NFC West: Baltimore Ravens

NEW ORLEANS -- Power has been compromised here in the Superdome with the Baltimore Ravens leading the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl.

Power just returned to the pressbox. The Superdome is now brighter than it was recently. Players are huddling as if the game could resume shortly.

The NFL rule book calls for interrupted games to be rescheduled on a later date if they cannot be completed on the day they started. We're a long way from that happening, of course.

"If an emergency interrupts a postseason game and such game cannot be resumed on that same date," the rulebook reads, "the commissioner will make every effort to arrange for its completion as soon as possible. If unable to schedule the game at the same site, he will select an appropriate alternate site. He will terminate the game short of completion only if in his judgment the game would not be normally expected to alter the ultimate result."

Live: Super Bowl XLVII fan photo slideshow

February, 3, 2013
2/03/13
1:00
PM ET
We have our ESPN.com reporters snapping in the field, but we want to see how you are celebrating the biggest game of the year. Whether you're tailgating at the game or partying with friends, we want to see your Super Bowl XLVII fan photos. Tweet us pictures of your food spread, goofy friends and family Super Bowl to @ESPN_NFLNation or any of our NFL blog network writers. We'll drop them in this slideshow, along with photos from our reporters in New Orleans, and update it all day long. Enjoy the game!

Countdown Live: Super Bowl XLVII

February, 3, 2013
2/03/13
1:00
PM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts for Super Bowl XLVII between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers.

Contribute your thoughts and questions at 5:30 p.m. ET. See you there.

49ers, Ravens tweet from media day

January, 29, 2013
1/29/13
2:30
PM ET
The press isn't the only group having fun on media day, the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers players also had a blast.

The players hit Twitter with their reaction and photos from Super Bowl XLVII media day and we've compiled it for you. Enjoy.

Media Day Live

January, 29, 2013
1/29/13
10:04
AM ET
We have our ESPN.com NFL experts on the field in New Orleans for the spectacle that is Super Bowl media day. Join us starting at 11 a.m. ET for updates, photos, videos and all the craziness that is sure to come.

The San Francisco 49ers will be on the podiums from 11:15 a.m. ET - 12:15 p.m. ET. The Baltimore Ravens will be on the podiums from 1:15 p.m. ET - 2:15 p.m. ET.

The Packers-Cardinals game was a good place to have your NFC West Gridiron Challenge money in the wild-card round.

Our leader after the wild-card round, rward3636, had Aaron Rodgers, Kurt Warner, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley and Neil Rackers going in that game. My team miraculously scored in the 94th percentile despite zero points from the Cowboys' Marion Barber. Thank you, Ray Rice.

The Chargers' defense appears appealing in the divisional round. Without disclosing too many other top-secret lineup strategies, I'm also banking on the Colts to play well against the Ravens.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jason writes via Facebook: Why is everyone so down on Shaun Hill as the starter? No, he is not "sexy" by any means. However, all he has done is put together a winning record for a mediocre team! Now, he has more weapons to play with, (Crabtree, Davis, Morgan, Gore, etc.). Plus, it seems that he should be a good fit for the offense that is being installed. I look at Super Bowl teams of the past like the Ravens, and they didn't have a stud QB either. To me, the 49ers are starting to look very similar. Solid D, conservative offense. In my opinion, Hill has earned the starter spot until he falters. If that happens, then bring in Smith. Thoughts?

Mike Sando: It's harder to be "up" on Shaun Hill when the organization hasn't named him its starter. I understand the situation. The 49ers wanted to re-sign Alex Smith and to do that they needed to promise Smith a chance to compete for the job. But if the organization were entirely sold on Hill, the team would have signed him to an extension and declared him the starter. Those things did not happen. It's fair for the rest of us to question what that means, even if we've seen enough from Hill to think he might succeed as the starter.

The Ravens comparison holds up only to a point, in my view. Baltimore had one of the all-time great defenses that season. The 49ers might field a top-10 defense this season, but I wouldn't consider it close to the defense Baltimore used during that Super Bowl season. The Ravens also got a strong season from Trent Dilfer. Say what you want about Dilfer's career, but he had the physical ability to become a top-10 draft choice. Hill is from a different mold.

