Ravens

Quick Links

Broncos hoping week off doesn't stop momentum

Broncos hoping week off doesn't stop momentum

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) More than 15 years later, the words ``Jacksonville Jaguars'' still hit like a cold splash of water around Denver, especially during playoff time.

And if you want to bring back bad memories for Peyton Manning or any of his former Colts teammates, ask them about what happened against Pittsburgh in the 2005 playoffs.

In both instances, the Broncos and Manning roared into the AFC playoffs with top seeding, a week of rest after a bye and the so-called honor of being the odds-on favorite to make the Super Bowl.

In both instances, the Broncos and Manning were unceremoniously dumped, at home, by a team that came into the game as a touchdown-plus underdog.

Which brings up a good question this week in Denver: Does the team that comes into the divisional round fresh off the bye week (See, Denver) have an edge over the team that comes in off the high of a victory the week before (See, Baltimore)?

Dating to Denver's upset loss in the 1996 playoffs, the top-seeded AFC team has made the Super Bowl only six of 16 times.

``If you look back, at least in recent history, sometimes it can be an advantage,'' said Broncos coach John Fox, who lost after a bye week when he was with Carolina in 2008. ``But it comes down to, forget about rest, forget about seeds, forget about who you play, when, where. It's going to be who plays best Saturday afternoon.''

On Saturday, Jan. 4, 1997, the Broncos did not play best.

Led by Mark Brunell, Natrone Means and Jimmy Smith, the Jaguars rolled into the playoffs having won six of seven, then traveled to Buffalo for a confidence-building 30-27 win over the Bills.

Jacksonville's impressive performance barely raised an eyebrow in Denver, where talk of John Elway finally getting his Super Bowl ring was in full force. The biggest news of the week came when Woody Paige, a columnist for the Denver Post, famously called Jacksonville the ``Jagwads'' - a slam that quickly turned into a rallying cry inside the Jaguars locker room.

Every bit as important was the way the two teams were playing coming into that game.

Jacksonville had a high-powered offense that was coming into its own.

Denver had wrapped up the AFC West and top seeding throughout the playoffs on Dec. 1 and spent the last three weeks of the regular season deciding whether to rest the starters, play them or find some workable mix.

In their first meaningful game in a month, the Broncos shot out to a quick 12-0 lead. The rest, as any longtime Denver fan will recall it, was a nightmare. Brunell threw for 245 yards and the Jaguars went up 23-12. Elway tried to engineer another of his trademark comebacks but came up short. Jacksonville won 30-27.

``Everything was just so ideal,'' Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe said after the loss. ``And to have it slip away - this sets the organization back four years, at least. It's going to be the year 2000 before we can ever recover from this.''

It didn't take that long for the Broncos to rebound; they won the next two Super Bowls. Manning rebounded from his 2005 playoff loss to win the Super Bowl the next season.

But at the time they happened, both losses were as devastating as they were unexpected.

Going into the game against the Steelers on Jan. 15, 2006, Manning was already brandishing a reputation as one of the greats of the game, albeit with a playoff resume still very much in question. Tom Brady had ousted him twice and he had a 3-5 record in the postseason.

The Colts started that season 13-0 and played the last three weeks under similar circumstances as the `96 Broncos - trying to find the formula that would help them stay sharp while not putting their stars at risk.

Manning played one quarter of the 15th game and one series of the last game, which ended when he was sacked and lost a fumble after being hit by Arizona's Chike Okeafor.

Manning returned two weeks later and got sacked five times in a 21-18 loss to the Steelers. That result left the 2005 Broncos with home-field advantage for the AFC title game - the last time Denver has been that far in the playoffs - but the Steelers beat them, as well.

``That brings back bad memories,'' said Brandon Stokley, the Broncos receiver who played with Manning in Indianapolis in 2005. ``We just didn't play a good game. We had the bye. We kind of shut it down toward the end of the season and came out flat and that's what happens.''

Part by plan and part because they had no other choice, the 2012-13 Broncos have not shut down a thing all season.

Because they were busy holding off Baltimore, leapfrogging New England, then pursuing Houston for the top seed in the AFC, the Broncos had to play all their players through the final game of the year before sealing the top spot.

Once they got it, Fox designed the bye-week schedule to keep his team very much engaged. He called for three practices during the week and a mandatory weightlifting session on Saturday, designed as much for the work in the weight room as for what it prevented - namely, players using their days off to hop a flight to Las Vegas or some other focus-detracting locale.

On Saturday, they find out if it was worth it. The Broncos head into the week as a nine-point favorite.

``I like the way we approached it,'' Stokley said. ``We played every game. We played every play. The bye week, we worked hard. I like this mindset. I feel a lot better about it than I did in Indy.''

Notes: Broncos CB Champ Bailey and OL Ryan Clady were named to the USA Football All-Fundamentals team Monday. ... Denver's only other playoff meeting with the Ravens was a 21-3 loss in Baltimore in the wild-card round. The Ravens won the Super Bowl that year. ... Fox on whether the team had confidence in PR/KR Trindon Holliday, who has been prone to fumbling this season and is recovering from an ankle injury: ``He's on our 53-man roster and he's been our starting punt returner and kick returner for some time. So I guess the answer to that would be yes.''

