OWINGS MILLS – The ice may be growing thinner underneath of Baltimore Ravens kicker Steve Hauschka’s feet.
Following another critical missed field goal in the fourth quarter of a 17-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens’ patience with Hauschka might be wearing out.
Instead of reaffirming that Hauschka is definitely going to be the Ravens’ kicker going forward, Ravens coach John Harbaugh declined to give him much of a vote of confidence when asked if the team was planning to make a change.
“We’re not ready to make any kind of announcement on that,” Harbaugh said Monday. “We think Steve is going to be a really good kicker in the NFL. I’m disappointed with that kick. I know Steve is, too.
“He can kick that ball a lot better. It was not a good swing, but we’re not ready to say we don’t think he’s going to be a good kicker in the NFL yet.”
Was that a slip of the tongue that Harbaugh didn’t specifically indicate he meant with the Ravens?
The Ravens recently worked out kickers Mike Nugent and Connor Barth, and they have a strong level of interest in Nugent.
Nugent was considered as a potential addition this offseason before he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Ravens are mulling their options after Hauschka’s latest setback.
Tabbed as the replacement for Matt Stover after winning a competition with Graham Gano, Hauschka has yet to connect on a pressure kick.
He hooked a 38-yarder Sunday that would have brought the Ravens to within one touchdown. It sailed wide left, just like his 44-yarder that could have won the game in a 33-31 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
“I didn’t get the greatest rotation on it and it went left on me,” Hauschka said. “I’m definitely disappointed with that. It’s a kick I have to make to put our team in a position to win.
“It was going into a little bit of wind and that exaggerates the turn on the ball. Going into a wind like that, you have to hit it dead straight or else it will push it one way or the other.”
Following that big miss last month at the Metrodome, Harbaugh expressed confidence in Hauschka’s ability to lock down the job for the present and the future.
“We’ve seen enough of him to believe that he’s going to be our kicker,” he said. “He’s talented, he’s a great kid, he works hard. Let’s see what happens.”
Harbaugh said that both kicks are a result of mechanical problems.
“If you look at those two swings, those are both poor swings, swings that he came out of his swing, came off the ball,” Harbaugh said. “We talked about it a couple of weeks ago at Minnesota , pulling the ball. When you see his good kicks, you can tell what they look like as far as his swings and those two swings were not good swings.
“We’ve got to find out what the reason for that is because you can do it 1,000 times over and over again and then you get in that pressure moment and you can’t repeat it. That’s kind of a critical issue.”
“I’m learning that it’s not so easy at times and you have to keep your head up and be confident,” Hauschka said. “I’m confident in the way I’ve been kicking, so I just hope this is preparing me for another day when they’re going to need me even more.”
THIRD DOWN PROBLEMS: The Ravens entered Sunday as the third-most efficient offense, converting 48 percent of their third downs.
They left Cincinnati with the third-down blues, managing to convert just 1 of 10 third-down opportunities while the Bengals converted 8 of 18 third downs for a 44-percent clip.
“Part of it is Carson Palmer on the defensive side, I thought he did a heck of a job making some throws,” Harbaugh said. “There were a couple of throws and catches in there that were pretty special under pressure. Some of the other ones we need to figure out whether it’s pressure, whether it’s coverage
“Offensively, we were disappointing. I don’t think we had a third-down conversion until almost the fourth quarter. We know what the issues are. Now, we need to figure out how to get them fixed.”
OFF GAME: Quarterback Joe Flacco had his worst game of the year, completing 18 of 32 passes for 195 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions for a season-low 48.3 passer rating.
By halftime, he had completed only 4 of 9 throws for 27 yards and a 12.0 rating.
“It wasn’t good enough to win,” Harbaugh said. “That’s probably the same one that Joe would give you. He’s going to have to play better, would have had to play better for us to win that game.”
TACKLING ISSUES: Ed Reed uncharacteristically missed three to four tackles, and his nerve impingement that affects his neck and shoulder seems to be rendering the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year into a one-armed free safety.
Reed did strip the football away from Chad Ochocinco, but he also missed several arm tackles.
