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Ex-Ravens WR Evans still feels part of team

Ex-Ravens WR Evans still feels part of team

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) While Lee Evans awaits another chance in the NFL, he'll be rooting for the Baltimore Ravens in Sunday's AFC championship rematch with New England.

The wide receiver who couldn't hold onto a pass in the end zone a year ago - which likely would have sent the Ravens into the Super Bowl - has no regrets. Except, maybe, that he's not part of the Ravens this time around.

Evans says in an email that he ``wishes he made the touchdown catch, but is thankful for the overall journey. You play the game to win and celebrate the joy with your teammates.''

With 27 seconds to go, Joe Flacco connected with Evans in the deep right corner of the end zone, but defensive back Sterling Moore knocked the ball to the ground.

Soon after, Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal that would have forced overtime.

Evans says he has not gotten depressed over the play - Moore did make a strong strip after Evans got two hands on the ball.

``Give him credit for the play he made,'' Evans said.

Unfortunately for Evans, he's remembered as much for that incompletion as he is for two 1,000-yard receiving seasons in seven years with the Bills, and 43 touchdown catches.

``My goal is to play in the NFL again,'' said Evans, who was cut in the preseason last summer by Jacksonville, a team not exactly overloaded with receivers. ``And if I am afforded that opportunity, I will be fully prepared and absolutely capable of competing at the highest level.''

Cundiff hooked up with Washington and then San Francisco this season, but was cut by the 49ers on Friday without kicking for them as they stuck with veteran David Akers, who had been struggling.

Evans said he will be in front of his TV on Sunday watching the title games. He likes what he's seen from Baltimore (12-6) and knows the Ravens' recent postseason history; they've won a playoff game in each of the last five seasons and will be in their third AFC championship match in those five years.

But he also knows how tough the Patriots (13-4) are at home, particularly in January.

``It is a chess match between a defense that goes hard after the quarterback and gets after you on every play,'' Evans said, ``and an offense that seeks to exploit their match-ups while always trying to capitalize on a defense's mistakes.''

Evans' only season with the Ravens was marred by injury and he made only four receptions. He did help mentor Torrey Smith, Baltimore's top draft pick in 2011 who came into the league with the same kind of speed and game-breaking ability that made Evans the 13th overall pick in the 2004 draft out of Wisconsin.

He's seen Smith develop into a dangerous weapon for Flacco, and veteran Anquan Boldin has been superb in the playoffs. Kick returner Jacoby Jones got free on the 70-yard TD pass in the final minute of regulation that tied Denver in last weekend's divisional-round win.

``I saw growth in him this year as both a man and a player,'' Evans said of Smith. ``He is a great guy who gets the most out of his abilities. His play really highlighted the improvements he made toward being a more fluid route runner and a sure-handed pass catcher.''

Evans is particularly impressed by Flacco, the only quarterback to win a playoff game in his first five pro seasons.

``Joe's record speaks for itself,'' Evans said. ``He does not get the credit he deserves for how important he is to making the Ravens' offense go.''

A part of Evans will share in the Ravens' excitement if they win Sunday ``after fully understanding what it feels like to be on the losing side.''

``Life brings you highs and lows,'' he said, ``and you have to keep that in perspective.''

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Flacco-Mornhinweg meeting helps Ravens unleash offense

Flacco-Mornhinweg meeting helps Ravens unleash offense

BALTIMORE – A few days after the Ravens’ quarterback and offensive coordinator had a meeting of the minds, the team responded with its best offensive performance of the season.

Joe Flacco felt the Ravens got too conservative against the Bengals in Week 12, and told Marty Mornhinweg. The Ravens’ offensive coordinator said he hated being called conservative, and responded with an aggressive game plan that had the Dolphins on their heels in a 38-6 blowout win by the Ravens.

When it was over, Flacco had completed a franchise-record 36 passes, including four touchdown passes.  Flacco (36 for 47, 381 yards, four touchdowns, one interception) was happy. All the Ravens were happy. And perhaps Flacco and Morninweg had finally unlocked the key to finding how their offense operates best.

“One thing Marty has never been accused of is being conservative – that’s not a label he takes too kindly to, as Joe can probably attest,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “They had a little back-and-forth in one of the quarterback meetings – that was fun to watch. I heard about it; I didn’t actually witness it. But that’s what I think. Iron sharpens iron. We challenge each other, and everybody is able to do it in a way that makes each other better.”

This has been a difficult season for the Ravens’ offense.  Even with the change from Marc Trestman to Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator following Week 5, the Ravens struggled to find offensive consistency.

But against the Dolphins, the Ravens were explosive. Asked about the meeting with Mornhinweg, Flacco downplayed it, but he loved the results.

“It was a good conversation,” Flacco said. “It was all fun. It was a pretty fun conversation. It came down to the fact that I don’t think we were able to finish Cincinnati off last week like I really would have wanted to.”

The Ravens definitely finished off the Dolphins. Maybe Flacco should call Mornhinweg conservative every week if the Ravens respond like this.

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Dennis Pitta relieved his production finally paid off with two touchdowns

Dennis Pitta relieved his production finally paid off with two touchdowns

Dennis Pitta insists Sunday’s game wasn’t some kind of breakout game for him, but the tight end scored his first two touchdowns of the 2016 season and further advanced the story of his impressive comeback from two major hip injuries.

Pitta had nine catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday in the Ravens’ 38-6 rout of the Dolphins, by far the Ravens most complete effort of the season.

Pitta had scored just one touchdown in the previous three seasons – all of which were either partially or completely lost to a twice-dislocated hip.

His return to the team this year was very much in doubt even into training camp, when the Ravens appeared deep at the position with Ben Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle and Darren Waller.

But injuries or suspensions have sidelined all five of those players for extended periods, and Pitta – who played in just seven games over the previous three seasons – has emerged as the Ravens No. 1 tight end once again, just as he was during the Super Bowl run in 2012.

RELATED: FIVE OBSERVATIONS FROM RAVENS' BIG WIN OVER DOLPHINS

He leads the team with 61 receptions, which equals a career high he set in 2012.

“Yes, I had a couple touchdowns today, but I feel like I have been producing all season,” Pitta said. “I don’t think after a game like this I say, ‘Oh, I’m back.’ I feel like I have been back since Week 1.”

Until Sunday, though, he had not reached the end zone since Dec. 8, 2013.

“You always want to get into the end zone,” he said. “You go into every game thinking, ‘I want to be able to score a touchdown and help our team win.’ … The last couple weeks we have made our kicker look way too good (by) not getting red zone opportunities. Finally we got down there and we took advantage … and a couple of them came my way.”

Quarterback Joe Flacco, who set a franchise record with 36 completions and torched the Dolphins for 381 yards and four touchdowns, called Pitta “a special football player. Obviously, he’s been through a lot and he’s put a lot of work in.”

Flacco, one of Pitta’s closest friends on the team, said with a grin that he really doesn’t know what Pitta has been through in recovering from two major hip injuries, but he added, “I don’t care what he’s been through. I just want him on the field.”

RELATED: FLACCO-MORNHINWEG MEETING HELPS RAVENS UNLEASH OFFENSE