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Injuries taking toll in Raiders backfield

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Injuries taking toll in Raiders backfield

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The Oakland Raiders will be without their top two running backs for Sunday's game in Baltimore after Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson missed a third consecutive day of practice.

Both players suffered high ankle sprains in last week's loss to Tampa Bay and have been wearing walking boots since then.

Coach Dennis Allen had been hopeful of getting at least one of the two back in time to play the Ravens. Now the Raiders will have to lean on a seldom-used third-string running back and a converted fullback to get the running game going.

``(Neither) of them made enough progress this week that they were able to be up,'' Allen said Friday. ``We'll probably be going through the same thing next week and we'll see where we're at.''

This marks the 14th game in five seasons McFadden has missed because of injuries. The fourth overall pick in 2008, he has yet to play a full 16-game schedule since entering the NFL.

McFadden was injured early in the first quarter against the Buccaneers when his left ankle bent awkwardly following a short gain. He remained in the game and continued to play before leaving for good with about nine minutes left in the first half.

Taiwan Jones, a fourth-round pick in 2011 who has played primarily on special teams this season, and fullback Marcel Reece have been splitting reps in practice with Oakland's first team offense while McFadden and Goodson are sidelined. The team has also discussed the possibility of activating former Stanford running back Jeremy Stewart from the practice squad.

``Of course I'm very excited,'' Jones said. ``You've gotta be patient in this league. I've been waiting for my opportunity and it's here, so I'm going to try to make the most of it.''

Jones, who sat out the final six games of 2011 with a hamstring injury, has only one carry for two yards this year. He began the season as the Raiders kickoff returner but fumbled in his first play of the opener against San Diego.

Since then, Jones has seen very little playing time in the backfield but has emerged as Oakland's leading tackler on special teams.

Now that he's back on offense, the speedy Jones will pair with Reece in an attempt to spark a running game that ranks 31st in the NFL.

``I'm very aware that I'm not Darren McFadden,'' Jones said. ``The coaches, they do a good job of putting me in positions and giving me plays for what I can bring to the table. I'm not trying to be Darren McFadden or anyone else.''

Defensive tackle Richard Seymour (knee, hamstring) will also miss the game. Desmond Bryant, who was pulled from last week's loss to Tampa Bay because of an irregular heartbeat, will start in Seymour's place.

Cornerback Shawntae Spencer (foot) has also been declared out while right tackle Khalif Barnes is questionable with a groin injury.

Notes: Stewart, an undrafted free agent who scored nine touchdowns during his senior season at Stanford in 2011, will accompany the team on the trip to Baltimore but a decision on his status probably won't be made until game time. ... Allen said he expects to activate cornerback Ron Bartell from the temporary injured reserve list before Sunday's game. Bartell, who has been out with a shoulder injury he suffered in Week 1, will start if he's added to the 53-man roster. ... While the rest of his teammates were preparing for the short bus trip to the Oakland airport, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey went out to the practice field to catch passes from a Juggs machine. After leading the team in receptions a year ago, the former first-round pick has just 19 catches this season.

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Ravens hope to force Brady into kind of mistakes he rarely makes

Ravens hope to force Brady into kind of mistakes he rarely makes

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has thrown just one interception this season.

That’s one of the many challenges facing the Ravens (7-5) as they prepare for Monday night’s game at New England (10-2). The Ravens’ defense is tied for fifth in the NFL with 22 takeaways – 14 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries. But Brady is a quarterback that rarely turns it over, with 19 touchdown passes and just one interception in 302 passing attempts.

Can the Ravens force Brady into uncharacteristic mistakes? It won’t be easy. Watching Brady on film, coach John Harbaugh sees a quarterback who looks as good as he ever has.

“If he’s lost anything physically, he definitely makes up for it with his mind and his experience,” Harbaugh said. “He’s moving very well. He’s moving around the pocket very well and creating throws for himself in the pocket. I don’t really see any diminished skill set whatsoever.”

Even if the Ravens can’t force Brady into interceptions, their pass rush could make his job a lot more difficult. The more pressure the Ravens can get on Brady, the less time he will have to pick them apart.

When the Seahawks won at New England last month, they sacked Brady twice, intercepted him, and held him without a touchdown pass. That’s the blueprint the Ravens hope to follow. However, the two starting quarterbacks with the best TD-interception ration are Brady (19-1) and Dak Prescott (19-2) of the Cowboys. Prescott threw three TD passes and no interceptions against the Ravens last month and beat them. The Ravens hope for better success against Brady.

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Ravens safety Eric Weddle was nearly a Patriot this season

Ravens safety Eric Weddle was nearly a Patriot this season

When Eric Weddle was released by the San Diego Chargers after last season he had plenty of offers to sign with other NFL teams.

One of those teams was the New England Patriots, the team Weddle will play against on Monday Night Football this week. 

When the two-time All-Pro safety hit the open market, he said he was looking to play for a winning organization. He ended up choosing the Ravens over the Patriots because there was a more clear-cut opportunity for playing time. 

“I’m good buddies with Patrick Chung,” he said. “I grew up playing with him and Devin McCourty is one of the best to play, so I don’t know if it would have worked out personnel-wise. But obviously, I could have seen myself fitting in there seamlessly.”

Although the Ravens don't have quite as many wins as the Patriots this season, Weddle clearly made a good choice. The Ravens are tied for first place in the AFC North with the Steelers and Weddle is currently the highest graded safety in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. 

The Ravens defense is playing dominant football as a whole as well. Through week 13 Baltimore ranks first in the NFL in total defense surrenduring just 296.1 yards per game. 

RELATED: Weddle consumes a gallon of ice cream after Ravens wins