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Flacco begins collecting awards as Super Bowl MVP

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Flacco begins collecting awards as Super Bowl MVP

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Working on 90 minutes of sleep, Joe Flacco wore a day-old beard and a weary smile that wouldn't go away.

Super Bowl tradition deems that the game's MVP appear at a ceremony the following morning to shake hands with the commissioner of the NFL, accept the shiny trophy, pose for pictures and receive the keys to a new car. And so, after celebrating the Baltimore Ravens' 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers into the early hours of Monday morning, Flacco dutifully fulfilled his obligation.

The quarterback's immediate reward for throwing three touchdown passes on Sunday night was a 2014 Corvette. In the months ahead, Flacco is almost assured of receiving a lucrative, long-term contract befitting his incredible performance during Baltimore's run to the NFL championship.

In the playoffs, Flacco had 11 TD passes and no interceptions, a feat NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called ``extraordinary.''

``He was unflappable and brought his team to a Super Bowl level,'' Goodell said. ``His play represented that all the way through.''

Less than 12 hours after hoisting the Lombardi Trophy over his head amid a shower of purple confetti, Flacco still couldn't come to grips with what he and the Ravens had accomplished.

After throwing for three scores in the first half to stake the Ravens to a 21-6 lead, Flacco directed two scoring drives in the fourth quarter to help fend off a 49ers comeback. He was 22 for 33 for 287 yards.

``I'm pretty tired right now, and it hasn't sunken in,'' he said. ``It's just a surreal moment.''

With a parade scheduled for the team on Tuesday, Flacco planned to visit Disney World in Florida on Monday afternoon before heading home.

``I anticipate not getting very much sleep, but it's for all good reasons, man,'' he said. ``Unbelievable game. It was just awesome to be a part of it.''

After the game, Flacco shared a little secret with the rest of his family: He and his wife are expecting their second child. After the Ravens played San Francisco last season, he revealed their first child (a boy) was on the way.

Flacco almost assuredly has a big payday upcoming as well. His rookie contract ends after this season, and soon he and owner Steve Bisciotti will sit down to determine just how much a Super Bowl title will be worth. He could wind up with one of the biggest deals in NFL history, perhaps commanding somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million a year.

``I'm pretty optimistic, but who knows?'' he said. ``This is a great organization, I love being here, great city. So I don't anticipate any problems.''

Part of Flacco's negotiating tactics might include raises for members of his offensive line.

``Tell you what, our offensive line has played very well since I've been here, but the last four games have been just unbelievable,'' he said. ``They're the reason that I'm standing here and we are Super Bowl champs.''

Before the Super Bowl, Bisciotti expressed confidence that Flacco would be the Ravens' quarterback of the future.

``We've never lost a great, great franchise player from the beginning,'' Bisciotti said. ``I'm just very comfortable that it will get done.''

The last time the Ravens won a Super Bowl, they dumped quarterback Trent Dilfer and brought in Elvis Grbac. A similar situation almost assuredly won't occur this time, in part because it would seem difficult to get someone deemed an upgrade from Flacco.

``Joe Flacco is the best quarterback in football right now,'' Ravens running back Ray Rice said.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who also attended the news conference Monday, recalled his first meeting with Flacco before the Ravens drafted him out of Delaware in the first round of the 2008 draft.

``Joe impressed me as a guy that was really was determined to be good and had a lot to prove,'' Harbaugh said. ``I just felt like he was a guy that was going to do whatever it took to be the best he could be. And that's proven to be true.''

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Ravens defense slows down torrid Seahawks in convincing road win

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Ravens defense slows down torrid Seahawks in convincing road win

As Marlon Humphrey scooped up a fumble and ran into the end zone, his teammates followed closely behind to take a group picture. 

After all, they deserved it.

The Ravens defense held MVP-candidate Russell Wilson at bay for most of Sunday’s game in Seattle, and the offense was able to do enough for a 30-16 victory. 

“I felt like nobody really thought we could win,” Marlon Humphrey said. “I think there’s not been many games I felt like, really in my whole career, that no one really felt we could win.”

While Lamar Jackson stole the show, the Ravens defense played its best game of the season when the team needed it most

Marcus Peters, the team's newest addition, returned an interception for a touchdown in the second quarter, and capped with Humphrey’s scoop-and-score, the Ravens' defense nearly outscored the Seahawks offense by itself. 

“I’m just here to do my part, and my part is whatever they tell me to do,” Peters said. “If it’s to go run into a wall, I go run into a wall. I’m not here to complain about nothing, just keep doing my job.”

Wilson, who hadn’t thrown an interception all season before Peters’ pick, was held to 241 yards on 20-of-41 passing. He didn’t eclipse 200 yards until the outcome was no longer in doubt. Over the Seahawks' final five drives, they scored just three total points.

