AFC North: Baltimore Ravens

The announcement that the Baltimore Ravens will release nose tackle Terrence Cody brings up the 2010 draft, which will not be remembered fondly by a franchise known for making the right moves. Cody was among the misses by the Ravens in a draft that didn't produce many impact players.

The Ravens traded down in the first round that year when they should have found a way to trade up. Pro Bowl wide receivers Demaryius Thomas (No. 22) and Dez Bryant (No. 24) were selected just before the Ravens were on the clock at No. 25.

This was also the draft when the Ravens didn't have tight end Rob Gronkowski on their draft board because of medical concerns. Gronkowski has turned into a three-time Pro Bowl player who has scored 54 touchdowns in five seasons.

The Ravens ultimately traded out of the first round, getting picks in the second, third and fourth rounds from the Denver Broncos, who chose quarterback Tim Tebow at No. 25 overall. That allowed the Ravens to regain some picks after they sent their original third- and fourth-round picks to Arizona for wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

There is only one player who remains from that 2010 draft, and it's unknown whether tight end Dennis Pitta will play after hip surgeries two straight years.

Here is a look at the Ravens' selections in the 2010 draft:

Second round: LB Sergio Kindle. The Ravens gambled on a prospect with several red flags and lost. Kindle fractured his skull when falling down a couple flights of stairs before his first training camp, and played a total of three games in his disappointing career. All he has to show for his NFL career was one tackle and one drunken-driving arrest.

Second round: Cody. He was supposed to be the long-term replacement for Kelly Gregg, and he only managed one season as a full-time starter. Cody struggled with his weight early in his Ravens career and injuries toward the end of it. He played one game in 2014 before being released.

Third round: TE Ed Dickson. He looked like a rising prospect in 2011 when he broke out with 54 catches and five touchdowns. But a lack of confidence and unreliable hands led to 46 catches in his final two seasons with the Ravens. Dickson signed with Carolina last offseason as a free agent.

Fourth round: TE Dennis Pitta. He became one of Joe Flacco's most trusted targets in the Ravens' 2012 Super Bowl season, when he set career-highs in catches (61), receiving yards (669) and touchdowns (seven). Since then, he's been limited to seven games in two seasons because of hip injuries. The Ravens expect an update on Pitta's status for 2015 in a few weeks.

Fifth round: WR David Reed. It looked like Reed was going to be an electric returner after leading the NFL in kickoff returns (29.3) as a rookie. But fumbles and injures derailed his career with the Ravens. He was traded during the summer of 2013 to the Indianapolis Colts, and he spent the 2014 training camp with the San Francisco 49ers before being released prior to the start of the regular season.

Fifth round: DT Arthur Jones. This is one of the Ravens' late-round success stories. Injuries in college caused Jones to fall in the draft, and the Ravens landed a two-year starter. He was arguably the Ravens' best defensive lineman in 2013, which priced him out of the Ravens' range. Jones signed a five-year, $32 million contract ($16 million guaranteed) with the Colts last offseason.

Sixth round: OT Ramon Harewood. He spent his first two seasons on injured reserve before starting five games at guard in 2012. A year later, Harewood was cut by the Ravens after struggling with knee problems in training camp. He's had several tryouts but he hasn't been on an NFL roster since getting cut by the Denver Broncos in June 2014.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh's tone regarding tight end Dennis Pitta seemingly went from cautiously optimistic to just being cautious.

Pitta, who has suffered serious hip injuries in each of the past two seasons, saw a couple of specialists last week, and Harbaugh said he couldn't give any updates right now.

"I did get kind of an overview of that report from our trainer that I wouldn’t really want to share until Dennis has had a chance to kind of consider all of the ramifications of it," Harbaugh said. "But I think we’ll have something on that in a couple of weeks, kind of on Dennis’ time frame. We’ll see where that goes.”

Harbaugh indicated in early December that he expects Pitta to make a full recovery, and he said at the end of the season that he was "cautiously optimistic" about his return in 2015.

The Ravens are financially committed to Pitta even if he can't play in 2015. Pitta's $4 million salary is guaranteed unless he chooses to retire, so the Ravens will keep him around whether he's playing or on the physically unable to perform list or injured reserve.

Pitta, 29, became one of Joe Flacco's most trusted targets in 2012, when he set career-highs in catches (61), receiving yards (669) and touchdowns (seven). Since then, he's been limited to seven games in two seasons because of hip injuries.

