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Column: Ravens win is one for the ages


Column: Ravens win is one for the ages

Just before the sixth quarter of one of the most fascinating and improbable NFL playoff games you'll ever see, Justin Tucker trotted out onto the field and did something you hardly ever see.

He practiced making a field goal. And for one of the few times on a frigid afternoon-turned-evening in Denver, something turned out exactly as planned.

The game that seemed like it was destined never to end finally did, much to the dismay of 76,732 shivering fans and a quarterback who had seemed destined to take the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl. It was Peyton Manning's interception that gave the Baltimore Ravens their golden opportunity in the 38-35 win, though Manning could hardly be blamed for the Broncos being in that position to begin with.

He was still playing deep into overtime for the same reason Ray Lewis will go on to play at least one more game before calling it a career. Lewis was on the sideline probably rehearsing his farewell speech when a shocking collapse by the Denver secondary allowed a game tying touchdown on a 70-yard pass to Jacoby Jones with just 31 seconds left.

Up until then, it was just about how John Elway imagined things going when the Broncos courted Manning during the offseason and let the orange-clad faithful in Denver know that Tebowtime was over.

A frigid weekend in January. A big-time quarterback under center. And a fourth quarter drive engineered by Manning that appeared to wrap up this playoff win with a giant bow.

Except the Broncos aren't one step closer to the Super Bowl. The Ravens are flying to either Houston or New England, and the way they felt after Saturday's game they might not even need a plane.

It was tough enough to win it. Trying to describe it all afterward might have been even tougher.

``Thanks for bearing witness to one of the greatest football games you're ever going to see,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. ``That football game did the game of football proud.''

Indeed it did, warts and all. Yes, the brilliant plays were all there - how many times have you seen a player start both halves with long kick returns for touchdowns as Denver's Trindon Holliday did? - but the miscues were almost as memorable and arguably more significant.

That begins with Manning, who was supposed to be the coolest one on a very cool field but had three turnovers that led directly to 17 points. It continues with Ravens punt and kickoff return teams that gave up scores that might have sunk any team that didn't believe like it was supposed to win no matter what happened.

``We never wavered, we never wavered,'' Lewis said. ``This will probably go down as one of the greatest wins in Ravens history.''

But the play that will be debated and dissected in Denver for far longer than Tebowmania ever lasted was the biggest gaffe of all. It came after standout cornerback Champ Bailey had already been beaten for two long touchdown passes, and everyone in the stadium was asking the person in the seat next to them what happened to the vaunted Broncos pass defense.

Eight men were playing off the line, knowing the game was theirs unless something freakishly horrible happened. Eight men who all knew a desperation pass was coming but somehow were unable to defend against it.

Eight men who could do nothing but watch as Jacoby strutted into the end zone with the tying score.

``You got to start taking shots at some point and it happened to work out,'' Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. ``It was pretty incredible.''

There were snow flurries on the field and the wind chill had dipped below zero when Manning and Lewis met again at midfield, this time for the coin flip for overtime. The two were always intertwined in this game and both had their moments, with Lewis getting a team-high 15 tackles and Manning throwing for three scores, the last of which seemingly secured the win for Denver.

Manning had come back from a lost season and a potentially career-ending neck injury to win 11 straight games for his new team. Lewis was calling it a career, and using his pending retirement as one more way to motivate his team to keep playing.

They played nearly 77 minutes before it was finally settled by a rookie kicker who after the end of the first overtime period went out on the field to practice a kick. Tucker made 30 of 33 during the regular season, and this one was perfect, touching off a celebration on the sidelines.

Manning went over and gave Lewis a hug before heading into a somber, stunned locker room. He showered and dressed in suit and tie before coming out to talk about how hard it was for everyone on the team to have their season come to such a shocking end.

``You want it to work and keep going and win, but that's not always the way it works,'' Manning said.

Lewis was just as philosophical in victory, talking about higher powers and things that happen when men come together. He said he was particularly inspired by a visit he made to a Baltimore hospital Thursday night, where he saw sick kids who will never be able to experience the joys he has in playing the game of football.

``I challenged my team this week to not listen to anything outside our building, to buy into everything we are as a team,'' Lewis said. ``When you get everybody to buy in, it's just so special to see it.''

Even more special might be to see the Ravens in the Super Bowl.

And after a win for the ages, a lot more people are beginning to believe that's just where they will end up.


Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org

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Fantasy Football Rankings, Week 14: Winning Time

Fantasy Football Rankings, Week 14: Winning Time

It's Week 14. For those in the fantasy football playofs or still alive for a spot, congrats -- and breathe easy. You've been doing something right, obviously, even if that's just getting lucky. Whatever the case, stick with your plan, your mode of thinking. The two notes here:

1) Don't let where players were drafted affect your decisions anymore

2) Matchups are huge, but don't bench a stud for a stiff just based on the opponent.

