Quick Links

Ravens hope to ride momentum from win in San Diego

201211251753644296740-p2.jpeg

Ravens hope to ride momentum from win in San Diego

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Ray Rice's incredible fourth-down journey through the San Diego defense helped the Baltimore Ravens move closer to a second straight division title.

It's also possible that Rice's catch-and-run gem - a 29-yard gain on a fourth-and-29 situation in Sunday's 16-13 overtime victory - could ultimately be the defining moment for a team in the hunt to secure the top seed in the AFC playoffs.

``We'll see what it means, if we can capitalize on it and stack some success on top of that,'' coach John Harbaugh said Monday.

Baltimore punted on all six first-half possessions and trailed 13-10 when Rice weaved his way up the field to secure a first down at the San Diego 34 with 1:37 left in the fourth quarter. The 5-foot-8 running back eluded several tackles, received a crushing block from wide receiver Anquan Boldin and finally lunged forward to cover the necessary yardage.

``It's going to go down in history. It was just a remarkable play ... the greatest play I've ever seen or been a part of,'' Harbaugh said. ``It was 11 guys who made the play happen. One guy had a real big role in it. It was a sensational play by Ray Rice.''

Had the Ravens lost, they would have dropped into a tie with New England and Denver for second-best record in the AFC. Instead, Baltimore (9-2) remained a game behind Houston for the best record in the conference and retained its grip on the No. 2 seed.

The Ravens have played seven games decided by seven points or fewer. They have won six of them.

``We know how to win football games,'' quarterback Joe Flacco said. ``We've done a great job of that over the years. It wasn't perfect, but not every game is going to be perfect. When you can grind one out in the end like that it shows that you're a tough football team with a lot of resilience that knows how to win.''

Said Rice: ``We firmly believed we were going to get the first down.''

If the Ravens (9-2) beat fading Pittsburgh (6-5) this Sunday and Cincinnati loses to San Diego, Baltimore will clinch the AFC North title.

``The thing our guys have done is, as a team, they've positioned themselves really well to take advantage of an opportunity,'' Harbaugh said. ``That's what you try to do. Every game makes the next game that much more important.''

The Ravens have won four straight, all without injured linebacker Ray Lewis, who's been sidelined since Oct. 14 with a torn right triceps. To most players, a torn triceps is a season-ending injury.

Knowing how resilient Lewis is, Baltimore placed him on the injured reserve/designated for return list. And now it appears as if Lewis might be back in the weeks ahead.

``I think he will. That's a best guess,'' Harbaugh said. ``He's working hard to do that. There have been no setbacks, so there's a possibility.''

Baltimore's defense has done just fine without Lewis. After holding the Steelers to 10 points one week earlier, the Ravens had six sacks and limited the Chargers to 280 yards over nearly five quarters.

``Defensively, we played pretty well throughout,'' Harbaugh said. ``But as the game went along, we got better on defense. We tackled better. We defended better. We are improving on defense, and we improved throughout the course of the game.''

Still, the Ravens wouldn't love to have Lewis back. The 37-year-old worked the sideline in San Diego, offering advice and encouragement while dressed in a sweatsuit. But he's far more valuable on the field.

``It would be great to get Ray Lewis back. All of our guys would welcome Ray back with open arms if and when that happens,'' Harbaugh said. ``Adding a great player into the mix is only going to make us better.''

The Ravens made a roster move Monday, placing safety Anthony Levine on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. David Reed, last year's starting kick returner, was activated from the physically unable to perform list.

Harbaugh said tight end Ed Dickson (knee) and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (ankle) will likely practice sparingly this week but could play against the Steelers.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

NFL Mock Draft 4.0: Combine Primer And Sleepers

NFL Mock Draft 4.0: Combine Primer And Sleepers

The annual NFL Combine kicks of Wednesday in Indianapolis. Whatever happens there -- receivers run fast, quarterbacks flash arm strength, defenders lack pop -- projections will change and in some cases significantly. Therefore here's my last look at the situation before all the sprints and lifts via mock draft 4.0 plus some other thoughts below.

* League sources offered up names of several prospects currently ranked all over the big boards with the chance to make a big splash during the combine. They include:

Alabama TE O.J. Howard -- Everybody already knows the 6-foot-6 Howard is a two-way monster. His Senior Bowl dominance certainly confirmed that. Rocking the Combine could alter his mid-to-late first round projection into 10-13 range where teams like New Orleans, Cleveland and Arizona have TE needs. Call me crazy, but if Howard is there when the Redskins pick at 17, I can imagine Washington thinkng long and hard about two-TE sets wth Jordan Reed. 

