Hartman/ Birk left disappointed in return

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 18, 2009 - 11:58 PM

The longtime Vikings center was proud that his new team battled back, but ultimately left town in defeat.

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Former Vikings center Matt Birk (77) is now on the Baltimore Ravens.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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When you spend 11 years with your hometown team, change uniforms and go with another team and lose your return visit to your old stadium on a missed field goal in the last second, it has to hurt.

"It's always disappointing when you lose," said Matt Birk, blood dripping off his nose in the Ravens locker room after the Vikings held on to beat Baltimore 33-31 Sunday. "No matter how you lose it or where you lose it, it's always disappointing. I never really feel like there's a silver lining when you lose."

However, Birk, who left as a free agent after last season to join the Ravens, acknowledged that his team fought very hard. Baltimore came back to take a lead after falling behind 27-10 in the fourth quarter, then had a chance to win, but Steve Hauschka missed a 44-yard field goal attempt as time expired.

Hauschka has made five of seven field goal attempts this year. He joined the team last year to primarily handle kickoff duties, but this is his first year as the regular kicker. He replaced longtime Baltimore kicker Matt Stover, who wasn't retained after last season after being with the franchise from its Cleveland Browns days in 1991. Stover was the last player remaining from the team's move to Baltimore in 1996.

"He's good, he's good; Steve's real good," Birk said. "It just so happened today every guy can look at themselves and look at one more play, one more block he could have made that could have changed the game, but we didn't. But, I'm sure proud to be in this locker room with these guys. ... We stayed in it until the end."

Birk talked about how his return to the Metrodome was built up in both the Minnesota and Baltimore media.

"Certainly, there's a lot of guys over there and people in that organization that I care about. But, once the ball is kicked off, it's football. I mean, there were times this week where I felt a little funny, yeah. But, I really drew a lot of strength from the guys in here and my teammates here, and I just wish we could have won."

Birk said his team had great admiration for the Vikings defense, even though the Ravens became the first team to score a rushing touchdown against them this season. In fact, they rushed for three touchdowns Sunday.

"They're a great defense, especially against the run," Birk said. "We knew their style but we knew we weren't going to give up, we were just going to keep going at them. We thought one [big play] would break eventually, and it did. ... Ray [Rice], Derrick [Mason] and Mark [Clayton] and quarterback Joe Flacco, I mean, all of those guys played so well, they made some excellent plays."

The offensive line did a good job of giving Flacco time to throw, while Rice had 10 runs for 77 yards. Fifty-five of those yards came on touchdowns runs of 33 and 22 yards. He also had 10 catches for 117 yards.

The Vikings scored touchdowns on their first two drives of the game, while Baltimore's offense looked largely ineffective. Birk talked about how the Ravens made some adjustments that helped them play a lot better in the second half.

"They're all heartbreakers," Birk said. "... But, at the same time, too, this is professional football. I mean that's what you're excited for, you have a job to do, you do a good job, and when it comes to losing, the only good thing is you certainly scrutinize yourself and see where you're going to get better.

"When the final score says 'Vikings win,' that's all that matters."

Birk has a lot of class. He knew the media would be looking for him. He didn't hide, making himself available after a disappointing result.

Double-teamed Williams

Birk had help in blocking Pat Williams, the Viking nose tackle who was often double-teamed by Birk and another Ravens offensive lineman.

"Just a normal game, just a normal game we play every Sunday, and that's it," Williams said. "Everybody double-teams me so it don't bother me none. I just go with the flow."

Williams said he didn't talk to Birk.

"All my friends are in this locker room," he said. "I always do a good job. I ain't scared of no man or anything. The only person I'm scared of is God. I ain't scared of no man on Earth."

Williams said the Ravens offense did a good job.

"They were getting the ball out quick, so I give my hat off to them," he said. "I give my hat off to the whole staff over there. They played pretty good today, but you know when game was over, we got a win."

Hauschka was here

Hauschka was in Vikings training camp last year, making all four of his preseason attempts, including three against the Ravens, who then claimed him after he was let go in the final cutdown. Vikings incumbent kicker Ryan Longwell said he got to know Hauschka well.

"We worked out a lot together and kind of taught him a lot and got him ready for his chance in Baltimore," Longwell said. "So, you know, you just feel for the guy. We [NFL kickers] are all in a unique position that the game can come down to one kick."

Longwell spoke to Hauschka after the game.

"I just said, 'Well, how you bounce back from this will determine the rest of your career,' " Longwell said. "So, hopefully he bounces back and has a good game and kind of learns from this."

Longwell has had a long and successful NFL career, now in its 13th season. But in the second game of his NFL career, with Green Bay in 1997, he missed a 28-yard field goal with 15 seconds left, resulting in a 10-9 loss to the Eagles in Philadelphia.

"We've all been there, and you understand the situation and you understand what it takes to come through, and you know how he bounces back from this will determine the rest of his career. We've all been there, and the good ones bounce back. So, I just wish him the best that he can bounce back and have a solid year for them."

Longwell was 4-for-4 on field goal attempts Sunday as the Vikings had problems scoring touchdowns in the red zone. He gave snapper Cullen Loeffler and holder Chris Kluwe a lot of credit for his continued success. Longwell has made 11 of 12 field-goal attempts, the lone miss being the block returned for a touchdown by San Francisco.

"They've done a great job snapping and holding for me, and we feel like we're in a pretty good rhythm," Longwell said. "So, each kick you take individually and each one is on its own merit. So you just try to make the next one."

Salutes Peterson

Running back coach Eric Bieniemy sang the praises of Adrian Peterson, who wound up with 22 carries for 143 yards, including a fantastic 58-yard run.

"He did an outstanding job, but I gave him a hard time because a linebacker ran him down," Bieniemy said. "But, what a great victory, what a great win."

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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