The Ravens’ in-season additions — Josh Bynes, L.J. Fort, Jihad Ward and Peters — played significant roles Sunday. 

Fort had an excellent open field tackle in the first quarter on Wilson, Bynes led the team in tackles with eight, Ward was in the rotation on defense and Peters had his pick six. 

“Those guys were good selections,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They were just good football choices by our personnel department, led by Eric. We were really stabilized by Josh Bynes and by L.J. Fort. They know how to play, they know how to play the position and they got us calmed down.”

The leader of the defense, however, and the one every Raven played for, was Earl Thomas.

In his return to Seattle, he was the vocal leader on a defense that slowed down one of the NFL’s best teams.

“I told him, ‘We’re going to win it for you,’” Lamar Jackson said. “‘I know you’ve been here years, this is your original home and we’ve got your back.’” 

Thomas didn’t register a ton on the statsheet, but his presence was certainly felt by the Ravens all week long. 

“All week, really, we kept saying, ‘We got you, Earl, we got you,’” Humphrey said. “Seahawks moved on from him, and I think everyone knew they felt like he didn’t have it anymore, that it wasn’t like a happy go-away. It was more like, ‘You don’t got it anymore, we don’t really want you.’ It’s just a game, but for Earl, it’s a little bit more.”

The Ravens defense has seemingly found its stride after a rocky patch against the Cardinals, Chiefs and Browns. 

Tougher opponents await, namely the Patriots after the bye week. But for now, the Ravens defense has nothing to hang its head about.

“For us to come in and get this victory, with Earl on our team, it was really big,” Humphrey said.

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Lamar Jackson stymies Seahawks' defense, runs wild in 30-16 road victory

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Lamar Jackson stymies Seahawks' defense, runs wild in 30-16 road victory

Lamar Jackson was incensed coming off the field at the end of the third quarter. 

His most reliable offensive weapon, Mark Andrews, had just dropped two passes, and Jackson’s rush on third down only left the Ravens with fourth and two. So coach John Harbaugh asked his quarterback if he wanted to go for it on 4th down. The answer was a definitive yes.

The offense trotted back onto the field and Jackson scored a touchdown on the ensuing conversion as the Ravens, from that fourth down on, ended the game on a 17-3 run to pull out a 30-16 victory against the Seahawks in Seattle.

“I decided to stay with the field goal, play it safe a little bit,” coach John Harbaugh explained. “He came off, you could just see it in his face. I asked him, ‘You want to go for it?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, I wanna go for it.’ I was told that Marshal (Yanda) said, ‘If he wants to go for it, I want to go for it.’ I felt the same way. If he wants to go for it, I want to go for it, too.”

Jackson’s run on a quarterback power — and his confidence in the decision — inspired the rest of the team.

"I was just charged up,” Jackson said. “I was tired of not scoring."

But while the fourth down was where the game turned on its head, Baltimore’s next drive was its most impressive of the afternoon.

The Ravens, more specifically Jackson, drove 96 yards down the field on 13 plays and used nine minutes of game clock as a Justin Tucker field goal put the the team ahead by 10.

“He’s a competitor,” Harbaugh said. “This guy is a competitor of the Nth degree. I don’t know how to describe what a competitor Lamar Jackson is. He wants to win at everything all the time. We feed off that, he carries that. I think that’s who we are as a team, I think that’s why he fits us so well.”

On the following Seattle drive, Marlon Humphrey picked up a fumble and ran it back for a touchdown to put an exclamation point on the Ravens’ biggest win of the season

The Ravens defense played its best game of the season against the MVP favorite through six weeks of the season. 

Still, the story of the game was Jackson and his ability to seemingly drag the Ravens offense down the field by himself for first downs. 

“People just don’t really want to give Lamar the respect he deserves,” Humphrey said. “But what I saw today, I felt like football is a game of a lot of aggression, a lot of emotions. We had the little snap count infraction with our center, when I saw Lamar...I felt like from there, it was something different that came out of Lamar. That’s a quarterback I really like to see.”

Jackson finished with 116 yards rushing on 14 carries and 143 yards through the air. But while his passing numbers weren’t eye-popping, his runs were what extended the game and gave the Ravens a chance to win. 

In just his 15th career start, Jackson is rapidly growing into the quarterback the Ravens hoped they were getting they drafted him in 2018. And through seven games this year he’s on pace to place fifth all-time in total offense, with a projected 5,088 total yards. 

Jackson went into perhaps the toughest venue in the NFL and escaped with a convincing victory, a win in which no one will dispute who was the best player on the field. 

He’s also just 22-years old.

“We have yet to see the best of Lamar Jackson,” Peters said. “I don’t know how to stop him.”

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