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Claypool’s late TD helps Steelers rally past rival Ravens, stay undefeated – Sportsnet.ca

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BALTIMORE — The Pittsburgh Steelers roared from behind to remain the lone unbeaten team in the NFL, outlasting their scorned rivals to escape with a feel-good victory that solidified their grip on first place in the AFC North.

What better way to spend a rainy day in Baltimore?

Ben Roethlisberger threw two second-half touchdowns, and the Steelers beat error-prone Lamar Jackson and the Ravens 28-24 Sunday to match the best start in franchise history.

Pittsburgh (7-0) trailed by 10 points at halftime before rallying behind Roethlisberger, a crafty 38-year-old who missed most of last year with an elbow injury. After completing only four passes for 24 yards in the first half, Big Ben finished 21 for 32 for 182 yards.

He was much more happy with the result than his numbers.

“Nothing about this game was pretty from an offensive perspective until the end and we looked at the scoreboard,” Roethlisberger said.

Jackson threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles, miscues that helped Pittsburgh stay within striking distance until its offence finally got on track.

“The turnovers, I feel, is the reason we lost the game,” Jackson said. “I put that on me.”

Beyond losing ground in the division, Baltimore lost All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley for the season with a severe ankle injury. The mishap occurred in the first quarter after he was accidentally undercut by Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt.

“That’s a tough loss,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I feel bad for Ronnie.”

The Steelers led 28-24 when the Ravens (5-2) faced a fourth-and-3 at the Pittsburgh 8 with 2 minutes left. Jackson ran a quarterback draw and lost the ball while being stopped short.

Baltimore got the ball back and moved to the Pittsburgh 23 before Jackson’s pass in the end zone was broken up on the final play.

The only other time the Steelers started 7-0, in 1978, they went on to win their third Super Bowl in five years.

They aren’t talking about a championship yet, but the players feel pretty good about where they stand at this point.

“We’re happy to win,” Watt said. “We don’t care if it’s good, bad or ugly, as long as it’s a win right now.”

The Steelers took full advantage of Jackson’s mistakes. Robert Spillane took an interception back 33 yards for a score to end Baltimore’s first possession; Jackson lost a fumble inside the Pittsburgh 5; and Alex Highsmith set up a Steelers touchdown by picking off a pass on Baltimore’s initial offensive play of the second half.

Jackson went 13 for 28 for 208 yards and two interceptions, the most he’s had in a regular-season game since throwing three against Pittsburgh in October 2019.

After Highsmith’s pick, Roethlisberger threw an 18-yard TD pass to Eric Ebron. The Steelers then went ahead 21-17 on a 1-yard touchdown run by James Conner.

Baltimore had scored in every quarter this season before being blanked in the third period.

The Ravens regained the lead with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Brown with 11:52 to go, but Roethlisberger answered with an 80-yard drive capped by an 8-yard TD pass to rookie Chase Claypool.

“That’s the Ben Roethlisberger I came here for,” said Ebron, who left the Colts to come to Pittsburgh.

The game carried the intensity expected when longtime division rivals clash in a showdown for first place. There were hard hits, late hits and head butts, the latter occurring when Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters popped Steelers receiver Diontae Johnson during a confrontation away from the play.

That brought players from both teams near the Baltimore sideline. Late in that fray, Ravens linebacker Matthew Judon was ejected for making contact with an official. It appeared as if the slap to the arm occurred while Judon was trying to break free from the grasp of an assistant coach.

“I would never intentionally make contact with an official,” Judon said.

A heavy rain let up just before the opening kickoff, but the combination of a wet field and two strong defences resulted in a first quarter with three turnovers — two by Jackson.

STREAKS EXTENDED

The Steelers stretched their streak of games with at least one sack to 64, and Baltimore’s run of games with a takeaway reached 20 when Peters forced a fumble by Claypool in the first quarter.

FANS RETURN

The announced crowd was 4,345. It was the first time the Ravens had fans at a home game after previously making around 250 seats available to the immediate family of players, coaches and front office personnel.

