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Pats season ends with "crash landing" and no title

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Pats season ends with "crash landing" and no title

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Tom Brady stood helplessly with his hands on his hips after his tipped pass was intercepted. He walked slowly to the sideline, removed his helmet and sat on the bench.

A fourth-quarter comeback chance was gone. The end of his season was less than seven minutes away.

Playoff games leave teams with ``either euphoria or crash landing.

``For us,'' New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday, ``it was crash landing.''

Not even the NFL's best offense or an improving young defense could soften the blow. The 28-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC championship game Sunday night left the Patriots without a Super Bowl title for the eighth straight year and sent them into an offseason when they could lose two key players.

Wide receiver Wes Welker and cornerback Aqib Talib can become free agents.

Belichick, of course, will be back.

``Yeah. I'll be here. You'll have to deal with me again next year,'' the coach, known for revealing little to reporters, said in a rare light-hearted moment during his season-ending news conference. ``I know that's disappointing for a lot of you. Until I'm told otherwise, I plan on being here.''

Belichick, the NFL's longest tenured coach, is looking ahead to his 14th season with the Patriots. He led them to Super Bowl wins in his second, fourth and fifth seasons - but none since.

Only Brady and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork remain from any of those championship teams.

``That whole era is over with. It's gone,'' defensive end Rob Ninkovich said. ``This is a whole new team. This is a different bunch of guys so we all have to experience it and learn for ourselves what that's like.''

The Patriots did reach the Super Bowl twice in the five seasons before this one. They lost both to the New York Giants, the latest coming last season. Then they stocked their defense with draft choices - end Chandler Jones, linebacker Dont'a Hightower, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and safety Tavon Wilson.

That was promising but hardly a guarantee of continued success.

``Guys only think about what's going to happen the year that they're in,'' placekicker Stephen Gostkowski said, surrounded by trash bags and cartons filled with players' belongings. ``No matter what's happened in the past it doesn't mean that anything good's going to happen in the future. Each year's different.

``Coming in day one of training camp we had no idea what this team was going to be and you kind of feel your way through throughout the games.''

The Patriots started slowly with a 3-3 record. Then they won seven straight before losing to the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers, 41-34 after rallying from a 31-3 deficit. They ended the regular season with two wins.

There were plenty of positives - an offense that led the NFL with 34.8 points and 427.9 yards per game and a defense that was second in the league with 41 takeaways.

Brady had his usual outstanding season, finishing fourth in the NFL with 4,827 yards passing and throwing for 34 touchdowns and eight interceptions. But against the Ravens on Sunday he produced just one touchdown as the Patriots were held scoreless in the second half.

The 13 points were their fewest since a 16-9 loss to the New York Jets on Sept. 20, 2009.

``It's hard to win these games,'' Brady said Monday during his weekly appearance on WEEI radio. ``Unfortunately for us, because we've had a lot of success, nothing means anything unless you win the last game of the year.''

Belichick won't wait long to work toward that goal again.

He must decide whether to keep Welker, the NFL's leader with 672 receptions over the past six seasons, and Talib, who solidified the secondary when he was traded by Tampa Bay after the eighth game.

The Patriots placed the franchise tag on Welker this season and could do so again. They also could sign him to a multiyear contract, or let him go.

Will he be back?

``I'm not sure,'' he said in the losing locker room Sunday night. ``I'm not worried about that right now.''

Talib's return also is uncertain.

``We'll see what happens in the future,'' he said, ``but I definitely had the most fun I had playing football in a long time here.''

Not on Sunday.

Talib left with a thigh injury in the first quarter. Other defensive starters played sparingly with tackle Kyle Love leaving in the opening quarter with a knee injury and Jones limited by an ankle injury to two snaps.

The absence of tight end Rob Gronkowski was probably the costliest. He watched the game from owner Robert Kraft's box after breaking his left arm the previous Sunday in a 41-28 divisional win over the Houston Texans.

And Brady had his usual struggles against the Ravens.

``Baltimore's always been a tough team for us,'' he said. ``Even when we play our best they're a tough team for us and they play very well.''

The momentum began to shift Sunday when Brady mismanaged the clock and the Patriots settled for a field goal on the last play before intermission. In the second half, Joe Flacco threw touchdown passes on three of Baltimore's first four possessions and New England lost two interceptions and one fumble on three of its last four.

At the most critical time, Brady and his teammates collapsed.

But ``there were a lot of positives from this football team,'' Belichick said. ``We wouldn't have gotten to where we were without a lot of good, consistent performances from a lot of people.''

More of them on Sunday might have sent the Patriots back to the Super Bowl.

