Sunday, February 18, 2018
Sports

Ravens present special issue

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It's a bad time for the Patriots to allow points late in halves and long kickoff returns throughout the game.

Fix that fast or the Ravens and speedster Jacoby Jones could run them right out of the postseason.

New England advanced to Sunday's AFC Championship Game with a 41-28 win over Houston despite giving up kickoff returns of 94 and 69 yards — the longest the Patriots allowed this season.

Baltimore moved on with a 38-35 double-overtime win at Denver after Jones caught a 70-yard touchdown from Joe Flacco with 31 seconds left in regulation. That's the same Jones who led the NFL in average kickoff return yardage (30.7) and brought back two of them for touchdowns.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick is emphasizing, as he does every week, the need to stop kickoff returners and keep teams from scoring with time running out in either half — Houston scored 10 points in the last 1:15 of the first half and 15 in the game's last 12 minutes.

"We always think that the end of the half can get a little different than the rest of the game because of situational play," Belichick said Tuesday. "Also, sometimes offensively, teams change their method of attack and what they're doing and how they're doing it and that kind of thing. So you have to adapt and adjust to what they do."

COMING THROUGH: The Ravens overcame an assortment of injuries — 13 players with starting experience were sidelined during the regular season, and that was just on defense — and the late-season firing of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

Yet Baltimore pressed on.

"I think that we are battled-tested," guard Marshal Yanda said. "We went through a lot of injuries. We went through line shuffles. We went through losses. … It's all about just battling through it and trying to get hot and trying to play your best football at the end of the year. I think we're doing that. We are just going to have to do a lot of things to continue to do that."

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