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Weekend Sports in Brief

Weekend Sports in Brief

One game is a rematch. The other might feel like one - at least to one of the teams.

For the second straight year in the AFC, the New England Patriots will host the Baltimore Ravens with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

In the NFC title game, San Francisco will travel to Atlanta, with the Falcons' defense trying to stop a versatile, running quarterback for the second straight week.

On Sunday, the Falcons barely got past Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks, who overcame a 20-point deficit to take a one-point lead, but gave it up after Matt Ryan drove Atlanta into field goal range and Matt Bryant made a 49-yard kick with 8 seconds left for a 30-28 win.

Colin Kaepernick passed for 263 yards and rushed for 181 - a playoff record for a quarterback - in San Francisco's 45-31 victory over Green Bay on Saturday.

The Ravens advanced when Justin Tucker kicked a 47-yard field goal 1:42 into the second overtime Saturday, ending the NFL's longest game in 26 years and giving the Ravens a 38-35 win over the Denver Broncos. The win postponed Ray Lewis' retirement at least one more game and ended Peyton Manning's sensational comeback season with the Broncos.

New England advanced to the AFC championship when Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns Sunday to beat Houston 41-28 and become the winningest quarterback in postseason play. The Patriots' win didn't come without a cost. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was injured on the Patriots' eighth offensive play and needs surgery on his broken left arm, a person with knowledge of the injury told The Associated Press. He previously missed five regular-season games and is done for the season.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) The Philadelphia Eagles interviewed former Ravens coach and current Fox analyst Brian Billick for their coaching vacancy, a person familiar with the meeting told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Billick, who led Baltimore to a Super Bowl title in the 2000 season, met with the Eagles last Monday, according to the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss it.

The Eagles are known to have interviewed eight other candidates, including three high-profile college coaches who decided to stay at their schools. They were Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, Oregon's Chip Kelly and Penn State's Bill O'Brien.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Kansas City Chiefs hired longtime Packers personnel man John Dorsey to replace the fired Scott Pioli as their general manager.

CYCLING

AUSTIN, Texas - As days of preparations dwindled to hours before his blockbuster interview with Oprah Winfrey, Lance Armstrong went out for a training run and then retreated behind the stone walls of his Austin compound to huddle with a handful of close advisers.

After more than a decade of denying that he doped to win the Tour de France seven times, Armstrong was scheduled to sit down Monday for what has been trumpeted as a ``no-holds barred,'' 90-minute, question-and-answer session with Winfrey. He is expected to reverse course and apologize, as well as offer a limited confession about his role as the head of a long-running scheme to dominate the prestigious bike race with the aid of performance-enhancing drugs. Winfrey and her crew will film the interview at Armstrong's home and broadcast it Thursday on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Armstrong was stripped of all seven Tour titles last year in the wake of a voluminous U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report that portrayed him as a ruthless competitor, willing to go to any lengths to win the prestigious race. USADA chief executive Travis Tygart labeled the doping regimen allegedly carried out by the U.S. Postal Service team that Armstrong once led, ``The most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.''

PRO HOCKEY

NEW YORK (AP) - NHL hockey is finally back.

Nearly a week after a tentative labor deal was agreed to by the league and its players, the sides agreed to a required memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Saturday night that makes the lockout a thing of the past.

Training camps opened Sunday, and a 48-game regular season will begin next Saturday. The signing of the memorandum also paved the way for the NHL to release the long-awaited revised schedule.

Twenty-six of the 30 teams will play on opening day. All games during the season will be played within the two respective conferences.

In all, 720 games will be played over a 99-day regular season. There will be at least one game on each day of the season, that will end on April 27. Again, 26 of 30 teams will be in action that day.

GOLF

HONOLULU (AP) - Russell Henley made his rookie debut with a three-shot win over Tim Clark in the Sony Open on Sunday that will not be forgotten anytime soon.

He birdied the last five holes to shatter the tournament scoring record by four shots.