Beyond that, here's my first look at the Week 14 rankings. Good luck out there and keep track of the injury report!


1.  Andrew Luck, IND
2.  Drew Brees, NO
3.  Russell Wilson, SEA
4.  Aaron Rodgers, GB
5.  Matthew Stafford, DET
6.  Tom Brady, NE
7.  Jameis Winston, TB
8.  Kirk Cousins, WAS
9.  Cam Newton, CAR
10.  Matt Ryan, ATL
11.  Dak Prescott, DAL
12.  Philip Rivers, SD
13.  Colin Kaepernick, SF
14.  Ben Roethlisberger, PIT
15.  Andy Dalton, CIN
16.  Marcus Mariota, TEN
17.  Eli Manning, NYG
18.  Derek Carr, OAK
19.  Tyrod Taylor, BUF
20.  Carson Palmer, ARI
21.  Alex Smith, KC
22.  Joe Flacco, BAL
23.  Carson Wentz, PHI
24.  Robert Griffin, CLE
25.  Matt Barkley, CHI
26.  Brock Osweiler, HOU
27.  Ryan Tannehill, MIA
28.  Blake Bortles, JAC
29.  Trevor Siemian, DEN
30.  Bryce Petty, NYJ
31.  Sam Bradford, MIN
32.  Jared Goff, LA

Running backs

1.  David Johnson, ARI
2.  Le'Veon Bell, PIT
3.  Ezekiel Elliott, DAL
4.  LeSean McCoy, BUF
5.  Melvin Gordon, SD
6.  Spencer Ware, KC
7.  DeMarco Murray, TEN
8.  Matt Forte, NYJ
9.  Jeremy Hill, CIN
10.  Devonta Freeman, ATL
11.  Jordan Howard, CHI
12.  Jay Ajayi, MIA
13.  Latavius Murray, OAK
14.  Thomas Rawls, SEA
15.  Carlos Hyde, SF
16.  Todd Gurley, LA
17.  Frank Gore, IND
18.  Robert Kelley, WAS
19.  Devontae Booker, DEN
20.  Lamar Miller, HOU
21.  Doug Martin, TB
22.  Jonathan Stewart, CAR
23.  Mark Ingram, NO
24.  LeGarrette Blount, NE
25.  Isaiah Crowell, CLE
26.  Theo Riddick, DET
27.  Rashad Jennings, NYG
28.  Jerick McKinnon, MIN
29.  Tevin Coleman, ATL
30.  Terrance West, BAL
31.  Darren Sproles, PHI
32.  Dion Lewis, NE
33.  Kenneth Dixon, BAL
34.  Wendell Smallwood, PHI
35.  Tim Hightower, NO
36.  T.J. Yeldon, JAC
37.  Matt Asiata, MIN
38.  Bilal Powell, NYJ
39.  Rex Burkhead, CIN
40.  Duke Johnson, CLE
41.  Paul Perkins, NYG
42.  Mike Gillislee, BUF
43.  James White, NE
44.  Derrick Henry, TEN
45.  Ryan Mathews, PHI
46.  Chris Ivory, JAC
47.  Jalen Richard, OAK
48.  James Starks, GB
49.  Chris Thompson, WAS
50.  Jacquizz Rodgers, TB
51.  Charles Sims, TB
52.  Dwayne Washington, DET
53.  Corey Grant, JAC
54.  Christine Michael, GB
55.  Damien Williams, MIA
56.  Alfred Blue, HOU
57.  Robert Turbin, IND
58.  Charcandrick West, KC
59.  Kenjon Barner, PHI
60.  Shaun Draughn, SF

Wide receivers

1.  Mike Evans, TB
2.  Antonio Brown, PIT
3.  Odell Beckham Jr., NYG
4.  Julio Jones, ATL
5.  Jordy Nelson, GB
6.  T.Y. Hilton, IND
7.  Dez Bryant, DAL
8.  Doug Baldwin, SEA
9.  Larry Fitzgerald, ARI
10.  Amari Cooper, OAK
11.  Michael Crabtree, OAK
12.  Julian Edelman, NE
13.  Golden Tate, DET
14.  Tyrell Williams, SD
15.  Michael Thomas, NO
16.  Donte Moncrief, IND
17.  Brandin Cooks, NO
18.  Demaryius Thomas, DEN
19.  Terrelle Pryor, CLE
20.  Emmanuel Sanders, DEN
21.  Davante Adams, GB
22.  Jamison Crowder, WAS
23.  Brandon Marshall, NYJ
24.  DeAndre Hopkins, HOU
25.  Kenny Britt, LA
26.  Kelvin Benjamin, CAR
27.  Jarvis Landry, MIA
28.  Tyreek Hill, KC
29.  Stefon Diggs, MIN
30.  Malcolm Mitchell, NE
31.  Rishard Matthews, TEN
32.  Steve Smith, BAL
33.  Devante Parker, MIA
34.  Mike Wallace, BAL
35.  Allen Robinson, JAC
36.  Sammy Watkins, BUF
37.  DeSean Jackson, WAS
38.  Dontrelle Inman, SD
39.  Brandon LaFell, CIN
40.  Jordan Matthews, PHI
41.  Tyler Boyd, CIN
42.  Ted Ginn, CAR
43.  Willie Snead, NO
44.  Randall Cobb, GB
45.  Anquan Boldin, DET
46.  Sterling Shepard, NYG
47.  Cole Beasley, DAL
48.  Pierre Garcon, WAS
49.  Corey Coleman, CLE
50.  Taylor Gabriel, ATL
51.  Adam Thielen, MIN
52.  Jeremy Maclin, KCQ
53.  Cameron Meredith, CHI
54.  Marvin Jones, DET
55.  Quincy Enunwa, NYJ
56.  Tyler Lockett, SEA
57.  Michael Floyd, ARI
58.  Will Fuller, HOU
59.  Robby Anderson, NYJ
60.  Marqise Lee, JAC