Note: I've been traveling Sunday and just landed in Connecticut for annual meetings at ESPN headquarters Monday. The intent wasn't to double up on 49ers stuff this afternoon, but the Hall of Fame item was not expected. I'm working on a wider-reaching mailbag for Monday.

Mailbag: Playoff lessons for Cardinals

January, 20, 2009
1/20/09
11:10
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

David from Scottsdale writes: Mike: how things have changed from August when you had actively solicit for Cardinal questions and comments. My question: From your experience following the Seahawks up close, did their first playoff run provide benefits that showed up in subsequent regular seasons? It seems the Cardinals have finally learned the degree of discipline and preparation necessary to get the full utilization of their talent. Regardless of what happens in the Super Bowl, I hope they dont forget next year what has made them successful in the postseason. Your thoughts?

Mike Sando: The Cardinals' success this season will help them to the extent that it reinforces coach Ken Whisenhunt's credibility in building a winning program. I do think that will help for the long term. Players do not automatically buy into what a coach is selling. They eventually need strong evidence that their coach has them on the right track. Advancing to the Super Bowl provides that evidence, a huge boost for Whisenhunt and his staff.

Arizona's playoff run differs from Seattle's initial playoff appearances under Mike Holmgren in that the Seahawks needed multiple appearances to win in the playoffs. For that reason, I'll limit the comparisons to the 2005 season, when Seattle advanced to the Super Bowl.

One lesson the Seahawks learned was that one great season doesn't guarantee results for the next season. The feeling a team has one season can dissipate in a hurry. Sometimes a key player leaves in free agency. Seattle lost Steve Hutchinson. Sometimes a key player begins a sharp decline. Shaun Alexander comes to mind.

The Baltimore Ravens won a Super Bowl in Brian Billick's second season. They failed to win a playoff game for the next seven seasons, and Billick was fired.

The Cardinals still have to prove they can handle success for the long term. We sometimes fall into the trap of assuming a team's strong finish will carry over into the next season. Within the division, the 49ers felt strongly about their 2007 prospects after showing positive signs to end the previous season. The 49ers also emerged from the 2008 season with optimism, but each season has its own separate life.

Also, the Cardinals' opponents might be gunning for them. The Seahawks thought some opponents gave their best efforts against them after the Super Bowl season.

(Read full post)

SeedAFCNFC
1
TitansGiants
2
SteelersPanthers
3
Jets
Cardinals
4
BroncosPackers
5
ColtsBucs
6
RavensRedskins
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

As NFL teams fight for positioning heading toward the playoffs, we take a quick look at the top six seeds in each conference heading into Week 12.

If the current standings held, the AFC playoffs would feature the Ravens visiting the Jets and the Colts visiting the Broncos. The NFC playoffs would feature the Redskins visiting the Cardinals and the Bucs visiting the Packers.

The Titans, Steelers, Giants and Panthers would have first-round playoff byes. The Redskins defeated the Cardinals at FedEx Field in Week 3. The rematch would be at University of Phoenix Stadium, where the Cardinals haven't lost this season.

Four teams that won at least 10 games last season have losing records so far: Seattle (10-6 to 2-8), Cleveland (10-6 to 3-6), San Diego (11-5 to 4-6) and Jacksonville (11-5 to 4-6).

Around the NFC West: Rams seek depth

September, 1, 2008
9/01/08
5:11
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams expect newly signed cornerback Ricky Manning to contribute right away. The team needed corner help after rookie Justin King landed on injured reserve. Manning's arrival precipitated the release of safety Eric Bassey, as expected.

The Rams have also agreed to terms with linebacker Gary Stills, who will help on special teams. Stills was a special-teams standout for the Ravens. The team cut him even though new head coach John Harbaugh has a special-teams background.

St. Louis lacks depth. Manning and Stills provide both. Safety Brannon Condren, claimed off waivers from Indianapolis, also helps with depth and special teams.

Elsewhere in the division this afternoon ...

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee is happy to have an English major at quarterback for the 49ers. J.T. O'Sullivan can apparently diagram plays and sentences. He is also keeping open his options (as opposed to keeping his options open). O'Sullivan, signed to a one-year deal, continues to live in a hotel.

