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Jacoby Jones saves best for Ravens' Super win

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Jacoby Jones saves best for Ravens' Super win

NEW ORLEANS (AP) What a sensational way to close out the season for Jacoby Jones.

The Baltimore Ravens' All-Pro return man was at his best in the Super Bowl on Sunday, first hauling in a 56-yard touchdown pass and then amazing the Superdome crowd with a record 108-yard kickoff return for a score - matching the longest play in NFL history in any game, regular or postseason.

The scores put the Ravens way ahead before the 49ers rallied, but Baltimore held them off for a 34-31 win.

And Jones did it in his hometown, where his mother cooked meals for the team during their stay in New Orleans.

``It's a great feeling man. It's what you work for through the offseason,'' said Jones. ``Through the camp, many camps, through grind and sweat, the cold tub and the hot tubs - all of that has paid off right here.''

The 6-foot-2, 212-pound speedster, who went to Lane College in Tennessee, set four Super Bowl records and equaled two others. He now has the marks for most combined yards (290), longest play, longest kickoff return and longest kickoff return for a touchdown.

He had five kickoff returns for 206 yards, two punt returns for 28 yards and caught one pass for 56 yards.

In the AFC title game two weeks earlier against Denver, Jones was on the receiving end of Joe Flacco's 70-yard touchdown pass in the closing seconds that forced overtime and led to a Ravens double overtime victory.

On his TD catch, Jones got behind Chris Culliver late in the first half and hauled in a pass from Joe Flacco before falling down. He quickly got back up and worked his way into the end zone for the score. He then opened the second half with his return to put the Ravens ahead 28-6.

His favorite?

``The passes,'' he said. ``It was just all the plays we ran through in practice. The line did a great job of blocking and Joe put up a decent throw for me to catch.''

What about that return?

``All year we've been running along the sideline on the return'' said Jones. ``They did not expect us to run it down the middle. ... That's my favorite return.''

During the season, he averaged 30.7 yards on 38 kickoff returns, tops in NFL, and had two scores, one covering 108 yards.

Jones was 5-7, 160 pounds - ``with bricks in my pockets,'' he said - when he graduated high school, walked on at Lane and said he just ``took off.''

``I've been an underdog all my life,'' he said.

Now he'll get a Super Bowl ring.

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CLOSE BUT NO LOMBARDI: The biggest comeback in Super Bowl history was 10 points. The San Francisco 49ers were on the verge of rallying from a 22-point deficit but fell short in a 34-31 loss to the Ravens.

That allowed Baltimore to become the 21st Super Bowl winner to never trail in the game. Joe Flacco's 13-yard TD pass to Anquan Boldin gave the Ravens a 7-0 lead early on, and the 49ers got as close as 31-29.

The last wire-to-wire winner was Green Bay in its 31-25 win over Pittsburgh in the 2011 Super Bowl.

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SOCIAL STATISTICS: Twitter kept its own Super Bowl stats, and following the game said there were about 22.1 million total tweets about the game and halftime show, including 5.5 million during Beyonce's halftime performance.

The players most mentioned on the site, in order, where Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, Colin Kaepernick and Jacoby Jones.

The subject that generated the most intense activity, generated in tweets per minute, was Beyonce's halftime show, with the frequency of tweets rising as high as 268,000 per minute at the conclusion of the show.

The power outage in the Superdome, which caused a 34-minute delay early in the third quarter, generated as many as 231,500 per minute, the most at any point other than halftime during the game.

Jacoby Jones' 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown generated 185,000 tweets per minute, even more than when the clock struck zero and the Ravens had won, which rose as high as 183,000 per minute.

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SACK HAPPY: Ravens defensive end Paul Kruger found a unique way to celebrate the first of his two sacks Sunday night.

After collaring 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Kruger waved his fingers and arms as if he was conducting an orchestra.

``I'd like to be a maestro after I (retire),'' he said with a grin. ``That's just what came to mind, I don't know.''

Kruger, who becomes a free agent during the offseason, finished with 4 1/2 sacks in the playoffs after getting nine during the regular season.

His first one Sunday night forced the 49ers to settle for a field-goal try on their second possession.

``I just got a good jump on it,'' he said. ``I've been working on getting off the ball fast, and I came around, was able to get around the guy and get the sack.''

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CULLIVER'S DAY: 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver got beat by Anquan Boldin all night.

``I don't care if they was targeting me or not,'' Culliver said. ``They wasn't getting open except for the deep plays.''

Except for the fact the Ravens' talented wideouts - along with MVP Joe Flacco - made the biggest difference in Baltimore's 34-31 Super Bowl win. Boldin had six catches for 104 yards, including a 30-yarder in which he blew past Culliver late in the third quarter. That set up Justin Tucker's 19-yard field goal early in the fourth.

``Cully's been a competitor,'' linebacker Patrick Willis said. ``He had a tough one, but I'm still behind him.''

Culliver's week began with anti-gay remarks at media day, then a Thursday news conference to apologize. He also signed up for sensitivity training through an organization for homosexual youth.

``He said what he said. He apologized. He moved on and the team moved on,'' cornerback Carlos Rogers said. ``I just told him, `Hey, keep your head up. Keep fighting.' If you play that position, you're going to give up lays. That's just part of it.''

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SUPERDOME DIFFICULTIES: The Superdome has been a tough place to play for San Francisco offensive lineman Alex Boon and Niners linebacker Larry Grant.

The pair have now played in both a college national championship game and for a Super Bowl title in New Orleans, losing both times.

Boone and Grant also were on the 2007-08 Ohio State squad that lost to LSU, 38-24, in the BCS title game.

So pardon the pair if they don't relate to the common New Orleans refrain, ``Laissez les bon temps rouler,'' which is Cajun French for, ``Let the good times roll.''

``It sucks to lose, especially in the last game of the year,'' Boone said. ``You always want to win the last one.''

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TWO IN A ROW: Courtney Upshaw has this title thing down.

The Baltimore Ravens rookie linebacker added a Super Bowl title to the BCS championship he won last year with Alabama. And, not to be greedy, but he's already dreaming of a three-peat.

``It's the NFL,'' he said. ``We want to get back to it next year.''

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AP Sports Writers Janie McCauley, David Ginsburg and Richard Rosenblatt contributed to this report.

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Five instant observations from Ravens' dominant win over Dolphins

Five instant observations from Ravens' dominant win over Dolphins

BALTIMORE - Five instant observations after the Ravens’ most impressive win of the season, 38-6, over the Dolphins (7-5). The win kept the Ravens (7-5) in first place in the AFC North, in control of their playoff destiny with four games left to play:

1. The Ravens’ offense was finally potent.

The Ravens had five offensive possessions in the first half, and scored on four of them. In the first half alone, the Ravens had 303 yards total offense, and Joe Flacco had three touchdown passes, completing throws to 10 different targets. This was the breakout offensive game the Ravens had been seeking. That should give them confidence heading into Monday Night Football next week, when they visit the Patriots.

2. Flacco could be gearing up for a big December.

This was Flacco’s best game of the season, setting a franchise record for completions with 36. His numbers were gaudy – 36 for 47, 381 yards, four touchdowns, one interception, 119.2 passer rating. Flacco’s history of playing his best football late in the season bodes well for the Ravens, especially since Flacco now looks comfortable running offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s offense. 

If Flacco gets hot in December, he’s good enough to carry the Ravens to the playoffs, whether you think he’s elite or not.

3.The play of tight end Dennis Pitta is a tribute to his perseverance.

Many people urged Pitta to retire after his second major hip surgery. However, Pitta (nine catches, 90 yards) was an offensive force in this game. Consider that Pitta had not scored a touchdown since 2013.  When asked about Pitta not scoring a touchdown this season on Wednesday, Flacco said, “He is playing really well. You cannot try to make those things happen; they just start happening.” Pitta made things happen in this game. Retiring is the last thing on Pitta’s mind.

4. The Ravens’ defense is among the NFL’s best, and it’s locked in.

The Dolphins came into this game riding a six-game winning streak. But they were dominated. If not for a fumble by Pitta that set up the Dolphins’ only touchdown, they might have been shutout. Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (12 carries, 61 yards) was contained by the Ravens’ No. 1-ranked run defense. With cornerback Jimmy Smith back in action after a two-game absence, and linebacker Elvis Dumervil finally healthy, the Ravens’ defense isn’t going away.

5. Only one of these teams looked like a legit playoff contender.

If the Ravens have had trouble getting respect this season, what did this game say about the Dolphins? New coach Adam Gase has the Dolphins headed in the right direction. But they were thoroughly outplayed in this one.

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WR Kamar Aiken, CB Jimmy Smith among actives

WR Kamar Aiken, CB Jimmy Smith among actives

BALTIMORE – As expected, both cornerback Jimmy Smith (back) and wide receiver Kamar Aiken (thigh) were active for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins. It would be Smith’s first action since missing the previous two games, but Smith practiced all week and was expected to play. Aiken had been listed as questionable but would also be in the lineup.

For the Dolphins, wide receiver DeVante Parker (back) was also active after testing his back during warmups. Even if Parker is not 100 percent, having Parker and No. 1 wide receiver Jarvis Landry on the field should give the Dolphins’ offense more versatility.

Inactive for the Ravens were cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris, running backs Buck Allen and Lorenzo Taliaferro, offensive lineman Ryan Jensen, linebacker Kamalei Correa, guard Alex Lewis, and tight end Crockett Gillmore. 

Without Allen (non-injury issue) and Taliaferro (thigh), Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon would handle the ball-carrying duties for the Ravens. Dixon had a season-high 13 carries against the Bengals in Week 12.

Inactive for the Dolphins were cornerbacks Jordan Lucas and Xavien Howard; center Mike Pouncey, linebacker Jelani Jenkins, offensive tackle Bryce Harris, tight end Thomas Duarte, and wide receiver Rashawn Scott.