Other than Pitta, the only Ravens tight end currently under contract who played for the team last season is rookie third-round pick Crockett Gillmore. Owen Daniels, who finished third on the Ravens with 48 catches for 527 yards, is an unrestricted free agent.

Phillip Supernaw, who played six games, is an exclusive-rights free agent and can be retained if the Ravens tender him a contract. The Ravens also signed two tight ends to future-reserve deals this offseason: Allen Reisner and Konrad Reuland.
On the day Joe Flacco declined his first invitation to a Pro Bowl, the Baltimore Ravens' quarterback celebrated the birth of his third child.

Flacco's wife, Dana, gave birth to their third son, Francis Michael, on Tuesday night. He weighs 9 pounds, 7 ounces.

"He had to decide [between] Dana or the Pro Bowl," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We can all agree he made the right choice, right?"

An alternate to the Pro Bowl, Flacco was offered a spot as an injury replacement for Aaron Rodgers. The Cincinnati Bengals' QB Andy Dalton went after Flacco passed.

Flacco's first child, 2-year-old Stephen, was born during the middle of the team's mandatory minicamp in June 2012. He was excused from participating in it.

His second son, Daniel, was born an hour before kickoff of the Ravens' 2013 home opener against the Browns. Flacco missed the birth, throwing for 211 yards and one touchdown in a 14-6 win.

So, how many children would Flacco like to have?

"I'd be satisfied with five," Flacco said in November, giving a number that would match his No. 5 jersey. "Kids are a lot of fun. It would be cooler to have more, but if we got to five and that was it, I'd be cool with that. I'm satisfied now, but I want as many as I could have."
Less than an hour after the news broke that Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak was taking the Denver Broncos' head coaching job, the two most popular options to replace him were gone.

Rick Dennison, the Ravens' quarterbacks coach, decided to follow Kubiak to Denver, and Kyle Shanahan, a finalist for the Ravens' coordinator job last offseason, reportedly will become the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons.

So, where does that leave the Ravens? With plenty of choices.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh can go in many different directions when choosing his fourth offensive coordinator in as many seasons. Let's sort out some potential candidates:

Hot name

Adam Gase, ex-Broncos offensive coordinator: He is the early front-runner because of his success. The Broncos scored an NFL-best 1,088 points (34 points per game) in his two years of calling the plays. Some will question how much control Gase had when quarterback Peyton Manning is signaling audibles at the line. Gase, 36, has drawn interest as a head coach, interviewing with four teams (he nearly got the San Francisco 49ers job). His strength is adapting the offense to his players. He helped reconfigure the Broncos' offense to a read-option one for Tim Tebow in 2011, then retooled it for Manning a year later. It doesn't hurt that Gase worked with Nick Saban, who has a good relationship with Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, and also crossed paths with Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees. The hiring of Gase could benefit the Ravens in free agency if they have their sights on a couple of Broncos playmakers -- wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas. The Chicago Bears are also interested in Gase to be their offensive coordinator.

Most experienced options

Marc Trestman, ex-Chicago Bears head coach: Nicknamed the "quarterback whisperer" for his success at developing passers, Trestman has been an offensive coordinator for four NFL teams: the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, and Oakland Raiders. Though it didn't work out with Jay Cutler, Trestman helped the Bears become the NFL's second-highest scoring team in 2013 with Josh McCown at quarterback. Trestman, 59, is known for his wide-open offenses with a lot of shotgun formations. He will get a strong recommendation from Jim Harbaugh, who said Trestman "taught me everything" when they were with the Oakland Raiders' staff 12 years ago. Trestman had been touted as the leading offensive coordinator candidate in Oakland, but it looks like the Raiders are now leaning toward Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave.

Greg Knapp, Broncos quarterbacks coach: He has had five stints as an offensive coordinator: the 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, Raiders (twice) and Seattle Seahawks. Knapp, 51, did serve two years as the quarterbacks coach for the Houston Texans (2010-11), so he is familiar with Kubiak's style of offense. He's also committed to running the ball, which is a big emphasis with John Harbaugh. In his three seasons with the Falcons (2004-06), Atlanta led the NFL in rushing, although a large chunk came from the scrambling of quarterback Michael Vick. There is a chance Knapp will remain with the Broncos because of his history with Kubiak.

