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Ravens shock Broncos; 49ers rout Packers

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Ravens shock Broncos; 49ers rout Packers

The 49ers and Ravens are getting another shot at making the Super Bowl.

Losers in tight conference championship games a year ago, they are returning to the final step before the big game in the Big Easy after wins Saturday.

Baltimore took the long, frigid route, rallying at Denver for a 38-35 victory in an AFC divisional playoff. The Ravens will go to either New England, where they lost 23-20 in the conference championship match last January, or Houston. The Patriots and Texans face off Sunday in Foxborough, Mass.

San Francisco took the NFC game at night 45-31 over Green Bay behind the running and passing of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. That gave both coaching Harbaughs victories Saturday: Jim with the 49ers, John with the Ravens.

San Francisco fell in overtime to the New York Giants for the NFC title last year. The Niners will either visit Atlanta or host Seattle in next weekend's championship matchup.

The wild-card Seahawks are at the Falcons in Sunday's early game.

Second-year QB Kaepernick made Jim Harbaugh's decision to stick with him over incumbent Alex Smith during the season look brilliant. He set a playoff mark for the position by rushing for 183 yards, including a 56-yard TD, and threw for 263 yards. Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree for two scores and Frank Gore rushed for 119 yards.

The AFC West champion Niners (12-4-1) gained 579 yards.

``It feels like we're in the same place,'' Crabtree said. ``Winning that game last year, we're in the same place. It's just what we do the next game. It's all about the next game.''

The NFC North-winning Packers (12-6) beat Minnesota in the wild-card round last weekend, but their defense was overmatched at San Francisco.

Aaron Rodgers finished 26 for 39 for 257 with two TDs and an interception.

Ravens 38, Broncos 35, 2 OT

Rookie Justin Tucker's 47-yard field goal 1:42 into the second overtime of the longest playoff game in 26 years advanced the Ravens and kept star linebacker Ray Lewis' career going at least another week.

Earlier this season, the AFC North champ Ravens (12-6) beat the Patriots 31-30 in Baltimore. They lost 43-13 at Houston.

Joe Flacco's 70-yard heave to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds remaining forced the overtime. Flacco is the only quarterback to win playoff games in each of his first five seasons, and he heads to his third AFC championship match. He also lost to Pittsburgh in the 2008 title game.

``We fought hard to get back to this point and we're definitely proud of being here.'' Flacco said. ``We feel like it's going to take a lot for somebody to come and kick us off that field come the AFC championship game.''

Lewis announced before they beat Indianapolis in the wild-card round that this was the last of his 17 pro seasons. It's still going.

``When you look back at it and let the emotions calm down, it will probably be one of the greatest victories in Ravens history,'' Lewis said. ``It's partly because of the way everything was stacked against us coming in.''

Peyton Manning lost in his first postseason appearance with the AFC West-winning Broncos (13-4), who had won their last 11 games to earn home-field advantage in the playoffs. They wasted it by giving up long plays, negating a record-setting performance by kick returner Trindon Holliday.

Holliday ran back the second-half kickoff 104 yards for a TD. He went 90 yards with a first-quarter punt return to become the first player to score on one of each in a playoff game.

``He's one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time and for us to come in here and confuse him the way we did, and make the plays we did?'' Lewis said. ``We gave up two big special teams touchdowns, but the bottom line is, but we kept fighting.''

Seahawks (12-5) at Falcons (13-3)

Oddly, there might be more doubts floating around the home team with the spiffy record than the visitors.

While Seattle has won six in a row, erased its reputation as a road flop with three straight away victories - including last week at Washington - and has the league's stingiest defense.

It's NFC South champ Atlanta, 0-3 in the postseason under coach Mike Smith and with Matt Ryan at quarterback, that probably faces more pressure.

``We've been disappointed a few times,'' said center Todd McClure, a Falcon for 13 years. ``I think we've got guys in this locker room who are hungry and ready to get over that hump.''

One of them is Tony Gonzalez, the career leader in nearly all receiving categories among tight ends. In 16 pro seasons, Gonzalez never has won a playoff game. And he's said this very likely is his final year in the NFL.

``I'm not going to lie to you,'' he said. ``I really, really, really want to win this game.''

To get it, Gonzalez, Ryan and star receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White must contend with the league's most physical defense, a unit that completely shut down the Redskins for three quarters in the 24-14 wild-card win.

``I expect our guys to try to play like they always play,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ``They don't need to change anything because we're not doing anything different, we're going to try and hang with them, and we'll find out what happens.''

Texans (13-4) at Patriots (12-4)

Houston's reward for its wild-card win over Cincinnati is a return to trip to Foxborough, where the Texans' late-season spiral began. Houston was in position for home-field advantage in the AFC before being routed 42-14 by the Patriots, then losing twice more in the final three games.

This is only the fourth postseason game in the Texans' 11-season NFL history. The Patriots began winning Super Bowls with Tom Brady before the Texans were born.

AFC South champion Houston must bring the fierce pass rush it often has shown with end J.J. Watt, who led the NFL with 20 1-2 sacks.

``Biggest goal of them all, Super Bowl, and this is a big step for us,'' Watt said, ``and we're really excited about the challenge.''

That challenge comes against the NFL's most prolific offense. The Texans and Patriots allowed the same number of points, 331, but AFC East winner New England led the NFL in scoring with 557 points, 34.8 per game.

Brady would surpass Joe Montana for most postseason victories by a quarterback by beating Houston. Brady is 16-6, although he began 10-0.

He isn't looking for a repeat of the Dec. 10 romp.

