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Holliday returns punt, kickoff for TDs vs. Ravens

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Holliday returns punt, kickoff for TDs vs. Ravens

DENVER (AP) The shortest player in the league turned in the biggest performance for the Denver Broncos.

And yet Trindon Holliday's record day still couldn't help his team beat the Ravens.

Holliday went 90 yards running back a punt the first time Denver touched the ball against Baltimore on Saturday. Then he returned the second-half kickoff 104 yards to become the first player to score on a kick and punt return in the same playoff game.

But the Broncos blew a late lead and lost 38-35 in double overtime in the divisional-round game.

And that overshadowed any accomplishment - big time.

``Oh, man, it was tough,'' Holliday said of walking off the field, knowing the season was over even though he returned two kicks for scores. ``It was tough to see that happen.''

The 5-foot-5 Holliday gained 248 yards on returns, the most in a postseason game. It also earned a healthy dose of respect from Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who's seen enough of Holliday to last quite a while.

``It was painful,'' Harbaugh said. ``We just didn't cover very well and they just blocked it really well and this guy, Trindon Holliday, he's a really great player. I've never seen anything like that.''

On his punt return, Holliday was barely touched as he sprinted down the right side of the field to the end zone, where a host of Broncos ran to greet him. Former Ravens returner Jermaine Lewis held the playoff punt return record of 88 yards against Pittsburgh on Jan. 20, 2002.

Holliday opened the second half by fielding the kick in the end zone, cutting left, slipping out of Chykie Brown's tackle and was on his way. On the sideline, Peyton Manning hopped up and down with every step Holliday took toward the end zone.

As soon as Holliday crossed the goal line, he spiked the football with authority and then posed for the cameras.

The previous record for a kickoff return was 102 yards by Atlanta's Eric Weems in 2010.

With those 248 return yards, Holliday surpassed the mark shared by Andre Coleman of San Diego on Jan. 29, 1995, in the Super Bowl, and Desmond Howard of Green Bay on Jan. 26, 1997, also in the Super Bowl. Each had 244 total return yards, and Howard was the MVP of that Super Bowl.

Holliday was assigned to the Broncos through waivers when he was let go by Houston in October.

A former track star at LSU, Holliday returned a kickoff 105 yards for a score at Cincinnati. The next week he scored on a punt return at Carolina.

Holliday sat out the final game of the regular season with an ankle injury. The time off did wonders and he returned to practice this week.

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Another week, another question mark at quarterback for the Ravens

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Another week, another question mark at quarterback for the Ravens

Lamar Jackson has gone 3-1 since taking over for an injured Joe Flacco as the Ravens starting quarterback, with the lone loss coming in overtime against Super Bowl favorite Kansas City Chiefs.

The offense has been unstoppable on the ground and very hit-or-miss through the air (with more misses than hits). The defense has looked revitalized. The Ravens have dominated time of possession stats, even with Jackson’s fumbling issues.

On the surface it would seem like the Joe Flacco Era is over in Baltimore, as his month-long injury has given way to a new style of football in Baltimore.

That may not be the case, however.

CBS mentioned early in the broadcast Sunday that Flacco had been cleared this past week, and John Harbaugh confirmed it postgame. The only reason Flacco wasn’t active this week was a lack of preparation time; medically, he’s ready to return.

But are the Ravens ready to return to him?

Most fans are probably fully on board with Jackson moving forward. Winning three games and taking an elite team to overtime on the road in the fourth game have a tendency to win over observers. Harbaugh isn’t just a casual observer, however. He has to make the ultimate decision of what will give his team the best chance to keep winning in the next three weeks and make the postseason.

We expect much clarity early in the week. Harbaugh has played it close to the vest throughout the last four weeks. In the days leading up to each matchup, fans have speculated that Jackson will remain the starter, and in each scenario, the Ravens head coach has gone out of his way to avoid naming a starter until as late as possible.

It’s a smart ploy from Harbaugh, as Flacco and Jackson play such contrasting styles that keeping it a surprise is detrimental to the opposing defense.

Anecdotally, it seems like the Ravens employing a rush-heavy attack (they finished two yards shy of a fourth-straight 200-yard game on Sunday) has kept the defense rested into the 4th quarter of each game, which has helped them finish strong prior to the Chiefs game. And the offense, while not scoring as many points as it did under Flacco, isn’t too far behind and has managed to at least sustain drives at a much better rate.

Jackson has played well for an unproven rookie who was assumed to need plenty of development to be an impact quarterback, but that’s still a lot of qualifiers. Even against poor defenses, Jackson hasn’t exactly exploded. The Chiefs game was clearly his best passing performance, and still he was under 150 passing yards, though he did finally have a multi-TD outing.

It’s a unique scenario in which the option that gives the team a better chance to score (possibly Flacco) may not be the option that gives them a better chance to win. Not to mention the fact that Jackson is clearly the future of the Ravens, and playing against quality teams in the midst of a postseason stretch run can only aid his long-term development.

It’s a question without an answer, at least for the next week. But it’s definitely one on the minds of Ravens fans, players, and coaches alike as the franchise enters one of the most significant three-game stretches under John Harbaugh. If he comes up with the right answer, it will mean celebrating in Charm City and Harbaugh solidifying his future with the team. If not, then the Ravens may just barely miss out on yet another postseason, and every option will be on the table for owner Steve Bisciotti.

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RGIII plays the final minutes of Ravens' OT loss to Chiefs

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RGIII plays the final minutes of Ravens' OT loss to Chiefs

With the Baltimore Ravens needing to get in field goal position to stay alive in overtime against the Kansas City Chiefs, it wasn’t Joe Flacco or Lamar Jackson under center with the game on the line on third and 22. 

It was Robert Griffin, III. 

It was the second straight week Griffin has had to step in for relief for Jackson following an injury. A hit on Jackson by Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston sidelined the Ravens’ rookie, forcing Griffin to come in at a less-than-ideal time. 

Griffin had no time to work his way into a rhythm or pass time until Jackson potentially returned. His first pass attempt to John  Brown was nearly picked off and his second pass to Willie Snead was incomplete. Following the game, several Ravens players -- including Griffin -- felt Chiefs defensive back Kendall Fuller interfered with the play. 

Moving forward, the Ravens find themselves in a dilemma. If healthy, stick with the young Jackson who won three games in a row and was in the game against the class of the AFC, albeit limited in the passing game, give Griffin a shot who gives the team more options in the passing game or go back to the veteran Flacco for the stretch run of the playoffs. 

At 7-6, the Ravens are holding on to the final playoff spot by the slimmest of margins. Head coach John Harbaugh has an important decision to make before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town next week. 
 

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