Oklahoma DT Charles Walker -- The Redskins have shown interest in Walker, according to a league source, though his draft range is all over the map. The interior force's redshirt junior season ended early due to a concussion followed by a decision to leave the Sooners early with draft preparation in mind. Was a second-team All-Big 12 selection as a junior thanks to six sacks. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Walker ninth among defensive tackles while WalterFootball.com projects the 304-pounder as a Day 2 pick.

<<CLICK HERE TO VIEW FULL NFL MOCK DRAFT 4.0>>

Pittsburgh OT Adam Bisnowaty -- Considered underrated despite starting four seasons for the Panthers. The left tackle helped key a resurgent season for the Panthers. Lack of wow prospects at the position means the order outside of Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin), Cam Robinson (Alabama) and Garrett Bolles (Utah) is in flux.

Ashland TE Adam Shaheen -- The D2 prospect is early candidate for the "Who is that guy?" award. Expect raves about Shaheen's size and athleticism. CBS Sports already has Day 2 projection on the 6-foot-6, 277-pounder who can run routes like a wide receiever. Could he move all the way into round 1?

Tulsa WR Keevan Lucas -- What the 5-foot-10 receiver lacks in height he makes up for with speed and production. Caught 81 passes for 1,180 yards and 15 touchdowns during his senior season with the Golden Hurricanes. Certain analytics show Lucas' production stood out  and put him in the same statistical company as future NFL receivers Stefon Diggs and Marqise Lee. Day 3 sleeper.

Other to watch: QB Pat Mahomes (Texas Tech), TE David Nkoju (Miami, Fl.), DT Ryan Glasgow (Michigan), CB Cordrea Tankersley (Clemson)

* Look at Scot McCloughan's draft history and one theme emerges: The man likes seniors, especially in round one. Brandon Scherff and Josh Doctson were both four-year players. The bulk of first round selections during his time at Seattle and San Francisco. That doesn't mean McCloughan will go that way with the 17th overall pick; Of the top 19 ranked prospects according to ESPN analyst Todd McShay, 14 are underclassmen. But keep a close on seniors with early round projections like Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, Temple inside linebacker Haason Reddick, Indiana guard Dan Feeney, LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White, Washington wide receiver John Ross and Iowa defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson.

<<CLICK HERE TO VIEW FULL NFL MOCK DRAFT 4.0>>

Quick Links

Report: Ravens mulling cutting Dennis Pitta to create more cap space

Report: Ravens mulling cutting Dennis Pitta to create more cap space

A decision on whether to cut or keep Dennis Pitta is one of many issues facing the Ravens this offseason.

According to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, the Ravens “may balk” at the $5.5 million salary Pitta is due next season. That makes sense, considering Pitta was just 28th in the NFL among tight ends in yards per catch (8.5) despite leading all tight ends with 86 catches. Pitta only had two touchdown catches, and there is concern he no longer has the speed to make explosive plays after two major hip surgeries.

Free agency begins March 9, but cutting Pitta with a June 1 designation would create the most cap space for the Ravens - $5.5 million.

However, if the Ravens release Pitta, they would turn the tight end position over to a question-filled group that includes:

Ben Watson – He is 36 years old, and missed all of the 2016 season with an Achilles injury. Cutting Watson and saving $3 million in cap space might make more sense than cutting Pitta. Especially if Pitta agrees to a pay reduction, as he did before last season.

Nick Boyle – He missed 10 games last season due to his second suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs. Another suspension could lead to the end of Boyle’s career.

Crockett Gillmore – He must prove he can still healthy after missing seven games in 2016, and 15 games over the past two seasons.

Darren Waller – He was suspended four games in 2016 for his first PED violation, and he has caught just 12 passes in his first two seasons.

Maxx Williams – He is coming off major knee surgery.

Pitta remains a favorite target of quarterback Joe Flacco, and even if Pitta struggles to make splash plays, he is still a chain-mover as a possession receiver. You can make a case for cutting or keeping Pitta. The Ravens will soon make their verdict.

MORE RAVENS: Stanley and his adopted dog from BARCS to be on Animal Planet