The Ravens officially waived kicker Steve Hauschka after he missed his fourth field goal of the season in a 16-0 win over the Cleveland Browns Monday night.
Hauschka, who was in his second year out of North Carolina State, sailed a 36-yard attempt just past the left upright at Cleveland Browns Stadium in front of a national "Monday Night Football" audience.
It came at a time when the score was knotted at 0-0, cancelling out a promising 12-play drive for Baltimore's offense.
"We entered the season knowing that we would have to go through some growing pains with Steve," said Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome. "That happens with most new kickers in the NFL. But, for where we are as a team today, we need more consistent production from our kicker. Every one of our players has to step up to a Ravens' level of play and that was not happening for Steve right now."
After missing a 41-yard field goal in the Ravens' season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs, Hauschka went on to miss three consecutive high-pressure kicks.
The first was a 44-yard field goal that could have won a game against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 6. His botched 38-yarder on Nov. 8 could have kept a 17-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals closer.
Hauschka's performance in Cleveland proved to be the final straw. Even though he rebounded to nail a 44-yard field goal in the third quarter, Hauschka also had an extra point blocked on what seemed to be a low kick.
He attributed his early error on a lack of confidence, but corrected his mistake on the second try.
"I was definitely mentally strong [on the second kick]," Hauschka 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."
Baltimore worked out former New York Jets kicker Mike Nugent and former Dallas Cowboys kicker Billy Cundiff last week, but head coach John Harbaugh explained that Hauschka would retain his job. He connected on nine of 13 field goals this season.
"We've been evaluating the kicking position," said Harbaugh after the Browns game. "Steve and I had a great talk on Tuesday night, and he'll be the first to tell you that he needs to kick better than that. He kicks better than that in practice and he's kicked better in games up until this point. He just didn't do the job tonight and I think he knows that."
This all takes place just days before longtime Ravens kicker Matt Stover's return to Baltimore since joining the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 14 because Adan Vinatieri went down with of a knee injury.
After spending 19 years with the franchise, dating back to its days in Cleveland, Stover made no secret that he wanted to continue his career in Baltimore when his contract ran out after a 2008 campaign that saw him convert 27 of 33 field goals during the regular season and all four of his playoff attempts.
But in an attempt to save a roster spot that Hauschka occupied last year as a kickoff specialist, Stover was not brought in and an offseason battle between Hauschka and undrafted free agent Graham Gano ensued.
Meanwhile, Stover, 41, is currently 6-of-6 for Indianapolis with a long of 40 yards.
The Ravens could hold another tryout this week, unless they feel they saw enough from Nugent and Cundiff last Tuesday to warrant a signing. Baltimore must shore up its kicking unit with an upcoming three-game schedule that includes the undefeated Colts, defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers.
"While we do believe Steve will kick successfully in the league eventually, we need better right now," Newsome said. "The string of important games coming up that are likely to be close, tough battles and his lack of production are reasons we needed to make this move now. We will sign a new kicker by tomorrow's practice."