Tight ends

1.  Jimmy Graham, SEA
2.  Tyler Eifert, CIN
3.  Travis Kelce, KC
4.  Delanie Walker, TEN
5.  Greg Olsen, CAR
6.  Cameron Brate, TB
7.  Ladarius Green, PIT
8.  Zach Ertz, PHI
9.  Eric Ebron, DET
10.  Kyle Rudolph, MIN
11.  C.J. Fiedorowicz, HOU
12.  Antonio Gates, SD
13.  Jason Witten, DAL
14.  Vernon Davis, WAS
15.  Martellus Bennett, NE
16.  Coby Fleener, NO
17.  Vance McDonald, SF
18.  Dennis Pitta, BAL
19.  Lance Kendricks, LA
20.  Dwayne Allen, IND
21.  Jack Doyle, IND
22.  Hunter Henry, SD
23.  Jared Cook, GB
24.  Jermaine Gresham, ARI
25.  Gary Barnidge, CLE


1.  Minnesota Vikings, MIN
2.  Cincinnati Bengals, CIN
3.  Denver Broncos, DEN
4.  New England Patriots, NE
5.  Arizona Cardinals, ARI
6.  Miami Dolphins, MIA
7.  Detroit Lions, DET
8.  Atlanta Falcons, ATL
9.  Carolina Panthers, CAR
10.  Tennessee Titans, TEN
11.  Kansas City Chiefs, KC
12.  Seattle Seahawks, SEA
13.  Pittsburgh Steelers, PIT
14.  San Francisco 49ers, SF
15.  Washington Redskins, WAS
16.  New York Jets, NYJ
17.  Houston Texans, HOU
18.  San Diego Chargers, SD
19.  Baltimore Ravens, BAL
20.  Philadelphia Eagles, PHI


1.  Matt Bryant, ATL
2.  Dan Bailey, DAL
3.  Cairo Santos, KC
4.  Justin Tucker, BAL
5.  Adam Vinatieri, IND
6.  Matt Prater, DET
7.  Stephen Hauschka, SEA
8.  Stephen Gostkowski, NE
9.  Dustin Hopkins, WAS
10.  Will Lutz, NO
11.  Brandon McManus, DEN
12.  Josh Lambo, SD
13.  Sebastian Janikowski, OAK
14.  Caleb Sturgis, PHI
15.  Mason Crosby, GB
16.  Roberto Aguayo, TB
17.  Graham Gano, CAR
18.  Mike Nugent, CIN
19.  Nick Folk, NYJ
20.  Chandler Catanzaro, ARI

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Ravens' Terrell Suggs simply refuses to mention Patriots' Tom Brady by name

Ravens' Terrell Suggs simply refuses to mention Patriots' Tom Brady by name

OWINGS MILLS – Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs will go to great lengths not to mention Patriots quarterback Tom Brady by name.

It has been that way for years. Suggs may grudgingly praise Brady if asked. Suggs may say, “You know who I mean,” or “The quarterback from New England.”

But Suggs uttering the name Tom Brady is not happening. Check out this exchange between Suggs and reporters following Wednesday’s practice.

Question: Is it fair to say you really don’t want to talk about Tom Brady?

Suggs: “I’m like Marshawn Lynch, y’all know why I’m here. It’s a big game this week. We get to play on Monday night. We’re playing a good team. They’re ahead of their division. We’re ahead of ours. So we have another big game. It’s going to be fun.”

Question: You don’t want to say his name, do you?

Suggs smiled. Then he replied, “I mean, it’s going to be fun. We’re going to have fun. It’s going to be an interesting game and we accept the challenge.”

Suggs accepted the challenge of not saying “Tom Brady” years ago. That’s just part of the edginess of the Ravens-Patriots rivalry, which both teams are looking forward to renewing Monday night.

MORE RAVENS: Harbaugh talks personal relationship with Belichick