Ravens outhit, outwit, outlast another opponent

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Ravens outhit, outwit, outlast another opponent

NEW ORLEANS Against the Patriots, the Ravens just waited until New England played into their hands. In the Super Bowl, there was no need to wait. The 49ers gave Baltimore the game early.

All hail the Ravens. Because the absence of screw-ups in games of high import is every damn bit as important as big plays.

But the Ravens are Super Bowl champions this morning because their last three opponents Denver, New England and San Francisco screwed up.

And the Ravens never did.

That Raven buzzsaw hit 'em early, Terrell Suggs suggested after Baltimores skin-of-its-teeth, 34-32 win. Real early.

It could just as easily be said that, pre-blackout, the 49ers merely fed themselves into the wood chipper.

Their cavalcade of errors discreet and conspicuous and the Ravens ability to take advantage of them doomed San Francisco. And even when San Fran climbed back to the cusp of the lead, they got overwhelmed by the Ravens defense and playcalling that didnt seem to anticipate Baltimores aggression.

All year, we had the bend but don't break attitude but especially in the red zone, said Suggs. You gotta know your opponent too. We didn't want him to beat us with his feet and it came down on the goal line, in the red zone, on that last stand, we were gonna make him throw for it. He was gonna have to use his arm. You know nobody hates quarterbacks more than me but I have the utmost respect for Colin Kaepernick. At first I thought, 'The kid, he's just fortunate, he's had some early success. We'll see.' But the kid's the real deal. I respect him. I respect him tons and I don't usually say that about quarterbacks. The kid can play. I don't usually say that about quarterbacks, but you gotta take your hat off to the San Francisco 49ers, they came to play.

But they did it too late.

A catalog of the Niners early miscues. First, they had a formation penalty on their first play from scrimmage that wiped out a 20-yard gain and resulted in them punting from their goal line. Baltimore got the ball at their 49. When the Niners got them in third-and-9, Ahmad Brooks stepped offsides. That penalty wiped out an incompletion and the Ravens got seven on the next play.

The Niners had a chance to answer with a touchdown but a throw that may have been directed to a wide-open Randy Moss was deflected by teammate Michael Crabtree and fell incomplete. The Niners settled for a field goal. A LaMichael James fumble ended a Niners drive at the Ravens 24. The Ravens chugged downfield and scored a touchdown to make it 14-3 as San Francisco left tight end Dennis Pitta uncovered despite having defenders covering air.

Kaepernick got over-exubertant and threw a pick to Ed Reed. No damage there, but on the next Ravens drive, Chris Culliver got spun inside-out for a 56-yard touchdown. The Niners never got a throw to the end zone despite having second-and-2 with 50 seconds left in the half. They settled for a field goal that made it a fortunate 21-6 at the half. And then came the 108-yard Jacoby Jones kickoff return.

We were just running around a lot of places, Culliver explained when asked about that one.

Meanwhile, the Ravens just rolled along, ruining red-zone drives as they had against the Patriots and watching Joe Flacco become the precision thrower he wasnt when the season began.

Consider this: Flacco hasnt thrown an interception since December 16. Hes thrown 13 touchdowns and no interceptions since. The quarterbacks on the other side of him in the postseason Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Kaepernick threw six.

The Ravens were plus-5 in turnover differential in the postseason. The next-best team was San Francisco at plus-2.

The Ravens scored touchdowns on 80 percent of their red zone trips and scored touchdowns on 83.3 percent of their goal-to-go possessions. Their opponents scored touchdowns on 40 percent of their red-zone trips and just 50 percent of the time when they had goal-to-go.

The Niners final possession of the season will be one they lament for a long time. Did Michael Crabtree get held by Jimmy Smith on the fourth-down fade route that fell incomplete. Yes. High-percentage play? No. None of their four plays down there were.

We really thought it was gonna be some kind of a quarterback run down in there so basically we pressured almost every down in there, said Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees. We changed up the pressures but we brought it every down.

Vernon Davis, the Niners outstanding tight end, was asked if the playcalling could have been more imaginative.

As a player, all I could think of was maybe running a different play but that's just a player mentality, he admitted. (Offensive coordinator) Greg Roman, he called the shots. We gotta go with it and respect his calls. He believed in it, we believed in it but it just didn't work.

As for Crabtree on the final throw?

It was the last play, he said. I can't blame it on the refs. I mean, it is what it is and that happened. That was the play call at the moment. We tried to execute the play and make something happen at the end of the game but it didn't happen. When somebody grabs you, you always expect the call but you can't whine to the ref. It is what it is. You gotta take it like a man. I won't talk about the playcalling, it is what it is. I think we could have hit some more plays, I think we could have did a better job in the red zone from the (5-yard line) but coach called the play and I just tried to execute it to the best of my ability.

In the end, the Ravens and Pees dictated to their opponents.

They did (make it easy with throws to the perimeter) on those downs but the problem was we hadn't done a good job in the second half, Pees admitted. The problem was, they got the offense rolling and we had a tough time really getting out of our gaps and playing our assignments.

We did a great job in the first half and I think everybody then got a little bit panicky with trying to make a play, he added. And that's the problem with that offense. If you get out of basic fundamentals they're gonna hurt you. And he hurt us with his feet scrambling out of the pocket. We played very well on the run but later on we didn't do a very good job. But again, we played well in the red zone and to me that was the key to the game for us on defense.

Call the Ravens cocky. But they didnt feel the heat, said Suggs.

That power outage happened, and THEY got going. But at no point did we ever think that we were gonna lose, said Suggs. "As long as we had the lead, we knew we had it. They can call us whatever they want, but they gotta put 'Champions' at the end of it.

Curran's Patriots-Bills preview

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Curran's Patriots-Bills preview

Click here for the gallery.

