Sun Dec 5 10:42pm ET
By DAN SCIFO
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh celebrates after tight end Mark Andrews made a catch near the goal line against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton (20) chases after Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) scrambles as Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) swats at the ball during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
PITTSBURGH (AP) John Harbaugh went for the win, and it didn't work out for the Baltimore Ravens.
Lamar Jackson led Baltimore to a touchdown with 12 seconds to play, but his throw on the 2-point conversion was too far in front of tight end Mark Andrews. That oh-so-close play sent the Ravens to a 20-19 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
''We tried to win the game right there,'' Harbaugh said. ''We were pretty much out of corners at that point in time. It was an opportunity for us to win the game right there.''
Ben Roethlisberger threw his second fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson, and the ensuing 2-point conversion to Pat Freiermuth gave Pittsburgh a 20-13 lead with less than two minutes remaining.
But Jackson and the Ravens (8-4) weren't finished.
Jackson overcame a false start and a sack during the Ravens' eight-play, 60-yard scoring drive. Jackson also converted a pair of third downs, including a third-and-14 and a third-and-5, which resulted in a 6-yard touchdown grab by Sammy Watkins.
But rather than turn to star kicker Justin Tucker for an almost automatic 35-yard extra point, the Ravens went for the knockout punch.
''I was in the moment,'' Jackson said. ''We just scored. I was cool with it. I wanted to win. I didn't want to go to overtime anyways.''
The Steelers, as they did throughout the day, brought pressure during the 2-point conversion attempt. Star linebacker T.J. Watt hurried Jackson's throw to an open Andrews, and the ball went off the tight end's fingertips in the flat and bounced away.
''T.J. Watt's got range,'' Jackson said. ''He's a long guy. I had to throw around him and try to make something happen. That's all. Just came up short.''
Jackson was sacked seven times. Watt had a career-high 3 1/2 sacks and Chris Wormley, who was acquired in a March 2020 trade with Baltimore, finished with 2 1/2 sacks.
''Seven sacks is too many,'' Harbaugh said. ''It's way too many. That's on us as a coaching staff to get that cleaned up.''
It was the third game in series history between the Ravens and Steelers decided by one point. The Steelers have won all three of those games - all started by Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger threw for 236 yards and engineered his 39th fourth-quarter comeback, but it took a last-second defensive stand on a 2-point play to help Pittsburgh (6-5-1) end a three-game winless streak.
''You saw the play,'' Harbaugh said. ''It's a game of inches. That's football. It's just that close.''
Baltimore visits Cleveland for another key division game on Sunday. The Ravens, who lead the AFC North, beat Cleveland 16-10 on Nov. 28.
Jackson passed for 253 yards with a touchdown and a first-quarter interception. The Ravens held a massive edge through three quarters in total yards and time of possession, which included a 10-minute, 99-yard scoring drive, but they only had a 10-3 lead to show for it.
That allowed Roethlisberger and the Steelers to rally in the fourth.
A wide-open Johnson caught a 29-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter, but Tucker's 28-yard field goal on the ensuing possession made it a 13-9 game. Boswell answered with a 43-yard field goal, before Roethlisberger's second touchdown pass to Johnson put Pittsburgh in front late in the game.
Jackson put Baltimore in position for overtime. Harbaugh and the Ravens wanted the win, and they ultimately fell short.
''Honestly, if we would've converted the 2-point conversion, we would've been having a different conversation right now,'' linebacker Josh Bynes said. ''We'd be talking about how we found a way to win. At the end of the day, they found a way to make one play and we didn't. That's what it came down to. They made one extra play. They got one extra point than us and they came out victorious.''
On Thursday, the Chicago Bears hired former Colts Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus to be their head coach. Eberflus took a Colts defense that was ranked 26th and 27th in total defense before he arrived and made them a top-10 unit. The Colts never featured tremendous pass rush rates and blitzed at one of the lowest rates in the league, but the Bears defensive scheme only blitzed 2.4% more and both teams ran a variation of a 4-3 base defense, so it's possible there won't be much change in philosophy. However, the biggest question will be who Eberflus hires as offensive coordinator and what that means for Justin Fields. Since Eberflus spent four years coaching under former NFL quarterback Frank Reich, it wouldn't be a stretch to assume that he soaked up some knowledge in that relationship and will use it to make a hire that's in the best interest of his quarterback's development.
After earlier reports that Byron Leftwich was set to be the next head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, reports surfaced early on Wednesday that the negotiations were held up because Leftwich wanted Jacksonville to get rid of General Manager Trent Baalke to hire Adrian Wilson, who is Vice President of Pro Scouting for the Arizona Cardinals. Not long after that, Adam Schefter reported that the Jaguars interviewed former Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio for their head coaching position. While we don't know where this will end up, Fangio has been a far more run-heavy coach in his career than we'd expect Leftwich to be since Leftwich has learned under Bruce Arians. It's possible that if Fangio were to be hired in Jacksonville, we could see a running back committee of Travis Etienne and James Robinson in the same way Denver deployed Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon this year. It would also potentially sap the upside of Trevor Lawrence, Laviska Shenault Jr., and D.J. Chark, so let's hope Jacksonville does the right thing here.
Dallas Cowboys Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn has told teams that he will remain with the Cowboys next year and not pursue any more head coaching positions. Six teams had requested interviews with Quinn, but he decided to return in pursuit of a Super Bowl. The Dallas defense under Quinn this year finished as the number one fantasy defense thanks to their propensity for turnovers., so Quinn's return should be good news for the Cowboys DST next year as well. Also, fantasy managers in IDP leagues don't have to worry about new schemes for studs like Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs
Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger announced his retirement Thursday, Jan. 27.
Fantasy Spin: Big Ben will be remembered for this size, athletic ability and big arm. He was different and will surely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The Steelers will pivot to Mason Rudolph, for now, but there will be a number of options in free agency. Rudolph will be a QB2 in fantasy if he's the starter.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (knee) popped up on the injury report with a knee issue. Despite showing up on the latest injury report, the 25-year-old was a full participant in Wednesday's practice. He is expected to be all systems go for the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs. The former No.1 overall pick completed 28-of-37 passes for 348 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception in Saturday's 19-16 Divisional-Round win over the Tennessee Titans. He's been on absolute fire recently, throwing for 1,563 yards, 10 touchdowns, and one pick over his last four games. Burrow is an excellent QB option with a $7,500 price on FanDuel for Sunday's main DFS slate.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (thumb) popped up on the injury report with a thumb issue. He was a full participant in Wednesday's practice despite showing up on the latest injury report. In last week's Divisional-Round win over the Tennessee Titans, the 23-year-old hauled in seven receptions on nine targets for 96 yards. He is expected to be all systems go for the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Higgins caught three passes for 62 yards in the Week 17 win over the Chiefs and is an excellent mid-tier option at his $6,400 price tag on FanDuel for Sunday's main DFS slate.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Darrel Williams (toe) participated fully in Wednesday's practice. Last week, the 26-year-old was limited with a toe injury and was inactive for the Divisional -Round game against the Buffalo Bills. He is expected to be available for Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Williams will split touches out of Kansas City's backfield with Clyde-Edwards Helaire and Jerick McKinnon. Due to the uncertainty of his role, Williams is more of a GPP option in Sunday's main DFS slate.
Green Bay Packers PK Mason Crosby is likely to be released during the offseason as a cap casualty, according to The Green Bay Press-Gazette's Pete Dougherty.
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers indicated he should have made a decision about his future by late February during an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show, which coincides with when the Packers would potentially utilize the franchise tag on WR Davante Adams, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
Fantasy Spin: If Rodgers and Adams return to Green Bay in 2022, or reunite elsewhere, both would be No. 1 options at their respective positions. Rodgers' decision as to whether he'll play in 2022 figures to be the first domino to fall.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (thumb) practiced fully on Wednesday. The 49ers have removed his sprained shoulder from the injury report, but his sprained right thumb remains. The 30-year-old has somehow led the 49ers to the NFC Championship despite throwing for 303 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions over both playoff games. He threw for 316 yards, one touchdown, and two picks in the Week 18 win over the Rams. Garoppolo should be all systems go against the Los Angeles Rams and is the only value option at quarterback for Sunday's main DFS slate with a $6,200 price tag on FanDuel.
San Francisco 49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr. (knee) did not participate in Wednesday's practice. Teammate Elijah Mitchell also missed Wednesday's session with an ongoing knee issue. Wilson suffered a low-ankle sprain during the first quarter of Saturday's Divisional-Round game over the Green Packers and did not return. According to head coach Kyle Shanahan, he could play in the NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams. The 26-year-old has two more chances to practice in some capacity and will most likely be questionable for Sunday's game. If active, Wilson could have an expanded role if Mitchell (knee) cannot suit up. Stay tuned.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson (knee) did not practice on Wednesday due to a knee injury. The 25-year-old did not participate in the Rams walkthrough session and was listed as a non-participant. He's considered day-to-day, and it's unclear if Van Jefferson will miss the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers. He caught two passes for 31 yards in the Week 18 loss to the 49ers. Fantasy managers should continue to monitor his status throughout the week. If active, Van Jefferson provides salary relief with his $5,200 price tag and is a solid option against the 49ers in Sunday's main DFS slate. Stay tuned.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle isn't listed on the injury report ahead of Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams. He was seen limping at the end of the Divisional-Round win over the Green Bay Packers but is expected to be all systems go for Sunday. The 28-year-old logged a full practice Wednesday and was removed from the injury report. He caught five of seven targets for 10 yards in his previous contest against the Rams. Despite the dud against Los Angeles in Week 18, Kittle provides excellent value at his $5,800 price tag on FanDuel for Sunday's main DFS slate.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (knee) isn't listed on Wednesday's injury report ahead of the NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams. The 26-year-old said he was sore after taking a helmet to the knee in last Saturday's Divisional Round win over the Green Bay Packers. On Wednesday, he logged a full practice and was removed from the injury report. Samuel caught four passes for 95 yards and rushed for 45 yards on eight carries and a score in his previous game against the Rams. Deebo will have a vital role in the NFC Championship Game and is a strong option with his $8,400 price tag on FanDuel for Sunday's DFS slate.
San Francisco 49ers DE Nick Bosa (non-injury), C Alex Mack (non-injury), RB Elijah Mitchell (knee), OT Trent Williams (ankle) and RB Jeff Wilson Jr. (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Jan. 26. CB Ambry Thomas (knee) was limited during practice, while QB Jimmy Garoppolo (thumb) fully participated in practice.
Atlanta Falcons TE Lee Smith announced his retirement from professional football Tuesday, Jan. 25.
Free-agent WR Josh Gordon was signed to the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad Wednesday, Jan. 26.
Kansas City Chiefs S Tyrann Mathieu (concussion) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Jan. 26. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder), CB Rashad Fenton (back), WR Mecole Hardman (hip), WR Tyreek Hill (heel), LB Anthony Hitchens (back), DT Chris D. Jones (groin), CB L'Jarius Sneed (knee), CB Charvarius Ward (neck), RB Darrel Williams (toe) and OG Andrew Wylie (elbow) fully participated in practice.
Buffalo Bills OG Ike Boettger (Achilles) and CB Tre'Davious White (knee) are on schedule in their recoveries, according to head coach Sean McDermott.