INJURIES

Steelers: NT Tyson Alualu left in the first quarter with a knee injury. That left Pittsburgh thin up front after DE Chris Wormley went on IR Saturday. … DB Mike Hilton (shoulder) was inactive.

Ravens: RB Mark Ingram (ankle) was inactive. … RG Tyre Phillips (ankle) left in the first quarter and did not return, leaving Baltimore without two starters on the O-line.

UP NEXT

The Steelers play the last of three straight road games at Dallas next Sunday.

The Ravens travel to Indianapolis on Sunday, the first meeting between the teams since 2017.

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Report: Ravens record more positive COVID-19 tests – theScore

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The Baltimore Ravens recorded multiple new positive COVID-19 tests and will continue to work virtually Thursday, according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic.

The positive tests from Wednesday include one player, one position coach, and one staff member, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Baltimore has reported multiple new cases every day since Sunday.

The Ravens’ Thanksgiving matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers was postponed to Sunday amid the team’s ongoing outbreak.

Baltimore has seven players on the reserve/COVID-19 list and an unconfirmed number of positives among coaches and staff.

The AFC North club disciplined a strength and conditioning coach Wednesday for failing to report symptoms, or wear a mask or tracking device consistently, which may have led to the outbreak.

If the game can’t be played Sunday, it’s possible the NFL will have to use its contingency plan of adding a Week 18 to make up delayed games.

If the NFL does add Week 18, it could push back the start of the playoffs or eliminate the extra week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl.

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Maradona's No. 10 jersey should be retired by all clubs – Villas-Boas – ESPN

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Marseille manager Andre Villas-Boas has said FIFA should make all clubs retire the No. 10 jersey to honour Diego Maradona, who died on Wednesday from a heart attack.

Maradona was released from hospital two weeks ago following brain surgery but subsequently suffered a heart attack at his home. He was 60.

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“Maradona, yes it is tough news, I would like FIFA to retire the No. 10 shirt in all competitions, for all teams,” Villas-Boas said after Marseille’s 2-0 Champions League defeat by Porto.

“It would be the best homage we could do for him. He is an incredible loss for the world of football.”

Napoli, who Maradona played for between 1984 and 1991, retired the No. 10 shirt in 2000 in honour of him.

He scored 115 goals in 259 games and helped the Italian club clinch two Serie A titles, in 1987 and 1990, as well as their only European trophy, the UEFA Cup in 1989.

FIFA has previously blocked Maradona’s home country of Argentina from retiring the No. 10.

The country’s professional league announced that the Copa Liga professional will be renamed as the Diego Maradona Cup and Naples mayor Luigi De Magistris has called for Napoli’s Stadio San Paolo to be renamed in his honour.

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New Raptors centre Aron Baynes rejuvenated career with 3-point stroke – Sportsnet.ca

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Aron Baynes has played 469 games across his eight NBA seasons and a good number more over three years playing professionally in Europe before making the jump to North America. He won an NBA championship in 2014 with the San Antonio Spurs. He’s suited up for the Australian national team – his beloved green and gold – nearly every summer he’s had a chance, counting three World Cups and two Olympics on his resume.

There were four NCAA tournament appearances in his four years at Washington State, and another 122 games played there.

It’s a lot of years and a lot of games. But what about the one he played on March 31, 2018 against the Raptors when he was a member of the Boston Celtics? Boston won 110-99.

Does he remember that one?

Turns out he does (after some prompting, but whatever.)

That night he made his first five field goals – three long twos and then consecutive three pointers – all by the midway point of the first quarter. It was notable because Baynes hasn’t been prone to scoring flurries in his career, but also because until that point he had taken only 19 threes in career, making just one – more than three years prior.

Needless to say, the Raptors weren’t exactly sprinting out to run him off the line.

“I remember definitely going out there,” he said on an introductory conference call Wednesday after he signed with the Raptors as a free agent on Sunday. “And you know, you’re going to remember a game when you go 2-of-2 the first time in your career. So yeah, definitely good memories. But yeah, I haven’t looked back since and still trying to get better.”

It’s not too much of a stretch to say it was the game – even the moment – that started him on a journey that led him to signing with Toronto on a two-year deal for $14.3 million (albeit with no guarantee on the second year) that will likely see him become the team’s starting centre in the wake of the departure of Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol.

