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Denver Broncos put Willis McGahee on IR

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Denver Broncos put Willis McGahee on IR

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The Denver Broncos will have to make a deep run in the playoffs to get Willis McGahee any more carries this season.

The Broncos put their 31-year-old running back on recallable injured reserve Wednesday, meaning he can return to practice after missing the final six regular-season games and play in a game after Jan. 18.

That would bring Denver up to the AFC title game.

McGahee tore the medical collateral ligament in his right knee Sunday when he was tackled low by San Diego cornerback Quentin Jammer. Coach John Fox said McGahee won't need surgery, but he decided to put him on IR to give the Broncos some roster flexibility.

McGahee will be replaced by rookie Ronnie Hillman, Lance Ball and former first-round pick Knowshon Moreno, who have combined for 297 yards and two TDs on 82 carries so far, when the AFC West-leading Broncos (7-3) visit the Kansas City Chiefs (1-9) on Sunday.

``We're certainly going to miss Willis,'' quarterback Peyton Manning said. ``To say we're not going to miss Willis would be not telling the truth because he's that good of a player. ... So, Knowshon and Ronnie and Lance have to step up. Everybody else has to step their game up, too, when you're missing one of your top players.''

McGahee ranks fifth among AFC rushers with 731 yards and a 4.4-yard average. He also had 26 catches for 221 yards - just 10 yards shy of his career high set in 2007 in Baltimore - and his 33 career 100-yard games are more than any other active running back.

Denver's offense is built around Manning's pinpoint passing, but McGahee's success despite a career-high five fumbles provided the Broncos with a toughness between the tackles and kept opponents from teeing off on Manning and his receivers.

``The good thing is all three guys have played plenty early in the year. So, they're all familiar with the system and they've all got to pick up their game,'' offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said. ``Every back, every player, has a different style. So, they'll do their thing. We have all the confidence in the world those guys can do that.''

Of the three, Hillman has had the most work - 49 carries for 188 yards - but he's a smaller, shiftier tailback in the mold of Darren Sproles and the Broncos will watch his workload closely.

``Willis has had the most game repetitions, but Lance and Knowshon are veteran players and Ronnie's probably had as much experience as any rookie running back right now,'' Manning said. ``Those guys will step up and do a good job.''

Ball and Moreno have more experience in pass protection, and that's priority No. 1 for any running back in Denver, as evidenced by Ball's beautiful blitz pickup last week when he slid from the left side to the right, sparing Manning a vicious hit and allowing him to throw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker.

``That was a huge block,'' said Manning, who expects those kinds of plays from whoever's in the backfield with him.

Hillman said the prospect of carrying a larger load now means ``you've got to protect Peyton a lot longer. I've been in there a lot, but if I do get an extended role, then it's a little more pressure, being able to do everything right every play that I'm there.''

The Broncos are keeping their options open as far as filling McGahee's spot on the roster. They could promote running back Jeremiah Johnson from their practice squad or sign a free agent. On Tuesday, they worked out former Houston running back Steve Slaton, who rushed for 1,282 yards and caught 50 passes as a rookie in 2008 before injuries and inconsistency took hold.

Fox, however, indicated he wasn't planning on adding another running back before Sunday's game.

``For this week, I think we feel very comfortable with who we have,'' Fox said. ``And that can change based on anything we might do, but I think it's fair to say and pretty obvious that we'll pull from the guys we have that know our system.''

Hillman was listed as a full participant at practice with a hamstring injury, but he told The Associated Press it wasn't an issue and that he hadn't aggravated the hamstring pull that set him back during training camp.

Notes: CB Omar Bolden (concussion) didn't participate in practice. DL Derek Wolfe (thigh), TE Virgil Green (hamstring) and WR Demaryius Thomas (right knee) were limited. RG Chris Kuper (left ankle) and CB Tracy Porter (illness) and DE Robert Ayers (groin) were full participants. ... Chiefs QB Brady Quinn is the first of Denver's trio of 2011 QBs to get a start for his new team. ... Perennial Pro Bowl CB Champ Bailey said flags for helmet-to-helmet hits like the one that cost Ravens S Ed Reed $50,000 should be immediately reviewable on replay like fumbles or TDs. He said it's impossible for a fast-closing defender to avoid hits like this one when the ball-handler ducks a split-second before impact like Pittsburgh WR Emmanuel Sanders did. The league originally suspended Reed for a game, which Bailey suggested was orchestrated: ``Lift the suspension and make it a fine. It kind of lightens the load of a $50,000 fine, right?'' Bailey said. ``It's still excessive. I know Ed personally and he's not a dirty player.'' ... LB Von Miller won his second career Defensive Player of the Week award for his three-sack, two-forced fumble performance against the Chargers.

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter:http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs.Titans

Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs.Titans

The Baltimore Ravens' Week 6 dominate performance over the Tennessee Titans is gaining national attention. 

A historic game that displayed the offense and defense firing on all cylinders, it's hard to pinpoint who had the biggest impact. 