``A season that's very much alive and with great hopes and expectations and energy suddenly crashes and it's over,'' Belichick said. ``That's where we are today. It's stopped. It's over. We're onto next year.''

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Baltimore Ravens re-sign Robert Griffin III to 2-year deal

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Baltimore Ravens re-sign Robert Griffin III to 2-year deal

The Baltimore Ravens have found their backup to Lamar Jackson. The team announced Thursday they are planning on re-signing Robert Griffin III to a two-year contract pending a physical. 

Griffin III made his return to the NFL in 2018 when Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens surprisingly signed the QB to a one-year, $1 million deal.

Behind Joe Flacco and Jackson, the Ravens chose to keep three QBs on their 53-man roster in case something were to happen to Flacco and Jackson hadn't fully developed to their liking. One of those fears did come true and Griffin III provided the Ravens with a valuable insurance policy.

The 29-year-old appeared in three games for the Ravens, completing 2-of-6 passes for 21 yards. 

With Flacco now the starting QB for the Broncos and the Ravens viewing Jackson as their long-term signal caller, re-signing Griffin III as their No. 2 makes a ton of sense for both the QB and the Ravens. 

"I feel like I have a good grasp of what this team is trying to do," Griffin III said back in January. "I would love to help Lamar [Jackson] continue to develop and also be available and ready to play."

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2019 NFL Mock Draft Ravens Roundup: Post-NFL Combine and free agency edition

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2019 NFL Mock Draft Ravens Roundup: Post-NFL Combine and free agency edition

The NFL Combine has come and gone and free agency frenzy has taken place.

The Ravens saw defensive veterans exit in free agency while welcoming Mark Ingram, Earl Thomas and Justin Bethel to Baltimore.

How has the combine and free agency affected the Ravens' draft board?

NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig: OL Dalton Risner, Kansas State

Standing at 6-foot-5, 312 pounds, Risner's draft profile notes that he "has the necessary tools to get guys blocked on the NFL level."

Risner could serve as a good rookie backup on the Ravens' O-line. 

Bleacher Report: LB Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech

The Ravens are in desperate need on defense after losing Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith in free agency.

Ferguson, who holds the NCAA all-time record for career sacks with 45, has been compared to Khalil Mack. 

"The question, as it was with Mack, is whether Ferguson's skills will translate to the pros," Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox says. "This means there is some risk involved, but the allure of adding a potential premier pass-rusher this late in Round 1 could be too tough to pass up."

Mel Kiper: RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama 

The addition of Mark Ingram may change Kiper's mind on the Ravens taking a back in the first-round. 

Jacobs' draft profile overview states, "Jacobs runs with good bend, vision and burst, and he proved to be an effective pass-catcher out of the backfield or from the slot. He will probe and burst, but he could become more elusive with better tempo as a runner. Jacobs is a decisive runner with outstanding one-cut talent to become a bellcow lead back." 

Maybe the Ravens see Jacobs as their long-term running back? 

SB Nation: WR D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss

The Ravens cut Michael Crabtree after just one year with the team and John Brown signed with the Bills in free agency. Now they're left with several holes to fill at receiver, a position the Ravens have lacked depth at for several seasons.

After posting a 4.33 40-yard dash, Metcalf's combine profile has him projected as an instant starter.

NFL.com's Charles Davis and Daniel Jeremiah: WR Parris Campbell, Ohio State

Here's a new addition to the roundup. 

Davis describes Campbell as, "extremely fast and elusive. A perfect match for the run-first Ravens, who now have a true deep threat to throw it to over the heads of safeties creeping to the LOS to help slow down RB Mark Ingram and QB Lamar Jackson."

Jeremiah agrees saying, "Campbell had an outstanding workout at the combine, displaying mature route-running skills."

CBS Sports.com: WR N’Keal Harry, Arizona State

      Another wide receiver in the mix, pundits questioned whether or not he was athletic enough to be a first-round pick prior to the combine. 

      Harry posted a 4.53 40-yard dash, 27 reps on the bench press, a 38.5 inch vertical and 122 inches on the broad jump.  Analyst describe the receiver as a "back-shoulder boss who thrives with contested catch opportunities outside the numbers but lacks explosive traits."

      Sporting News: WR Marquise Brown, Oklahoma

      We've got a trend going here.

      Brown, who stands at 5-foot-9 and 166 pounds, has an "elite vertical speed and great quickness coming in and out of routes," according to Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer. Brown missed the Sooners' Pro Day and the combine after undergoing Lisfranc surgery. However, he is expected to be ready to go come offseason programs.

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