Thoose with ties to John Harbaugh

Marty Mornhinweg, ex-New York Jets offensive coordinator: He spent five seasons with Harbaugh on the Eagles' staff (2003-07). It didn't end well for Mornhinweg in New York, where there was reported friction with Rex Ryan and the Jets finished 28th in scoring (17.7). Before the struggles in New York, he built an impressive resume with the Eagles, who finished in the top 10 in total offense in five of his seven seasons as the primary play-caller. Mornhinweg, 52, was also offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers and the head coach for the Detroit Lions. Even if Harbaugh doesn't hire Mornhinweg to be coordinator, it wouldn't be surprising if he joined the coaching staff.

Jim Hostler, ex-Buffalo Bills senior offensive assistant: He was a finalist for the Ravens' offensive coordinator job last offseason before Kubiak entered the picture late. Hostler, 49, then left the Ravens after six years of being their wide receivers coach to join the Bills. He spent one season as a coordinator in the NFL, calling the plays for the 49ers in 2007. The Ravens might not consider Hostler because it would look like a step backward, going with the runner-up to Kubiak a year later. But Hostler has a good reputation in the Ravens' building.

Other possible candidates include: Nathaniel Hackett (ex-Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator), Greg Olson (ex-Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator), and Rob Chudzinski (Indianapolis Colts special assistant).
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- All it took was a promotion, a trade, some recovery time and a new offensive coordinator.

That's how the Baltimore Ravens' offensive line went from being the team's biggest weakness in 2013 to a major strength a year later. No other group improved more on the Ravens this season, and it's possible no group improved more throughout the entire league.

According to the Pro Football Focus rankings, the Ravens' offensive line jumped 20 spots to No. 3 in the NFL this season. Only the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles ranked higher than the Ravens.

So, how did the Ravens drastically improve in such a short time? They chose to let disappointing first-round pick Michael Oher leave in free agency and promoted Rick Wagner to his spot at right tackle. They traded for Jeremy Zuttah to replace struggling center Gino Gradkowski. They had guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele rebound from injuries and dominate up front. And they thrived in their first season with Gary Kubiak's stretch zone-blocking schemes.

The best news for the Ravens is they return their top seven offensive linemen for next season.

[+] EnlargeJoe Flacco
AP Photo/Steve NesiusA vastly improved offensive line kept the pressure off Joe Flacco -- he was sacked a career-low 19 times.
“The future is really great for our offensive line," coach John Harbaugh said. "When we first came in here in 2008, we said, ‘You start in the trenches.’ A team is built from the trenches out, and we were pretty strong in the trenches this year. That’s the foundation of our team."

The Ravens' line was key in helping Justin Forsett go from a journeyman running back to the No. 5 rusher in the league. The Ravens averaged 3.1 yards before contact, which was third-best in the NFL. That shows how much push the Ravens' blockers got off the line and how big the running lanes were.

The Ravens' pass protection played a big role in quarterback Joe Flacco having a career year. He was sacked a career-low 19 times -- an amazing number considering Flacco had never been sacked fewer than 31 times in his previous six seasons.

"Once you start playing at a certain level and your coaches develop an expectation, you have to be able to maintain that and be consistent," guard Kelechi Osemele said. "I feel like that was not only for me, but as far as the guys playing to my right and to my left, I think we all expect each other to play at a high level and do what you need to do to be healthy week to week. We just fight for each other. If one of us is having a bad game and we’re not playing as well as we should be playing, I feel like we have the type of men that aren’t afraid to hold each other accountable, and that’s what you need to be successful.”

There is room for improvement for the Ravens' line. Left tackle Eugene Monroe missed five games because of injuries, and he didn't live up to the Ravens' five-year, $37.5 million investment in him. Zuttah was an upgrade over Gradkowski, but he had trouble at the point of attack, especially in that playoff game at Pittsburgh.

The Ravens excelled this past season because of Wagner quietly becoming a stabilizing force on the right side and Yanda and Osemele pushing defenders around on the interior of the line. The Ravens also relied on a couple of rookies, tackle James Hurst and guard John Urschel, to fill in for injured starters.

The continuity in the offensive line is a strength going into next season. If Wagner (foot) can recover in time to start the season, the Ravens would have the same starting offensive line in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2003-04.

"It’s pretty evident. I think if we maintain the same guys in the room, the sky is the limit," Monroe said. "You can watch the film -- we’ve been the most physical line in the league, hands down, and that’s only going to get better."
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The 2014 season will be remembered as one of the most satisfying and scandalous seasons in Baltimore Ravens history.

