Few would have thought Jacoby Jones and Corey Graham would have been major stars on offense and defense respectively in Saturday’s divisional playoff win when they were signed in the offseason.
Added primarily to boost the lackluster special teams from a year ago, Graham picked off Manning twice, returning the first for a touchdown and setting up the eventual game-winning field goal with his second interception late in the first overtime period.
Jones played a major part in arguably the greatest play in the history of the franchise with a 70-yard touchdown catch with only 31 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to tie the game.
Not bad for a couple special-teams standouts.
“A lot of people labeled them as strictly special-teams players, and they’ve made great contributions on special teams as well,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve been more than that too, offensively and defensively. I’m so happy to have those guys on the team. They’re our kind of guys — they’re special people.”
Smith not taking playoffs for granted
It took 16 years for future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez to earn his first playoff victory as a member of the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, so Smith isn’t taking the start to his NFL postseason career for granted.
The second-year wide receiver caught a pair of long touchdowns against Denver cornerback Champ Bailey as he played a major role in the third playoff victory of his young professional career. In a recent conversation with the young receiver, ninth-year fullback Vonta Leach reminded Smith this was only his third time playing in the postseason and you never know for sure when — or if — you’ll be back.
“Two-for-two, and I have the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl again, and I am thankful for it,” Smith said. “I am definitely not taking it for granted. I just want to get there, and when you get to the Super Bowl, you just want to win it. That’s everyone’s goal. You say that confidently, because you don’t prepare to fail; you want the best.”
Yanda with the assist
One of the more subtle but important plays of the Ravens’ 38-35 win over Denver was Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda helping to move the pile on a second-and-10 run by Ray Rice to conclude the first overtime.
Instead of the Pro Bowl running back potentially falling short of the first down and setting up a third-and-1 at the Denver 36, Yanda’s push helped move the chains and the Ravens ran Rice three more times before Tucker’s game-winning 47-yard field goal.
Though Yanda received praise from family members for such an important contribution, the unassuming lineman chalked it up as one of the responsibilities at his position.
“Obviously, everyone on the team has their job, and my job is to block and do my best,” Yanda said. “Ray was right there, and I just gave him an extra shove, and he really kept his feet going, too. I was just doing my job.”
All-Harbaugh Super Bowl?
Asked whether he had discussed the possibility of meeting his brother Jim in New Orleans after the San Francisco 49ers advanced to the NFC Championship on Saturday night, Harbaugh provided a predictable answer as he laughed.
“Not that we’d ever admit to.”
Harbaugh acknowledged he’s had discussions with his brother about the 49ers’ win over New England in December, but the Ravens coach would not reveal his brother’s strategic thoughts.