So in his latest edition of Football Morning in America, NBC Sports' Peter King awarded not one, but two Ravens with weekly honors.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Za'Darius Smith

Against the Titans, Smith led the Ravens defense with three sacks and five tackles in their historic 11-sack game. On of three Defensive Players of the Week, King explained why Smith's performance stood out.

In the most dominant defensive performance of this ultra-offensive season, the Ravens shut out Tennessee 21-0 and had 11 sacks. Another one of GM Ozzie Newsome’s draft gifts that keeps on giving, Smith (2015, round four, Kentucky) contributed three sacks of Marcus Mariota and five tackles in a virtuoso game. Net passing yards for Mariota: 51.

Smith, who's entering the final year of his rookie NFL contract, has shown over six games he deserves to get paid in the offseason. So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble. 

COACH OF THE WEEK: Don "Wink" Martindale

In his first season as defensive coordinator, Don "Wink" Martindale has seamlessly made the transition from linebackers coach to leading the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense (12.8). But what impressed King the most from the 21-0 shutout was how Martindale's squad got to Mariota from every direction. 

When a unit records more sacks (11) than completions allowed (10), the leader gets an award. Those are the rules. Martindale’s pass rushers got to Marcus Mariota every possible way—up the middle, around the edges, in the pocket, on bootlegs, you name it. The total set a new franchise record and was one short of the single-game NFL mark of 12. And it came with a familiar face watching: Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees used to hold the same position in Baltimore. Shout out to the Ravens social media team for renaming the account RavenSSSSSSSSSSS, one ‘S’ for each sack.

This Ravens defense, who has always been known for its dominance, is ranked first in points allowed (12.8), first in yards allowed (270.8), second in passing yards allowed (188.0) and third in rushing yards allowed (82.8) heading into Week 7. In addition, they have yet to surrender a second half touchdown all season. Trusting of the talent this roster holds, the respect "Wink" has for his players is equally reciprocated. 

"It was really emotional when they told us we had 11 sacks," linebacker Patrick Onwuasor said postgame. "We just went out there and we were like, ‘We have to get Coach Wink . We have to put the Gatorade on him.’ So, we tried to turn him around so he couldn’t see it coming, and we had to get him real good."

Martindale will now face the No. 1 scoring offense in the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. 

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Baltimore Ravens Week 6 awards after shutout win over Titans

Baltimore Ravens Week 6 awards after shutout win over Titans

The Baltimore Ravens went into the Tennessee Titans' home and completely robbed them in a 21-0 shutout win.

Here are the players and plays that stood out from the afternoon.

PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME: Ravens Defense

The Ravens defense had a historic afternoon recording a franchise-record 11 sacks. Yup, you read that right. 11 sacks.

Za'Darius Smith led the way with three, followed by Patrick Onwuasor with two and Matthew Judon, Terrell Suggs, Tony Jefferson, Kenny Young, Anthony Levine Sr. and Chris Wormley with one apiece. The 11 sacks tied for the second most by a team in league history and the most in a game since 2012.  It was so historic, the Ravens changed their Twitter name to included 11 S's. 

But that wasn't the only impressive part of the Ravens' afternoon. Marcus Mariota was limited to 10 completions and the defense allowed just 51 passing yards  —  the fewest in franchise history  — and 55 rushing yards. The Titans finished the afternoon 1-for-10 on third down as well.

With the shutout, the Ravens defense cemented its place as one of the NFL's most elite units in 2018. A win that must have been extra sweet after a 12-9 overtime loss to the Browns the week prior and with former defensive coordinator Dean Pees staring back from the opposite sideline. The Ravens remain the only NFL team to not allow a second-half touchdown this season. 

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE GAME: Michael Crabtree

After dropping what would have been the game-winning touchdown Week 5 against the Browns, Michael Crabtree said his priority this week was to get back into the lab and correct his mistakes. Out the gate, the veteran receiver stayed true to his word finishing the Ravens' first drive catching three passes for 52 yards and one touchdown. Earlier in the week, Joe Flacco had faith his receiver would get over the hump of six drops in five games and was willing to stand by him until it happened.

"Besides just trying to give him the confidence that, you know, I'm still going his way when he calls for it and I still believe that it's going to be the difference...it's something that he'll definitely get over," Flacco said.

The patience worked as Crabtree finished the day with six receptions for 93 yards and one touchdown leading all Ravens receivers.

But more importantly, the relationship between Crabtree and Flacco continues to grow.

"That’s trust. That’s what you need in football, you know," Crabtree said postgame. "Quarterback, receiver relationship. It’s only going to get better. It’s all about how much time you put in, how much work you put in. I’m new; this is my first year here so I got to do what I got to do."

STAT OF THE GAME: Flacco makes his way into the history books

With 25 completions Sunday against the Titans, Flacco became the third different quarterback in NFL history to complete 25 or more passes in nine consecutive games, per the NFL's communication department. Drew Brees sits atop the list with 11 and 10 consecutive games followed by Peyton Manning with nine. Flacco finished the 21-0 win 25-for-37 with 238 yards, one touchdown and one interception. 

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