Tag Archive | "Ken Hamlin"

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Ravens regular-season moment No. 4: Ruining homecoming

Posted on 23 June 2020 by Luke Jones

Check out the No. 5 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE.

The 2008 Ravens were a Cinderella story with the clock threatening to strike midnight.

Coming off a 5-11 campaign that resulted in the dismissal of longtime head coach Brian Billick, Baltimore had been one of the NFL’s biggest surprises with former Philadelphia special teams coordinator John Harbaugh now in charge. An elite defense and robust running game had led the Ravens to an impressive 9-5 record entering Week 16, easing the pressure on rookie first-round quarterback Joe Flacco.

But the Ravens were coming off a heartbreaking home loss to Pittsburgh that clinched the AFC North championship for the rival Steelers the previous Sunday. The margin for error was gone for even a wild-card spot with Indianapolis on its way to securing the No. 5 seed with a nine-game winning streak and New England having the same record as the Ravens despite losing all-world quarterback Tom Brady in the season opener. A daunting trip to Dallas to take on the playoff-hopeful Cowboys threatened to put Baltimore’s playoff hopes on life support.

The story was bigger than playoff ramifications, however, with “America’s Team” closing Texas Stadium with numerous Cowboys legends present for the nationally televised Saturday night affair and post-game ceremony to follow. The Ravens were keenly aware of rumors — later confirmed — that Dallas owner Jerry Jones had requested Baltimore as the final “homecoming” opponent to help close the iconic venue. There was also the matter of Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett having declined an offer to become the Ravens’ new head coach 11 months earlier, paving the way for Harbaugh to accept the job.

The script wouldn’t go as Jones and the rest of the football world anticipated.

Despite a DeMarcus Ware strip-sack of Flacco setting up an easy touchdown early in the first quarter, the Ravens suffocated the Cowboys offense for three quarters with All-Pro safety Ed Reed intercepting Tony Romo twice. Only red-zone inefficiency kept the game close with Dallas native Matt Stover booting three short field goals in the first half to give Baltimore a 9-7 lead that endured late into the third quarter.

Seemingly ready to settle for another field goal, the Ravens ran a fake with holder Sam Koch for a first down that set up a 13-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to veteran wideout Derrick Mason, who was playing with a painful shoulder injury. The score increased the lead to 16-7 and set the stage for one of the most memorable quarters in franchise history.

After registering no more than 24 yards on any of its first nine drives of the night, the Cowboys offense came alive to begin the final period with a 35-yard field goal to shrink the deficit to one score. The Ravens answered with another Stover field goal to make it 19-10 with 6:30 remaining, but Dallas wasn’t going away as Romo threw a 7-yard touchdown to future Hall of Famer Terrell Owens with 3:50 to play.

Trailing by just two and with all three timeouts remaining, the Cowboys knew their chances would come down to stopping the run with Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron unlikely to take any chances with his rookie quarterback. To that point, the Cowboys had held Baltimore to a respectable 3.7 yards per carry and called a run blitz before running back Willie McGahee took the inside hand-off on first-and-10 from the 23.

Breaking a couple feeble tackle attempts, McGahee sprinted 77 yards for the touchdown before a stunned crowd of 63,800 that had finally come alive moments earlier. The second-longest touchdown in franchise history — for the moment — gave the Ravens a 26-17 lead with 3:32 to go.

But the Cowboys still weren’t finished as Romo moved his two-minute offense down the field, finding Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten for a 21-yard touchdown pass to again make it a two-point game with 1:36 remaining. Still holding three timeouts and having scored on three straight drives against a tired Ravens defense, Dallas kicked the ball deep and again only needed to stop the run to keep hope alive.

On first-and-10 from his own 18-yard line, Flacco handed off to the 260-pound Le’Ron McClain.

Breaking a couple tackles before delivering a vicious stiff arm to Cowboys safety Ken Hamlin, the surprising Pro Bowl selection who led the 2008 team in rushing galloped 82 yards for the score, tying Jamal Lewis for the longest run in team history. Once again, the crowd was stunned.

