motions and swing through it."

When he took the field at Reliant Stadium in the second quarter, the Ravens were holding on to a tenuous 9-3 lead, in need to separate themselves from the scrappy Texans. Hauschka powered through the kick, sending a line drive just over the cross bar to give Baltimore a better cushion.

Now, the Ravens are happy they have found another weapon in the kicking game, along with the supremely accurate Matt Stover.

"We have a guy that can obviously kick the longer field goal, which was an advantage for us in the game," said head coach John Harbaugh. "He snuck that one through the right corner down there. The kickoff is an advantage for us, too, because he's just naturally going to be a little bit higher and a little bit deeper."

Kickoffs are why Hauschka was originally signed.

The Needham, Mass., native placed each of his seven kickoffs within the Texans' 5-yard line, not to mention four in the end zone.

With Hauschka booting the ball as far as he did, along with ample hang time, the rookie helped the Ravens limit Houston to start drives at a their own 19-yard line as an average.

"The hang time, I think, had a lot to do with our success in kickoff coverage last week," said Rosburg. "Like we like to say, it changed the math of the coverage because you had more time to get off the blocks. You had more time to see the whole scheme, and it's not on top of you quite as quickly.

"You not only had distance, but you did have the hang time. I think it really helped our guys."

Hauschka is certainly not forcing Stover out of a job, however. The 19-year veteran is the third-most accurate kicker in NFL history, with an 83.6 percent success rate (447 of 535 attempts).

Stover has connected on 12 of his 16 tries this year with a long of 47 yards.

And, he is a perfect 23-of-23 on extra points, which has since tied him with longtime Denver Broncos, and current Atlanta Falcons kicker Jason Elam and the retired Jeff Wilkins to have converted a league-record 371 consecutive PATs.

The Ravens will do their best to have both legs active on game day, despite of the extra roster spot two specialists take up.

"It's not easy to do that, numbers-wise, all the time," Harbaugh admitted. "But we're going to try to have both those guys active if we can."

Whether Hauschka or Stover is the man to try a three-pointer this Sunday against the New York Giants, and likely through the rest of the season, has a lot to do with the elder kicker.

As is his typical pre-game routine, Stover will mark a specific yardage line as a limit for his accuracy. Behind it, and the Ravens will have to make a decision.

"If it's in Matt's pre-game range, he's going to kick it," said Harbaugh. "If it becomes out of Matt's range, then we'll have to make the determination that you always make on a long field goal: is the risk worth the reward? Are the three points worth the potential field position that we're going to lose if we miss it? And, really, what are the chances of making it?

"It may be within a kicker's range, but the long field goals, the chances of making it drop dramatically because the geometry changes, plus you've got wind affecting it a little more. So [it will] just have to be a gut decision."

For Hauschka, his first professional action may have been a blur, but it was still fun. Injuries will probably play a role in how many games for which he is actually active, as far as where the Ravens need depth, but he is going to make the most out of every opportunity he gets.

"The only thing I can control is my next kick," Hauschka said. "I've always thought that way, and that's how our coaches coach us. You can't look too far ahead, but at the same time, you have to have a short memory."

Sage advice following a memorable debut.

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