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A day later, Broncos still making sense of loss

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A day later, Broncos still making sense of loss

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The intended target for Peyton Manning's last pass of the season didn't sleep much after the game that brought Denver's run to the Super Bowl to an unexpected halt.

``I kept playing it back in my head,'' Brandon Stokley said Sunday, as he discussed the loss in a rapidly clearing locker room. ``It's like a bad dream that keeps playing over and over.''

But yes, that really happened.

The 38-35 loss to the Baltimore Ravens goes down as one of the most crushing defeats in Broncos history, as much for when it came - two games short of the Super Bowl - as the surreal way it came about.

Though Manning's interception in overtime and Rahim Moore's broken coverage stand out as lowlights from the loss, this was a game filled with mistakes, questionable decisions by both coach and quarterback and more missed opportunities than the Broncos compiled in 11 games before that, all wins.

It brought a sudden close to a season that, at times, seemed almost destined to end at the Super Bowl in New Orleans.

Instead, the Broncos became the ninth top-seeded team to lose in the divisional round over the past eight years.

As the players packed their belongings in plastic trash bags, signed a few jerseys for each other and said goodbye, both young and old had grasped two simple facts of life in the NFL: Teams change from year to year; and one good season does not guarantee another.

``You'll never have the same nucleus, the same group of guys that we have,'' second-year linebacker Von Miller said. ``I wasn't ready to let it go yet. Especially the way it ended.''

Moore, who blew the coverage that allowed Jacoby Jones to score the tying touchdown with 31 seconds left in regulation, scooted in and out of the locker room quickly and didn't do interviews.

Manning, whose three turnovers led to 17 points, including the game-winning field goal in the second overtime, didn't make himself available either.

On Saturday after the loss, he acknowledged the throw across his body, back to the middle of the field to Stokley, was a bad decision punctuated by bad execution.

``We really have put a lot of hard work into this season and made a lot of strides and accomplished a lot,'' Manning said in the postgame interview. ``So, it definitely stings, ending on a loss like we had tonight.''

Manning fell to 9-11 for his career in playoff games, matching Brett Favre for most postseason losses in NFL history. He had a near-career year, throwing for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns, both second best in his 14 healthy seasons.

Until the playoff game, he looked as steady and consistent as he has since he entered the league in 1998. His steadily improving health figures to get better, as well. But he's 36, and at that age, there are no guarantees.

The offense he returns to next year will have most of its pieces still in place. Left tackle Ryan Clady is a free agent, but will likely be Denver's franchise player if he doesn't agree to terms. Knowshon Moreno would likely be the front-runner at running back.

Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas will be back. Stokley is a 36-year-old free agent who had a 544-yard season and wants to play more.

On defense, the Broncos have Miller and Elvis Dumervil, who combined for 29 1/2 sacks over the season and combined for the only sack on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco on Saturday.

The defensive backfield was a mess Saturday, and though Moore was virtually in tears after the game, nobody felt this loss as deeply as 34-year-old Champ Bailey, the 14-year veteran who has still never been to the Super Bowl.

Torrey Smith beat him twice for touchdowns, the first by outrunning him through the post, the second by adjusting to a ball thrown behind him along the right sideline.

``It's tough because I know I'm better than what I showed on that tape yesterday,'' Bailey said. ``There are a couple plays I'd like to have back. But if you haven't been beat on the corner, you haven't played.''

Bailey is one of two Broncos who were around in 2005, when they had home-field advantage in the AFC title game and lost 34-17 to Pittsburgh. It took Denver six years to return to the playoffs.

This team, Bailey said, was better than that team.

``The best team that didn't do anything,'' he called the 2012 Broncos. ``It's frustrating. But that's the reality of it. We got to the playoffs, but you have to win in the playoffs for it to mean something. So, it's just another year where we came up short.''

NOTES: RB Willis McGahee said he got cleared Sunday and would have been available to play next week in the AFC title game. ... Moreno, who left the game in the third quarter Saturday, was walking without assistance and said his knee injury was not serious. ... CB Tracy Porter, who sat out 10 games and the playoffs because of illness or injury, is almost certain to be playing elsewhere next season. He signed a one-year, $4 million contract in the offseason. ... In Sunday's NFC playoff game, Atlanta moved the ball 41 yards in 12 seconds to set up the game-winning field goal with 8 seconds left. On Saturday, coach John Fox chose to run out the clock with 31 seconds left and the game tied at the end of regulation.

