Flacco beats Brady after knocking off Manning

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Flacco beats Brady after knocking off Manning

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Joe Flacco beat two of the NFL's greatest quarterbacks to get the Baltimore Ravens to the Super Bowl.

Now he's the man with the rich resume going into the biggest game of his life.

Flacco helped end Tom Brady's season one week after he did the same to Peyton Manning, throwing three touchdown passes in the second half and leading the Ravens to a 28-13 win over the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game Sunday.

``We didn't come all the way here to play it safe and hope to win,'' Flacco said. ``We came here and we were in the AFC championship game and you have to go play to win.''

Do that one more time, against the San Francisco 49ers, and he'll add a Super Bowl championship to a stellar postseason record.

He'll just have to outplay first-year starter Colin Kaepernick. Finally, he's the quarterback to beat.

``He's a great quarterback,'' said wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who caught two touchdown passes. ``I don't know why people keep doubting him because the bigger the situation is, the bigger he plays, and he's proven that time and time again.''

The 49ers, though, opened as 5-point favorites for the NFL championship game.

Flacco completed 21 of 36 passes for 240 yards against the Patriots. One week earlier, he completed 18 of 34 passes for a postseason franchise record 331 yards in a 38-35 double-overtime win over Manning and the Denver Broncos. In each game he threw for three touchdowns - and no interceptions.

Brady was 29 for 54 for 320 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. And Manning went 28 for 43 for 290 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Oh, and Flacco beat the Indianapolis Colts and rookie quarterback Andrew Luck 24-9 in the wild-card round.

``We've always believed in Joe,'' coach John Harbaugh said, ``and for Joe to come out and to have this kind of a game and this kind of a stage three weeks in a row - Luck's a pretty good quarterback, Manning's a pretty good quarterback and Brady's a great quarterback.

``All those guys are great players, but Joe's a great quarterback. And Joe has proven that. He's not just proven it this year, he's proven it for five years.''

Flacco won his sixth postseason game on the road, the most in NFL history. He is the only quarterback with a postseason victory on each of his first five seasons during the Super Bowl era. He's 8-4 in playoff games.

His 62 victories, including the postseason, are more than any NFL quarterback since the start of the 2008 season.

More than Brady. More than Manning.

And now the 18th pick of the 2008 draft out who didn't play at a small-time school - he was a star at Delaware - he's going to the NFL championship game for the first time.

``From the first snap (when) he went against our defense, I knew he was a smart guy,'' safety Ed Reed said. ``He blitzed him and he threw it straight to the sideline out of bounds because he knew we were coming. He's always been a leader (with) more than potential to lead us to where we're going right now.''

It looked like he would lead the Ravens right out of the postseason in the first half when he completed just 6 of 12 passes for 81 yards with no touchdowns. But in the second half he went 15 for 24 for 159 yards with all three touchdowns.

``We hadn't gotten much going on offense,'' he said. ``They do a good job stopping the run and we knew we had to come out here in the second half and make some plays in the passing game.''

The Ravens didn't do that on their first series in the third quarter.

Then Flacco got rolling.

On his next three series he threw touchdown passes of 5 yards to Dennis Pitta and 3 yards and 11 yards to Boldin- all in a span of 10:01.

Just like that, a 13-7 deficit was replaced by a 28-13 lead.

With Flacco at the helm.

``These games are tough to win and we've put ourselves in the position to win these games and, eventually, you're going to push through and play the way you need to,'' he said.

No matter who the opposing quarterback is.

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Will lack of conditioning lead to Richardson's downfall with Ravens?

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Will lack of conditioning lead to Richardson's downfall with Ravens?

Will running back Trent Richardson’s lack of conditioning be his downfall with the Ravens?

Richardson missed the first week of OTA’s with a hamstring issue, which was not the kind of early impression he wanted to make. Some injuries are unavoidable. But conditioning has been an issue for Richardson throughout his brief and so far undistinguished NFL career.

