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  • 01/20/13--18:36: Hoosiers avert a collapse
  • Times wires
    Sunday, January 20, 2013

    EVANSTON, Ill. — Cody Zeller could sense panic setting in. Then, just in time, Indiana regained its composure.

    Zeller had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and the No. 2 Hoosiers beat Northwestern 67-59 on Sunday.

    Jordan Hulls added 15 points, Christian Watford scored 14 and the Hoosiers (16-2, 4-1 Big Ten) hung on after things got tense down the stretch.

    They led by 17 in the first half and were up 31-17 at the break. But Northwestern's 1-3-1 trap in the second half led to rushed shots by Indiana. The Wildcats pulled within five three times, but the Hoosiers hit 7 of 8 free throws in the final 57 seconds to prevail after seeing a six-game win streak end with a loss to Wisconsin last week.

    "They just kind of sped us up for a while," Zeller said. "We were kind of panicked for a while. That's what their defense kind of forces you to do. Once we started getting into the middle, getting to the baseline, then we started getting open shots."

    Zeller, the Big Ten preseason player of the year, hit 9 of 10 free throws and dominated inside as Indiana pounded the Wildcats 36-24 on the glass.

    "It just seemed like he was everywhere," Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said. "He gets to the line a lot and makes his foul shots."

    Indiana's Victor Oladipo took a blow to his right eye midway through the second half and wore a patch after the game. He said he would have it examined.

    NO. 14 N.C. STATE 66, CLEMSON 62: Freshman T.J. Warren had 21 points and Richard Howell hit the go-ahead basket with 1:56 left for the host Wolfpack (15-3, 4-1 ACC), which never trailed but struggled to put away the Tigers.

    Women

    NO. 19 S.C. 52, UF 44: Khadijah Sessions had 15 points for the visiting Gamecocks (16-3, 4-2 SEC), whose 59 rebounds were the most in coach Dawn Staley's five seasons. The Gators (13-6, 2-3) scored their fewest points this season. UF was missing leading scorer and rebounder Jennifer George (shoulder injury).

    NO. 22 FSU 82, N.C. STATE 74: Leonor Rodriguez scored 21 for the visiting Seminoles (15-3, 5-2 ACC), who used a 22-3 run to overcome a 67-56 deficit and avenge a 74-71 loss to the Wolfpack (8-11, 0-7) in the first round of last season's ACC tournament.

    NO. 2 NOTRE DAME 74, ST. JOHN'S 50: Skylar Diggins scored 18 and Natalie Achonwa had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the host Fighting Irish (16-1, 5-0 Big East), who outrebounded the Red Storm 48-22 and outscored it 38-24 in the paint.

    NO. 5 KENTUCKY 97, AUBURN 53: A'dia Mathies scored a season-best 24 for the host Wildcats (18-1, 6-0 SEC), who have won 17 in a row, tied with Duke for longest in the country.

    NO. 6 STANFORD 75, USC 66: Chiney Ogwumike scored 23 of her 29 in the second half and added 16 rebounds for the host Cardinal (16-2, 5-1 Pac-12).

    NO. 7 CAL 70, NO. 14 UCLA 65: Layshia Clarendon scored 22 for the host Golden Bears (15-2, 5-1 Pac-12), who beat a ranked team for the third time in their past five games. The Bruins (13-4, 4-2) lost their second straight.

    NO. 9 TENN. 96, ALABAMA 69: Bashaara Graves had 19 points and eight rebounds for the host Vols (15-3, 6-0 SEC), who beat the Crimson Tide for the 39th straight time.

    NO. 10 MARYLAND 66, GA. TECH 57: Alyssa Thomas had 28 points and 10 rebounds for the visiting Terrapins (15-3, 6-1 ACC), who outrebounded the Yellow Jackets 52-29.

    IOWA 62, NO. 12 PURDUE 46: Jaime Printy and Melissa Dixon scored 15 each for the host Hawkeyes, who led the Boilermakers (15-3, 4-1 Big Ten) by double digits for most of the game.

    NO. 20 TEXAS A&M 64, NO. 13 GEORGIA 46: Courtney Walker scored 12 for the visiting Aggies (14-5, 4-1 SEC), who shot 51 percent (26-of-51) from the field and held the Bulldogs (16-3, 4-2) to 29.1 percent (16-of-55).

    NO. 17 OKLA. ST. 71, NO. 24 IOWA ST. 42: Liz Donohoe had 18 points and eight rebounds for the host Cowgirls (14-2, 3-2 Big 12), who scored the first 20 of the second half while holding the Cyclones (13-3, 4-2) without a field goal for 8 minutes.

    NO. 18 DAYTON 74, R.I. 48: Sam MacKay scored 16, including four 3-pointers, and added five assists and five steals for the visiting Flyers (15-1, 3-0 Atlantic 10), who have won three straight overall and 10 straight in the series.

    NO. 21 COLORADO 79, ARIZ. 36: Arielle Roberson had 12 points to lead four players in double figures for the host Buffaloes (15-2, 4-2 Pac-12).


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    Times wires
    Sunday, January 20, 2013

    MELBOURNE, Australia — The opponent was different, the match three rounds earlier. Still, the result gave Novak Djokovic a familiar feeling.

    Djokovic needed just over five hours to beat Stanislas Wawrinka 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 12-10 in a fourth-round match Sunday at the Australian Open, on the same court where he needed 5 hours, 53 minutes to beat Rafael Nadal in last year's final.

    "I just had flashback of 2012," Djokovic said. "I tried to enjoy the moment and couldn't ask for more. What a match point … unbelievable."

    He wasn't exaggerating. On his third attempt to end the match, his backhand crosscourt shot zipped past Wawrinka, who had mostly outplayed him, Djokovic conceded.

    "He came up with great tactics," Djokovic said. "He didn't give me a lot of the same rhythm that I could get into the match. He was the one being in charge. I was passive."

    The win was Djokovic's 18th in a row at Melbourne Park after winning the past two Australian titles and advanced the Serb to the quarterfinals of his 15th consecutive major.

    Wawrinka stunned the top-ranked Djokovic, who had won their previous 10 meetings, with three service breaks in the first set and had a 5-2 lead in the second before Djokovic rallied by winning six consecutive games. But just as Djokovic seemed to take control, Wawrinka launched a comeback to force a fifth set.

    Wawrinka said he would take away more positives than negatives after falling short. "For sure, I think the best match I have ever played," he said. "I fought like a dog, like always. At 4-4 in the final set, I thought I might have won the match, but he was just better."

    Djokovic next plays No. 5 Tomas Berdych, who beat Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (15-13). Fourth-seeded David Ferrer faces Nicolas Almagro, who was leading 6-2, 5-1 when No. 8 Janko Tipsaveric retired from their match.

    Maria Sharapova advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Kirsten Flipkens in another impressive display. Last year's French Open champion has lost just five games through four rounds, breaking the Australian Open mark of eight held by eventual champions Steffi Graf and Monica Seles.

    "Well, I'm certainly happy to be playing this well but … it only gets tougher from here," said Sharapova, next plays Ekatrina Makarova.


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    Times wires
    Saturday, January 19, 2013

    Manti Te'o tried to put one of the strangest sports stories in memory behind him, insisting he was the target of an elaborate online hoax in which he fell for a fake woman created by pranksters, then admitting his own lies made the bizarre ordeal worse.

    Whether his off-camera interview with ESPN's Jeremy Schaap was enough to demonstrate that the All-American senior linebacker out of Notre Dame was a victim in the scheme instead of a participant is still an open question.

    The most important judges of the Heisman Trophy finalist might be pro teams. Te'o, 21, has finished his coursework at Notre Dame and is preparing for the NFL draft at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, where the 2½-hour interview was conducted late Friday.

    Among the highlights:

    • Te'o denied being in on the hoax. "No. Never," he said. "I wasn't faking it. I wasn't part of this."

    • Te'o provided a timeline and details of his relationship with Lennay Kekua, his virtual sweetheart, who went through an array of medical calamities before "dying" of leukemia in September, just hours after Te'o got real news of his grandmother's death.

    • He acknowledged he lied to his father about meeting Kekua in person, then exacerbated the situation after her supposed death when he "tailored" his comments to reporters to make it sound as if their relationship was more than just phone calls and electronic messages.

    "I even knew, that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn't meet, and that alone — people find out that this girl who died, I was so invested in, I didn't meet her, as well," Te'o said. "So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away, so that people wouldn't think that I was some crazy dude."

