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.

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

Ever since Derek Carr signed a five-year, $125 million extension with the Raiders to give him the highest average annual contract value in league history, some version of the same question has been posed over and over again. 

What does this mean for other quarterbacks looking for new deals? 

Despite the fact that Carr's average annual value surpasses the previous high set by Andrew Luck ($24.6 million), and despite the fact that Carr's contract provides him the security that alluded him while he was on his rookie contract, his recent haul may not mean much for the likes of Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins and other top-end quarterbacks.

They were already expecting monster paydays down the road that would hit (or eclipse) the $25 million range, and Carr's record-setting contract may not even serve as a suitable baseline for them, as ESPN's Dan Graziano lays out.

So if Carr's contract did little more for upper-echelon quarterbacks than confirm for them where the market was already headed, then does it mean anything for someone like Jimmy Garoppolo? 

Carr and Garoppolo were both second-round picks in 2014, but from that point, they've obviously taken very different roads as pros. Carr started 47 consecutive games in his first three years and by last season he had established himself as one of the most valuable players in the league. Garoppolo, by comparison, has started two games. 

Both players still hold loads of promise, but unless Garoppolo sees substantial playing time in 2017 and then hits the open market, he won't approach Carr's deal when his rookie contract is up.  

ESPN's Mike Reiss projected that a fair deal for Garoppolo on the open market might fall between the $19 million that was guaranteed to Chicago's Mike Glennon and Carr's contract, which includes $40 million fully guaranteed and $70 million in total guarantees, per NFL Media.

Perhaps something in the range of what Brock Osweiler received from the Texans after Osweiler started seven games for the Broncos in 2015 would be considered fair: four years, with $37 million guaranteed. Because Osweiler (before his deal or since) never seemed as polished as Garoppolo was in his two games as a starter in 2016, and because the salary cap continues to soar, the argument could be made that Garoppolo deserves something even richer. 

Though Garoppolo is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency following the 2017 season, there is a chance he doesn't get there quite that quickly. The Patriots could try to come to some kind of agreement with their backup quarterback on an extension that would keep him in New England, or they could place the franchise tag on him following the season. 

Either way, Garoppolo will get paid. But until he sees more time on the field, a deal that would pay him in the same range as his draft classmate will probably be out of reach.

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Football is coming.

The Patriots announced on Thursday that veterans will report to training camp on Wednesday, July 26 and that the first public practice will take place the following day.

Each of the team's first four practices -- from July 27-30 -- are scheduled to take place on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium "in the nine o'clock hour," according to the Patriots. Updates to the training camp schedule, including more specific start times for practices, can be found at patriots.com/trainingcamp.

The Patriots Hall of Fame will hold its induction ceremony for former corner Raymond Clayborn on Saturday, July 29 around midday following that morning's training camp practice. Held on the plaza outside the Hall at Patriot Place, the ceremony will be free and open to the public.

The Patriots will host the Jaguars for two days of joint practices open to the public on Monday, Aug. 7 and Tuesday, Aug. 8. The preseason opener for both clubs will take place at Gillette Stadium on Aug. 10.