On consecutive offensive snaps, McGahee and McClain had produced two of the three longest runs in Ravens history to deliver the knockout blow and close Texas Stadium for good. The outcome put Baltimore only a home win over lowly Jacksonville away from a playoff berth and an unforgettable run to the AFC Championship game.

The Ravens also took great satisfaction in ruining the party for the media darling Cowboys, who would also lose at Philadelphia the following week to miss the playoffs.

“We had a lot of politics that really made this game more fun,” outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said after the 33-24 win. “They personally recommended us as their homecoming opponent. We just fed off that. We fed off it the whole game.

“We hope they enjoy their ceremony tonight, but I guess we were the dynamite.”

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Ed Reed to begin season on PUP, miss first 6 weeks

Posted on 03 September 2010 by Luke Jones

After months of speculation regarding his status for the start of the 2010 season, Ed Reed will be placed on the reserve physically unable to perform list, meaning the Ravens will be without their All-Pro safety for at least the first six weeks of the regular season. The decision was first reported by the NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora on Friday night.

The soon-to-be 32-year-old Reed missed all of training camp and the preseason after undergoing hip surgery to repair a torn labrum in the offseason. Despite occasionally doing agility and conditioning work in Westminster, Reed described his surgically-repaired hip as only “35 percent” in late July before training camp started.

Given the Ravens’ depth at the safety position with Tom Zbikowski performing well in Reed’s place in the preseason and reserve Haruki Nakamura also making plays in the secondary, the organization will choose the safe route despite Reed reportedly campaigning to play sooner.

“This is a slow process,” Reed told WNST.net’s Drew Forrester on The Morning Reaction in early July. “I don’t want to come back and have another injury and then be out for the whole season, maybe even a career. I’m going to take my time with this one and hope everyone can bear with me on this one, and we’ll see what happens.”

Reed injured the hip last season, forcing him to miss four games before returning to the field for the final week of the regular season and the playoffs. The safety made 50 tackles and had three interceptions in 12 games, earning his sixth invitation to the Pro Bowl.

The decision to place Reed on the reserve PUP list likely means the team will elect to keep veteran safety Ken Hamlin or young defensive back K.J. Gerard — or possibly both — to join Nakamura as the backup safeties. Zbikowski will now be expected to occupy the free safety position next to Dawan Landry in the starting lineup for at least the first six games of the season.

When placed on the reserve PUP list, a player must miss the first six weeks of the season but does not count against the 53-man roster. After this time, there is a three-week window during which the player may return to practice (without counting against the 53-man roster) and can be activated as early as Week 7. A decision must be made within the frame of the three-week period to either activate the player or keep him on the PUP list for the remainder of the season.

The earliest Reed could return would be against the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 24.

Reed becomes the third player on the roster to be placed on PUP to begin the regular season, joining linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo and running back Matt Lawrence, who were given the same designations earlier this week.

Injured rookie linebacker Sergio Kindle remains unsigned after fracturing his skull a few days prior to training camp. He would be eligible for the PUP list when he agrees to terms on a contract with the Ravens.

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Before You Push The Purple Panic Button ....

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Before You Push The Purple Panic Button ….

Posted on 23 August 2010 by WNST Interns

My highly anticipated “Sports Saturday” started off on a positive note, thanks to the Orioles 8-6 victory over Cliff Lee and the Texas Rangers. The game was full of pleasant surprises …..

Who would’ve ever predicted that Josh Bell would connect more often than Joe Flacco on a simultaneous gameday? Ahh …. the magic of the unexpected in sports, huh?

By the time I hit the Lazy-Boy for the Ravens vs. Redskins preseason showdown, I was convinced it was going to be a GREAT night. I can’t say it turned out badly, but I did go to bed knowing John Harbaugh’s bunch still has A LOT of work on its hands before reuniting with Rex Ryan and his Jets.

While I can readily admit Saturday night’s game left me agonizing over a few areas of concern with this team, I’ve chosen to take a more sensible look at the overall picture of the 2010 Baltimore Ravens …..