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

Joe Flacco disappointed about losing starting job, but decision wasn't a surprise

Joe Flacco disappointed about losing starting job, but decision wasn't a surprise

It's been a lingering question around the Under Armour Performance Center over the last five weeks as rookie Lamar Jackson has filled in for an injured Joe Flacco.

At some point this season we knew that Flacco would be healthy enough to get back to football.

We also knew at some point this season the Ravens would have to make the tough decision on who their starting quarterback would be in the aftermath of Jackson leading the team to three straight wins.

That question was finally answered Wednesday when head coach John Harbaugh announced Jackson would be starting Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Flacco would be the backup for the first time in his 11 NFL seasons.

"Obviously disappointed that I can't be apart of this team in the same capacity that I have been for a long time," Flacco said Wednesday on learning the news.

"It's out of my hands. I got hurt. They drafted Lamar in the first round. At some point something was going to happen between the two of us. Who knows what that was going to be. This is just what it is at this point. I've obviously had five weeks to think about it and prepare myself for this situation and the possibility of it. I'm disappointed that, like I said, I can't be in that locker room in the same capacity that I've always been. But this is my situation right now and I'm going to do my best to handle it the right way."

The news, however, shouldn't come as a surprise to many.

In his first four games as the starter, Jackson is 52 of 89 for 600 passing yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions in addition to 67 rushing attempts for 336 yards and two touchdowns. His 30 rushing first downs ranks second among NFL QBs behind Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton (33), and his 475 rushing yards in 2018 ranks second behind Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen (490).

Prior to suffering the hip injury in their Week 9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Flacco was 232 of 379 for 2,465 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. The Ravens had lost their last two games under him and it looked like another playoff-less season could be on the horizon for the fourth year in a row.  

When the weeks continued to pass without Flacco and the Ravens record continued to improve with Jackson, the writing to many was already on the wall. 

"It's part of the game," Flacco said on losing the starting job after his injury. "I've talked about it plenty of times. Every time you take the field, there's obviously the risk of something like that happening and it just is what it is."

"I can't say I was surprised. The bigger thing is just even though I'm disappointed, like I said about I guess my different role and all that, is just trying to stay excited about what my role is and the possibilities that they bring."

The leader of this team for 11 years, Flacco had missed just six games and started in his last 41 appearances before Week 10. While Flacco is admittedly not a sentimental guy and many have criticized him for his lack of emotion over the years, standing on the sideline the last four weeks has not been easy.

"It was really tough for me," Flacco said. "It wasn't even about the possibilities of something like this happening, you know, as a starting quarterback — which I've been for a long time for this team— you play through things throughout a course of a 10-year career. I definitely wanted to get out there and be there for my guys that next week, and it's definitely one of the hardest things I've done in my career is standing on the sidelines, being inactive and not being apart of it the way you want to." 

There was no denying the resurgence the Ravens experienced under Jackson. His 336 rushing yards in his first four starts is the most by a quarterback in the Super Bowl Era and his running back-like speed continues to be tough for defenses to stop.

What Jackson offers in speed Flacco can compliment in the passing game. Ever since the first-round pick rushed for 119 yards in his first start against the Cincinnati Bengals, the narrative has been that Jackson will never be able to sustain that in the NFL. Now with two quarterbacks to use at their discretion, the Ravens' last three games could get very interesting even though Harbaugh would not divulge how much the team would utilize the Super Bowl MVP in Sunday's game. 

"Anything can happen in this league very quickly and were right in the middle of a really good playoff run and we have a lot of important games ahead of us," Flacco said. "I'd firstly be doing my team a big disservice by not preparing the same way I always do, and after that I would be doing myself a big disservice, too, because you never know what's going to happen and when you're going to have to be called on."

MORE RAVENS NEWS:

Quick Links

Ravens' Joe Flacco loses starting QB job to Lamar Jackson

Ravens' Joe Flacco loses starting QB job to Lamar Jackson

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Joe Flacco has lost his job as Baltimore Ravens starting quarterback and will be the backup Sunday for the first time in his 11-year NFL career.

Flacco is finally healthy after missing the past four games with a right hip injury. The Ravens went 3-1 during his absence under rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson, and coach John Harbaugh has decided to stick with the first-round draft pick with Baltimore striving to end a three-year playoff drought.

Harbaugh said Wednesday: "Every decision is based on making us the strongest possible team we can be."

Jackson will start Sunday when the Ravens (7-6) host Tampa Bay (5-8).

The 33-year-old Flacco has been a starter since his rookie season in 2008 and was Super Bowl MVP when the Ravens beat San Francisco to end the 2012 season.

Flacco says: "I'm obviously disappointed I can't be part of this team in the same capacity that I have been for a long time."

MORE RAVENS NEWS: