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Jacoby Jones saves best for Ravens' Super win

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Jacoby Jones saves best for Ravens' Super win

NEW ORLEANS (AP) What a sensational way to close out the season for Jacoby Jones.

The Baltimore Ravens' All-Pro return man was at his best in the Super Bowl on Sunday, first hauling in a 56-yard touchdown pass and then amazing the Superdome crowd with a record 108-yard kickoff return for a score - matching the longest play in NFL history in any game, regular or postseason.

The scores put the Ravens way ahead before the 49ers rallied, but Baltimore held them off for a 34-31 win.

And Jones did it in his hometown, where his mother cooked meals for the team during their stay in New Orleans.

``It's a great feeling man. It's what you work for through the offseason,'' said Jones. ``Through the camp, many camps, through grind and sweat, the cold tub and the hot tubs - all of that has paid off right here.''

The 6-foot-2, 212-pound speedster, who went to Lane College in Tennessee, set four Super Bowl records and equaled two others. He now has the marks for most combined yards (290), longest play, longest kickoff return and longest kickoff return for a touchdown.

He had five kickoff returns for 206 yards, two punt returns for 28 yards and caught one pass for 56 yards.

In the AFC title game two weeks earlier against Denver, Jones was on the receiving end of Joe Flacco's 70-yard touchdown pass in the closing seconds that forced overtime and led to a Ravens double overtime victory.

On his TD catch, Jones got behind Chris Culliver late in the first half and hauled in a pass from Joe Flacco before falling down. He quickly got back up and worked his way into the end zone for the score. He then opened the second half with his return to put the Ravens ahead 28-6.

His favorite?

``The passes,'' he said. ``It was just all the plays we ran through in practice. The line did a great job of blocking and Joe put up a decent throw for me to catch.''

What about that return?

``All year we've been running along the sideline on the return'' said Jones. ``They did not expect us to run it down the middle. ... That's my favorite return.''

During the season, he averaged 30.7 yards on 38 kickoff returns, tops in NFL, and had two scores, one covering 108 yards.

Jones was 5-7, 160 pounds - ``with bricks in my pockets,'' he said - when he graduated high school, walked on at Lane and said he just ``took off.''

``I've been an underdog all my life,'' he said.

Now he'll get a Super Bowl ring.

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CLOSE BUT NO LOMBARDI: The biggest comeback in Super Bowl history was 10 points. The San Francisco 49ers were on the verge of rallying from a 22-point deficit but fell short in a 34-31 loss to the Ravens.

That allowed Baltimore to become the 21st Super Bowl winner to never trail in the game. Joe Flacco's 13-yard TD pass to Anquan Boldin gave the Ravens a 7-0 lead early on, and the 49ers got as close as 31-29.

The last wire-to-wire winner was Green Bay in its 31-25 win over Pittsburgh in the 2011 Super Bowl.

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SOCIAL STATISTICS: Twitter kept its own Super Bowl stats, and following the game said there were about 22.1 million total tweets about the game and halftime show, including 5.5 million during Beyonce's halftime performance.

The players most mentioned on the site, in order, where Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, Colin Kaepernick and Jacoby Jones.

The subject that generated the most intense activity, generated in tweets per minute, was Beyonce's halftime show, with the frequency of tweets rising as high as 268,000 per minute at the conclusion of the show.

The power outage in the Superdome, which caused a 34-minute delay early in the third quarter, generated as many as 231,500 per minute, the most at any point other than halftime during the game.

Jacoby Jones' 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown generated 185,000 tweets per minute, even more than when the clock struck zero and the Ravens had won, which rose as high as 183,000 per minute.

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SACK HAPPY: Ravens defensive end Paul Kruger found a unique way to celebrate the first of his two sacks Sunday night.

After collaring 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Kruger waved his fingers and arms as if he was conducting an orchestra.

``I'd like to be a maestro after I (retire),'' he said with a grin. ``That's just what came to mind, I don't know.''

Kruger, who becomes a free agent during the offseason, finished with 4 1/2 sacks in the playoffs after getting nine during the regular season.

His first one Sunday night forced the 49ers to settle for a field-goal try on their second possession.

