- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 21, 2001

OWINGS MILLS, Md. Kicker Matt Stover is one of just two original Cleveland Browns left on the Baltimore Ravens' roster.
With a field goal in today's important AFC Central game at Cleveland Browns Stadium, Stover will set an NFL record for most consecutive games with a field goal, breaking Fred Cox's mark of 31, and do it in the city where he starred for five seasons.
Cox, who was one of the NFL's last straight-on kickers, established the record with the Minnesota Vikings from 1968 to 1970, when teams played 14-game schedules.
Stover's last game without a field goal was Oct. 21, 1999, when he missed a 37-yarder against the Kansas City Chiefs. Since then, Stover is 61-for-67 (91.1 percent).
While Cleveland fans still harbor animosity toward Ravens owner Art Modell for leaving the city following the 1995 season, Stover believes he will receive a warm reception from Browns fans if he breaks Cox's record.
"I think I still have a few fans left in Cleveland," said Stover, who was selected by the New York Giants in the 12th round of the 1990 NFL Draft but spent the entire season on the injured list.
This game also is a homecoming for Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac, a nine-year NFL veteran who has never played a game in his hometown.
"The one guy that I have a really good relationship with is [former Browns quarterback] Bernie Kosar, being a Cleveland guy himself," Grbac said. "I got to know him pretty well. There will be mixed reactions Sunday, but it will be good to see family and friends, and I know they'll be glad to see me play."
In just their third season, the surprising Browns (3-2) already have equaled last season's victory total. First-year coach Butch Davis has the Browns playing inspired football. Their defense is aggressive and flies to the ball.
That's where the Browns' biggest improvement from a year ago can be seen.
Cleveland has the NFL's eighth-ranked defense. Linebacker Jamir Miller is tied for second in the AFC with five sacks. Rookie cornerback Anthony Henry is tied for third in the AFC with three interceptions even though he plays mostly in nickel situations.
However, the young front four of end Keith McKenzie, rookie tackle Gerard Warren, tackle Mark Smith and end Tyrone Rogers has struggled trying to stop the run. Last Sunday, the Browns gave up 140 yards to Cincinnati's Corey Dillon in a 24-14 loss. Every featured back the Browns have faced this season has at least flirted with the 100-yard mark.
The Ravens (3-2) would like nothing better than to establish running back Terry Allen (346 yards on 96 carries), especially since Grbac suffered a concussion in last week's loss to the Green Bay Packers.
"Terry is running extremely hard, and their offensive line is very talented and they are knocking people off the ball," Davis said of the Ravens' 13th-ranked rushing attack. "They are having success, and that is a concern of ours because obviously we did not stop the run last week."
The Ravens' defense is looking for redemption after yielding 391 yards against Brett Favre and the Packers.
Cleveland quarterback Tim Couch is no Favre, but he is competent. For the season, Couch has completed 81 of 142 passes for 960 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions and a 80.1 passer rating.
Couch's favorite target is wide receiver Kevin Johnson, who is tied for fifth in the AFC with 25 receptions for 348 yards and three TDs. Couch has steadily improved in each of his three seasons and has the Browns winning.
"[Couch] looks to have a complete grasp of what they are trying to do, and I think he is going to be the player they thought he was," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.
The Browns are 0-4 all time against Modell's reigning Super Bowl champions.
"I like our chances this week," Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe said. "I like the chemistry we have on this football team. We've gone down this road before, we've lost games before, and no one thought at the beginning of the season we were going to be 16-0 anyway."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide