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Ravens-Patriots AFC championship game has started

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Ravens-Patriots AFC championship game has started

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Baltimore's Justin Tucker sent the opening kickoff out of the end zone for a touchback as the Ravens and New England Patriots began their AFC championship game.

A win on Sunday would send the Ravens (12-6) to the Super Bowl for the second time and extend the 17-year career of linebacker Ray Lewis, who has said he will retire after the season.

A victory would put the Patriots (13-4) in their eighth Super Bowl, tying the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers for the most all time, and quarterback Tom Brady in his sixth.

It would be the Patriots' second straight appearance in the NFL title game and third in six years.

The Patriots played without tight end Rob Gronkowski, who broke his left arm a week earlier in their 41-28 divisional win over the Houston Texans.

The winner of the game plays the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.

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Ravens' fan-favorite Justin Forsett on the move again; seventh team of his career

Ravens' fan-favorite Justin Forsett on the move again; seventh team of his career

The 2016 NFL season has been an odyssey of sorts for Justin Forsett. 

After a Pro Bowl season in 2014, Forsett saw his numbers decline in 2015.

With the addition of Terrance West and the Ravens selecting Kenneth Dixon in the 2016 NFL Draft, Forsett saw his place with the team dissipate quickly.

After being released, then re-signed, then released again, Forsett latched on with the Lions in early October. But after appearing in just two games, the Lions released Forsett before their Week 13 win over the Saints. But on Monday, Forsett was in a new city, with a new team.

RELATED: GRADING THE RAVENS' OFFENSE IN WEEK 13

Broncos' head coach Gary Kubiak served as the Ravens offensive coordinator in 2014 when Forsett ran for a career-high 1266 yards and 8 touchdowns.

The move comes a day after running back Kapri Bibbs exited their Week 13 game against the Jaguars with an ankle injury. With C.J. Anderson out for the foreseeable future, that leaves rookie Devontae Booker and fullback-tailback Juwan Thompson as the only running backs on the team.

The Broncos will be the seventh team Forsett has played for since joining the NFL in 2008.

 

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Grading the Ravens defense, special teams vs. Dolphins

Grading the Ravens defense, special teams vs. Dolphins

The Ravens put together their most complete game of the season on Sunday with a 38-6 beatdown of the Dolphins, winners of six straight coming in.

The script was a refreshing one for the Ravens offense — four touchdown passes, 24 first-half points, crisp execution — but the defense did what it's done all season, shutting down Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi and making the Dolphins earn every yard.

The only Dolphins points, in fact, came after they began inside the Ravens 10-yard line because of a Dennis Pitta fumble.

We've already handed out report cards to the offense, so now it's time to grade the defense and special teams.

DEFENSIVE LINE: B+

Ajayi averaged 5.1 yards a carry (12-61) but the Ravens' 24-0 halftime lead pretty much eliminated Ajayi as a big factor in the second half.

Although Ajayi slipped some tackles, the Dolphins totaled 1 yard rushing on carries by four other players.

Timmy Jernigan was a force inside again but took a stupid taunting penalty after head-butting a Dolphins player. That type of penalty has been too common in his career, but largely absent this season, which has been Jernigan's best yet.

Brent Urban picked up his second sack of the season.

LINEBACKER: B+

Zach Orr continues to impress. He led all players with 13 tackles.

The Ravens linebackers had just one sack, by rookie Matt Judon, but they were pressuring Ryan Tannehill often. Terrell Suggs and Judon each had two of the Ravens nine quarterback hits. Za'Darius Smith also had a quarterback hit as he returned to action after being benched last week.

The Ravens linebackers did a decent job setting the edge on the run, though Ajayi broke some tackles at the line of scrimmage.

SECONDARY: A-

The secondary might have had its best game of the season, with rangy plays, physical coverage, seven passes defensed and three interceptions.

Lardarius Webb's interception in the end zone was outstanding. He ranged far and made a leaping grab to kill a Dolphins drive. It was easily the best play he's made since converting to safety.

His safety counterpart, Eric Weddle, also had an interception near the end zone to kill another Dolphins drive and returned it 53 yards.

Jerraud Powers tipped the pass that Weddle intercepted and also had an interception of his own.

The Ravens did a great job containing talented Dolphins receivers and showing looks that seemed to confuse Tannehill.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B

Another week, another 50-plus bomb from kicker Justin Tucker, who hit from 55  yards to end the half and extend his streak to 35 field goals without a miss. Four of his last five have come from 52 yards or farther.  

Sam Koch had an uneven day punting, shanking one kick for 16 yards. He averaged 31 yards on three punts, but two of them pinned the Dolphins inside their 15-yard line.

Devin Hester, who has said he's finally healthy again, didn't show much. He had one kickoff return for 17 yards and totaled 3 yards on three punt returns.

In a weekly occurrence, the Ravens again had two illegal-block penalties on punt returns  (Shareece Wright, Matt Judon).

MORE: Ravens excited for Monday night matchup against Patriots