His score of 24-under 256 was the second-lowest in PGA Tour history for a 72-hole event, two shots behind Tommy Armour III in 2003 at the Texas Open.

He set the Sony Open record for the 36-hole score (126), shared the 54-hole tournament record with fellow rookie Scott Langley (193) and set another tournament record with the lowest closing round by a champion at 7-under 63.

Clark played in the last group, closed with a 63 and still finished three shots behind. He made seven birdies over his last 11 holes and only made up one shot on Henley.

TENNIS

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - Novak Djokovic cruised through his first match at Rod Laver Arena since his shirt-ripping victory celebration last year, opening his bid for a third consecutive Australian Open title with a 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 win over Paul-Henri Mathieu on Monday.

Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams had nearly flawless opening matches in the women's draw earlier in the day.

Sharapova finished her first match of the year in 55 minutes, cruising to a 6-0, 6-0 win over Olga Puchkova on center court. She showed no signs of trouble with her right collarbone.

Sharapova has a potential third-round match against Williams, who needed just an hour for her opening 6-1, 6-0 win over Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan.

SKIING

ADELBODEN, Switzerland (AP) - Marcel Hirscher turned in a scintillating second run to win a World Cup slalom on Sunday, after being eighth in the opening leg.

Hirscher, the overall World Cup leader, was at least 0.83 seconds faster than any rival in the afternoon to best Austrian teammate Mario Matt by 0.30.

Ted Ligety of the United States remained third overall after finishing 11th, 2.44 behind Hirscher.

ST. ANTON, Austria (AP) - Tina Maze of Slovenia reached another milestone in her stellar season by winning her first super-G on Sunday and becoming the sixth female skier to win a World Cup race in all five Alpine disciplines.

In perfect, sunny conditions, Maze attacked the Karl Schranz course in impressive style to time 1 minute, 16.55 seconds and edge Anna Fenninger of Austria by 0.04.

SOCCER

LONDON (AP) - Manchester United's seven-point lead over Manchester City stayed intact Sunday after the title-chasing rivals defeated two former powers in the Premier League.

United scraped its way to a 2-1 victory at home against Liverpool. City won 2-0 at Arsenal after playing against 10 men for most of the match.

AUTO RACING

TUCUMAN, Argentina (AP) - Rain halted the eighth stage of the Dakar Rally in Argentina with only 12 cars finishing on Saturday.

It was not immediately clear when the stage would be completed, as Sunday was scheduled to be a rest day.

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Ravens kick return job still up in the air

Ravens kick return job still up in the air

With two preseason games left, the Ravens appear to have little clarity in their efforts to find a kick return specialist, and although Michael Campanaro had all three punt return chances against the Colts last weekend, the Ravens aren't ready yet to declare the job his.

Last year's leading returners — Kaelin Clay and Jeremy Ross — are no longer with the team.

RELATED: MAKING SENSE OF FLACCO VS. THE LIONS

Coach John Harbaugh, the former special teams coach that he is, blasted the Ravens special teams play against the Colts, both in kick returns and in kick coverage.

"We kicked the ball to them, and they kicked the ball to us, and we got our butts kicked," Harbaugh said after the game. "That's unacceptable."

Harbaugh seemed particularly agitated about the Ravens kickoff coverage; the Colts averaged 28.0 yards per kick return, nearly 10 yards better than the Ravens (18.8).

Earlier this week, Harbaugh declared, "We have not found our punt returner or our kick returner yet."

As for kick returns, three running backs — Kenneth Dixon, Terrance West and Stephen Houston — returned kicks at Indianapolis last week with unimpressive results. West had the longest return at 23 yards, and two returns left the Ravens inside their 20-yard line.

The Ravens are giving both West and Dixon a long look as kick returner — Houston is a longshot to make the team — with the idea that a fourth running back could also contribute in the return game. Rookie Tavon Young has also been given reps as a kick returner, though he missed the Colts game with a hamstring injury.