``I just got a good jump on it,'' he said. ``I've been working on getting off the ball fast, and I came around, was able to get around the guy and get the sack.''

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CULLIVER'S DAY: 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver got beat by Anquan Boldin all night.

``I don't care if they was targeting me or not,'' Culliver said. ``They wasn't getting open except for the deep plays.''

Except for the fact the Ravens' talented wideouts - along with MVP Joe Flacco - made the biggest difference in Baltimore's 34-31 Super Bowl win. Boldin had six catches for 104 yards, including a 30-yarder in which he blew past Culliver late in the third quarter. That set up Justin Tucker's 19-yard field goal early in the fourth.

``Cully's been a competitor,'' linebacker Patrick Willis said. ``He had a tough one, but I'm still behind him.''

Culliver's week began with anti-gay remarks at media day, then a Thursday news conference to apologize. He also signed up for sensitivity training through an organization for homosexual youth.

``He said what he said. He apologized. He moved on and the team moved on,'' cornerback Carlos Rogers said. ``I just told him, `Hey, keep your head up. Keep fighting.' If you play that position, you're going to give up lays. That's just part of it.''

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SUPERDOME DIFFICULTIES: The Superdome has been a tough place to play for San Francisco offensive lineman Alex Boon and Niners linebacker Larry Grant.

The pair have now played in both a college national championship game and for a Super Bowl title in New Orleans, losing both times.

Boone and Grant also were on the 2007-08 Ohio State squad that lost to LSU, 38-24, in the BCS title game.

So pardon the pair if they don't relate to the common New Orleans refrain, ``Laissez les bon temps rouler,'' which is Cajun French for, ``Let the good times roll.''

``It sucks to lose, especially in the last game of the year,'' Boone said. ``You always want to win the last one.''

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TWO IN A ROW: Courtney Upshaw has this title thing down.

The Baltimore Ravens rookie linebacker added a Super Bowl title to the BCS championship he won last year with Alabama. And, not to be greedy, but he's already dreaming of a three-peat.

``It's the NFL,'' he said. ``We want to get back to it next year.''

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AP Sports Writers Janie McCauley, David Ginsburg and Richard Rosenblatt contributed to this report.

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The Future is Bright: How the Ravens' 2018 draft class performed

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The Future is Bright: How the Ravens' 2018 draft class performed

Just like that, they're all grown up.

Ozzie Newsome put a bow on top of his 22-year career as general manager of the Ravens when he drafted 11 rookies in the 2018 NFL Draft.

He found the franchise a new quarterback, a couple tight ends and help along the offensive line.

Now that their rookie seasons are over, let's look at how the 2018 draft class performed.

Hayden Hurst

The 25th overall pick missed the first four games of the season after getting surgery on his broken foot during the preseason, and in 12 games never hit his full potential.

Hurst finished the 2018 season with 13 receptions for 163 yards, averaging 12.54 yards per reception and one touchdown. With Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams both free agents, Hurst's 2019 could be huge.

"I really don’t think I was at my best," Hurst said on if fans have seen his potential . "The surgery set me back a good ways. But like I said, the offseason will be huge for me. I’ll be able to get healthy, get stronger and come back ready next year.”

Lamar Jackson

We all know how the 32nd overall pick's season went.

Completing 99 of 170 passes for 1,201 yards and six touchdowns in 2018 on top of 695 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns, Jackson will enter the 2019 season as the Ravens' quarterback of the future. En route to leading the team to their first postseason appearance in three seasons, the QB finished the 2018 season with a 84,5 QB rating.

The Ravens have begun shaping their offense around Jackson's run-heavy style of play, while they'll look to improve his ball security and accuracy.

Orlando Brown Jr.

Brown Jr.  ended up becoming a vital piece of the Ravens' O-line. 

Appearing in all 16 regular season games and starting 10 for an injured James Hurst, the third-round pick didn't allow a single sack in those starts and helped the offense rank second in the league in rushing at 152.6 yards per game. 

