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Dependable 49ers offensive linemen carry big load

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Dependable 49ers offensive linemen carry big load

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Right guard Alex Boone arrives for work most days and swears at left guard Mike Iupati. From Boone, it's always considered a term of endearment directed at his 49ers offensive linemates.

Iupati is so used to such greetings he gets a kick out of it. San Francisco right tackle Anthony Davis pops off plenty, too. The one rule: make sure not to take it too far.

``As an offensive line, we have a great personality,'' Iupati said. ``Every one of us has different personalities, and it's fun to come to work, and there's always a person in your face - Boone cussing at you, because that's his personality. It's no disrespect.

``That's saying, `I love you,' in Boone's way.''

Aside from the good-natured locker room antics, this group has been as dependable as they come on game day for San Francisco - a big reason the Niners returned to the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years. The unit is one of just three in the NFL this season to start all five players in every game, joining the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings.

``Oh wow, that's awesome,'' Iupati said.

They'll have to keep a good thing going against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

``It's a big advantage to have all five guys start all 16 games of the regular season and play almost every snap together,'' Boone said. ``When you're out there every game together, you grow from each other, you learn, you grow a bond. It's a big advantage when you know what everybody else is thinking on the offensive line. Not every team has had that this year.''

Davis and Iupati were both first-round draft picks in 2010, Davis at No. 11 and Iupati six spots later at 17. Those selections were the first with Trent Baalke running the draft, and they paid off so well he was later promoted to general manager.

Iupati and Davis became instant starters and stayed with the No. 1 offense for all 16 games as rookies. Now, they're veterans.

``It's come very far, as opposed to last year, just to get that groove,'' Boone said of his line. ``Playing every week together, game in game out, it has been tremendous for us in helping us take huge strides. We're hitting our peak right now, and there's so much more that we can learn from and grow from.''

These guys have something to prove against the Ravens after allowing Baltimore to tie a franchise record with nine sacks in a 16-6 road loss on Thanksgiving night 2011. Baltimore's defense attacked the right side at every chance, so coach Jim Harbaugh moved Boone from tackle to guard to help improve the coverage.

``It was different. It just felt weird being between two guys, but I'm learning to love it,'' he said.

Boone credits Iupati and left tackle Joe Staley for helping with that transition. Those two were Pro Bowlers this season for an O-line that received the Most Valuable Protectors Award from Hall of Famer John Madden as the league's top line.

``The offensive line is the unsung champion of many teams but is not often celebrated, therefore with this award we honor the guys who provide the critical run blocking and pass protection,'' Madden said. ``I've followed San Francisco all season long; they have proven they have the mental and physical toughness that enables their team's offense to put up impressive numbers on the ground and in the air.''

Center Jonathan Goodwin can offer the line some advice about playing on the big stage. He won a Super Bowl with the Saints after the 2009 season, and realizes just how important the unity becomes for an offensive line when playing for a championship.

Goodwin credits Boone for his part.

``He's kind of come in there and given us our final piece,'' Goodwin said.

2012 newcomer Leonard Davis and Daniel Kilgore even report eligible as extra linemen in some packages.

It's taken each contribution to get this far.

They razz each other one moment, then hit the field and turn on the intensity the next.

When asked about the dance skills of his line mates, Staley said wouldn't offer much credit to the rest of them.

``I do not know about the whole offensive line, but I have the moves,'' he said. ``The hip shakers.''

Even Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs has noticed these guys have a lot of fun together.

``Staley, I think he's a guy like me,'' Suggs said. ``He likes to have fun when he plays and that's how I like to play. The last time we played each other, when a play was going on we were serious. In between plays we would kind of just (be) chopping it up, having fun.''

When Harbaugh switched starting quarterbacks from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick midseason, the line also had to adjust to the swap. It has been seamless.

Kaepernick makes his 10th career NFL start Sunday at the Superdome.

It sure hasn't hurt that they know each other so well.

``We just like to be together,'' Iupati said. ``We're close.''

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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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Ravens pile up team-record 11 sacks against former defensive coordinator

Ravens pile up team-record 11 sacks against former defensive coordinator

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Baltimore Ravens swarmed around their new defensive coordinator, Don "Wink" Martindale, celebrating after a game that will go down in the record books.

Getting 11 sacks along with a shutout against the man Martindale replaced makes this mark even sweeter.

Za'Darius Smith had a career-high three sacks as the Ravens piled up the franchise-record Sunday in routing the Tennessee Titans 21-0 in the rain, just missing the NFL record shared by five teams by one.

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh called it an "historic defensive performance."

The Ravens (4-2) smothered Tennessee, allowing just 106 yards of offense while they turned Marcus Mariota's day into the worst of his NFL career. Eight different Ravens sacked Mariota, and four got their first sack this season at his expense. The Titans never got closer to the end zone than the Ravens 37, each time pushed back with yet another sack.

"We want to be something special out there," Ravens linebacker Matthew Judon said. "For Wink, it's great to go against his predecessor, and he stepped up and we came through and pitched a shutout. You don't ever talk about unicorns while you're doing it, but we got it done. We got it done for him, and we celebrated after."

Martindale was promoted to defensive coordinator when Dean Pees retired after last season. His retirement lasted less than a month with first-year coach Mike Vrabel luring Pees to join him as the Titans' defensive coordinator.

Asked about Pees, Smith only said that the coordinator told him at his pro day at Kentucky that the linebacker would be a Raven.

"Love him to death, but hey, we won tonight, so we're going to leave it at that," Smith said with a smile.

The Titans (3-3) had not been shut out at home since the franchise relocated to Tennessee.

"That's the headline: The `Tennessee Titans didn't do nearly enough on all levels to win the football game,'" Vrabel said. "Or even make it competitive."

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