Ravens outhit, outwit, outlast another opponent

992253.jpg

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.

Affleck offers passionate Brady defense when asked about Deflategate

patriots-brady-2-120615.jpg

Affleck offers passionate Brady defense when asked about Deflategate

When the topic of Deflategate was broached on HBO's Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons, which debuted this week, Ben Affleck became all kinds of fired up.

"What they did was suspend Tom Brady for four days for not giving them his [expletive] cellphone," Affleck said. "I would never give an organization as leak-prone as the NFL my [expletive] cellphone . . . so you can just look through my emails and listen to my voicemails?"

Affleck grew up in Cambridge, Mass. and is a passionate Patriots fan. He made no attempts to hide his fandom, and his appreciation for Brady, as he and Simmons (also a Patriots fan) discussed the football-deflation controversy that has now lasted well over a year. 

Affleck, who said he would want to cast himself as Brady if ever a Deflategate movie was made, harped on the fact that the league wanted Brady to turn over his phone. 

"Maybe Tom Brady is so [expletive] classy and such a [expletive] gentleman," Affleck said, "that he doesn’t want people to know that he may have reflected on his real opinion on some of his co-workers."

Brady is waiting for the Second Circuit to make a decision as to whether or not it will rehear his case against the NFL. Earlier this offseason, the Second Circuit reinstated Brady's four-game suspension issued by the league when a three-judge panel ruled in favor of the NFL, 2-1. 

Pro Football Talk wrote on Thursday that a decision from the Second Circuit could come at any time. If the rehearding request is denied, Brady could then take the case to the Supreme Court. Should the Second Circuit grant Brady a rehearing, his suspension would be delaed until the court reached a decision. In that case, Brady could potentially play the entire 2016 season before a decision came to pass. 

Brady posts high school essay to Facebook on living in his sisters' shadow

newsletter-tom-brady-052016.jpg

Brady posts high school essay to Facebook on living in his sisters' shadow

Tom Brady wasn't always the most famous person in his family. Growing up, his sisters were the accomplished athletes in the household. 

For his latest Throwback Thursday style Facebook post, Brady published a pair of photos of an old high school essay that he wrote in the fall of his senior year in 1994. It was titled "The way my sisters influenced me."

I found an essay I wrote in 1994... I love my big sisters! #tbt. Thanks for the good grade Mr Stark!

Posted by Tom Brady on Thursday, June 23, 2016

In it, he discusses some of the difficulties of growing up with three older sisters and no brothers. Because Maureen, Julie and Nancy Brady had achieved so much in softball, basketball and soccer, Brady -- or "Tommy," as he signed his paper -- had trouble getting noticed. 

Of course, it wouldn't be long before Brady was headed from San Mateo, California to Ann Arbor, Michigan in order to play football for the Wolverines. He probably had no trouble garnering attention by then. Still, it's funny to read about how he felt overlooked in his youth. 

He closed the essay explaining that he knew his sisters would always provide him support throughout his life, adding, "hopefully, just maybe, one day people will walk up to them and say, 'Aren't you Tommy's sister?' or 'Hey where is your brother?' Maybe . . . "

If the Brady sisters didn't get those kinds of comments by the time the baby of the family was given an 'A' for his English assignment, it probably didn't take long before they did. About seven years later, he took over as the starting quarterback of the Patriots.