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Sounds of the game include lots of fakery

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Sounds of the game include lots of fakery

DENVER (AP) The best spies in the NFL these days aren't behind enemy lines but on the quarterback's own side of the ball.

Every game, two of his interior offensive linemen are miked up for network TV, bringing the sounds of the game to millions of viewers - and future opponents - who hear the signal-caller's cadence, codes and cues, all of which are enshrouded in an increasing amount of gibberish.

Just about every quarterback is doing his best Peyton Manning imitation at the line of scrimmage these days because of increasingly complex offenses and the league's seemingly innocuous decision to move the umpire for safety reasons in 2010.

Switching the umpire from the defensive backfield to the offensive backfield in 2010 posed a problem for the NFL: these officials wore microphones and essentially served as the networks' on-field boom operators. That was no longer possible with the umpire stationed deep behind the quarterback instead of in front of him, so last season the league put microphones on centers and guards.

Now, everybody can listen in on everything that's being said before the snap.

``Defensive guys appreciate that,'' Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. ``You get all the quarterback's cadence. Quarterbacks and centers don't like it. Offensive coordinators don't like it. By miking the center and the guards, we're hearing the quarterback every snap. So, it's entertaining for the fans but it's also informative for the defenses.''

Still, before pass-happy offenses and miked-up O-linemen, it used to be a lot easier for defenders to figure out what the quarterback was up to.

``Yeah, because you'd have guys from another team that would come to your team and tell you stuff and most of it stayed true,'' Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said. ``But you can't do that anymore because every week people are changing the terms. You've got to be a sharp guy to play in the league these days.''

Tune into any game and you'll see gesticulating QBs using frenetic hand signals and hollering a string of phrases, much of it outright hogwash - ``dummy'' calls designed to trick defenses and hide the offense's intentions. Teams change their code words week to week, even series to series.

While fans are all tuned in to this quarterback gobbledygook, many defenders are tuning it out, focusing on other signs like player movements and alignments to help them decipher play calls.

``I'm not really listening,'' Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. ``I'm just focusing on what I have to do and get off on the ball.''

Sometimes, you can't help but start to wonder, though, said his teammate, cornerback Corey Graham.

``When you've got guys like Peyton Manning, who's so smart, you kind of know that he might be talking garbage so you don't want to pay too much attention to that. But to be honest, it does catch your attention as a DB,'' Graham said. ``When you see a quarterback out there saying a bunch of gibberish and pointing at your receiver, you're like, `Aw shoot, what the heck is going on? I think I'm going to back up a little bit.' It does tend to make you think that they're up to something.''

The quarterback has been doing more talking anyway with so many teams spreading out their receivers and using the hurry-up or no-huddle offense and its check-with-me option to run or pass on just about every snap.

Linebacker Chad Greenway said that when the Vikings faced Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan last season, ``I don't know if he had any calls in the huddle. It seemed like everything was called at the line of scrimmage, an audible or he's checking between two and three different plays. Yeah, there's a lot of it.''

While coaching staffs study the TV broadcasts to pick up clues about a quarterback's calls and cadence, players find it harder to cut through the fluff and filler.

``I'm telling you, it's tough. You can't look into it,'' Bailey said. ``It's good for people at home to see what the quarterbacks say, but anymore it's hard to decode that.''

Younger players don't even try.

``When it's all said and done, they can only do two things: run or pass,'' Broncos second-year safety Rahim Moore said. ``They can talk as much as they want but at the same time, as a secondary, as a defense, we're talking, too. So, when you get caught up in what they're talking about, and vice versa, you're forgetting about your execution.''

Players coming out of college nowadays are accustomed to these copious amounts of chatter at the line of scrimmage where the multitalented quarterbacks have several variations of plays to choose from depending on what they read in the defense.

``Oh, that's all we've seen,'' said second-year cornerback Chris Harris, who starts opposite Bailey. ``Going against the spread in the NFL, the Big 12, that's all you get, really. It's always been check-with-me. So, you always try to disguise coverages, so that the offenses can't get a jump on you.''

Somewhere in all this trickery are bona fide checks and calls by quarterbacks trying to get defenses to give away their intentions while trying to camouflage their own. And sometimes the joke's on them.

``I think you're seeing more defenses kind of playing the game back,'' Broncos safety Jimmy Leonhard said. ``That's what we called it in New York: You've got to play the game back. You can't just sit back there and line up and let them make their checks and be at the mercy of what they're doing.''

