Ray Lewis rides off into the sunset

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Ray Lewis rides off into the sunset

From Comcast SportsNetNEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Before he could bask in a shower of confetti, before he could put his fingerprints on the Lombardi Trophy and before he could head into retirement as a champion, Ray Lewis had one final task: stop the San Francisco 49ers on three plays 5 yards from the end zone.After two passes went awry, Lewis charged up the middle on a blitz. The Ravens stellar linebacker never made it to Colin Kaepernick, but after the quarterback's pass flew out of bounds, Lewis and Baltimore could begin to celebrate."How could it end any other way than that?" Lewis said. "And now I get to ride into the sunset with my second ring."The 13-time Pro Bowl star began his final night on the football field with a motivational speech to his teammates. He ended it looking upward into a waterfall of silver streamers and purple confetti after the Ravens beat San Francisco 34-31 Sunday night to win the Super Bowl."It's simple: When God is for you, who can be against you?" Lewis said, clutching the Lombardi Trophy. "It's no greater way, as a champ, to go out on your last ride with the men that I went out with, with my teammates. And you looked around this stadium and ... Baltimore! Baltimore! We coming home, baby! We did it!"Standing tall in the middle of a defense that survived a frenzied comeback by Kaepernick and the 49ers, Lewis put a lovely bow on his 17th NFL season by earning another Super Bowl ring to go with the one he received 12 years earlier.When Lewis first led Baltimore to Super Bowl glory, he was a 25-year-old at the height of his game. A terror on the best defense in the league, Lewis was voted MVP after the Ravens beat the New York Giants 34-7 to earn their first championship.On Sunday night, Lewis and his defense played a supporting role to Joe Flacco and the offense.The 37-year-old Lewis finished with seven tackles and sometimes struggled to cover receivers venturing into his area. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree caught a 19-yarder on San Francisco's second series, and tight end Vernon Davis eluded Lewis twice before making second-quarter catches.Lewis did, however, make two tackles during the 49ers' final drive."The final series of Ray Lewis' career was a goal-line stand to win the Lombardi Trophy," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It was not perfect. It was not pretty. But it was us. That is who we are."After amassing a team-high 44 tackles in Baltimore's first three playoff wins, Lewis was anything but exceptional against the 49ers. But the Ravens played like champions around him, and now Lewis can saunter into the sunset after again holding the Lombardi Trophy high."I told him I love him," Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "What better way to show your gratitude to your leader for 17 years? He's mentored me, not just in football, but in life."While working his way back from a torn right triceps that had kept him sidelined since Oct. 14, Lewis told high-ranking team officials that he was going to retire after this season. He shared the news with his teammates and the media on Jan. 2, saying Baltimore's postseason run would be his "last ride."And what a journey it was.After defeating Indianapolis at home to open the playoffs, the Ravens beat top-seeded Denver on the road and knocked off second-seeded New England. Then, underdogs again in the Super Bowl, Baltimore blew most of a 22-point lead in the second half before mounting one final defensive stop."To me, that was one of the most amazing goal-line stands I've ever been a part of in my career," Lewis said. "What better way to do it than on the Super Bowl stage?"The Ravens didn't necessarily win for Lewis, but they sure felt good about sending him into retirement with a world championship."It's pretty cool," said Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, who threw for three touchdowns. "Ray's a great person and everyone knows he's an unbelievable player, but he's the best teammate. It's unbelievable to send him out like this."Lewis' old buddy, 34-year-old Ed Reed, contributed a first-half interception. Jacoby Jones scored two touchdowns, and after the second -- a 108-yard kickoff return to open the third quarter -- he saluted his retiring teammate with a rendition of the "squirrel" dance Lewis made famous.Days earlier, Lewis was confronted about his use of deer antler spray in his effort to return from the triceps injury. He vehemently denied trying the banned substance, and that sideshow fizzled out quickly enough so that it was not a distraction on Sunday.The Ravens will have another middle linebacker next season, but they will never have another Ray Lewis. Harbaugh was asked why the team responded so passionately to him and his effort to go out on top."If you're going to talk about the Ray thing, you want to ask about it, then the answer's got to be faith," Harbaugh said. "I mean Ray is driven by spirituality and faith and that's what he draws on and that's where his strength comes from. So if you really want to know, I mean that's what he's tapping into and that's what makes it so beautiful and so perfect."Lewis was the second draft pick in Ravens' history, following Jonathan Ogden in 1996. Ogden, who was elected into the NFL Hall of Fame on Saturday, waved to his former teammate during the pregame coin flip Sunday.Perhaps one day, Ogden will extend the same greeting to Lewis in Canton, Ohio.

Evaluating a Gronk-less offense

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Evaluating a Gronk-less offense

Episode 13 - "The Ex-Pats Podcast"

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Mike Giardi and Dan Koppen look back at a solid Patriots win against a bad team in the Los Angeles Rams. The guys were trying to figure out exactly what L.A.'s gameplan was going in.

The linebacker rotation seems to be more consistent a few weeks after the Jamie Collins trade. How much of an impact will the loss of Rob Gronkowski have on offense? Malcolm Mitchell continues to impress, but 3rd down was a problem.

Finally, we look ahead to Monday night's game against the Baltimore Ravens, who have been playing well and are never intimidated coming into Gillette Stadium.

Al Horford recalls offseason flirtation with Rockets

Al Horford recalls offseason flirtation with Rockets

Al Horford was destined to play in tonight’s game between Boston and Houston.
 
But for which team?
 
That was the question the four-time All-Star pondered this summer when he narrowed his list of suitors outside of Atlanta to Boston, Houston and Washington, in that order.
 
“I really considered coming here,” Horford told reporters on Monday. “But them and Boston and Washington. (Houston) and Boston were probably the two teams I was really, really looking at. Just a lot to consider.”

When you look at how seamless Horford has fit in with the Celtics and how well the Rockets (13-7) have played this season, you get the feeling that Horford would have found success individually and for whichever team he chose.
 
“At the end of the day, I just felt I was better off being here in Boston,” Horford said.
 
Rockets All-Star James Harden was among the party Houston sent to try and woo Horford to the Rockets.

“I thought we had a chance,” Harden said. “I thought we had a real good chance, but obviously it didn’t work out. Which is fine.”
 
Indeed, the Rockets have been one of the surprise teams of the NBA this season in large part to Harden moving to the point guard position full-time.
 
Not only is he once again ranked among the NBA’s top scorers at 28.3 points which ranks fourth in the NBA, but he’s also dishing out a league-high 11.8 assists per game.
 
“They made it pretty clear in the offseason that he was going to be the point guard,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters. “He’s got the ball all the time. He had the ball a lot before, but certainly now with their spacing and his ability to make the play himself or the right read to the big rolling or to the many good shooters around, it’s a perfect setup for him and his skillset.”
 
The ability to draw defenders and create space for those around him is one of the many reasons why the Rockets felt Horford would have been an ideal fit for their system.
 
But the same argument can be made for the Celtics who unlike the Rockets, at least attempt to play defense at a high level.
 
Boston began the season ranked among the worst defenses in the NBA, but are currently up to 18th with a defensive rating of 105.0. Meanwhile, the Rockets’ defense ranks 27th in the league with a 107.2 defensive rating.