It began with the Ray Rice incident, which rocked the Ravens and the NFL. It ended with the Ravens celebrating their first playoff win against the Pittsburgh Steelers and coming up a few plays short in New England in an AFC divisional playoff game.

In between, the Ravens overcame numerous injuries (19 players placed on injured reserve) and a four-game suspension to defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to record double-digit wins for the fourth time in five seasons.

The Ravens did get some luck along the way, too. To reach the playoffs, Baltimore had to beat only one team that finished with a winning record. The Ravens also needed Kansas City to beat San Diego in the final week of the regular season to avoid a second straight season of missing the postseason.

Still, considering the number of distractions, it's remarkable that the Ravens came within one defensive stop of reaching the AFC Championship Game.

"I couldn't be more proud of this team and be in there with that group of guys," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "I think you very quickly reflect when you get back in there and you realize that this season has come to an end. I think we fought all year and came together a bunch and did a lot of great things. We are not going to be there in the end, but you know, we will be back."

Team MVP: Running back Justin Forsett. No one expected Forsett to start this season, much less become the key to the Ravens' returning to the playoffs. The abrupt release of Rice and the struggles of Bernard Pierce provided an opening for Forsett, who doubled his previous career high and finished as the NFL's No. 5 rusher. A journeyman on his fourth team in four seasons, Forsett proved to be the perfect fit in the team's new stretch zone-blocking scheme with his patience and vision. He delivered 20-yard runs on what seemed like a weekly basis, and his 5.4 yards per carry topped NFL running backs. How valuable was Forsett? In the regular season, the Ravens were 6-1 when he gained over 70 yards rushing.

Best moment: In the regular season, it was Flacco becoming the fastest quarterback to throw five touchdowns in a game since the 1970 merger. He shredded the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' secondary in Week 6, recording all five touchdowns in the first 16 minutes, 3 seconds of the game -- more than doubling the next-quickest time. In the playoffs, the Ravens accomplished something they've never done before -- beat the Steelers in the postseason. It took two touchdown passes from Flacco and a between-the-knees interception by linebacker Terrell Suggs for the Ravens to knock off Pittsburgh in the wild-card round. In many ways, this was the Ravens' personal Super Bowl.

Worst moment: It was unquestionably Rice's domestic violence case. Was there a worse moment in the NFL this year? After months of publicly supporting the running back -- from owner Steve Bisciotti to general manager Ozzie Newsome to coach John Harbaugh -- the Ravens quickly cut ties with Rice in Week 2 after the in-elevator video of him knocking out his then-fiancée went viral. The Ravens and the NFL were in the national spotlight for their mishandling of the incident. The team did its best to distance itself from the No. 2 rusher in franchise history, going as far as holding a jersey exchange at its stadium. Still, the Rice scandal hovered over the Ravens throughout the season.

2015 outlook: The Ravens are in a much better position than they were at this time last year. Flacco enjoyed a career season, the running game rebounded and the pass rush caused teams to fear the Ravens' defense once again. The Ravens need to address three free-agent starters on offense (Forsett, wide receiver Torrey Smith and tight end Owen Daniels), but the priority is to fix a depleted secondary that proved to be the team's downfall in the playoffs. If the Ravens can bring in playmakers to the defensive backfield, they would have a legitimate shot at winning another Super Bowl.
Baltimore Ravens running back Justin Forsett completed a career season by receiving an invitation to the Pro Bowl.

Forsett, a first alternate, is headed to the all-star event after Houston Texans running back Arian Foster decided not to play because of a hamstring injury. In his seventh season, Forsett is making his first trip to the Pro Bowl after finishing No. 5 in the NFL in rushing (1,266 yards) and topping the league with a 5.4 yards per-carry average.

"Ever since I came into the league, it has been a goal of mine to win a Super Bowl, gain 1,000 yards and make it to the Pro Bowl," Forsett said. "Hope to check the third one off soon."

The Ravens now have four players going to the Pro Bowl -- Forsett, guard Marshal Yanda and linebackers Elvis Dumervil and C.J. Mosley -- along with John Harbaugh and the team's coaching staff. The team could end up with more players there because fullback Kyle Juszczyk, linebacker Terrell Suggs, punter Sam Koch and returner Jacoby Jones are first alternates.