The season following his breakout game against the Raptors, Baynes took 61 threes and made 21 while mostly coming off the bench for the Celtics. Last season — having moved on to the Phoenix Suns — he stepped out to the three-point line 169 times in 42 games, converting on 35 per cent, or right about the league average, including a magical night against Portland when he knocked down nine threes on 14 attempts on his way to a career-high 37 points.

Given the nature of the way the game has changed, being able to draw defences out to the three-point line has become a vital tool in a big man’s arsenal, and given the five-out, drive-and-kick attack favoured by the Raptors under Nick Nurse, it’s become essential for bigs that play for Toronto.

For Baynes, those two shots against the Raptors had been a long time coming, a part of his game he’d been working on since his rookie season with the Spurs, under the guidance of renowned shooting coach Chip Engelland, but it took years for him to be comfortable shooting threes in an NBA game.

With the Spurs, his role was fairly limited, so he wasn’t in a position to start letting it fly from deep. In his two years with the Detroit Pistons then-head coach Stan Van Gundy hadn’t fully embraced the ‘stretch-5’ concept, so it wasn’t really on the menu there.

But Baynes kept at it, putting his time in after regular practice honing a shot he rarely took but he believed could extend his career.

In Boston, both head coach Brad Stevens and president Danny Ainge would see him stretching out his range after practice and made a point of letting him know he had a green light.

“I’d had numerous discussions with both Brad and Danny and they kept telling me to shoot the ball,” Baynes recalled. “And you’re a little bit hesitant at first because it’s something different in the NBA. I’ve been doing it internationally for a while, but it’s a little bit different for the NBA game, and as soon as you see one go down though, then you don’t see a poor reaction from the coach or anyone else, everyone’s like, ‘come on, keep shooting that’ it doesn’t take long to buy into it and want to take as many as you can if they’re good shots.

“So yeah, that’s when I really started realizing that if I just slow down and don’t rush things and shoot within rhythm, it’s usually a pretty good shot.”

Prior to that night, Baynes’ game was very much about sticking to his knitting: bone-crunching screens, using his barrel chest to take up offensive players’ space and otherwise making trips into the paint an unfortunate experience for others, all while commanding the defence vocally from the back and cleaning up well around the basket on offence.

All those qualities are still very much part of the Baynes experience, but being able to spread the floor and be a credible above-the-line outlet or a pick-and-pop threat has given Baynes – who will turn 34 before the season starts in December – added momentum at a stage when a lot of careers are beginning to wind down.

While losing Gasol and Ibaka in a single weekend is nothing to be glossed over, between Baynes’ ability to keep opponents honest from deep and his reputation as one of the league’s better team defenders, the hope is he will be a more than adequate replacement. He’s eager to lend his pleasing Australian accent to the cause of directing traffic on defence.

“As much as the offence is fun, I always love playing defence,” said Baynes. “I think that is where you can really change a game and I always try and lock in on that first and foremost. The best way for me to do that is being vocal and talking to everyone. I would rather err on the side of talking too much than not talking enough on defence. I think with communication you can sort out a lot of mistakes that will happen because inevitably they are going to when you play against the best players in the world.

“I’m looking forward to going out there and playing within Nick’s system. I know it’s going to be a little bit different, we’ll give teams different looks, but that makes it even more entertaining for me. It’s always fun when you see a team come down and there’s a bit of confusion in their faces. You know you are doing something right and the game is hopefully going to swing a bit in your favour as soon as you see that.’

It’s a quality that should make him a good fit in Toronto and one the main reasons the Raptors turned to him almost instantly after it was clear that both Ibaka and Gasol were not going to return as they signed in Los Angeles with the Clippers and the Lakers, respectively.

Baynes was happy to get the call.

“Yeah, 48 hours is pretty late in this recent free agency,” said Baynes. “It was a long time. It was a very long 48 hours. But they say good things come to those who wait so I was looking forward to a few opportunities out there and this was definitely one of them. I knew there was always an option and I was just hoping for a good situation.”

His road to the Raptors started, it turns out, on a pair of made threes.

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