Ray Lewis' career isn't over just yet...

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Ray Lewis' career isn't over just yet...

From Comcast SportsNetBALTIMORE (AP) -- The Baltimore Ravens wanted one long final ride for Ray Lewis.They also wanted Denver. They got it.Having disposed of Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, they now face a far more imposing challenge -- Peyton Manning and the streaking Broncos.Anquan Boldin set a franchise record with 145 yards receiving, including the clinching touchdown in the Ravens' 24-9 victory Sunday over the Colts in an AFC wild-card game. The win delays star linebacker Lewis' retirement for at least another week as Baltimore (11-6) heads to top-seeded Denver (13-3) next Saturday.The Broncos beat the Ravens 34-17 three weeks ago."I wanted Denver," Boldin said, "because they beat us."We'll make it different."And he wanted the Broncos because it prolongs the Ravens' pursuit of their first NFL title since the 2000 season, when Lewis won the first of two Defensive Player of the Year awards."I came to Baltimore to win a championship," Boldin added. "We all did."Lewis, who made 13 tackles Sunday, ended his last home game in Baltimore at fullback, of all things, for the final kneel-down. He then went into a short version of his trademark dance before being mobbed by teammates.He followed with a victory lap, his right arm, covered by a brace, held high in salute to the fans after playing for the first time since tearing his right triceps on Oct. 14 against Dallas."My only focus was to come in and get my team a win. Nothing else was planned," the 37-year-old Lewis said. "It's one of those things, when you recap it all and try to say what is one of your greatest moments."I knew how it started but I never knew how it would end here in Baltimore. To go the way it did today, I wouldn't change nothing."He would like nothing more than to change past results against Manning, who was 2-0 in the postseason against Baltimore while with the Colts."It's on to the next one," the 17-year veteran said. "We saw them earlier in the year and now we get them back again, but with all of our guns back."The loss ended the Colts' turnaround season in which they went from 2-14 to the playoffs in coach Chuck Pagano's first year in Indianapolis (11-6). Pagano missed 12 weeks while undergoing treatment for leukemia and returned last week.He was upbeat following the defeat to the team he served as an assistant coach for four years."The foundation is set, and we said we were going to build one on rock and not on sand," Pagano said. "You weather storms like this and you learn from times like this."Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who went 9-3 as interim coach, was absent Sunday after being hospitalized with an undisclosed illness. Pagano said Arians "is fine" and would stay overnight for observation before rejoining the Colts on Monday.Quarterback coach Clyde Christensen called the plays, but Baltimore's suddenly revitalized defense -- inspired by Lewis' pending retirement, no doubt -- never let standout rookie QB Luck get comfortable."It's great making the playoffs, but you can't make mistakes and expect to beat a playoff team like we did," said Luck, who was sacked three times, Paul Kruger getting 2 of those. "We'll have to look back at those and hopefully fix them."Sunday's victory enhanced the Ravens' success rate in opening playoff games. Flacco now has won at least one postseason game in all five of his pro seasons, the only quarterback to do it in the Super Bowl era.His main target Sunday was Boldin, who had receptions of 50 and 46 yards, plus his 18-yard TD on a floater from Flacco in the corner of the end zone with 9:14 to go."I told (Flacco) before the game I was going to get 200 yards," Boldin said with a chuckle."It's huge for us. It's huge for this city, they've supported us this entire year and they expect a lot from us. In return, we want to give it to them."Baltimore overcame the first two lost fumbles of the season by Ray Rice, too, as John Harbaugh became the only head coach in the Super Bowl era with wins in his first five playoff campaigns.Backup halfback Bernard Pierce rescued Rice with a 43-yard burst that led to Boldin's touchdown, and ran for 103 yards.Flacco also connected with Dennis Pitta for a 20-yard TD and rookie Justin Tucker made a 23-yard field goal.Indy's only points came on three field goals by Adam Vinatieri, from 47, 52 and 26 yards. Luck completed 28 of 54 passes for 288 yards. It was the most attempts by a rookie in a playoff game.Reggie Wayne had 114 yards on nine receptions and moved into second in career playoff catches with 92 -- 59 behind leader Jerry Rice. But the Colts, who moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984 -- they still are despised here -- became the second NFL team to improve to 11 wins following a two-win season and then lose in the opening round of the playoffs.The Ravens also beat the 2008 Dolphins in a similar scenario.Both teams were sloppy early on, with Rice losing a fumble, Lewis dropping a potential interception, and Luck being stripped of the ball on a sack.But Rice atoned with a 47-yard gain on a screen pass, leading to Vonta Leach's 2-yard touchdown.That Pro Bowl backfield was bolstered by the kick returns of another Pro Bowl player, Jacoby Jones. He gained 60 yards on kickoff runbacks and 57 on punt returns.Vinatieri, familiar with big kicks in the playoffs after winning two Super Bowls for New England with field goals, made a 47-yarder in the second quarter, a 52-yarder as the first half expired, and a 26-yarder near the end of the third period. But he also missed a 40-yarder wide right, his first miss against Baltimore after 18 successes.NOTES:Ravens LB Dannell Ellerbe sprained an ankle late in the game. The Ravens didn't specify which ankle. ... Harbaugh is 6-4 in playoff games, as is Flacco. ... Rice finished with 70 yards rushing and Flacco threw for 282. ... Rookie Vick Ballard rushed for 91 yards for Indy. ... Colts T Winston Justice injured his arm.