Matt Maiocco of Instant 49ers also appreciates O'Sullivan's attention to language. Maiocco: "You're an English major?" O'Sullivan: "Was. Yeah, I graduated."

Dan Brown of 49ers Hot Read has information on the latest practice-squad signings, plus a note on guard Joe Toledo, whose Secret Service father protected former president Gerald Ford from 2002 to 2004.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says Matt Leinart handled his demotion professionally. Tulumello also sees outstanding depth at the position given Brian St. Pierre's strong camp.

Chrissy Mauck of 49ers.com says recently signed linebacker Ahmad Brooks was surprised when the Bengals cut him. Brooks is wearing No. 55.

Note: The Seahawks are practicing this afternoon. We hope to make sense of their injury situation as the week progresses. Deion Branch's health is one key issue.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams' offense made progress in the team's third exhibition game, a 24-10 victory over the Ravens on Saturday night.

Yes, the Ravens rested some starters, but Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott were among the Baltimore defenders playing. The Rams were without Steven Jackson, but they still opened the game with a 10-play drive to a field goal.

A note on each of the nine plays before Josh Brown's 37-yard field goal gave the Rams a 3-0 lead:

  • First play. The Rams are serious about using their tight ends in the running game. Randy McMichael sealed off Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson to spring Antonio Pittman for a 16-yard gain.
  • Second play. Right guard Richie Incognito pulled to the right side and smacked Scott during Pittman's 5-yard run. A nice play by Incognito.
  • Third play. McMichael and fellow tight end Joe Klopfenstein sealed the right side for another Pittman run, this one good for 8 yards. Again, the tight ends are active in the run game for St. Louis. Getting Anthony Becht healthy will make this group better.
  • Fourth play. Receiver Drew Bennett isn't running away from defenders. Bennett thought cornerback Frank Walker interfered with him on a 30-yard timing lob up the right side of the field. Whether or not Walker interfered, he was all over Bennett. The pass fell incomplete.
  • Fifth play. Remember the block Incognito put on Scott during the second play of this drive? I wonder if Incognito remembers it after Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis de-cleated him on this second-and-10 running play. Incognito pulled to his right again, but Lewis hammered him under the chinstrap on his way to Pittman. The play gained 1 yard.
  • Sixth play. Bulger can count on finding Torry Holt for short gains on inside moves. An offside penalty had turned third-and-9 into third-and-4 for the Rams. Bulger's quick pass beat the pass rush as Holt, lined up wide left, led his defender inside. The ball was on Holt's back shoulder, but the TV commentators were right in saying Bulger can dial-up this play almost at will.
  • Seventh play. Bulger and Bennett still aren't on the same page. They weren't close to connecting on this quick first-and-10 pass attempt toward the right sideline. McMichael, lined up on the right side in pass protection, held up against Suggs' initial punch. The ball was gone before Suggs had time for a follow-up move.
  • Eighth play. Suggs beat McMichael and left tackle Adam Goldberg to disrupt Pittman's rushing attempt.
  • Ninth play. Bulger lined up in the shotgun on third-and-10, a pass protector on each side. McMichael tried to push a blitzing Lewis upfield, but Lewis was relentless. The linebacker flushed Bulger from the pocket, turned upfield and sacked him.

This was an effective first drive for the Rams with a couple of exceptions. An inability to make plays with Bennett as the intended receiver short-circuited this drive. The same issues marked the Rams' previous exhibition game against San Diego.

Rookie receivers Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton combined for eight receptions, 128 yards and a touchdown later in the game. Are they ready to contribute as rookies?

Rams have time to get Jackson ready

August, 22, 2008
8/22/08
9:39
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jackson

Newly re-signed Rams running back Steven Jackson will not play against Baltimore in the team's exhibition game Saturday night.

The Rams sought and received a roster exemption after activating Jackson from the reserve/did not report list. Jackson can remain exempt from roster limits until Aug. 29 as long as he doesn't play in a game. The Rams play their final exhibition game Aug. 28 at Kansas City.

The Rams say they plan to give Jackson extra work in pads during practices, but they probably won't rush him into a game situation. Their sole priority is getting him ready for the regular-season opener at Philadelphia.

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