 “It’s really been hard-fought," Brown Jr. said on his rookie season performance. "I played against a lot of great players. I think I played well for a rookie, not for a sophomore. I want to be one of the greats in this league. It’s going to take a lot of work to get where I want to be – obviously, that’s All-Pro and being as consistent as I can be for as long as I can be.”

Mark Andrews

Andrews ended up being the tight end to make the biggest impact for the Ravens this season.

Finishing 2018 with 34 receptions for 552 yards, averaging 16.24 yards per carry and three touchdowns, Andrews' 68-yard touchdown Week 16 against the Chargers was the teams longest offensive score of the season. The rookie out of Oklahoma also finished the season ranked as Pro Football Focus' 13th overall tight end in the league.

Anthony Averett

The cornerback out of Alabama served as a backup in 11 games this season, finishing with five tackles.

If the Ravens decide to move on from veterans Jimmy Smith or Brandon Carr in the offseason, Averett could find a more prominent role in 2019.

Kenny Young

The rookie made his presence known early in the season after filling in for an injured C.J. Mosley during the Ravens' Weeks 2 and 3 matchups. 

Young played in all 16 games in 2018, finishing the season with 40 tackles, 2.5 sacks and one forced fumble. If the Ravens part ways with Mosley, their future still looks bright with Young on the come up. 

Jaleel Scott

The fourth-round pick was placed on injured reserve prior to the start of the season after suffering a hamstring injury.

Jordan Lasley

The fifth-round pick was a gameday inactive since Week 1.

DeShon Elliott

The sixth-round pick was placed on injured reserve at the start of the season with a fractured forearm suffered in the Ravens' preseason game against the Miami Dolphins. 

Greg Senat

The sixth-round pick was also placed on injured reserve prior to the start of the season with a foot injury.

Bradley Bozeman

Bozeman proved his value as a backup offensive lineman appearing in 14 games for the Ravens, including their Wild Card playoff loss.

Zach Sieler

Newsome's final draft pick appeared in two games for the Ravens this season. Inactive most gamedays, Sieler posted a tackle against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 9. 

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Ravens' Lamar Jackson aspiring to become the Tom Brady of Baltimore

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Ravens' Lamar Jackson aspiring to become the Tom Brady of Baltimore

It only took Lamar Jackson seven weeks to get the city of Baltimore behind him. 

Since becoming the Ravens' starter in Week 11, Jackson pulled his team out of a three-game losing streak, going 6-1 down the stretch, and earned the franchise their first playoff appearance in three season.

That's quite impressive for a rookie, but the 22-year-old wants his time in Baltimore to resemble arguably the greatest to ever do it. 

"Ain't no ceiling," Jackson said on his limitations in an interview with Ray Lewis for Showtime's 'Inside the NFL.' "I already said it, when I got drafted, I want to bring a Super Bowl to Baltimore, so I'm going to try to bring as much as I can. I want to bring a Super Bowl here. I want to be the Brady. Bring multiple if I could."

Through 19 seasons, Tom Brady has brought five Lombardi Trophy's to the city of Boston and is currently in the race for a sixth. It's a feat that may never be repeated, but Jackson sure wants to try.

The young quarterback's speed is something that separates him from the 41-year-old veteran. In just seven games, Jackson rushed for more yards (695) than every other quarterback in 2018, and his 119 rushing yards against the Cincinnati Bengals was the most ever by a QB in their starting debut. 

“Probably when, like, I'm playing football with my older cousins,” Jackson told Lewis on when he realized he was the fastest kid on the block. “I used to play with all the older guys. I never played with, really, my age group when I was younger. ... There would be a new kid come on the block, and they'd be like, 'Oh, this kid, he's good,' this and that. So I get jealous, because I'm like, 'Man, I'm the best kid over here,' so I'm going to outperform him.”

His speed is such a threat that the Ravens have already begun shaping their future around it, while accuracy and ball security remain a work in progress. Jackson finished his rookie campaign completing 99 of 170 passes for 1,201 yards and six touchdowns. 

While reaching Brady-type success will be an uphill battle, the good news is he's got 18 or more seasons to hit his goal. Jackson will get his first taste of Brady in 2019 when the Ravens host the Patriots. 

You can watch Jackson and Lewis' full interview Tuesday at 9 p.m..

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