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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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Ravens looking to make a statement in Kansas City against the unbeaten Chiefs

Ravens looking to make a statement in Kansas City against the unbeaten Chiefs

Depending on who’s asked, Sunday’s game is either a statement waiting to be made, or just another game to play. 

In perhaps the weekend’s most anticipated game, the Ravens will head to Arrowhead Stadium to face the unbeaten Chiefs on Sunday at 1 p.m. It’s an opportunity for the Ravens to stake their claim as one of the NFL’s best, against the league’s most explosive offense.

“Every game for us is a statement game,” Ronnie Stanley said. “We’ve been downplayed since the beginning of the season. Every game (is), and this just happens to be the next one.”

But while it’s being billed as a game between two of the NFL’s hottest offenses led by two bright stars at quarterback, it’s still just the third game of the season. 

“Not really,” Marshal Yanda said on if this game is a measuring stick. “We focus on the gameplan. We focus on practice and sharpening things up, just getting better every single day. Obviously, we know that they’re a good football team, and we’re going to respect them. But we’re just more worried about what we can control in this building and just getting better every day.”

There’s two mindsets, but it’s impossible to look past what Sunday’s matchup could mean. 

Firstly, it would be at least a modicum of revenge for last year’s 27-24 overtime loss, a loss which Ravens players and coaches have said still sticks with them. 

But perhaps more importantly, it would give the Ravens a leg up early in the season on one of the favorites in the AFC. 

“We’re trying to make our way,” coach John Harbaugh said. “There will be a lot at stake at the end of the year when you count them up, but right now, both teams are trying to find who they are and are trying to win an early AFC matchup. It’s just kind of an early-season game.”

At 2-0, the opportunity is there on-paper for the Ravens to state their claim atop the conference, especially with the rest of the AFC North’s start to the season.

Cincinnati stumbled out of the gate and is 0-2, as is Pittsburgh, which just lost Ben Roethlisberger for the season to an injury. 

The Browns are 1-1 with the Rams coming to town on Sunday, meaning the opportunity is there for the Ravens to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the conference early on.

In order for the Ravens to do so, however, they’ll have to get by Patrick Mahomes and company.

“It’s a big challenge for us in the back end, a big challenge for the defense and for this ball club on the road against a playoff-caliber team,” cornerback Brandon Carr said. “They have it all. We’re excited to see what we’re made of, so it’s a big challenge for us, trying to find a way to get to 3-0.”

Still, Sunday’s game is more than just a game on paper. The Ravens can firmly cement themselves as one of the NFL’s best amongst the minds of many in the league. Even if they knew that already themselves.

“My job is to control what I can control, and that’s my offense,” Lamar Jackson said. “I don’t really care about the hype. I don’t even care about the hype they’re giving us now. They were just doubting us the whole offseason. Like I said, we’re just going to go in there and perform.”

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Ravens' 'Mile High Miracle' the biggest snub from NFL Top 100 Greatest Plays list

Ravens' 'Mile High Miracle' the biggest snub from NFL Top 100 Greatest Plays list

The Mile High Miracle isn’t the best, most creative moniker in the world. But it is one of the 100 greatest plays in NFL history.

At least, according to just about everyone besides the NFL.

The NFL Network released their top 100 plays in league history over the course of the last two weeks, and several worthy plays made the list. The Immaculate Reception, The Catch, The Helmet Catch, and many others made appearances. There were plenty of Hail Mary’s too.

And yet, the defining play from one of the great playoff runs this century, in the final minute of perhaps the single best game of the decade, didn’t make the cut.

Do you know what did make the list? A fumble recovery returned for a touchdown from the Patriots against the Jets.

What’s that? Doesn’t ring a bell? That’s because most fans know it by a different name: The Butt Fumble.


That’s right. A moment only famous for how many ways Twitter was able to make fun of it made the list of the literal 100 greatest plays in NFL history. It was a gaffe, not a great play, and the NFL chose to raise it up in lieu of Joe Flacco-to-Jacoby Jones, staring elimination in the face, with 30 seconds left, on the road, in freezing weather, in front of one of the most raucous fanbases in the league.

It wasn’t just Ravens fans who were upset on Twitter. Plenty of fans of other teams, including rivals like the Steelers, couldn’t believe the snub. It quickly became the biggest talking point online, once it became obvious the Mile High Miracle wasn’t going to come up eventually.

Now, it makes sense why some Ravens plays were left off. Ray Rice’s legendary conversion of 4th-and-29 off a dump-off pass in San Diego, otherwise known as “Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle” would likely have just brought more anger than anything else, give his given his exile from the league in the wake of his domestic violence case.

And many of the Ravens’ all-time greatest players played less glamorous positions. You won’t see many Jonathan Ogden pancake blocks or Ray Lewis form tackles on typical highlight reels.

One Ravens play actually did make the list, with Ed Reed’s record-setting 108-yard interception return for a touchdown showing up in the back half of the Top 100. 

But Reed’s return, as amazing as it was, isn’t the greatest, most iconic moment in franchise history. It’s not the moment fans still talk about, remembering where they were when it happened, in the same way my parents remember where they were when we first walked on the moon.

The Prayer In Thin Air (a much better nickname for the moment) is a top-30 play in NFL history, at minimum. Leaving it off a Top 100 list is indefensible enough in a vacuum, but when you see the types of jokes they included? It quickly becomes easy to throw out the list altogether.

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