For the past few weeks, we’ve heard the gloomy forecasts from those who invested a significant portion of their collective hope in Domonique Foxworth’s presence at cornerback. From callers to on-air hosts and even occasional guests, some sobering words have been spoken.

However, in all fairness, there has also been a fairly respectable amount of us who believe the team will be just fine, while downplaying any real handicap to the secondary. And, we’ve had answers for our continued positive outlook, right?

The common rationale in defending the stubborn optimism has been along the lines of “THE RAVENS ARE GONNA HAVE TO BLITZ MORE OFTEN AND GET AFTER THE QUARTERBACK.”

This certainly seems like a logical solution, right? Heck, it’s Football-101 …..

But, we’ve also heard the fairly warned potential ramifications to this solution, too.

As many realists have concluded, if you’re blitzing, you MUST get to the quarterback. If not, guys like Donovan McNabb are gonna make plays. And, the Ravens will be facing a host of ‘slingers better than the former Philadelphia Eagle, in 2010.
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At times during Saturday’s game, McNabb looked like he was doomed, only to fool all of us by stepping up or rolling out of the pocket to buy an extra tick. He succeeded in some crucial situations, including a couple opportunities from the Redskins endzone.

By the way, does anyone know if Travis Fisher made the trip to DC?

The good news is we still have three solid weeks remaining before action on the field really counts. That’s 21 days for Lardarius Webb to get healthier. That’s 21 days to shop for better options on the rosters of other teams. And, that’s 21 days for Greg Mattison to assert some Rex Ryan and Marvin Lewis “PURPLE MAGIC” into his defense.

I’m certain a proportionate amount of this week’s WNST phone calls will be directed at finding a way to help the crippled cornerback unit. That’s the way it always is with the fan base. Among our consistent reactions, nothing is stronger than the tendency to PANIC.

Well, I’m telling you to relax.

Absorb the preseason for what it is – PRESEASON.

John Harbaugh and Greg Mattison weren’t really worried about stopping Chris Cooley, Santana Moss or Anthony Armstrong. Indeed, I’ll guarantee you they were more interested in seeing how their patched up secondary would fare against them – for better or worse.

For some players, like Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis and Derrick Mason, this game was simply about finding their rhythm and getting back into the flow of established gameplans.
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For some others, like Anquan Boldin, Donte Stallworth, Cory Redding and Ken Hamlin, this game served as a prime opportunity to become intimate with their surroundings and a whole new playbook, at fullspeed.

And, yet, for some guys, like Travis Fisher (really …. did he play?), Prince Miller, Jason Phillips and Cary Williams, this was a vitally significant opportunity to prove they can play at this level and for this team.

You can bet a few sets of discerning eyes were cast on Flacco and his cohorts, as well as Boldin and his gang. But, I’ll bet the house nearly every eye that matters was watching that final group, as they danced upon the bubble …..

So, while you’re worried about the Ravens cornerbacks being able to cover the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals, I’m urging you ….. LET IT GO.

Unless he suddenly finds some of Ronnie Lott’s natural ability deep within his soul, Travis Fisher will not find a spot on this Ravens team. Greg Mattison surely suspected it going into Saturday night’s game. Fisher, himself, only confirmed it.

Perhaps, that’s why Mattison emphasized on a blitz-happy defensive attack. I can see that strategy. Think about it …. they might as well test the unproven or unlikely guys in an ideal situation, right?

Thus, they blitz and leave “Fisher Island” all by itself.

The preseason is partly about bringing the obvious back into focus, while also helping the truly qualified to learn a new system. But, it’s equally apportioned to testing the untested, to see if they can be part of a championship-caliber organization.

This trip to FedEx Field was nothing more than the second step in John Harbaugh’s FOUR-STEP preseason process. This team is in a self analyzation stage. They must find out who can contribute, even in the most mitigating ways, to this team’s immediate future.
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While we love and savor those summer days in Westminster, it won’t be revealed there. Harbaugh and company cannot determine their 53rd man at McDaniel College. The survival process does not surround the practice field.

Two meaningless games are in the books and two more still remain. I don’t mean to undervalue the meaning of playing the New York Giants and St. Louis Rams over the next couple weeks. But, these games really don’t matter.