    In the same conversation, Te'o said: "Out of this whole thing, that is my biggest regret."

    Another development was reported Saturday. When Te'o ordered two dozen white roses delivered to 21503 Water St. in Carson, Calif., he says he thought they were headed to the home of Lennay Kekua.

    In fact, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo — the man implicated as the ringleader of a false-identity hoax — and many of his relatives have lived in the single-story, stucco bungalow, according to publicly available records and interviews with neighbors.

    And the house six doors down, at 21403 Water? It belongs to a family really named Kekua.

    Two members of the real Kekua family told the Associated Press they had never heard of a "Lennay Kekua."

    Members of the Kekua family and others in the neighborhood said Ronaiah Tuiasosopo had lived at 21503 Water St. and has visited it since moving out about a year ago.

    Tuiasosopo has not spoken publicly since the website Deadspin broke the news of the hoax on Wednesday.

    Even after Te'o went to his parents, coaches and Notre Dame officials with the story by Dec. 26, and the school provided an investigation that it says corroborated Te'o's version by Jan. 4, the player told ESPN that it was not until Tuiasosopo, 22, contacted him Wednesday and confessed to the prank, that he finally believed Kekua was not real. Schaap said Te'o showed him direct messages from Twitter in which Tuiasosopo admitted to masterminding the hoax and apologized.

    Te'o was the emotional leader and best player on a Notre Dame team that went from unranked to playing for the program's first national title since 1988. And Te'o's tale of inspired play while dealing with a double dose of tragedy became the theme of the Irish's unexpected rise and undefeated regular season.

    Not until Te'o and the Irish faced Alabama in the BCS title game did the good times end. The Crimson Tide won in a 42-14 rout on Jan. 7 and Te'o wasn't a factor.

    So far no law enforcement agencies have indicated they are pursuing a criminal case in the scam, and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said last week that the school would leave it up to Te'o and his family to pursue legal action.

    Whether Tuiasosopo ultimately confirms Te'o's version of the story will go a long way toward determining where this saga is headed. In the interview with ESPN, Te'o implied that he was not holding a grudge against Tuiasosopo.

    While fans and members of the media might not be satisfied with where Te'o has left the story, he won't necessarily be compelled to answer to them — just to potential employers starting in February.

    At the NFL combine in February, Te'o will have his physical skills and fitness tested, and he will be interviewed by NFL executives and coaches. He has been projected as a potential first-round draft pick.

    Said former Dallas Cowboys general manager and NFL draft consultant Gil Brandt: "Between now and 97 days from now when the draft comes, there'll be a lot of people investigating just what took place."


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    By Tom Jones, Times Sports Columnist
    Saturday, January 19, 2013

    TAMPA

    It has been a long time since we saw the Lightning in person. In fact, 287 days.

    When last here at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, April 2, the Lightning had way more scratches and scrapes than Band-Aids to cover them.

    Other than 60-goal scorer Steven Stamkos, there wasn't a whole lot to crow about.

    A powerless power play. A shaky defense. And the goaltending? What goaltending?

    Add it all up, and it was well short of the points needed for a playoff spot.

    But the biggest issue of all was the dark cloud of a work stoppage in the distance that threatened to shut down the sport for who knew how long.

    Well, after a summer spent repairing, repatching and rebuilding the roster and a lockout that delayed the start of the season by more than three months, the Lightning finally took the ice Saturday night.

    So what did we see? More important, what did we learn? Yes, it was only one game and a sloppy game at that. That was expected after the long layoff and short training camp. Nevertheless, here are five things we learned.

    The new scoreboard is awesome

    Rumors were the new $5 million scoreboard would be the greatest thing in hockey since the Zamboni and fans would watch it more than the game. It doesn't quite go from one end of the rink to the other, but the 50-foot wide, 28-foot high scoreboard is easily the most impressive in the NHL, and it might be the coolest scoreboard this side of Cowboys Stadium. But the action on the ice still takes precedence.

    The fans forgave

    Any thoughts that the fans would hold a grudge after the second lockout over the past eight years were erased before the game started when the Lightning announced it was sold out.

    The Times Forum was charged up during the pregame ceremonies, which included a thank-you from captain Vinny Lecavalier, and the buzz stayed in the building throughout the game. The fans clearly have forgiven the league for the lockout and appeared simply ecstatic that hockey was back.

    "They're still here, and they're still great," Lightning founder Phil Esposito said. "The fans have been terrific. This is just as good as any market in hockey."

    The big dogs on this team can still bark

    And bite, too.

    On a night when the Lightning celebrated the 20-year history of the franchise, the two best players in franchise history continue to lead the way.

    Marty St. Louis, looking more like 27 than the actual 37 he is, had a pair of goals. Lecavalier, in his 999th game, had a goal, an assist and one of the most hellacious checks you're ever going to see.

    As time goes along, the Lightning gradually will have to rely more and more on its younger stars. There's Stamkos, of course. And there are players such as Teddy Purcell, Victor Hedman and newcomer Cory Conacher, who helped ice the win with his first NHL goal in the third.

    But St. Louis and Lecavalier are not just around for their on-ice experience and off-ice leadership. They remain critical parts of the Lightning engine.

    The new No. 1 goalie

    What we learned about Anders Lindback is … we didn't learn a lot. He wasn't bad. He wasn't spectacular. He could have been a tad better, but he could have been much worse.

    He didn't wow, but he isn't a cause for concern yet either.

    He gave up three goals. Maybe he could've had one or two, but he certainly couldn't be blamed for any of them either.

    All in all, we have to see more.

    It's a good start

    As Lightning fans filed out, there was much to like.

    The stars played like stars. Reliable veterans such as Eric Brewer, Nate Thompson and Adam Hall were reliable. The bright, young prospects such as Conacher played like bright, young prospects. And key new parts such as Lindback, Sami Salo and Matt Carle played like key new parts.

    It's only one game. But it was a good start.

    Best of all, it was a start.


    AUSTIN ANTHONY   |   TimesAUSTIN ANTHONY | Times

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    By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, January 19, 2013

    TAMPA — To celebrate the start of the Lightning's 20th anniversary season, five players from the inaugural team were recognized at center ice before Saturday's game.

    Four wore retro Tampa Bay jerseys: Brian Bradley, the team's first All-Star; Chris Kontos, who scored four goals in the franchise's first game; Joe Reekie and Pat Jablonski.

    But to founder Phil Esposito, the fifth was just as special — even if he came off the Capitals' bench: Roman Hamrlik, the only active player from that team.

    "I said to him, 'You're skinnier now than you were when you were 18,' " Esposito said, laughing. "He says, 'When you get older, you have to get thinner.' "

    Before the Lightning made Vinny Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos top overall picks, Hamrlik, a strong, two-way defenseman currently listed at 206 pounds, was their first ever draft choice (No. 1 overall in 1992). And though Hamrlik, 38, has since played for five other teams, he said he holds his first 51/2 seasons in the league in special regard.

    "It's really crazy," Hamrlik said before the game. "I have so many memories from here. It's where I started, and I had the opportunity to play with some great players. It's a new season now, and I'm with a different team now. But it's incredible. I'll never forget this place."

    Hamrlik, traded to the Oilers on Dec. 30, 1997, also played for the Islanders, Flames and Canadiens before joining the Capitals last season. Saturday, he played his 1,380th game, most for a Czech-born player, and he missed nearly 150 more because of three lockouts.

    To stay in the league, Hamrlik had to stay healthy — and evolve.

    "When you get older, you train harder every summer," Hamrlik said. "And you play a little bit smarter. You try to play with your experience, stick on the ice, learn like (Red Wings star defenseman) Nicklas Lidstrom. I always look up to some of the older guys, how they play and try to learn from them so hopefully I can still bring something to the team."

    Hamrlik, in the final year of his deal with Washington, said he still has passion for the game and is driven by the goal to win his first Stanley Cup. But he admitted he never envisioned being here, more than two decades removed from his debut, for the Lightning's commemorative celebration.

    "It's going to be a special night for me; a special night for the fans, for the Tampa Bay Lightning, for the organization," Hamrlik said. "I'm really lucky to still play hockey right now at this level, and I'm going to try to enjoy every day of it."

    Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.


    DIRK SHADD   |   TimesDIRK SHADD | Times

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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, January 19, 2013

    TAMPA — So many things were in play during Saturday night's season-opening game between the Lightning and Capitals, it was difficult to keep track.