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Five observations from Day 2 of Ravens training camp

Five observations from Day 2 of Ravens training camp

OWINGS MILLS – Five observations from Day 2 of Ravens training camp:

RELATED: DAY 1 OBSERVATIONS

1. Wide receiver Michael Campanaro had an impressive day.

— Campanaro consistently got open making decisive moves and catching the ball cleanly, whether lined up wide or in the slot. Injuries have been the main stumbling block during Campanaro’s career. But there is no doubt he can make plays if he makes it to Week 1 healthy. Unless he suffers another injury, I think Campanaro is on the 53-man roster, especially since he can also return punts.

2. Joe Flacco showed no discomfort practicing on his surgically-repaired knee for a second straight day.

— Flacco throw the ball crisply, he moved well in the pocket, and he smiled when on the sideline. If Flacco was thinking at all about his knee, he disguised it well.

3.  Rookie cornerback Tavon Young is a player to watch.

— Young made several nice plays on the ball, including an interception in which he showed good technique and ball awareness. A fourth round pick from Temple, Young is making a bid to earn playing time as a nickel corner. Jerraud Powers missed his second straight practice (failed conditioning test), and Young took advantage of the extra reps. It will be interesting to learn more about Young’s tackling ability when the Ravens begin practicing in pads.

4. Rookie fourth-round pick Chris Moore looks like a potential playmaker.

— Ravens corners are having trouble keeping up with Moore when he goes deep, including Jimmy Smith, who saw Moore race by on his way to a deep reception. With left tackle Ronnie Stanley, linebacker Kamalei Correa, Young, and Moore, the Ravens have the potential for an instant-impact draft class.

5. There is no getting around Stanley’s importance as a rookie.

— Stanley needs to continue looking good when the Ravens go to pads Saturday, and whenever linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil return from PUP. A potential Ravens deal with veteran left tackle Jake Long fell through Friday. The Ravens will be counting on Stanley, not only to start but to play well.

 

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Long won't join Ravens, potential deal with LT falls through

Long won't join Ravens, potential deal with LT falls through

OWINGS MILLS – Veteran left tackle Jake Long won’t be joining the Ravens after all. A potential deal between Long and the Ravens fell through Friday, leaving Long a free agent according to Adam Schefter of ESPN, and confirmed by CSN.

The issue was Long’s right knee. He tore his ACL in both 2013 and 2014, leaving concern about how his knee would hold up if he returned to action. Long went to see Dr. James Andrews after taking a physical with the Ravens on Wednesday. According to a source, while Long was healthy enough to play, the Ravens were not comfortable being financially liable if Long’s knee failed to hold up.

The Ravens targeted Long as a potential backup for rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley. While Stanley has looked solid during practice, the Ravens have been searching for veteran insurance in case Stanley suffered an injury. Long is a former No. 1 overall pick (2008) and has more experience than James Hurst, who is currently the Ravens’ backup left tackle.

Now the Ravens have a roster spot available, which they may use to sign another offensive lineman, or to address depth at another position.

MORE RAVENS: FIVE OBSERVATIONS FROM DAY 1 OF RAVENS TRAINING CAMP

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Mike Wallace finally passes conditioning test; allowed to join Ravens at practice

Mike Wallace finally passes conditioning test; allowed to join Ravens at practice

OWINGS MILLS – Ravens wide receiver Mike Wallace was back on the practice field Friday, after passing his conditioning test on the second try.

Wallace missed Thursday’s practice after he failed the test on his first attempt. Joining him on the field Friday was wide receiver Dobson Collins, who also passed the test on his second attempt.

The Ravens hope Wallace will return to the form he had early in his career, when he was a consistent deep threat for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Wallace was a disappointment during stints with the Dolphins and Vikings, but Joe Flacco’s ability to throw the deep ball could help Wallace rejuvenate his career.

RELATED: RAVENS TIGHT END LEAVES CAMP WITH INJURY

In other practice news, cornerback Jerraud Powers missed practice for the second straight day and remained the only player yet to pass the conditioning test. Running back Kenneth Dixon, who sprained his left knee Thursday, also did not practice.  

Ravens coach John Harbaugh was hoping the team would stay disciplined during the first day of practice in pads on Saturday.

“The biggest message when you put the pads on is, ‘You’ve been in pads before,’’’ Harbaugh said. ‘“Don’t overreact. It’s going to be fine.’…I want to get right into executing and keep building on what we’ve done the last two days.

“We’re not going to be out here tackling too much – especially the veteran guys. Let’s just go play football.”