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AP Pro Football Writer Dave Campbell and AP Sports Writers Dennis Waszak Jr., Schuyler Dixon, Teresa M. Walker, Josh Dubow, Andrew Seligman, Tim Booth, Howard Ulman, David Ginsburg, Will Graves and Jon Krawczynski contributed.

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Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter:http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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Report: NFL to cut preseason in half, taking away Ravens first and fourth preseason games against the Bills and Redskins

Report: NFL to cut preseason in half, taking away Ravens first and fourth preseason games against the Bills and Redskins

According to a report from ProFootballTalk, the NFL has scrapped its first and fourth preseason games this season and cut the preseason in half. 

The Ravens were scheduled to play the Bills at home on Aug. 14 to open the season, then end the preseason on Sept. 3 against the Redskins. 

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Now, the Ravens’ tentative preseason schedule will have one road game, at the Cowboys on Aug. 22, and home against the Panthers on Aug. 30. 

According to the report, the move was spurred on by two factors: Firstly, that road teams would have trouble moving that many bodies and risk spreading COVID-19. Secondly, that no team has had on-field workouts this summer. Now, with training camps scheduled to start on July 28, teams will have more time to prepare for the season. 

The move came with coronavirus cases continually rising in the United States a day after Dr. Anthony Fauci said new cases could reach 100,000 per day if more preventative measures were not taken. On June 30, the U.S. had 46,042 new cases, the second-highest total since the pandemic began.

Baltimore is still set to report to camp at the end of the month, as is the rest of the NFL. With the new preseason schedule, they’ll have about three weeks to prepare for the first on-field game action of the season. 

The Ravens haven’t lost in the preseason since Sept. 3, 2015, when they lost 20-19 to the Falcons. 

Stay connected to the Ravens with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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What if Ravens beat the Patriots in the 2012 AFC Championship Game?

What if Ravens beat the Patriots in the 2012 AFC Championship Game?

It’s not a stretch to say the 2012 AFC Championship Game was one of the most painful losses in Baltimore sports history.

The Ravens went to New England off a 20-13 win in the divisional round and were a game away from the Super Bowl for the first time since 2008. 

And one of their biggest rivals stood in the way of the Ravens and their second Super Bowl appearance in history. 

Baltimore and New England went back and forth for the entire game, before a one-yard Tom Brady plunge on 4th and goal gave the Patriots a 23-20 lead early in the fourth quarter. 

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Despite a Joe Flacco interception midway through the fourth quarter, the Ravens held the Patriots out of the end zone and gave the ball back to their offense with under two minutes to play. 

Then, the Ravens marched into Patriots territory and found themselves at the 14-yard line with 27 seconds left. 

On second down, Flacco fired a pass to wide receiver Lee Evans in the right corner of the end zone. Evans had it in his hands — then he dropped it. A Patriots defender came in late to knock the ball out of his hands, a catch that would’ve assuredly lifted the Ravens to the Super Bowl. 

Evans never played a regular season game again. 

"It was an opportunity to go to the Super Bowl," he said after the game. "And I let it go."

Two plays after Evans’ drop, kicker Billy Cundiff trotted onto the field to attempt a game-tying 32-yard field goal. The kick hooked badly to the left, and the Ravens lost 23-20 just a few plays short of the Super Bowl.

Cundiff, who had made the Pro Bowl with the Ravens in 2010 and signed a five-year contract extension in January of 2011, suffered the lowest moment of his professional career 364 days after he put pen to paper. He was released in August.

But if the Ravens had won that game, whether through Evans’ touchdown or another play in overtime, it’s reasonable to assume things wouldn’t have turned out as well long-term for the team. 

The Patriots lost the Super Bowl two weeks later to the Giants, 21-17, as the Ravens regrouped and made additions. 

One of those additions was Justin Tucker, who signed as an undrafted free agent and beat Cundiff out for the job in training camp. Tucker is currently the most accurate kicker in NFL history. 

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The next season, the Ravens finished the regular season 10-6 and though they had to play in the Wild Card round, found themselves in Foxboro once again for the AFC Championship Game. They dominated the Patriots 28-13 and went on to win the Super Bowl two weeks later. 

So while Evans’ drop, and Cundiff’s miss, might’ve been painful in the moment, that game led to a Super Bowl victory a year later, as well as one of the best special teams players the league has ever seen.

Stay connected to the Ravens with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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