Hall of Famers Cris Carter and Michael Irvin, the alumni captains for the Pro Bowl, will draft their teams on Jan. 21. The Pro Bowl will be played Jan. 25 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, and will be televised on ESPN.
The Denver Broncos will seek permission to interview Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak for their head-coach opening, a league source told ESPN's NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Tuesday.

This comes two days after Kubiak informed the team he would continue to run the offense in 2015. One team source indicated Monday evening that Kubiak's stance wasn't altered by the Broncos and coach John Fox mutually parting ways.

Kubiak and John Elway, the Broncos' executive vice president of football operations and general manager, are long-time friends and former teammates. They were even roommates on the road during their playing days.

If Kubiak remains, it would mark the first time since 2011-12 that quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens would have the same offensive coordinator in back-to-back seasons.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh will likely address Kubiak at his 2 p.m. ET news conference Tuesday.
A day after Gary Kubiak announced he's remaining the offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, his long-time friend John Elway is now looking for a head coach for the Denver Broncos.

Should the Ravens be worried about Kubiak changing his mind and joining Elway in Denver?

A team source said the development with the Broncos doesn't alter Kubiak's commitment to the Ravens. He will run the Ravens' offense in 2015.

Minutes after ESPN's Adam Schefter broke the news that John Fox and the Broncos had mutually parted ways, the top two names that burned up social media were Kubiak and Mike Shanahan.

The speculation stems from Kubiak's close relationship with Elway, the general manager and executive vice president of the Broncos. In Denver, Kubiak spent nine years (1983-98) as Elway's backup and four seasons (1995-98) as his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Even some Ravens players expressed concern. Wide receiver Torrey Smith replied to Schefter's tweet with two words: "Uh Oh."

Of course, you would've expected such close friends to talk about the possibility of such a move happening before Kubiak put out a statement and Elway made a change at head coach.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh will likely address Kubiak at his 2 p.m. ET news conference Tuesday.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Baltimore Ravens didn't need a Tom Brady comeback to remind them they need to improve their secondary. The 35-31 loss to the New England Patriots on Saturday just underscored how much the Ravens have to significantly upgrade their pass defense in order to become a championship team again.

Even though the Patriots capitalized on trickery, the AFC divisional playoff game was lost on missed tackles and blown coverages by cornerback Rashaan Melvin and defensive back Matt Elam. The Ravens defense failed to hold three leads -- including two 14-point ones -- because the deficiencies of a depleted secondary were exposed by 408 yards passing.

The Ravens got within two wins of reaching the Super Bowl when their pass rush harassed quarterbacks. But the Ravens couldn't get to the quarterback enough Saturday, and Brady had time to pick apart a secondary that allowed the most passing yards in the franchise's 19-year existence.

The secondary couldn't slow down Brady in the red zone, in which he was 3-of-5 with two touchdowns. The Ravens couldn't stop Brady in the fourth quarter, when he completed eight of nine passes for 72 yards.

When it mattered the most, the Ravens couldn't put away the Patriots.

"I thought the guys all played their hearts out, played hard and played well," coach John Harbaugh said. "They made plays, so give them credit for making some plays. So, I don't want, I really don't want to disparage our guys."

While Harbaugh didn't want to point any fingers, the statistics certainly do.

Joe Flacco threw four touchdowns and put the Ravens in position where most teams win. Over the past 10 postseasons, teams were 42-8 (.840) when scoring 30 or more points prior Saturday's game.

The Ravens were able to run the ball (Justin Forsett gained 129 yards) and stop the run (the Patriots' 14 rushing yards are the fewest by a winning team in NFL postseason history).

The one area in which the Ravens stumbled was pass defense. The Patriots dropped back to pass on 54 of their 66 plays Saturday (81.8 percent), and teams were 3-59 over the past five seasons (including playoffs) when throwing more than 80 percent of the time. Against the Ravens defense, it proved to be a winning formula. The Patriots saw the weakness and attacked it repeatedly.

"The offense scored 31 points. For us, they held up their end of the bargain," defensive end Chris Canty said. "Defensively, we didn't do enough. We've got to help our guys on the back end, and we didn't today."

It's equally admirable and remarkable that the Ravens advanced this far with this patchwork defensive backfield. The Ravens started seven cornerbacks this season due to injuries and poor play, and they went through four safeties. This defense has had to overcome the season-ending foot injury to cornerback Jimmy Smith, the struggles of banged-up cornerback Lardarius Webb and the poor play of Elam, a first-round pick in 2013.