``Giving us an opportunity to have this game at home, I think that's the important thing about last game,'' Brady said. ``Other than that, this is going to be a whole different game full of our own execution, our ability to try to beat a very good football team that's played well all year.''

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

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

Like much of the season thus far, the Ravens' offense struggled Sunday against an also struggling Bears.

It seemed as if their offense was playing in slow motion for part of their 27-24 OT loss.

Joe Flacco went 24 for 41 for only 180 yards and threw two interceptions. 

The Ravens had a shot at getting the win but couldn't capitalize on two special teams plays that helped them force the game into OT, leaving many questions about the state of the Ravens' offense.

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The team hasn't had much luck in presumably easy matchups, and now they are headed to Minnesota to take on the 4-2 Vikings.

The Vikings are coming off a 23-10 win against the Packers where quarterback Case Keenum threw for 239 yards and one touchdown. 

Star running back Dalvin Cook tore his ACL in Week 4 against the Lions and is out for the rest of the season, causing the team to lean on Latavius Murrary and Jerick McKinnon. 

Against the Packers, McKinnon rushed for 69 yards and one touchdown.

Something the Ravens and Vikings have in common is a surplus of injuries. 

Vikings starting quarterback Sam Bradford is still dealing with an aggravated knee injury and isn't expected to make his return Sunday against the Ravens.

Ravens running back Terrance West suffered a calf injury Week 5 against the Raiders and did not play against the Bears in Week 6. Tight end Maxx Williams hurt his left ankle in the second quarter of Sunday's game, as well as wide receiver Breshad Perriman who suffered a concussion. Both plays caused a turnover.

The Ravens lead the series 3-2 and haven't faced the Vikings since 2013.

Here's everything you need to know to watch Ravens, Vikings. 

Week 7 Ravens vs. Vikings Game Info:

Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. Minnesota Vikings

What: Week 7 NFL regular season 

When: 1:00 p.m.. ET, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017

Where: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN

TV Channel: CBS

Live Stream: NFL Game PassCBS All Access

Radio: WBAL New Radio 1090 

Point Spread: Minnesota, -5.5

Over/Under: 40

Weather: 63 degrees, partly cloudy

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.

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

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

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.

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Ravens lose in OT after offensive struggles haunt team once again

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Ravens lose in OT after offensive struggles haunt team once again

BALTIMORE -- When the Chicago Bears weigh the good and bad facets of their performance against the Baltimore Ravens, it's likely they will come up with this conclusion:

Who cares? We won.

After blowing a 14-point lead, allowing two long kick returns and committing two turnovers, the Bears used a 40-yard field goal by Connor Barth in overtime to secure a 27-24 victory Sunday.

"You got to be able to take whatever situation you get and make something out of it," defensive end Akiem Hicks said. "I wanted to get a good W, go home and relax. The coming down to the wire thing is not my favorite style, but . however you get it, you just got to appreciate it."

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Jordan Howard ran for 167 yards, including a 53-yarder that set up the game-winning score for the Bears (2-4), whose two wins this season have come in overtime.

Howard's long run in OT put Chicago at the Baltimore 40. After rookie Mitchell Trubisky completed an 18-yard pass to Kendall Wright, Barth delivered the decisive kick.

"It wasn't always perfect -- it seldom is -- but we're just happy to get out of here with a win," Bears coach John Fox said.

Making his first career start on the road, Trubisky directed a conservative game plan that leaned heavily on the run. The first-round draft pick completed 8 of 16 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown.

"We took what the defense gave us," the rookie said. "The run game was working, so let's keep pounding the rock."

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Howard had 36 carries and the Bears gained 231 yards on 54 attempts.

"Whatever it takes to win," Fox stressed. "This week, we had to run the ball -- and we did."

Baltimore (3-3) trailed 17-3 in the third quarter and 24-16 late in regulation before capitalizing on special teams play to get back in the game.

Bobby Rainey took a kickoff 96 yards for a score to begin the comeback and Michael Campanaro brought back a punt 77 yards for a touchdown with 1:37 remaining. The 2-point conversion was successful , setting up overtime.

"Those two special teams touchdowns were huge," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

The Ravens weren't the only ones to capitalize on big plays. Chicago used a halfback pass from Tarik Cohen to Zach Miller for a first-half score, and Adrian Amos returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown for a 24-13 lead with 5:08 left.

Baltimore was in position for the go-ahead score when Amos got his first career interception on a pass that bounced off the chest of receiver Chris Moore, who was covered tightly by Kyle Fuller.

Chicago forced three turnovers and frustrated quarterback Joe Flacco throughout the afternoon. Operating without injured receivers Jeremy Maclin (inactive) and Breshad Perriman (second-quarter concussion), Flacco went 24 for 41 for 180 yards with two interceptions.

Trubisky put Chicago ahead 17-3 in the third quarter with an on-the-run, 27-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dion Sims, who outfought Tony Jefferson for the ball in the end zone.

That put the Ravens in a precarious position, especially with a struggling offense.

Rainey alleviated the pressure by taking the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. After being tripped by a teammate, Rainey popped to his feet, broke right and went the distance.

Campanaro did his part later, but it wasn't enough.

"Sometimes your special teams kick in and score two touchdowns, which is great," tight end Benjamin Watson said. "But Chicago did a better job of closing than we did."

The Ravens were coming off a 30-17 win in Oakland in which they did not commit a turnover, didn't allow a sack and were penalized only once.

In this one, Baltimore gave the ball away twice, permitted two sacks and was flagged five times -- in the first half.