Entering the NFL as the No. 3 overall pick with the Browns in 2012, Richardson has disappointed in Cleveland and Indianapolis, and spent 2015 out of the league after the Raiders cut him before the season. When the Ravens signed Richardson in April, he knew it might be his last NFL chance. However, Ravens coach John Harbaugh wants to see even more commitment from Richardson when it comes to staying in shape.

RELATED: IN LATEST COMEBACK BID, RAVENS TE DENNIS PITTA'S CONFIDENCE NOT A PROBLEM

“Trent just needs to get healthy,” Harbaugh said after the first week of OTA’s. “I think the workload and the amount of work it takes to be a world class conditioned athlete is something that he’s working on right now. That’s what he needs to understand and that’s where he needs to get himself. When he gets himself there, he’s got talent. It will be fun. I’m very certain he’ll get there and when he does we’ll be able to evaluate him.”

The Ravens don’t have to wait on Richardson. Their running back competition is already intense, with Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Lorenzo Taliaferro, and Terrance West all fighting for carries and roles.

Whether Richardson even threatens to make the team remains to be seen. His bigger priority is improving his conditioning, and getting back on the field.

MORE RAVENS: MIKE TOMLIN, ANTONIO BROWN GO TO PENGUINS PLAYOFF GAME

In latest comeback bid, Ravens TE Dennis Pitta's confidence not a problem

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In latest comeback bid, Ravens TE Dennis Pitta's confidence not a problem

Not everyone close to Dennis Pitta was immediately sold on his second NFL comeback attempt. Will his twice-fractured hip hold up? How much is Pitta risking his long-term health?

Pitta has pondered those questions for months. But after the first week of OTA’s, the Ravens’ 30-year-old tight end remained confident he had made the right decision.

“I had to convince a few people, and I’m thankful for those who have been in my corner all along and had my best interests in mind,” Pitta said. “Like I’ve said before, I know my situation better than anyone else, and I’m confident in the decision I made to come back, and certainly there were people who wanted to make sure that I was confident in that decision. I have a great support team behind me, and we all feel good about this move.”

Pitta first fractured his hip during training camp in 2013, then again on a non-contact play against the Browns in 2014. However, Pitta says he doesn’t think about his right hip when he’s on the field. He’s also not lowering his expectations, despite not playing at all in 2015, and not playing a full season since 2012.

Pitta was one of quarterback Joe Flacco’s favorite targets, catching 61 passes for 669 yards during the 2012 regular season, then adding 14 catches for 163 yards and three touchdowns during the Ravens’ playoff run to a Super Bowl title.

Asked if he could return that level of play, Pitta suggested, “Why not?”

“No, my expectations haven’t changed from four years ago, to two years ago, to now,” Pitta said. “My level of expectation is extremely high going into this year. Like I said, I feel confident in how I can run, how I can move, how I can play and it’s just a matter of getting those reps back to where I’m confident in doing all of that. So, yes, expectations personally are very high.”

Pitta obviously wasn’t ready to end his career. If he is on the 53-man roster Week 1, it will be a terrific comeback story.

Mike Tomlin, Antonio Brown go to Penguins playoff game

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Mike Tomlin, Antonio Brown go to Penguins playoff game

If you didn't the the Pittsburgh Steelers enough already, this ought to help. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and receiver Antonio Brown decided to take in some hockey on Thursday and unfortunately, they were cheering for the local team.

On the one hand, what do you expect? They play for the Pittsburgh Steelers so it's no surprise to see them cheering for the hometown team. On the other hand, the Steelers are the team Ravens fans all love to hate so to see them supporting the chief rivals of the Washington Capitals, that stings.

Just one more reason to hate the Steelers this football season.

RELATED: SEAN PAYTON SAYS RAVENS LOSING WEEK OF OTAS ISN'T THAT BIG OF A DEAL