    As Washington coach Adam Oates said before the game, "It will be a bit more mental because of the time off and the mistakes and the fatigue level due to conditioning."

    But in the end, the Lightning's 6-3 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 19,204 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum came down to hustle and a sizzling shot.

    Marty St. Louis scored the winner 5-on-3 with a shot from the slot 4:57 into the third period to break a 3-3 tie but only after Steven Stamkos outscrambled a Capitals player to keep the puck in the offensive zone.

    It was St. Louis' second goal of the game, both on the power play, and third point, and sparked a three-goal period that included tallies by Eric Brewer and rookie Cory Conacher, his first NHL goal.

    Brewer scored twice, including on Tampa Bay's first shot of the game, and Vinny Lecavalier and Conacher each had a goal and two points as the Lightning won its fourth straight against its Southeast Division foe.

    Goaltender Anders Lindback, in his first game for the Lightning, did his part with 27 saves, though his biggest contribution came in the first seven minutes when the Capitals, with three power plays, had a 7-0 lead in shots.

    Tampa Bay found its legs and finished with a 34-30 shot advantage.

    The Capitals had a 17-8 lead in shots in the first period, but the Lightning had a 2-1 lead with goals by Brewer and Lecavalier.

    Tampa Bay did not get a shot until 6:24 into the period, but Brewer made it count, going high over the left shoulder of goalie Braden Holtby.

    The Capitals tied the score on the power play at 8:25 as Joel Ward, in front of the net, smacked in a rebound.

    But Lecavalier answered 44 seconds later after Keith Aulie's blocked shot deflected right to the captain's stick.

    The Lightning took over the momentum in the second period with a 13-6 advantage in shots. The period ended 3-3 with the Capitals getting two goals on lucky bounces.

    Ward tied the score at 2 when a puck deflected in off his skate 1:59 into the second period.

    The Lightning took a 3-2 lead at 5:11 on St. Louis' power-play goal from in front of the net. Lecavalier made a perfect pass from the bottom of the right faceoff circle.

    Wojtek Wolski's tying goal with 1:45 left came after he outhustled St. Louis in the slot to get to a rebound of Mike Ribiero's shot.

    Lightning 2 1 3 6
    Capitals 1 2 0 3

    First Period1, Tampa Bay, Brewer 1 (Carle, St. Louis), 6:24. 2, Washington, Ward 1 (Wolski, Poti), 8:25 (pp). 3, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 1 (Aulie), 9:09. PenaltiesMalone, TB (interference), :28; Lee, TB (hooking), 2:51; Lee, TB (boarding), 6:37; Brouwer, Was (boarding), 14:01.

    Second Period4, Washington, Ward 2 (Chimera, Carlson), 1:59. 5, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 1 (Lecavalier, Conacher), 5:11 (pp). 6, Washington, Wolski 1 (Ribeiro, Hamrlik), 18:15. PenaltiesWolski, Was (holding), 4:06; Chimera, Was (roughing), 6:59; Ribeiro, Was (high-sticking), 14:28; Ovechkin, Was (diving), 17:26; Salo, TB (holding), 17:26.

    Third Period7, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 2 (Stamkos, Purcell), 4:57 (pp). 8, Tampa Bay, Conacher 1 (Purcell), 13:24. 9, Tampa Bay, Brewer 2 (Purcell, Stamkos), 16:42 (pp). PenaltiesPerreault, Was (tripping), 3:18; Backstrom, Was (tripping), 4:22; Pyatt, TB (holding), 7:04; Hendricks, Was (roughing), 15:42. Shots on GoalWashington 17-6-7—30. Tampa Bay 8-13-13—34. Power-play opportunitiesWashington 1 of 4; Tampa Bay 3 of 7. GoaliesWashington, Holtby 0-1-0 (34 shots-28 saves). Tampa Bay, Lindback 1-0-0 (30-27). A19,204 (19,204). T2:43. Referees—Eric Furlatt, Ghislain Hebert. LinesmenScott Cherrey, Mark Shewchyk.


    DIRK SHADD   |   TimesDIRK SHADD | Times

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    Times wires
    Sunday, January 20, 2013

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Jamie Donaldson won the Abu Dhabi Championship by one shot Sunday, with Justin Rose narrowly missing a birdie putt on the 18th that would have forced a playoff.

    Rose's 8-foot putt rimmed out of the hole, giving the Welshman his second European Tour victory. He shot 68 to finish at 14-under 274.

    Rose (71) threw his club in the air in frustration while Donaldson flashed a relieved smile. Rose tied for second with Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen (69), who also failed to force a playoff on the 18th when his 15-foot birdie putt rolled past the hole. Olesen, playing with Rose, had putted first.

    "It was a tough field, brutal golf course," said Donaldson, whose win moves him in into the world top 30 rankings.

    It was fifth-ranked Rose's tournament to lose. The Englishman, who had a two-shot lead over Donaldson and Olesen entering Sunday, led all week, hitting greens and making timely putts. But he was shaky from the start in the final round, scrambling early to save pars, then hitting errant drives on Nos. 5, 11 and 16 that led to bogeys while finding it difficult to read the greens.

    "It was definitely hard work," Rose said. "You want to close out with a chance to win when you have it, and I didn't do that (Sunday). But I didn't do a lot wrong, either."

    The 47th-ranked Donaldson won his first tournament last year in his 266th European Tour event.

    After Rose hit a drive into the trees for a bogey on No. 16, then missed a 12-foot birdie putt on the 17th, Donaldson appeared in control. But Donaldson didn't make it easy for himself. He missed a long birdie putt on the final hole, then a 5-foot putt for par, settling for bogey.

    PGA: Brian Gay won the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, Calif., for his fourth tour title, beating Charles Howell III with a 51/2-foot birdie putt on the second hole of a playoff.

    Gay closed with 9-under 63 on PGA West's Arnold Palmer Private Course to match Howell and Swedish rookie David Lingmerth at 25-under 263.

    Howell shot 64 and Lingmerth 62. Scott Stallings, five strokes ahead entering the round, bogeyed the final hole for 70 to miss the playoff by a stroke.

    Gay and Howell opened the playoff with birdies on the par-5 18th, and Lingmerth dropped out with bogey after hitting his approach into the left-side water. Gay won on the par-4 10th.


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    By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
    Sunday, January 20, 2013

    ATLANTA — In the farthest corner of the 49ers' rollicking locker room, tight end Vernon Davis — wearing a sweat-soaked undershirt and game pants, eye black smeared all over his face — spoke of heavy stuff like willpower and destiny.

    "We just came into this game with the will to win," said an emotional Davis, the heart and soul of his team. Later, he added winning "wasn't really a surprise because, when I look at this team, this was a team that was destined to win."

    Sure, those elements helped the 49ers reach the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1994 season.

    But to chalk up San Francisco's thrilling 28-24 NFC Championship Game victory on Sunday over the Falcons to that alone would be to sell it short.

    This was a game about staying the course, in spite of an early 17-0 deficit. It was a testament to focus amid the deafening noise in the Georgia Dome. But mostly, it was a textbook display of sticking with what worked before: stifling defense, a power running game and efficient passing.

    The read option runs that let quarterback Colin Kaepernick gallop past the Packers a week before were almost nonexistent. Kaepernick ran one only such play Sunday, instead sitting in the pocket threading accurate passes to receivers — chiefly Davis (five catches, 106 yards).

    The ingredients might have been similar, but the way this game played out could not have been more different than the division victory over Green Bay that sent the 49ers to Atlanta.

    The early deficit was jarring, as the Falcons came out with a barrage that included a 46-yard Matt Ryan-to-Julio Jones touchdown on the game's first possession. Six seconds into the second quarter, those two hooked up for another score and a 17-0 lead.

    Yet there was surprising calm on the 49ers' sideline.

    "We said, 'Let's go,' " linebacker Aldon Smith said. "Nobody was yelling. Nobody was doubting anybody."

    "Going out on the field frantic isn't going to help you score points," Kaepernick said.

    The eventual 24-14 halftime deficit hardly seemed insurmountable for a team that expected to be here.

    "We worked too hard to put ourselves back in this position," cornerback Carlos Rogers said, referencing the 49ers' loss to the Giants for last season's NFC title. "We knew it wasn't going to be easy. They're a hell of a team."

    The composure was shown not only by players, but from the coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman didn't tear up his game plan, sticking with the running game.

    "We didn't have to get outside of ourselves," he said.

    The balance let Kaepernick thrive. With good protection, he calmly delivered the ball, completing 16-of-21 passes for 233 yards. As for running, Kaepernick let Frank Gore (21 carries, 90 yards) do the heavy lifting one week after rushing for 181 yards.

    Still, the Falcons had to be terribly worried about the potential for Kaepernick tucking and running around the perimeter.

    "I think they were keeping their eye on him and we were getting behind their linebackers and he was making perfect throws," tight end Delanie Walker said. "I think that hurt them. But you never know what Kaep is going to do."

    Meanwhile, a 49ers defense that gave up 297 yards in the first half stiffened to pitch a shutout the rest of the way. The defense made the game's most critical play, with linebacker NaVorro Bowman breaking up a fourth-down pass to Roddy White at the 49ers' 10-yard line with 1:10 remaining.

    Bowman, who perhaps got away with holding on the play, made what defensive tackle Justin Smith called "a season-saving play."

    Now, the 49ers take their will to win and destiny to New Orleans. That, plus the kind of football they played Sunday, might be enough to win the franchise's sixth Super Bowl.


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
    Sunday, January 20, 2013

    Super Bowl's super bros

    Oh, brother, welcome to the Harbowl.

    49ers coach Jim Harbaugh will face his older brother, John, the head coach of the Ravens, in what will become a family affair at Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans on Feb. 3.

    The Niners are headed to their sixth Super Bowl and first in 18 years after a 28-24 win over the Falcons in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.

    Later Sunday night, John led the Ravens to a 28-13 upset over the Patriots in Foxborough, Mass. The Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV over the Giants at Raymond James Stadium to cap the 2000 season, their only appearance in the NFL title game.

    It's the first time brothers have squared off in the Super Bowl as opposing head coaches.

    The brothers, who are 18 months apart, have football in their blood. They watched their father, Jack, have a 41-year coaching career in high school and college, ending at Western Kentucky.

    Believe it or not, there will be other compelling storylines.

    The quarterbacks

    The 49ers have rookie Colin Kaepernick, given the starting job in Week 11 of this season over Alex Smith. He'll make only the 10th start of his pro career in the Super Bowl.

    The Ravens have Joe Flacco, who has flirted with elite status and won his sixth playoff game on the road Sunday, breaking Eli Manning's record. Joe Cool beat Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on the road this year.

    Ray's last ride

    Get ready to see Ray Lewis preach, dance and maybe even make his eye black run with a tear or two. Oh, yes, you'll hear more about his ride into retirement, the torn tricep and a rehash of that awful night in Atlanta on Jan. 31, 2000, when two men were stabbed to death during a melee with Lewis' entourage.

    Passing of the torch

    Eddie DeBartolo Jr. won five Super Bowls as owner of the 49ers in the 1980s and '90s. On Sunday, he presented the George Halas Trophy to his sister, Denise York, and his nephew, Jed York, the CEO of the Niners, who consults his uncle frequently. Get ready for lots of footage of Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Steve Young and Bill Walsh and a remembrance of Camelot.

    Rick Stroud, Times staff writer


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    Times wires
    Sunday, January 20, 2013

    ORLANDO — If the Mavericks are to make it out of the early pit they dug, it will require a lot more nights like Sunday.

    Two days after seeing a four-game win streak snapped in an overtime loss to the Thunder, Shawn Marion scored 20 and O.J. Mayo and Vince Carter 15 each as Dallas fought off a late Orlando surge and beat the Magic 111-105 on Sunday night.

    The Mavericks led by 13 in the fourth quarter, before the Magic pulled within a basket in the final minute.

    Dallas hung on, with a combination of late stops, timely free throws and a boost from a bench that outscored Orlando's 40-28. Carter and forward Elton Brand combined for 29 of those 40.

    "Me and Vince joke about that," Brand said. "If it's not going well for the starting unit, that's our job, to come in and clean things up. That's what we did … and kind of righted the ship a little bit."

    The Mavericks won in Orlando for the seventh straight time and now have five days off before hosting the division-leading Spurs on Friday.

    "It's good to start winning again," Brand said. "We didn't want to go into our break without winning again."

    In his fourth game back since returning from a sprained left shoulder, Glen Davis had his strongest offensive output and led Orlando with 24 points. Jameer Nelson added 20 and J.J. Redick 18.

    But familiar turnover and defensive issues plagued the Magic as it lost for the third time in four games. It also fell for the seventh straight time to a team with a sub-.500 record.

    "We'll continue to work," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "That's the best part of it is we've got games ahead of us and we'll continue to work and that's our best approach. We've been there so we know that this team is capable."

    Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said Dirk Nowitzki, who played in his 15th game after offseason knee surgery, may need until February to get back to full strength. The former MVP had 12 points and seven rebounds.

    GAME HIGHLIGHTS: Landry Fields had a season-high 18 points and 10 rebounds as the host Raptors sent the Lakers to their fifth straight road loss, 108-103. Dwight Howard was ejected after drawing his second technical foul with 1:18 left in the first half. … Kenneth Faried's layup in overtime put the host Nuggets ahead to stay in a 121-118 victory over the Thunder, snapping Oklahoma City's six-game winning streak. … Rookie Andre Drummond had 16 points and seven rebounds, and the host Pistons returned from Europe with a 103-88 victory over the Celtics.

    AROUND THE LEAGUE: The Suns picked player development director Lindsey Hunter as interim coach, two days after the team parted ways with Alvin Gentry. Hunter, who played for 17 seasons in the NBA, joined Phoenix in the scouting department last year and this season took over the team's new player development department. … Forward-center Chris Andersen signed a 10-day deal with the Heat and worked out with his new club for the first time. Andersen, 34, hasn't appeared in an NBA game since playing with Denver in March. … Thunder coach Scott Brooks was on the bench leading his team one day after the death of his mother, Lee Brooks, at 79.

    Mavericks 111, Magic 105

    DALLAS (111): Marion 10-16 0-0 20, Nowitzki 4-11 3-4 12, Kaman 5-11 3-4 13, Collison 4-6 1-1 11, Mayo 6-10 2-2 15, Carter 4-11 4-4 15, Brand 7-13 0-0 14, Crowder 3-6 0-0 7, M.James 2-6 0-0 4. Totals 45-90 13-15 111.

    ORLANDO (105): De.Jones 1-1 0-0 3, Davis 10-16 4-6 24, Vucevic 6-11 2-2 14, Nelson 7-17 2-2 20, Afflalo 5-13 5-6 16, Redick 7-13 2-2 18, Moore 1-4 0-0 3, Harkless 3-4 0-0 6, McRoberts 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 40-79 16-20 105.

    Dallas 26 31 28 26— 111

    Orlando 24 24 27 30— 105

    3-Point GoalsDallas 8-15 (Carter 3-5, Collison 2-3, Mayo 1-2, Nowitzki 1-2, Crowder 1-3), Orlando 9-21 (Nelson 4-9, Redick 2-6, De.Jones 1-1, Moore 1-2, Afflalo 1-2, Harkless 0-1). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsDallas 43 (Marion 10), Orlando 47 (Vucevic 11). AssistsDallas 29 (Collison 9), Orlando 26 (Davis 6). Total FoulsDallas 13, Orlando 14. TechnicalsDavis. A18,192 (18,500).

    Raptors 108, Lakers 103

    L.A. LAKERS (103): World Peace 3-9 1-1 9, Gasol 10-15 5-6 25, Howard 1-3 3-4 5, Nash 5-11 4-4 16, Bryant 10-32 3-3 26, Clark 6-10 1-2 14, Jamison 2-6 0-0 5, Duhon 0-1 1-1 1, Morris 1-1 0-0 2, Sacre 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 38-88 18-21 103.

    TORONTO (108): Fields 8-11 2-4 18, Davis 9-13 0-2 18, Gray 2-5 1-1 5, Calderon 9-15 3-3 22, DeRozan 4-9 0-0 8, Anderson 5-13 1-2 14, Johnson 4-6 1-2 9, Lowry 2-3 2-3 8, Ross 2-7 0-0 4, Acy 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 46-84 10-17 108.

    L.A. Lakers 20 29 21 33— 103

    Toronto 29 24 30 25— 108

    3-Point GoalsL.A. Lakers 9-27 (Bryant 3-12, Nash 2-3, World Peace 2-6, Clark 1-1, Jamison 1-4, Duhon 0-1), Toronto 6-20 (Anderson 3-7, Lowry 2-3, Calderon 1-4, Fields 0-1, DeRozan 0-1, Ross 0-4). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsL.A. Lakers 48 (Clark 14), Toronto 50 (Fields 10). AssistsL.A. Lakers 20 (Nash 9), Toronto 27 (Calderon 9). Total FoulsL.A. Lakers 15, Toronto 22. TechnicalsBryant, Howard 2, Anderson, Toronto defensive three second. Ejected—Howard. A19,800 (19,800).