“I haven’t talked to Ed about those three tackles yet, those three opportunities,” Harbaugh said. “I think he’s tackled very well this year up until this game. From my understanding, the neck is as good as it’s been in two years, but I think it’s a factor. It’s not a dangerous type of thing where he’s at risk or he wouldn’t be playing.
“He’s worked extremely hard in the weight room. He’s as muscled up as he’s been in the last two years since we’ve been here. I’m sure he’s disappointed with those three tackles. Those are tackles that you normally see him make.”
After the game, Reed attributed the missed tackles to trying to strip the ball instead of wrapping up.
Is there anything fundamentally that Reed can do differently while protecting his injury?
“There are a lot of coaching points we put in there,” Harbaugh said. “There are certain techniques and fundamentals that go into it that you expect to see applied. Ed knows what those are. We talk about them all the time. We expect to be a good-tackling defense.”
APOLOGY: Harbaugh issued an apology over the weekend to Dallas Cowboy owner Jerry Jones after being quoted in a book that “the Cowboys stand for everything that’s wrong with the NFL,” criticizing the Cowboys for running a “star system” and praising Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid that what his “program stands for is the opposite of what the Cowboys stand for.”
Harbaugh was quoted in a book by Reuben Frank and Mark Eckel called Game Changers: The 50 Greatest Plays in Philadelphia Eagles Football History.
“That was something that I’m disappointed with myself,” Harbaugh said. “ What I tried to do with that quote was say something real positive about a guy that I have tremendous respect for, Andy Reid, and try to explain in some way what he’s done there to make the Eagles so successful over the years.
“It really reflects some of the things we’re trying to do here, to build that same kind of a run of success. It was last March, and I think I went overboard. I had a chance to have a conversation with Jerry Jones over the weekend and express those thoughts to him that in no way, the way that quote read, is how I feel about the Cowboys organization.”
Harbaugh said he wasn’t misquoted, though.
“When I read it, I’ll be honest with you, I was shocked,” he said. “It stunned me, and I was disappointed that that would be attributed to me. I’m not saying I didn’t say it or anything else. I’m just saying I was disappointed that it came out that way, and that’s my fault.
“So, it just doesn’t reflect how I feel. I’ve got tremendous respect for them, and after having had a chance to talk to Jerry Jones for the first time, it’s even a hundred times more than that, than it was before.”
MAKING PROGRESS: Rookie cornerback Lardarius Webb took advantage of increased playing time, registering a career-high six tackles with one pass deflection.
Is the third-round draft pick a candidate to become a starter during his first season in the NFL?
Harbaugh didn’t rule out the possibility.
“There’s always a consideration for anybody that’s playing well to be one of the best 11,” Harbaugh said. “He’s playing well and you ask about his role every week because every week you see him play well. We’ll see how it works this week.”
QUICK HITS: As is his usual custom, Harbaugh didn’t provide any injury updates regarding cornerback Fabian Washington (thigh contusion) and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (sprained right ankle). … Cornerback Frank Walker was a healthy scratch for the second week in a row. “For a guy like Frank or anybody else, they’ve got to be in the plans enough and that means are you going to play on defense enough and are you going to play on special teams enough?” Harbaugh said. “Right now, the last two weeks, he hasn’t been in that mix enough. Now, it’s nothing Frank hasn’t done in terms of working hard in practice and being ready to play and learning the game plan. He’s done all that. He’s got a great attitude and we’ll see how it works out this week.” … While commenting on Webb’s progress, Harbaugh referenced Washington’s key penalty on fourth down when he was flagged for defensive pass interference while guarding Ochocinco. “He’s got plenty of ability to be able to run with Chad and be right there with him and make a play or have the ball be overthrown without having to grab a wrist or whatever ended up happening there,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve got corners who can play. I think if we play with confidence back there and play with great technique, we’ll play well.” … Although offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said last week that running back Willis McGahee would play a couple of series against the Bengals, he wound up with no carries or receptions. With Ray Rice playing so well, the Ravens aren’t inclined to make a change. “It’s hard to refute with what Ray’s done,” Harbaugh said. “You look at that game on offense, Ray was the guy making the plays. So, it’s pretty hard to take him off the field when he’s making the plays. I don’t think it has anything to do with Willis as much as it has to do with the way Ray’s playing.”