Kyle Schwarber catching again is a good step for a banged-up Cubs team

Kyle Schwarber catching again is a good step for a banged-up Cubs team

MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs are so strong up the middle that Javier Baez can star for Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic and return to camp as a super-utility guy/late-game defensive replacement. 

But that projection in late March is based on across-the-board health, which never happens in a 162-game season. World Series MVP Ben Zobrist (stiff neck) hasn't played in a Cactus League game in almost a week. All-Star shortstop Addison Russell (stiff back) became a late scratch to Friday's lineup at Sloan Park.

After trying to make a diving catch in center field, Albert Almora Jr. exited in the third inning of a 4-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians with what the Cubs called "left neck tightness," though he still plans to play in Las Vegas this weekend.  

On the other side of the spring-training complex in Mesa – away from the crowd of 15,473 in a minor-league game against a Colorado Rockies squad – the Cubs did get a positive piece of news on the health front: Kyle Schwarber went four innings behind the plate, going Tony Pena style and trying to reduce the stress on his body.

"I love catching," Schwarber said. "Whenever I played baseball, I was always a catcher. For me to be able to do that today – and feel pretty good about myself walking away from the day – it was a good step."

This is clearly important to Schwarber, an intensely driven personality who doesn't want to hear "no." Otherwise, the Cubs probably would have shut this down already, not wanting to risk it with a franchise player, someone who might blast 35 homers at the top of their lineup.

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But the medical staff cleared Schwarber when pitchers and catchers reported to Arizona – 10 months after he underwent surgery on his left knee to reconstruct his ACL and repair his LCL – and it could become a valuable skill again. 

"The most difficult part I would probably say was setup-wise," Schwarber said, "trying to find that timing of your moves and everything like that. Sometimes I felt like I was a little late getting my setup. But that all came. It's been a year since I got behind there, so overall everything went really well."

The Cubs already have one of the best young catchers in the game (Willson Contreras) and a two-time All-Star making $14 million this season backing him up (Miguel Montero). Schwarber doesn't want to put a number on how many starts he might make behind the plate, though the Cubs have framed it as in case of emergency, an extra late-inning option for manager Joe Maddon or maybe something that makes sense with a particular matchup. 

"As of right now, it's still the third-catcher role," Schwarber said. "I'm down for whatever, but I know the majority of the time is going to be out there in left."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Mark Sanchez officially signs with Bears

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Mark Sanchez officially signs with Bears

On the latest edition of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Chris Emma, Seth Gruen and Danny Ecker join David Kaplan to discuss the Mark Sanchez signing. Does this mean the Bears won't draft a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft? 

Later, the White Sox named Jose Quintana their Opening Day starter, but lose Carlos Rodon and Todd Frazier to injuries. 

Finally, Robin Lopez is back after serving a one-game suspension. The panel looks at the Bulls matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Listen to the SportsTalk Live Podcast below.