FOXBORO  – Four quarters left in Tom Brady’s suspension, an undetermined (but also dwindling) number of days remaining in Rex Ryan’s tenure as a head coach, this game is intriguing for a lot of reasons. The Patriots can close out a remarkable quarter-season performance without Brady and put him back in the driver’s seat with a three-game edge over the Bills simply by taking out Rex. How they manage that – and which quarterback manages that – is the question that’s swirled all week.
 
 
WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL
 
Traditionally, the Patriots have thrown over and around the Bills’ front-seven with great success. Tom Brady’s good at that. Jimmy Garoppolo, with a bad shoulder, or Jacoby Brissett, with limited experience, may not be able to pull off the same act. Which means this could be a day for LeGarrette Blount who so far is leading the league in rushing. Many of those yards have come at the closeout juncture of games. This week, he may asked to do the damage early. The Bills have allowed five touchdowns on the grounds this season but only 3.4 yards per carry.
 
WHEN THE BILLS HAVE THE BALL
 
Without Sammy Watkins and dealing with issues at left tackle, the Bills are going to have to get a productive, 25-to-30-touch game out of running back LeSean McCoy. He’s handled the ball 59 times so far in three games (11 catches) and has been by far the focal point of the Bills offense. But with the Patriots having the chance to fixate on McCoy, Buffalo and newly-minted offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn better have a backup plan if and when the Patriots send multiple players to dog him. The Bills’ will be in a position where it’s on Tyrod Taylor to figure something out. The Patriots aren’t going to aggressively rush him. If the rush gets past him, it was done by mistake. Force Taylor to be a passer, find Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and  ailing tight end Charles Clay. Meanwhile, the Patriots figure to have Donta Hightower back to help with quarterbacking the defense. The Patriots are in a position defensively to really put the screws to a Bills team that doesn’t seem to have a lot of options.
 
THE KICKING GAME
 
Old friend Brandon Tate is the Bills’ return guy on both punts and kickoffs. He’ll get a good test from the Patriots special teams corps which has been a major story this season. Ryan Allen had a career game last week against Houston with six punts inside the 20 and one sitting on the 20. There were no return yards. The Patriots kick coverage created two turnovers last game against Houston and hasn’t allowed a return past the 25.
 
PATRIOTS MEDICAL REPORT
QUESTIONABLE: QB Jacoby Brissett (thumb), QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder), T Marcus Cannon (calf), G Jonathan Cooper (foot), LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder), TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring), LB Dont’a Hightower (knee), CB Eric Rowe
 
BILLS MEDICAL REPORT
OUT: WR Sammy Watkins (foot), T Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle), C Patrick Lewis (knee) and WR Greg Salas (groin) QUESTIONABLE: S Colt Anderson (foot), TE Charles Clay (knee), CB Ronald Darby (hamstring), T Cordy Glenn (ankle), QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder), S Jonathan Meeks(foot) and S Aaron Williams (ankle)
 
GAME WITHIN THE GAME  

The speed with which Buffalo adjusts to the Patriots offensive game plan and whether or not the Patriots have an adjustment to the adjustment. The uncertainty of the Patriots quarterback situation has been a distraction for the Bills and Rex Ryan this week and – given the Bills leaky pass defense – how Buffalo decides to deploy will matter a lot depending on who’s at quarterback.
 
BILLS GOTTA STOP
 
Jannyris Edeldolagan. That’s just an amalgamation of the three wideouts of similar talent, pallor and quickness that kill defenses in the receiver shell game the Patriots play every week. Just when a defense thinks it’s got it figured out on a key third down and has set itself to take away Edelman, for instance, the dagger gets inserted by Amendola or Hogan. It’s like a shell game.
 
PATRIOTS GOTTA STOP
 
LeSean McCoy. That’s the whole damn game. Cuz you. Don’t wanna mess with Shady. Cuz Shady. Will … cause big problems.
 
THAT SUMS IT UP PATRIOTS STYLE
 
“I fly around every day. You can’t land this jet, you know what I’m saying? It’s like having a private plane, wherever I want to go, I just go. I don’t have to worry about no jet fuel. I would say Gatorade but they don’t sponsor me so I’ll just go get me some good ole’ something to drink, and Gatorade can have the plug.” – Martellus Bennett, Patriots tight end, on the team flying around in September.
 
THAT SUMS IT UP BILLS STYLE
 
“It’s more of a ‘this is still a game.’ It’s a billion dollar industry and things but it’s still a game and you’ve got to be true to yourself and I’m true to myself. To me it’s just a thing where, you know, I enjoy Belichick’s press conferences and everything else because he’s true to himself and he does a great job. It’s pretty funny to me because you guys can never get anything out of him and I just think it’s great. It’s kind of funny that way. I pulled it knowing that every question is going to be about who’s the quarterback and all that. One thing I know for sure is that Tom Brady is not the quarterback and I feel good about that.” – Simple Rex, after being asked why he mimicked Bill Belichick during his week-opening press conference
 
THE WINNER IS...
 
Patriots 23, Bills 13
 

Report: Ex-Raiders FB Marcel Reece works out for Patriots

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Report: Ex-Raiders FB Marcel Reece works out for Patriots

Fullback Marcel Reece, cut by the Oakland Raiders earlier this week, was one of five players who worked out Friday for the Patriots, ESPN's Mike Reiss reported

Reece, a seven-year NFL veteran, all with the Raiders, was suspended last December for the final game of the 2015 season and the first three games of this season for violating the NFL performance enhancing drug policy. 

Reiss reported that guards Jake Bernstein and Chase Farris, center Robert Kugler and tight end Greg Scruggs also worked out for the Patriots on Friday.

More on Reece from CSNBayAea.com.