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Kicked around

Del Greco struggles against Ravens again

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Posted: Sunday January 07, 2001 4:20 PM

  Al Del Greco Al Del Greco wasn't so automatic Sunday, missing one field goal, and having a pair blocked. AP

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Baltimore Ravens have become Al Del Greco's worst nightmare.

The Tennessee Titans' only regular-season loss at Adelphia Coliseum came when Del Greco missed an extra point and a field goal against Baltimore in November, and he struggled Sunday when it mattered most -- again against the Ravens in the playoffs.

The kicker nicknamed "Automatic Al" for his accurate leg had the worst day of his 17-year career as the Titans' hopes of returning to the Super Bowl ended Sunday in a 24-10 loss in the AFC semifinals.

"To have this type of a day as a professional, I never remember missing three in a day," Del Greco said. "I have never thought of that, much less had it happen. I wish I could change it all, but all I can do is my best. The way it is meant to come out is how it will happen."

Del Greco bounced one field goal off the left upright and had two field goals blocked, including one returned 90 yards for a touchdown that put Baltimore ahead for good.

"On the first, I didn't hit it good," Del Greco said. "On the second, [Keith Washington] was only about five yards out. He wasn't very far, and he got a hand on it."

The defending AFC champions dominated the defense that allowed the fewest points ever in a 16-game season, controlling the clock for more than 40 minutes and running All-Pro Eddie George against the NFL's best rushing defense as they amassed 317 yards of offense.

But the Titans became conservative near the end zone. A team that settled for field goals almost as much as it scored touchdowns during the regular season tried to put the game on Del Greco's leg again.

"We rely on Al too much offensively," quarterback Steve McNair said. "We didn't do what it takes to get the ball in the end zone. We have to score. When you get two blocked punts inside the 30-yard line, you have to score touchdowns, especially in the situation we were in. We just didn't do enough."

An attempted 50-yarder in the second quarter was short, but Del Greco got a second chance from five yards closer when the Ravens were offsides. The shorter distance didn't help -- Washington got a hand on Del Greco's 45-yard attempt on the next play.

Rookie Chris Coleman blocked a punt by Kyle Richardson that gave the Titans the ball at the Baltimore 25, but they stalled at the 13, and Del Greco missed the 31-yarder.

The blocked kick that did in Tennessee came early in the fourth quarter.

With fourth-and-1 at the Ravens 19, Del Greco came in for a 37-yard attempt. Washington again poked a hand through the line after losing his helmet and blocked the kick. Anthony Mitchell grabbed it out of midair and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown that put Baltimore ahead, 17-10.

"We couldn't get a bounce," Titans head coach Jeff Fisher said.

Del Greco spent much of the game on the sidelines away from his teammates, and it was eerily reminiscent of the 24-23 loss to the Ravens on Nov. 12.

He had bounced an extra point off the left upright in that game, then hooked a 43-yarder wide right at the end in a performance that had fans calling for the Titans to look for another kicker.

Fisher said he won't say anything different to Del Greco, who has another year left on his contract, than to any of his other players.

Del Greco's teammates didn't point fingers at the man who has kicked more field goals since 1993 than any kicker in the NFL and has won 16 games with his leg.

"Everyone failed, not just Al," right tackle Fred Miller said. "We can't put the blame on him."

 
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