    Pistons 103, Celtics 88

    BOSTON (88): Pierce 5-10 0-0 10, Bass 0-3 0-0 0, Garnett 5-11 6-8 16, Rondo 4-16 0-0 8, Bradley 3-8 0-0 6, Sullinger 3-7 1-2 7, Collins 0-1 2-2 2, Lee 6-12 2-2 16, Green 4-9 6-9 15, Terry 1-3 1-2 4, Barbosa 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 33-83 18-25 88.

    DETROIT (103): Prince 6-13 0-0 14, Maxiell 2-4 2-2 6, Monroe 6-12 3-4 15, Knight 5-12 3-6 15, Singler 4-11 3-3 13, Stuckey 1-4 0-0 3, Drummond 5-6 6-8 16, Villanueva 2-4 0-0 6, Bynum 5-12 5-8 15, Daye 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 36-78 22-31 103.

    Boston 18 30 23 17— 88

    Detroit 27 25 29 22— 103

    3-Point GoalsBoston 4-15 (Lee 2-5, Terry 1-3, Green 1-4, Pierce 0-1, Bradley 0-2), Detroit 9-19 (Prince 2-2, Villanueva 2-3, Singler 2-5, Knight 2-6, Stuckey 1-2, Bynum 0-1). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsBoston 49 (Rondo 9), Detroit 59 (Monroe 11). AssistsBoston 22 (Rondo 15), Detroit 24 (Monroe, Bynum, Singler, Knight 5). Total FoulsBoston 33, Detroit 23. A17,575 (22,076).


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  • 01/20/13--20:13: Penguins thump Rangers
  • Times wires
    Sunday, January 20, 2013

    GAME HIGHLIGHTS:

    COACH OUT OF HOSPITAL:

    OLD MAN'S GAME:

    MAPLE LEAFS:

    Penguins 3 1 2 6
    at Rangers 1 0 2 3

    First Period1, Pittsburgh, Neal 2 (Malkin, Letang), 1:48 (pp). 2, N.Y. Rangers, Callahan 1 (Richards, Stepan), 9:55 (pp). 3, Pittsburgh, Kennedy 2 (Vitale, Despres), 15:05. 4, Pittsburgh, Niskanen 1 (Crosby), 18:50. PenaltiesGlass, Pit, major (fighting), :02; Asham, NYR, major (fighting), :02; Richards, NYR (interference), :37; Sutter, Pit (face-off violation), 9:23; Despres, Pit (holding), 9:23; Cooke, Pit (tripping), 19:41.

    Second Period5, Pittsburgh, Pa.Dupuis 1 (Malkin, Kunitz), 9:11 (pp). PenaltiesDel Zotto, NYR (slashing), 8:03; Richards, NYR (freezing the puck), 19:02; Staal, NYR (delay of game), 19:07.

    Third Period6, Pittsburgh, Neal 3 (Malkin, Martin), 5:06. 7, N.Y. Rangers, Pyatt 1 (Del Zotto, Richards), 6:04. 8, N.Y. Rangers, Nash 1 (Stepan), 14:45 (sh). 9, Pittsburgh, Letang 1, 18:08 (en). PenaltiesNeal, Pit (slashing), 8:09; Bickel, NYR (roughing), 13:23; Adams, Pit (slashing), 17:39; McDonagh, NYR (roughing), 17:39. Shots on GoalPittsburgh 14-14-11—39. N.Y. Rangers 13-9-12—34. Power-play opportunitiesPittsburgh 2 of 5; N.Y. Rangers 1 of 4. GoaliesPittsburgh, Vokoun 1-0-0 (34 shots-31 saves). N.Y. Rangers, Lundqvist 0-2-0 (18-14), Biron (9:11 second, 20-19).

    Sharks 0 3 1 4
    at Flames 1 0 0 1

    First Period1, Calgary, Stempniak 1 (Bouwmeester, Backlund), 12:21 (pp). PenaltiesHavlat, SJ (goaltender interference), 10:56; Bouwmeester, Cal (hooking), 12:38.

    Second Period2, San Jose, Marleau 1 (Thornton, Couture), 13:52 (pp). 3, San Jose, Havlat 1 (Vlasic, Clowe), 15:05. 4, San Jose, Marleau 2 (Boyle, Pavelski), 18:10. PenaltiesBurish, SJ (roughing), 5:35; Baertschi, Cal (tripping), 6:33; Butler, Cal (roughing), 13:45.

    Third Period5, San Jose, Boyle 1 (Thornton, Pavelski), 19:00 (pp). PenaltiesHavlat, SJ (high-sticking), 1:52; Stajan, Cal (hooking), 16:13; Glencross, Cal (tripping), 18:36; Baertschi, Cal (holding), 18:36. Shots on GoalSan Jose 9-14-6—29. Calgary 16-4-12—32. Power-play opportunitiesSan Jose 2 of 6; Calgary 1 of 3. GoaliesSan Jose, Niemi 1-0-0 (32 shots-31 saves). Calgary, Kiprusoff 0-1-0 (29-25).

    at Wild 1 0 0 1
    Stars 0 0 0 0

    First Period1, Minnesota, Parise 1 (Bouchard, Heatley), 8:11. PenaltiesKoivu, Min (tripping), :59; Goligoski, Dal (closing hand on puck), 6:11; Suter, Min (tripping), 6:18; Jagr, Dal (holding), 6:47; Cullen, Min (charging), 12:59.

    Second PeriodNone. PenaltiesBrodziak, Min (tripping), 18:40.

    Third PeriodNone. PenaltiesRobidas, Dal (interference), 9:02; Bouchard, Min (goaltender interference), 9:02; Daley, Dal (high-sticking), 17:59. Shots on GoalDallas 8-11-5—24. Minnesota 11-10-11—32. Power-play opportunitiesDallas 0 of 4; Minnesota 0 of 3. GoaliesDallas, Nilstorp 0-1-0 (32 shots-31 saves). Minnesota, Harding 1-0-0 (24-24).

    at Sabres 1 1 3 5
    Flyers 0 2 0 2

    First Period1, Buffalo, Ott 1 (Pominville, Vanek), 11:07 (pp). PenaltiesHartnell, Phi (roughing), 1:34; Foligno, Buf (roughing), 1:34; L.Schenn, Phi (roughing), 6:03; Foligno, Buf (roughing), 6:03; Grossmann, Phi (tripping), 9:35; Regehr, Buf (tripping), 12:40; Leopold, Buf (interference), 17:16.

    Second Period2, Philadelphia, Couturier 1 (Foster, Voracek), 2:23. 3, Philadelphia, Giroux 2 (Timonen, Simmonds), 4:57 (pp). 4, Buffalo, Vanek 1 (Stafford, Pominville), 15:54 (pp). PenaltiesRegehr, Buf (tripping), 4:25; Timonen, Phi (roughing), 6:04; Kaleta, Buf (roughing), 6:04; Hartnell, Phi (boarding), 7:17; Philadelphia bench, served by Laughton (too many men), 13:50; L.Schenn, Phi (hooking), 15:27; Hartnell, Phi, major (fighting), 18:20; Stafford, Buf, major (fighting), 18:20; Ott, Buf (diving), 19:18.

    Third Period5, Buffalo, Myers 1 (Ennis, Vanek), 14:57 (pp). 6, Buffalo, Hodgson 1 (Vanek, Sekera), 16:13. 7, Buffalo, Vanek 2 (Pominville), 19:12 (en). PenaltiesFedotenko, Phi (tripping), 7:26; L.Schenn, Phi (tripping), 14:00; Hartnell, Phi (goaltender interference), 15:47; Myers, Buf (interference), 15:47. Shots on GoalPhiladelphia 7-13-9—29. Buffalo 13-13-15—41. Power-play opportunitiesPhiladelphia 1 of 4; Buffalo 3 of 6. GoaliesPhiladelphia, Bryzgalov 0-2-0 (40 shots-36 saves). Buffalo, Miller 1-0-0 (29-27).


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    By Gary Shelton, Times Sports Columnist
    Sunday, January 20, 2013

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass.

    The quarterback is unlikely. The defense is aging. The team is improbable.