Let me rephrase that ….

The next couple games don’t matter UNLESS you’re standing in the shoes of Fisher, Miller, Williams and a few others. For them, these games are every bit as important as Super Bowl XLV.

These are the biggest games of their lives.

As I suggested, relax. This team will be just fine. Ozzie Newsome didn’t spend more than six months agonizing over a kick ass opportunity, just to be totally derailed by losing a cornerback in the early stages of training camp.

He’s obviously not panicking, why should we?

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Ravens Training Camp: The impressive and disappointing

Posted on 20 August 2010 by Luke Jones

Another Westminster training camp has concluded with the Ravens now focusing their attention to the final three games of the preseason before the 2010 regular season gets underway against the New York Jets on Sept. 13.

Saturday night’s meeting with the Washington Redskins will be a key audition for  bubble players as coach John Harbaugh has already stated how important the second preseason game is for evaluating rookies and reserve veterans fighting for a roster spot.

Much will change before the initial cutdown to 75 players takes place on Aug. 31 and the final cut to 53 on Sept. 4, but here’s a breakdown of players—by position—who impressed and disappointed in Westminster.

QUARTERBACKS
Impressed: Joe Flacco is an easy choice after a strong camp with his new offensive weapons. The third-year quarterback still must prove he can read and throw to the middle of the field, but Anquan Boldin and a strong group of tight ends will certainly help.

Disappointed: Troy Smith knew his standing in the organization changed dramatically after the acquisition of Marc Bulger, and the former Heisman Trophy winner did nothing to push the veteran for the backup job. Smith lacks size and was too erratic in Westminster. He will stick as the No. 3 quarterback, but his performance made the Ravens look very wise for signing Bulger.

RUNNING BACKS
Impressed: Hard to go with anyone but Ray Rice at this spot despite Willis McGahee looking solid and healthy as well. Rice looked to be in mid-season form the first day veterans reported to Westminster. It will be another Pro Bowl season for the third-year back if he remains healthy.

Disappointed: Not his fault, but Matt Lawrence’s chance of making the 53-man roster continues to diminish as he remains on the physically unable to perform list. He is a capable special teams player when healthy, but this summer’s roster is too deep.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Impressed: Everyone assumed Mark Clayton would be cast aside in the offense when the Ravens acquired Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth, but the former starter had a strong training camp, catching everything thrown his way. Stallworth was the logical choice as the No. 3 receiver, but Clayton received more reps in three-wide sets over the final two weeks of camp.

Disappointed: The Ravens loved what they saw out of David Reed during the OTA schedule, but the rookie failed to adjust to the quicker speed of training camp. Considered a sure-handed receiver coming out of Utah, Reed dropped countless passes and was not been given much of a look as a kick returner. Demetrius Williams is clearly ahead of Reed in the battle for the fifth receiver spot.

TIGHT ENDS
Impressed: Ed Dickson looked more like an established—not to mention explosive—veteran than a rookie on the upper fields at McDaniel College. The 6-foot-4 Dickson has tremendous size and great speed for a tight end. His versatility will be a welcome addition when the Ravens use him in two-tight end sets and at H-back on occasion. On a side note, Todd Heap had an excellent camp, showing he’s still capable of producing when healthy.

Disappointed: Already facing an uphill battle to make the roster after the drafting of Dickson and Dennis Pitta, Davon Drew was not able to stay on the field this summer. Drew showed more consistency than he did last season as a rookie, but it’s difficult to make the team when you’re never on the field. He’ll need to get healthy and make an impact in the remaining preseason games.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
Impressed: Fellow guard Ben Grubbs earns more notoriety, but Marshal Yanda was ferocious in Westminster, proving he’s all the way back from the horrific knee injury he suffered two seasons ago. Yanda anchored and stood up Terrence Cody during a 1-on-1 drill in one of the highlights of the summer, just a couple plays after the 350-pounder had blown up the highly-regarded Grubbs.