The Ravens just didn't have the players to match up with Brady. The Patriots tied the game at 14 when Elam missed a tackle on wide receiver Danny Amendola at the 13-yard line. The Patriots tied the game at 28 when Melvin allowed Amendola to run past him on a trick play, on which wide receiver Julian Edelman took a lateral from Brady and hit a wide-open Amendola for a 51-yard touchdown.

With the Ravens ahead by three points in the fourth quarter, the secondary once again flopped. Brady targeted Melvin on three of his last four passes, including a 23-yard touchdown to Brandon LaFell. Melvin, who was out of football for five weeks and spent time on two practice squads this season, ran stride for stride with Melvin, but he didn't have the awareness to turn around to make a play.

"You live and you learn," Melvin said.

The Ravens have shown they can fix their weaknesses swiftly. It took only a year for the Ravens to go from having one of the worst offensive lines to one of the best.

Now, the focus has to be on the secondary, especially at cornerback. Smith and Asa Jackson are expected back from season-ending injuries. Webb is under contract, although the Ravens might want to do something about his $12 million salary-cap hit.

The Ravens need to improve the secondary through the draft and free agency. Unlike last offseason, when the Ravens didn't address cornerback sufficiently, they need to do all they can so the defense can avoid feeling it let the team down.

"They wanted it more," linebacker Pernell McPhee said. "Our offense played great but our defense didn't play well. It seemed like they wanted it more than we did."

Rapid Reaction: Baltimore Ravens

January, 10, 2015
Jan 10

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A few thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 35-31 divisional playoff loss Saturday to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium:

What it means: The Ravens' overachieving season ended in frustration. The Ravens were unable to hold two 14-point leads as they fell short of another upset in New England. This stopped the Ravens' postseason winning streak at five games. The sixth-seeded Ravens watched the top-seeded Patriots score 21 of the game's final 24 points. This was an impressive season for the Ravens (11-7), who had overcome the Ray Rice scandal, several injuries and a suspension to defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.

Flacco untimely interceptions: Joe Flacco had the second-longest streak of not throwing an interception end in miserable fashion. He was picked off twice, including an interception in the end zone with 1 minute, 39 seconds left in the game. Flacco's aggressiveness got the better of him when he forced the throw into double coverage. Flacco didn't complete a Hail Mary as time expired.

Defense unravels: The Ravens' patchwork secondary was exposed by Tom Brady, who completed 33 of 50 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns. It was the most points allowed by the Ravens since Nov. 2 in Pittsburgh. The Ravens, the No. 6 scoring defense during the regular season, had only given up two touchdowns in their previous 19 quarters before this game.

Melvin stumbles: Rashaan Melvin's admirable effort this season ended badly as he gave up two critical touchdowns in the second half. His blown coverage allowed the Patriots to tie game in the third quarter on a trick play. Wide receiver Julian Edelman took a lateral from Brady and found a wide-open Danny Amendola for a 51-yard touchdown. Melvin reacted to Edelman catching the ball and let Amendola run free behind him. In the fourth quarter, Melvin was beaten by Brandon LaFell for a 23-yard touchdown, giving the Patriots their first lead of the game.

Trouble holding on: Matt Elam's tackling problems continued into the postseason. The 2013 first-round pick missed two tackles in the first half, including one that allowed Amendola to tie the game at 14 in the second half. Elam led the Ravens with 18 missed tackles this season.

Stock watch: Rising -- Running back Justin Forsett. He ran for 129 yards and scored on a 16-yard touchdown. Forsett had averaged 55.5 yards rushing in his last four games.

Game ball: Flacco. Even though it wasn't another storybook finish, Flacco carried the Ravens for a majority of the game. He was 28-of-45 for 292 yards and four touchdowns. He set a league record for most consecutive postseason games with multiple touchdown passes with his eighth in a row.

What's next: The Ravens head into the offseason with some big decisions ahead. Wide receiver Torrey Smith and Forsett are both unrestricted free agents, and Ngata and cornerback Lardarius Webb count a combined $28 million against the salary cap.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees insists he doesn't have much familiarity with the New England Patriots anymore because it's been five years since he was an assistant in New England. With the amount of injuries and changes on the Ravens' defense this season, there are times you have to wonder how much familiarity Pees has with his own players.