Campanaro headlines a group of punt return candidates that includes former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds. Campanaro had all three punt return chances against the Colts, with one fair catch and one 21-yard return. Reynolds, who has had an inconsistent camp as a returner, served on the punt coverage team and had a tackle against the Colts but was not back as the return man at all.

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said Campanaro "showed some real positive things" against the Colts, but Rosburg was not ready to hand him the job yet.

"Michael's out there trying to win the job," Rosburg said after practice on Wednesday. "It's really not his job, it's the returner. The job belongs to the team, and he's trying to get that job."

Expect the auditions for both jobs to continue Saturday night against the Lions.

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Why Ravens' decision to play Joe Flacco against Lions makes sense

Why Ravens' decision to play Joe Flacco against Lions makes sense

OWINGS MILLS – Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco will see his first game action since last November on Saturday night, when he starts the Week 3 preseason game against the Lions.

“You need to get back out there, you need to get your mind used to getting ready for a game,” Flacco said Tuesday on Mad Dog Sports Radio with Adam Schein.

Here are three reasons why playing Flacco makes sense:

1. Flacco can benefit from playing before the regular-season opener:

Flacco has shown no indication that he is thinking about his surgically-repaired knee during practices. However, Flacco also knows that no teammates will hit him during practice. Game action will give Flacco a different feel, the test of facing tacklers who will hit him if given the opportunity. Look for the Ravens to call plays that require Flacco to get rid of the ball quickly. The Ravens don’t want Flacco to get hit. But they want him to knock off any potential game rust before the regular season starts.

2.  Flacco can build more chemistry with some of his receivers.

Wide receivers Mike Wallace and Chris Moore, as well as tight end Ben Watson, have never caught a pass from Flacco during a game. This will be a chance for them to get a better feel for each other heading into Week 1.

3. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley and rookie left guard Alex Lewis have been practicing and playing with confidence.

It’s early, but Stanley has looked more like a five-year vet than a rookie. Lewis is a physical blocker who doesn’t look intimidated by anyone, or anything. With guard John Urschel missing another day of practice on Wednesday, Lewis is expected to start next to Stanley on Saturday night. The Ravens feel their two rookies on the left side of the line can protect Flacco’s blindside well enough to the Lions away from him.

MORE RAVENS: Scrambling QB's could give Ravens problems

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Zion Harvey, Baltimore boy with hand transplant, keeps photo of Ray Lewis

Zion Harvey, Baltimore boy with hand transplant, keeps photo of Ray Lewis

This past year has changed Zion Harvey's life. Just 13-months ago, the Baltimore boy was the first child to receive a double hand transplant. He'd lost both hands and feet to a childhood infection. 

Now 9 years old, Zion made headlines earlier this month for using his new hands to throw out the first pitch at an Orioles game.

The remarkable feat hinted at the progress he'd made, but a full update on his condition hadn't been available until Tuesday. 

This video from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where the surgery was performed, shows all the new things Zion can do for himself. It also reveals that the little boy is a big Ravens fan.

In one poignant scene, Zion points to a group of photos hanging on his bedroom wall. They're of Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali and Ravens legend Ray Lewis. In the center, Zion has placed a picture of himself. 

The spunky boy also celebrated his 9th birthday with a Ravens cake, which he was able to help distribute to his friends. 

Zion made an appearance on the TODAY show Wednesday morning. He helped Al Roker do the weather forecast and sat down for an inteview with Savannah Guthrie

He said he was surprised by how far he threw that first pitch at the Orioles game. 

"I was surprised it went that far," he said. But that wasn't his first time on the mound, he explained. 

"Well I play a lot of baseball. They put me as pitcher a lot, but I'm a good batter, too," he said. "My mom was recording a video but I wouldn't say her video was the best. She was mostly jumping up and down while she was taking the video and screaming."

RELATED: Ray Lewis spoke with Michael Phelps before final race, could not be prouder