    So how in the world do you explain these Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl?

    Even in their moments of triumph after beating the Patriots 28-13 in the AFC title game Sunday night, it was hard to figure out just how the Ravens pulled this unexpected journey off. This was a team that was supposed to stop by the playoffs, nothing more. By now, everyone figured, the Ravens would have given a gold watch to its retiring linebacker Ray Lewis and gotten out of the way.

    Yet, here they are.

    Yet, there they go.

    Miracle after miracle, the Ravens have found a way. Surprise after surprise, they have snuck up on a Super Bowl that no one expected them to reach. You could have gotten better odds on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel being repainted … by Sherwin-Williams.

    True, other wild-card teams have reached the Super Bowl before. It really isn't that rare anymore. But no other team has conquered Peyton Manning and Tom Brady back-to-back on its victory march. No other team had less momentum, losing four out of its last five games and firing its offensive coordinator in December.

    This was Peyton Manning's year, remember? He had one of the best comebacks in history, and he put up MVP-type numbers, and it was easy to believe he was destined to make it to another Super Bowl. And the Ravens beat him and the Broncos.

    This was Tom Brady's back yard, remember? No one came into Foxborough and beat the Patriots. They were 7-1 in AFC title games before this, and since 2002, they had won 10 of their 12 playoff games at Gillette Stadium. Some were already calling Brady the best quarterback in NFL history, which made it easy to believe he was heading toward yet another Super Bowl. And the Ravens beat him, too.

    How did this happen? And furthermore, when? Did the Ravens become a contender when they beat the Colts in the first round? When they won the stunner against the Broncos?

    Now comes the HarBowl: The 49ers and the Ravens.

    Anyone want to bet against this team?

    Oh, there are moments these Ravens sputter and moments they spew. They are not particularly flashy or slick. And the defense that has carried them for more than a decade has started to show some wear. On the other hand, that defense gave up only one touchdown to Brady on Sunday night.

    Then there is Joe Flacco the Unappreciated. There are moments you can see the Ravens QB's rough edges, too. He hit only one of his first six passes Sunday night, and for a while, it seemed as if it was only a matter of time until the Patriots took over.

    Sometimes, however, small injuries make big differences. Observe, for instance, the familiar face who spent most of the game on the Patriots' sideline.

    It is fair to say this was the kind of game the Patriots had in mind when they traded for Aqib Talib, the troubled cornerback who once played for the Bucs. New England just hoped it would be Talib's entrance into the lineup, not his exit, that would be the difference.

    The early season had demonstrated just how suspect the New England secondary was, and when the Bucs finally had their fill of Talib's off-the-field headlines, the Patriots decided to take the risk. In his time with the Patriots, Talib had drawn mostly positive reviews.

    On the Ravens' second series of the game, however, Talib grabbed at his leg while defending a third-and-12 pass over the middle. He spent the rest of the night in a parka and a wool hat, watching from the sideline.

    Oh, so that's why the Patriots wanted Talib.

    After Talib's injury, Flacco was a different quarterback. He hit 20 of his last 30 passes for 223 yards, and he finished with three touchdowns and no interceptions. New England coach Bill Belichick said the Patriots made adjustments after losing Talib, but nothing that plugged the leak.

    The Patriots still haven't announced if Talib is coming back next season. If not, this will leave a lasting final image of him in the New England area.

    As far as the Ravens, there are still images left to savor.

    There is a Super Bowl ahead. John Harbaugh gets to coach against his brother, 49ers coach Jim. Joe Flacco gets to play against Colin Kaepernick. Ray Rice gets to run against Patrick Willis.

    Odds are, the Ravens will fall behind. Odds are, Flacco will make a big throw or two. Odds are, Baltimore will go into the final quarter with a chance to surprise America one more time.

    Go ahead. Remind the Ravens they are underdogs. Tell them they can't win.

    Just understand if they don't listen.

    Listen to Gary Shelton weekdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on 98.7-FM the Fan.


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    Times wires
    Sunday, January 20, 2013

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The assassin's eye is supposed to belong to Tom Brady. He is the quarterback who was 67-0 at home when leading at halftime. He puts other teams away, taking an inch of an opening and prying it wide.

    But now, look at Joe Flacco. When Brady and the Patriots provided the Ravens a sliver of an opening Sunday, Flacco became the sniper, cool and precise.

    He took a tight game and blew it open with three second-half touchdown passes that lifted Baltimore to a 28-13 victory in the AFC title game.

    "It was pretty awesome," said Flacco, whose team lost last season's AFC title game 23-20 at New England when Billy Cundiff missed a last-minute field goal.

    "We were here last year and thought we had it but came up a little short. Guys came out in the second half and made plays. We put pressure on them like that, and it worked pretty well."

    The victory means Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis' final season will conclude in two weeks in New Orleans. He was the MVP of the 2001 game, the Ravens' only Super Bowl win (and only other Super Bowl appearance).

    "This is our time. This is our time," Lewis said as he and four teammates received the AFC championship trophy. "All these men out there, there might just be only five of us up here. But every man out there sacrificed this year for each other, and man, we did it and we're on our way to the Super Bowl. Awesome."

    In the first half, the Patriots had the ball for six more minutes than the Ravens. They outgained the Ravens 214-130 and had 15 first downs to the Ravens' eight. Yet they led by just 13-7 after Stephen Gostkowski's 25-yard field goal on the final play.

    In the first half, Flacco completed just 6-of-12 for 81 yards.

    However, in the second, he went 15-of-24 for 159 yards. His touchdowns came in a span of 10:01. He connected with tight end Dennis Pitta for 5 yards with 6:14 left in the third to put the Ravens ahead 14-13. He hit Anquan Boldin for 3 yards four seconds into the fourth and for 11 yards 3:43 later.

    "They outplayed us and outcoached us tonight," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "Nothing was good enough."

    The turning point came during the third quarter. Leading 13-7, New England had the ball third and 8 at the Baltimore 34. An open Wes Welker dropped an easy Brady pass near the first down marker that would at the very least have put New England in better field goal position.

    Instead, the Patriots punted. Taking over at the 13, Flacco went 6 of 9 for 64 yards capped by Pitta's touchdown.

    After a three-and-out, Flacco went right back down the field. The 63-yard drive was highlighted by Torrey Smith's 23-yard catch and capped when Flacco lofted a pass to Boldin, who outleaped cornerback Devin McCourty for a 21-13 lead.

    Patriots running back Stevan Ridley fumbled on the next possession. And four plays later, Flacco hit Boldin for a touchdown.

    After the clock reached zero, many Ravens gathered on the field jumping, chest-bumping and whooping before several thousand fans wearing Ravens jerseys — mostly Lewis' No. 52 — who remained in the stands.


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    Times wires
    Sunday, January 20, 2013

    ATLANTA — It's official … mostly. One of the greatest NFL players ever apparently has done so for the last time.

    Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez, who has tortured the Bucs since joining the NFC South in 2009, stated his intent to retire more firmly after Sunday's loss in the NFC Championship Game.

    He will go down as one of the game's best tight ends and one of its most prolific receivers, period. He is second to Jerry Rice in receptions with 1,250, and on Sunday caught eight passes for 182 yards.

    Gonzalez, though emotional, didn't waver.

    "That's probably going to be the last time I wear that uniform, or football pads and cleats," he said. "I didn't want to take it off, to tell you the truth. All good things come to an end."

    For Gonzalez, who will retire without having won a Super Bowl in 16 seasons, personal life trumped his professional one.

    "I've talked about it with my family," said Gonzalez, who spent 12 seasons with the Chiefs before joining the Falcons for four. "My oldest son lives out in L.A., and I kind of want my family together. I love spending time with my family. I'm here six months out of the year and it's been that way for 16 years now, since college. … You can't keep chasing a Super Bowl."

    CRABTREE SITUATION: 49ers WR Michael Crabtree told reporters he was not and will not be distracted by his involvement in a sexual assault investigation in San Francisco. ESPN.com reported that Crabtree, who was questioned, is unlikely to face charges. Meanwhile, TE Vernon Davis said Crabtree is a chief reason the 49ers are headed to the Super Bowl. "I'm just so thankful for him," Davis said. "He made a turnaround from out of nowhere. He's always had it but to have him be a (big) part of this team."

    RYAN INJURED: Falcons QB Matt Ryan was injured on Atlanta's second-to-last possession, falling hard on his left arm. But leaving was never a consideration. "I was all right," he said. "Good enough to go."