In what has been a masterful job, Pees has guided the Ravens back to being a top-10 defense for the first time since 2011, and he's done so with creativity, practice-squad players and lots of Band-Aids. The Ravens are headed to Saturday's AFC divisional playoff game in New England because of Pees' ability to keep offenses out of the end zone despite sending out a new cast of defenders almost every week.

Consider the challenges that Pees has faced this season:

  • [+] EnlargeDean Pees
    AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyDean Pees took a lot of spare parts and turned the Ravens into one of the best defenses in the league.
    The Ravens have had 11 different starting lineups in 16 regular-season games. The longest stretch a starting lineup remained intact was three weeks.
  • Jimmy Smith, the team's top cornerback, was lost for the last nine games because of a season-ending foot injury, and Haloti Ngata, a five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, was suspended for the final month of the regular season after violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
  • The Ravens went through seven starting cornerbacks because of injuries and poor play, and they rotated four starting safeties throughout the season. Rashaan Melvin, who had been on two practice squads this season and wasn't on an NFL roster for five weeks this season, started at cornerback in the first round of the playoffs.
  • The top two picks of the 2013 draft (safety Matt Elam and linebacker Arthur Brown) had reduced roles this season because of their struggles, and three of the top four defensive players drafted this season (defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, safety Terrence Brooks and defensive end Brent Urban) missed a total of 26 games because of injuries.

This makes the Ravens' success on defense all that much more remarkable. Only five teams allowed fewer points, no running back ran for 100 yards and only one defense got to the quarterback more often. The Ravens' defense finished No. 8 overall, its best finish since ranking No. 3 in 2011.

"We’ve been through so many different players, and Dean has done a really tremendous job of tailoring the scheme toward what guys can do well," coach John Harbaugh said. "We don’t really look like the same defense every week in a lot of different ways. It’s not like we revamp everything we do, but he’s always going to give an opponent something different that they’re maybe not expecting to help guys play certain situations."

When it comes to defensive coordinators, Ravens fans often talk about Marvin Lewis and Rex Ryan in reverence. But this has been one of the more impressive coaching jobs on the defensive side of the ball.

The defense has had its share of hiccups, from A.J. Green's 77-yard winning touchdown in Week 1 to the six touchdown passes allowed to Ben Roethlisberger in Week 9 to Philip Rivers' 80-yard fourth-quarter winning drive in Week 13. But the Ravens' defense has been the strength of the team down the stretch, giving up two touchdowns in the last 19 quarters.

On Saturday, Pees goes against a Patriots team that he's schemed against five times since leaving New England. He was with the Patriots from 2004 to 2009, serving the last four years as defensive coordinator.

"At this point in time, I don't think I know them as well as everybody thinks I know them," Pees said. "I've been gone for five years. There are two guys on the defense that were there when I was there -- [Vince] Wilfork and [Rob] Ninkovich. The rest of the defense is different [and] every year the offense is different. ... People talk about my familiarity. It's just the fact I know Coach [Bill] Belichick and his coaching staff. Half of those guys are gone. It's been so far removed, it's different."
The Mueller Report on the Ray Rice incident was released Thursday and indicated that the Ravens did receive a detailed description of the in-elevator video from a lieutenant at the Atlantic City Police Department in late February. The Ravens did not volunteer that information to the league, according to the report.

"They should have shared with the League information critical to its investigation," the Mueller report stated.

The Ravens released their statement three hours after the report was released.

"We welcome completion of the 'Mueller Report,' and we look forward to cooperating with the League on any new policies resulting from this report," team president Dick Cass said. "More than anything, the report reminds us all of the gravity of the consequences of intimate partner abuse and the lessons we must all learn. We have taken steps to educate ourselves, and others, about this important issue, and will continue to do so."
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Offensive tackle Eugene Monroe practiced on a limited basis for a third straight day, an indication that the Baltimore Ravens could have every player available for Saturday's AFC divisional playoff game against the New England Patriots.

Monroe has missed the past two games with an ankle injury before returning to practice this week. On Wednesday, Monroe said he was "very optimistic" about playing against the Patriots.

If Monroe can play, the Ravens would likely move undrafted rookie James Hurst to right tackle and shift Marshal Yanda from right tackle to guard, where he has been a Pro Bowl player for the past four seasons.

"He is progressing well," coach John Harbaugh said of Monroe.

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs received his usual day off Thursday.

Ravens injury report

Did not participate: LB Terrell Suggs (not injury related)

Limited: OT Eugene Monroe (ankle)

Full participation: DT Timmy Jernigan (foot and ankle)



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