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Ravens' Birk, Reed finally reach the Super Bowl

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Ravens' Birk, Reed finally reach the Super Bowl

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) The only reason why Matt Birk brought his aching knees and battered body to training camp for a 15th NFL season was to get to the Super Bowl.

The 36-year-old Birk was bothered by neck, elbow and knee injuries during his previous three years with the Baltimore Ravens, yet he never missed a start. During the offseason, the six-time Pro Bowl center underwent surgery to repair varicose veins in his legs.

Still, Birk knew the Ravens had a shot at a championship, and he wanted to be a part of it.

``At this stage in my career, losing takes a lot out of you,'' Birk said. ``I wouldn't have come back if I didn't think there was a legitimate chance that I could help the team.''

Birk, safety Ed Reed and guard Bobbie Williams head a list of longtime veterans who will be making their first Super Bowl appearance when the Ravens face the San Francisco 49ers on Feb. 3.

``It means a lot for all the guys to have an opportunity to be a part of that,'' coach John Harbaugh said. ``To be able to be involved with that as a leader is a huge thing. It makes you feel really good, and now you try to make the most of it.''

Birk endured 11 fruitless years in Minnesota, reaching the playoffs five times without a conference title. Then, after joining the Ravens as a free agent in 2009, he was part of three more playoff runs that ended short of the Super Bowl.

Now, Birk is poised to be part of the NFL's biggest game.

``It's great, obviously,'' he said. ``That's the goal. That's your dream. That's why you play.''

Maybe Birk deserved it, after everything he went through over his first 14 years. But Birk exudes no such feeling of entitlement.

``Nobody deserves it more than anybody else. It doesn't matter how long you play,'' he said. ``To be doing it with this team and just, I think, the closeness of this team and kind of the journey that we have been through my four years here - every year getting close and getting close - to finally break through, it's pretty special.''

Reed, 34, has earned nine Pro Bowl invitations in 11 years with Baltimore and has long been recognized as one of the finest free safeties in the game. But he never got into the Super Bowl until now, and to make it even sweeter, his first appearance will be in his home state of Louisiana.

``It's been a long time coming, but it takes time,'' Reed said. ``We've built up to this point.''

Teammate Jacoby Jones, who grew up in New Orleans, will be making his Super Bowl debut in his sixth season. After the Ravens beat New England 28-13 in the AFC championship game, Reed prepared for a trip to familiar territory with Jones in tow.

``I really don't have any words for it,'' Reed said. ``I rushed into the locker room to call my mom, because I know that my family has been going through some things, so I'm just thankful to be going home and for the whole of New Orleans to see some hometown guys. Jacoby, we talked about it. We haven't been there since (Hurricane) Katrina. We're just grateful.''

The Ravens failed to win the AFC title game in 2008 and 2012 under Harbaugh before finally breaking through.

``For everything we've been through since coach Harbaugh got here, he had a vision of working us a certain way and taking us through something to build something and to create this moment,'' Reed said. ``We believed it, but it was just something we had to go through as men and understand each other and understand the process together.''

Williams, a backup on the line, played for Philadelphia and Cincinnati before getting into the Super Bowl in his 13th NFL season. Linebacker Terrell Suggs (10th season) and former Houston Texans stars Vonta Leach (ninth) and Bernard Pollard (seventh) signed as free agents with Baltimore for the chance to perform on the sport's grandest stage.

Quarterback Joe Flacco, who needed only five years to get it done, takes delight in seeing some of his older teammates finally heading to the Super Bowl.

``No doubt about it, I am excited for everybody that has been in the league as long as those guys have been,'' he said. ``To have this opportunity is pretty cool.''

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Ravens' defense earns third shutout of season, force 5 turnovers against Packers

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens' defense earns third shutout of season, force 5 turnovers against Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Baltimore Ravens forced five turnovers in their third shutout of the season, blanking the Green Bay Packers 23-0 Sunday.

Baltimore last accomplished the feat when the Ray Lewis-led defense had four shutouts for the Super Bowl-winning team in 2000; the last NFL team to have three was New England in 2003. Jimmy Smith, Eric Weddle and Marlon Humphrey each picked off passes for Baltimore (5-5), which led the NFL in interceptions entering the weekend.

"It doesn't mean (anything) if we don't make the playoffs," veteran edge rusher Terrell Suggs said about the shutouts. "If we don't get in, you won't remember them."

RELATED: THREE THINGS WE'VE LEARNED ABOUT THE RAVENS THIS SEASON

A problematic offense couldn't generate a touchdown drive until Joe Flacco's perfect deep ball to Mike Wallace over two defenders for a 13-point lead nearly two minutes into the third quarter. Flacco threw for 183 yards, going 22 of 28 with an interception.

His lone touchdown pass was still enough of a cushion against a Packers team struggling without two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, out with a broken collarbone.