    BULLS IN THE HOUSE: USF football coach Willie Taggart, a longtime close friend of 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and a former assistant to Harbaugh at Stanford, was in the 49ers locker room. That would make two of the three coaches in USF history: Jim Leavitt is San Francisco's linebackers coach.

    FAN HURT: A man was injured in a fight outside the Georgia Dome and taken to nearby Grady Hospital after the NFC title game. The 35-year-old's name was not released.

    Information from Times wires was used in this report.


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    Times wires
    Sunday, January 20, 2013

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady's pass deflected high into the air off the hand of Baltimore DE Pernell McPhee before floating gently downfield and into the arms of LB Dannell Ellerbe.

    On the next series, CB Cary Williams intercepted Brady in the end zone, sealing the Ravens' 28-13 victory.

    Brady had thrown 37 touchdowns and just eight interceptions in 17 games. But the Ravens often have given him trouble.

    They are the only team against whom he has thrown more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (eight). His 49.1 rating in a 33-14 playoff loss to them on Jan. 10, 2010, is among his lowest ever.

    "We just couldn't make any critical plays," Brady said. "They kept the pressure on, and we didn't stand up to the challenge."

    A bright spot: Brady now has 5,949 yards passing, the most in NFL history for the postseason.

    Missed chance: New England led 13-7 at halftime. But the lead could have been bigger.

    Late in the half, Danny Woodhead ran for 7 yards on a direct snap on fourth and 1. Soon after, Ravens DE Paul Kruger found himself downfield on TE Aaron Hernandez on what became a 17-yard reception.

    But Brady made a mental mistake.

    After scrambling for 5 yards, about 20 seconds remained. He failed to get his teammates lined up quickly and finally called timeout with four seconds left. Instead of getting a shot in the end zone, the Patriots settled for Stephen Gostkowski's 25-yard field goal.

    Big hit, big fumble: Patriots RB Stevan Ridley left in the fourth quarter after a helmet-to-helmet hit by S Bernard Pollard. Ridley twisted awkwardly as he fell to the turf, landing on his bottom and knocking the ball loose with his knee in the process. Ridley did not move his legs for about a minute.

    DE Arthur Jones recovered the fumble. And four plays later, Anquan Boldin's 11-yard touchdown catch put the Ravens up 28-13 with 11:13 left.

    More injuries: The Patriots also lost CB Aqib Talib (thigh) and DT Kyle Love (knee) and S Patrick Chung (unknown) during the first half.


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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Sports Writer
    Monday, January 21, 2013

    UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The Lightning wanted to make a statement it was not going to be pushed around in a building in which it had little recent success. The Islanders wanted to rev up their fans and each other after an opening loss to the Devils.

    The result: both teams sent tough guys out for Monday's opening faceoff and one second into the game Tampa Bay's Pierre-Cedric Labrie fought Joe Finley and B.J. Crombeen tangled with New York's Matt Martin.

    "We knew we needed to win this one," Martin said, "and we wanted to do whatever we could to get the crowd going and get our teammates going."

    "He looked at me during the national anthem and I was planning on looking at him, too," Crombeen said of Finley. "Both sides were ready and willing, and it was something that was going to happen. We're not going to let teams push us out of their building. If we have to do that, we'll happily do that."

    Both sides believed the fracas did its job.

    Martin said the agitated Nassau Coliseum crowd was like "a sixth man for us," and Stamkos gave kudos to Crombeen and Labrie because they "answered the call."

    "We didn't want to look horrible the way we have the last few years here," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "We wanted to bring some emotion from the start."

    1,000 AND COUNTING: C Vinny Lecavalier became the 280th NHL player with 1,000 games and just the 49th with 1,000 games with one team.

    "To play for the same team for so many years is definitely very special," said Lecavalier, 32, in his 14th season. "I tell this to everybody, I feel like Tampa is my home now. I want to be here forever."

    The Lightning will honor Lecavalier's milestone during Friday's game with the Senators at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. For Lecavalier, it will be game 1,002.

    PROSPECT OUT: D Slater Koekkoek, picked No. 10 overall at the June draft, will have surgery on his left shoulder. With a recovery time of four to six months, he is done for the season.

    Koekkoek, 18, a defenseman with Windsor of the junior Ontario Hockey League, was limited to 26 games in 2011-12 because of a torn labrum in the left shoulder. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said the surgery that repaired that injury "failed."

    MINOR MOVE: The Lightning acquired F Jean-Francois Jacques from the Panthers for future considerations. Jacques, 27, has played 166 NHL games, all but six with the Oilers, and is expected to be assigned to AHL Syracuse. In 65 games last season with the Crunch, Jacques, 6 feet 3, 231 pounds, had 21 goals, 40 points and 95 penalty minutes.

    ODDS AND ENDS: Classy move by the Islanders to acknowledge Lecavalier's 1,000th game on the scoreboard. … LW Cory Conacher's two assists give him a goal and four points in his first two NHL games. … The Lightning claimed C Nate Thompson off waivers from the Islanders three years ago Monday. … Defensemen Brendan Mikkelson and Marc-Andre Bergeron and RW Dana Tyrell were scratched. … Tampa Bay is 7-13-0 in road openers.


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    Times staff
    Monday, January 21, 2013

    IndyCar announced Monday the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will increase to 110 laps, up 10 from previous races.

    The increase is designed to discourage teams from using a fuel-conservation strategy to try to eliminate a pit stop. Similar changes were made for races at Long Beach, Milwaukee and Mid-Ohio.

    The St. Petersburg race, now scheduled for 198 miles on the downtown waterfront course, will be at noon March 24. It will be televised on NBC Sports Network.


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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, January 21, 2013

    GAINESVILLE — Now comes the hard part.

    The Florida basketball team is 4-0 in SEC play, having outscored those opponents 302-195. The Gators are ranked No. 3 nationally in scoring defense, allowing 51.7 points per game. And on Monday, Florida rose to No. 8 in the Associated Press poll and No. 7 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

    But as the Gators prepare to play twice on the road this week — at Georgia and Mississippi State — the emphasis is on staying the course and properly handling the growing prosperity.

    "The biggest thing in all this stuff, I always use this word, the 'makeup' of an individual player, the makeup of your individuals on your team have a lot to do with how your team performs, plays and prepares," coach Billy Donovan said. "If you have players inside your team that can't handle success, can't handle failure, can't handle adversity, can't handle setbacks, can't handle when things don't go their way, you have a very, very fragile team. … So this team … has done a good job of moving from one challenge to the next, and has prepared from one challenge to the next correctly. They've gone out there and played that way. But we can't embrace that and think, 'We've got this all figured out.' "

    Florida opened the SEC season on Jan. 9 with a 77-44 victory over Georgia, but the Gators know well they can't take anything for granted in this second meeting. Florida was favored when it traveled to Athens last season but lost 76-62.

    "That's a big thing, remembering what happened last year," senior F Erik Murphy said. "I think that will help us keep our focus at practice the next couple days. Similar situation to last year. We beat 'em at home and they got us there. We're trying to prepare and not let it happen again."

    PRATHER'S PROGrESS: Florida junior F Casey Prather will miss at least another week as he continues to recover from a high ankle sprain he sustained in the Jan. 12 game at LSU. Prather was in a boot all of last week, which was removed Sunday as he began rehab. It has been an injury-plagued year for Prather, who has missed a total of seven games and also sustained a concussion at the beginning of the season. Donovan said the goal is making sure he's completely healthy.

    "The major concern with the injury right now is bringing him back too soon and having to deal with lingering pain and discomfort, and him being hobbled by this the rest of the year," Donovan said. "So our feeling is since we've come this far, let's try to get him fully healthy. My guess would be right now that this week he'll do rehab, he will not practice at all. And I think he'll probably get reevaluated in another six days or so and see if he can start to practice and see how he feels in that before he plays in the game."

    DID YOU KNOW?: Two former Gators will be on NFL rosters for Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3, DT Ray McDonald and WR Deonte Thompson. McDonald started Sunday's NFC Championship Game for the 49ers, and Thompson was not active for the Ravens' AFC title game.

    Antonya English can be reached at english@tampabay.com.


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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer


    Monday, January 21, 2013

    UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Stop it, Ryan Malone said.

    Don't even try to suggest there is some kind of weird Bizarro World kind of vibe that overtakes the Lightning when it plays at Nassau Coliseum.

    "I'm not going to focus on the building or the team," the Tampa Bay left wing said. "It has nothing to do with it."