Disappointed: Showing up 30 pounds lighter without the coaching staff’s approval and injuring his back on the first day of full-team workouts made Jared Gaither a slam-dunk choice. Not only are there concerns whether he’ll be ready by Week 1, but he’s missed valuable time to adjust to the right tackle position.

DEFENSIVE LINE
Impressed: He got off to a slow start while adjusting to playing with the 15 extra pounds he gained in the offseason, but Paul Kruger became a force on the defensive line, off the edge and even sliding to the inside in the nickel package. If Kruger can replicate what he showed in Westminster over the last two weeks, the Ravens will have another factor in the pass rush.

Disappointed: None. This is the deepest unit on the team. The only disappointment on the defensive line is the reality that the organization will have to cut a couple of talented players due to numbers.

LINEBACKERS
Impressed: His performance in the Carolina game aside, Jameel McClain was the biggest surprise of camp over the first three weeks, working at inside linebacker with the first defense. McClain played the run well and showed competence in pass coverage, but it did not carry over against the Panthers in the preseason opener. The competition for the starting job next to Ray Lewis is still wide open. Antwan Barnes earns an honorable mention.

Disappointed: The likely favorite to win the second inside linebacker spot prior to camp, Dannell Ellerbe came to Westminster out of shape and trailed McClain and Tavares Gooden for much of the way. Ellerbe improved his standing as the weeks progressed, but it was apparent how unhappy the coaching staff was as Ellerbe worked with the second defense in Westminster.

CORNERBACKS
Impressed: Expected to be brought back slowly, Fabian Washington provided a much-needed lift to the secondary when he returned to the field during the first week of camp. Washington appeared quick and made more plays as the weeks progressed. He will see his first game action against the Redskins on Saturday night and will be relied upon to be the team’s top corner, even if he’s nowhere near a true No. 1.

Disappointed: The injury to Domonique Foxworth is most appropriate here, but the brief eight-day stint of Walt Harris takes the cake in this department. He was unable to show he had anything left in the tank despite a solid career. And it’s tough labeling the likes of Doug Dutch and Chris Hawkins as disappointments if you never had any expectations to begin with.

SAFETY
Impressed: While no one compares to Ed Reed, Tom Zbikowski eased concerns at the position with a very strong showing in Westminster. Zbikowski is faster and showed a strong nose for the football this summer after doing an adequate job in Reed’s place for four games last season. Despite not knowing the status of its future Hall of Famer, this unit of safeties looks very sound with Zbikowski and Dawan Landry anchoring the secondary.

Disappointed: Though labeling him a disappointment is bit strong, Ken Hamlin has done little to challenge Zbikowski for the free safety position, partly because the latter was excellent in practice. Hamlin was solid, but unspectacular, running with the second defense. The former Cowboy has great size (6-foot-2) but needs to show a stronger special teams presence to stick around when Reed returns to the field.

SPECIALISTS
Impressed: Yes, he’s younger, cheaper, and healthier, but the Ravens clearly loved what they saw from Morgan Cox to have jettisoned veteran Matt Katula two days after the preseason opener. Fans can only hope we won’t hear his name again all season.

Disappointed: Though he’s kicked reasonably well, the Ravens certainly wished Shayne Graham had seized early control of the competition with Billy Cundiff. Until the final two days of camp, Cundiff had outperformed the former Bengal by a slight margin. Graham struggled with field goals outside 45 yards in Westminster but kicked better during the practice at M&T Bank Stadium. The smart money is still on Graham to be the kicker, but the battle has been closer than most people thought.

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Five Reasons To Be Optimistic About the 2008 Ravens

Posted on 16 December 2008 by WNST Staff

My blog yesterday was rather cynical and I apologize for that. Like most of you, I was dealing with one of the worst football hangovers in my life. It was almost as bad as the Colts playoff loss back in 2006. I didn’t even watch the Super Bowl that year for obvious reasons.

My dad and I have made it a habit to sit down and watch Monday Night Football every night ever since I became a true NFL fan. Even when I wasn’t in town and I was studying at Washington College, we would text each other. We would make fun of stupid decisions and give praise where praise was due.

Last night we couldn’t stomach it. It was that bad.