The Packers were last shut out on Nov. 19, 2006, when then-starter Brett Favre left with an elbow injury in the first half of a 35-0 loss to New England. Rodgers, then in his second year in the league, finished off that loss in relief.

Hundley, Rodgers' replacement this season, didn't fare any better.

He was 21 of 36 for 239 yards. But he threw interceptions on the Packers' first two series. On the third drive, backup running back Devante Mays fumbled on his first carry of the season.

"Our guys were playing so fast and covering so well, it just made it tough on" Hundley, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

Any big gains the rest of the day were negated by busted plays or penalties. The Packers (5-5) have lost four of their past five games.

"You have to take care of the football," coach Mike McCarthy said. "Offensively, that was way too much for us to overcome."

RELATED: NO SUSPENSION FOR DOLPHINS' KIKO ALONSO

Davante Adams was a lone bright spot, torching the Ravens' strong secondary for 126 yards on eight catches. The Packers actually outgained the Ravens 265-219. But turnovers sapped any momentum.

"We're not in panic mode, everything is still in front of us," Adams said. "We've got to get a grip of it real quick here. Otherwise we will be in panic mode."

Justin Tucker kicked three field goals for Baltimore. Alex Collins added a 3-yard touchdown run with 2:12 left. That score came a play after Hundley threw his third interception, returned 15 yards by Humphrey.

Collins had 49 yards on 20 carries, while Wallace finished with 56 yards on four catches.

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Ravens vs. Packers: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens vs. Packers: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

The Ravens are back after their bye week and are headed to Green Bay, Wisconsin to take on the 5-4 Packers.

Prior to the bye week, the Ravens lost a close one to the Tennessee Titans, allowing Marucs Mariota to throw a late touchdown in the fourth to wide receiver Eric Decker. 

The first half of their season has been rough. Joe Flacco hasn't performed up to his Super Bowl MVP status and is looking to change that in their last seven games. 

RELATED: THREE THINGS WE'VE LEARNED ABOUT THE RAVENS SO FAR THIS SEASON 

Running back Danny Woodhead-who has been out since Week 1 with a hamstring injury- returned to practice and could be playing Sunday. 

The Ravens' receiving core hasn't shown up either. John Harbaugh's team is as healthy right now as they've been all season, something that will be very important in Lambeau Field. Can the Ravens get back on track and steal the sixth and final AFC playoff spot? Their first step could be against the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers.

The Packers have been without Rodgers since Week 6 and are now being lead by Brett Hundley.

Hundley currently has a 69.1% QB rating and 2 touchdowns, but is listed on their Week 11 injury report with a hamstring injury.

Packers starting running back Ty Montgomery, is listed a questionable and did not participate in Wednesday's practice with a rib injury.

RELATED: FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEK 11 RANKINGS 

They are ranked 22nd in the league in passing yards and 19th in rushing yards. Something the Ravens defense should be able to handle.

The Ravens and Packers have met five times, with the Packers leading the series 4-1. The last time they met was in October of 2013 when the Packers beat the Ravens on the road, 19-17.

Ahead of Sunday's game, here's everything you need to know to watch.

Week 11 Ravens vs. Packers Game Info:

Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. Green Bay Packers

What: Week 11 NFL regular season 

When: 1:00 p.m.. ET, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017

Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI

TV Channel: CBS

Live Stream: fuboTV

Radio: WBAL New Radio 1090 

Point Spread: Baltimore, -2

Over/Under: 38

Weather: 30 degrees, mostly sunny

BALTIMORE RAVENS 2017 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE:

Week 1 (Sun, Sept. 10): 20-0  at Cincinnati Bengals (W)

Week 2 (Sun, Sept. 17): 24-10 vs. Cleveland Browns (W)

Week 3 (Sun, Sept. 24): 44-7 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (in London) (L)

Week 4 (Sun, Oct. 1): vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:00 p.m. (L)

Week 5 (Sun, Oct. 8): at Oakland Raiders, 4:05 p.m. (W)

Week 6 (Sun, Oct. 15): vs Chicago Bears, 1:00 p.m. (L)

Week 7 (Sun, Oct. 22): at Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 p.m. (L)

Week 8 (Thur, Oct. 26): vs. Miami Dolphins, 8:25 p.m. (W)

Week 9 (Sun, Nov. 5): at Tennessee Titans, 1:00 p.m. (L)

Week 10 (Sun, Nov. 12): BYE week

Week 11 (Sun, Nov. 19): at Green Bay Packers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 12 (Mon, Nov. 27): vs. Houston Texans, 8:30 p.m.

Week 13 (Sun, Dec. 3): vs. Detroit Lions, 1:00 p.m.

Week 14: (Sun, Dec. 10): at Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:30 p.m.

Week 15: (Sun, Dec. 17): at Cleveland Browns, 1:00 p.m.

Week 16: (Sat, Dec. 23): vs Indianapolis Colts, 4:30 p.m.

Week 17: (Sun, Dec. 31): vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 p.m