    Then how do you explain the Lightning's lack of recent success against the Islanders in their barn — or should we just call it the black hole?

    After Monday's 4-3 loss, Tampa Bay has lost four straight there while being outscored 16-6.

    Remember, we're talking about the Islanders, who haven't been to the playoffs since 2007.

    "The most awful games we've played the last two years are here," coach Guy Boucher said. "Why? I don't know."

    Tampa Bay (1-1-0) even tried fighting its way out of the slump as on the opening faceoff B.J. Crombeen took on Matt Martin and Pierre-Cedric Labrie tangled with Joe Finley.

    The Lightning did make it interesting, coming back from 4-0 down in the third period with a goal by Marty St. Louis, his third of the season, and two in 34 seconds by Ben Pouliot and Steven Stamkos to cut the deficit to one with 12:00 left.

    "We showed character again," Stamkos said. "We know we're a team that's never going to quit, but there are cases of too little too late and this is one of them."

    Actually, it was a case of hanging Anders Lindback out to dry.

    The goaltender made 40 saves as the Islanders had a 44-26 shot advantage, including 16-8 in the second period when they scored three times and the Lightning lost sight of its game plan.

    Instead of shooting the puck, Boucher said players tried "to skill it up through the neutral zone, at their blue line. We were just trying to find guys when there was no space. We were just stubborn and stubborn."

    Worse, too many players low in the offensive zone and poor defensive zone coverage sprung New York on odd-man rushes. In the second period, Michael Grabner and Matt Martin scored on breakaways (Martin came out of the penalty box) and Kyle Okposo scored on a two-on-one.

    Lindback took the blame for the fourth goal, saying he cheated to cover what he expected to be a back-door pass as David Ullstrom roofed a wrist shot.

    Even so, Lindback was the only reason Tampa Bay had a chance.

    "You can't win when you have to ask your goalie to make save after save on three-on-twos and two-on-ones," Stamkos said. "They had three or four breakaways. That's unacceptable."

    More bad news for the Lightning: it visits the Coliseum again on April 6.

    View Damian Cristodero's blog at lightning.tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @LightningTimes.

    Islanders 0 3 1 4
    Lightning 0 0 3 3

    First PeriodNone. PenaltiesMalone, TB (unsportsmanlike conduct), :01; Crombeen, TB, major (fighting), :01; Labrie, TB, major (fighting), :01; McDonald, NYI (unsportsmanlike conduct), :01; Finley, NYI, major (fighting), :01; Martin, NYI, major (fighting), :01; Brewer, TB (delay of game), :55; Ullstrom, NYI (high-sticking), 6:53; Carkner, NYI (interference), 14:04.

    Second Period1, N.Y. Islanders, Grabner 1 (Streit, Nabokov), 6:50 (pp). 2, N.Y. Islanders, Martin 1 (Tavares), 16:23. 3, N.Y. Islanders, Okposo 1 (Tavares, Moulson), 17:35. PenaltiesLee, TB (cross-checking), 2:05; Conacher, TB (tripping), 5:14; Brewer, TB (hooking), 5:38; Martin, NYI (holding), 14:16; Aulie, TB (cross-checking), 19:07.

    Third Period4, N.Y. Islanders, Ullstrom 1 (Aucoin, Hamonic), 1:31. 5, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 3 (Stamkos, Conacher), 2:22. 6, Tampa Bay, Pouliot 1 (Crombeen, Hall), 7:26. 7, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 1 (Conacher, St. Louis), 8:00. PenaltiesThompson, TB (holding), 17:32; Lee, TB (holding), 18:13. Shots on GoalTampa Bay 7-8-11—26. N.Y. Islanders 10-16-18—44. Power-play opportunitiesTampa Bay 0 of 3; N.Y. Islanders 1 of 7. GoaliesTampa Bay, Lindback 1-1-0 (44 shots-40 saves). N.Y. Islanders, Nabokov 1-1-0 (26-23). A15,322 (16,234). T2:38. Referees—Dennis LaRue, Mark Lemelin. LinesmenGreg Devorski, Brian Mach.


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    By Tom Jones, Times Sports Columnist
    Monday, January 21, 2013

    Hey, did you hear that two brothers are facing each other in the Super Bowl?

    Did you know that Ray Lewis is trying to win it all in the last game of his sure-fire Hall of Fame career?

    Wait, what? You did? You already knew all that?

    Of course you did. You don't live in a cave. You own a TV. You read the newspaper.

    For the next 12 days, you are going see Lewis' face in your sleep. You will be able to repeat the story of the Harbaugh brothers. Backwards. In three languages.

    But there are other Super Bowl stories to follow and other matchups to watch.

    Here are some of the reasons to get excited about this year's Big Game, a couple of the other stories to watch and a few tidbits to care about — and I promise not to mention the names of "Harbaugh,'' "Lewis'' or the other "Harbaugh.''

    First off, no Patriots

    Rejoice. Hallelujah. No Tom Brady stories. No Robert Kraft features. No boring Bill Belichick news conferences. The Patriots have played in five of the past 11 Super Bowls, so thankfully, we get a break this year.

    Unless you're a fan of listening to Brazilian supermodels criticize players, ugly grey hoodies or that wacky Boston mayor who mangles everyone's name, you're grateful that you don't have to see another Patriots Super Bowl.

    By the way, interesting numbers: The last time Brady won a Super Bowl, he was 27. He's now 35. Every other Boston team — the Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins — has won a championship since the Pats.

    49ers QB Colin Kaepernick vs. the Ravens defense

    In the playoffs, the Ravens have beaten likely rookie of the year Andrew Luck of the Colts, likely league MVP Peyton Manning of the Broncos and one of the best quarterbacks ever in Brady.

    Go back to the regular season. The Ravens beat Brady, Cincinnati's Andy Dalton, Dallas' Tony Romo, San Diego's Philip Rivers and the Giants' Eli Manning.

    So you're telling me that the Ravens are going to have issues with a guy who has started only nine NFL games?

    Actually, yes. Two QBs really gave the Ravens fits this season — the Redskins' Robert Griffin III and the Eagles' Michael Vick. Before suffering a knee injury in a Dec. 9 game against the Ravens, RG3 threw for 242 yards and a score and ran for 34 yards. Early this season, Vick threw for a whopping 371 yards and a score and ran for 34 yards and another score. The Ravens lost both games.

    Kaepernick is just as mobile as Vick and RG3 and arguably a better thrower than both. Not a great matchup for Baltimore.

    Ravens receivers vs. the 49ers defense

    Baltimore receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith and tight end Dennis Pitta have been terrific in the postseason. In three games, they've combined for seven touchdowns. Bolden has been a beast with 16 catches for 276 yards. In the AFC Championship Game, the three combined for 14 catches for 183 yards and three touchdowns.

    Meantime, the 49ers had all kinds of problems covering the Falcons receivers in the NFC title game. Yeah, the Niners won, but they allowed nearly 400 passing yards as Julio Jones (11 catches, 182 yards, two TDs), Roddy White (seven for 100) and tight end Tony Gonzalez (eight for 78, one TD) went crazy.

    With Kaepernick running wild and throwing darts and the Ravens receivers running free in the secondary, this could be a higher scoring game than you might think on first glance.

    Interesting players not named you-know-who

    How about the 49ers' 35-year-old receiver Randy Moss, now a 14-year NFL veteran, playing in his second Super Bowl after making three key catches in the NFC title game?

    Get ready to see reruns of Sandra Bullock saying, "Yo, deliverance. You see number 74? Well, that's my son.'' Ravens tackle Michael Oher, the real-life story behind the movie The Blind Side, will play in his first Super Bowl.

    A couple of other Ravens could retire after this game, including center and Harvard grad Matt Birk, a six-time Pro Bowl player in his 15th season. Safety Ed Reed, 34, is in his 11th season and could write a cool final chapter considering he is headed home. He's from St. Rose, La., just outside of host city New Orleans.

    Other stuff

    The 49ers are trying to tie the Steelers with six Super Bowl victories. Maybe Ravens running back Ray Rice and QB Joe Flacco will give us a sneak preview of what the Bucs' Doug Martin and Josh Freeman can do someday. Old Bucs fans will be reminded about Trent Dilfer and Steve Young winning Super Bowls with Baltimore and San Francisco.

    We will also hear a lot about a 73-year-old former coach at Western Kentucky named Jack. I'd tell you his last name, but I promised I wouldn't. (Hint: He has two sons coaching in this game.)


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