For a little over 24 hours, you couldn’t pay me to watch the NFL or even SportsCenter. I would have rather watched a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie (they aren’t a sponsor, right?).

But today, I took some football B vitamins with a side of gridiron aspirin…rehydrated with some mental Gatorade…or, as college kids across the world will swear by: I fixed the ultimate football hangover by having a proverbial cold shower and a Natty Boh.

Enough with the analogies. The point is that my head is finally back on my shoulders and I’m no longer mad or bitter about the devastating loss this past weekend.

Here are five reasons to be optimistic about the Ravens playoff chances in 2008:

5. Joe Flacco – He made the list yesterday as one of the 5 reasons why things went wrong, but the fact that this guy was back at the complex early on Monday morning to view game tape shows all of us a lot about his character and his desire to win. It makes me feel a little better about making the playoffs. Joe was on the Comcast Morning Show with Drew this morning and was also seen or heard on several other media outlets. He’ll be the first to tell you that he didn’t play well…that he missed Mason in the endzone and overthrew a few balls. He’s a stand-up guy with a hard-nosed work ethic, and that makes me feel better about the future of this team, both immediate and ongoing.

4. Ray Rice – As we all saw against Pittsburgh, without Ray Rice this offense takes a completely different shape. Although his bone bruise is bad, I expect him to play this week. I mean when was the last time you heard of someone missing two weeks because of a bruise? Not to say that it hasn’t happened, but it certainly doesn’t happen often. He brings a Maurice Jones-Drew aspect to this offense. The toughness, ball-catching ability, blocking capability, and has a nose for the first down marker. If he’s back, the Ravens will field a much more dynamic offense.

3. The Dallas Cowboys – Tony Romo is battling a back injury and Marion Barber is continuing to have trouble with his toe injury. Although the Cowboys expect Romo to play, Romo has been sacked 15 times in 11 games. Against the Giants he was sacked 4 times. Against Pittsburgh, he was sacked 3 times and threw 3 picks. So for those who are counting, he has been sacked 7 times and thrown 3 interceptions in the last two games. The Steelers, Giants, and Ravens all have similar swarming defenses—except for one important difference. When the Ravens create turnovers, they’re more successful at scoring on defense. The Cowboys also have significant injuries in their secondary. Aside from Roy Williams being listed on IR, Ken Hamlin and Keith Davis are not playing at 100%, and back up safety Tra Battle strained his hamstring last week. Injuries coupled with all of the controversy in the Big D, maybe the Ravens will catch the Cowboys at the right time.

2. The Tie-Breaker Scenarios – The Ravens currently hold tie-breakers over both Miami and New England, who continue to hound Baltimore for that coveted sixth playoff spot. The only way either of these teams could surpass the Ravens is if they wind up 11-5 and the Ravens turn out to be 10-6. I hate to say it, but that scenario is becoming increasingly more viable as the weeks pass and they continue to nip at the heels at the Ravens in the AFC playoff race. The Dolphins worry me the most, who have games in Kansas City and in New York to round out their season. The Chiefs are historically tough at home in December. The Patriots, on the other hand, have to play the AFC West champion Cardinals and then have to travel to Buffalo to take on the Bills where Buffalo will looking to play the spoiler role. Without Tom Brady, I still don’t trust the Pats offense. Out of the four remaining games for these teams, three are on the road and the other is against a playoff team who is fighting for a seed, and more importantly, respect in the NFC.

1. Pride – As is usually the case, the Baltimore defense takes losses personally. Their hubris will keep them in the Dallas game on Saturday night on the NFL Network, and it may come down to a big play—a deep pass to Mason, a pick by Ed Reed, a Terrell Suggs sack, a Ray Lewis strip, or (God forbid) an 80 yard bomb from Romo to Owens. You know what I’d love to see? Mason or Clayton catches a touchdown to put the Ravens up late in the game, and the receiver who catches the ball mocks that stupid T-O celebration that Owens does with his unnaturally long arms. Just as a little pay back for when Owens mocked the Ray Lewis dance back in 2004…

Is anyone else optimistic about the Ravens playoff chances this season?

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