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Meet the couple married at the Indianapolis Colts-Baltimore Ravens Monday Night Football game



BALTIMORE — Lamar Jackson isn’t the only one making memories at M&T Bank Stadium these days, thanks to a couple of newlyweds.

Amala Okafor and Candace Congress were married during halftime of the Baltimore RavensIndianapolis Colts game on Oct. 11. It is believed to be the first in-game wedding at the 24-year-old stadium.

With the bride wearing a white Colts jersey and the groom in a white Ravens jersey, both with “Okafor” on the back, the couple stood up from their seats and tied the knot under the lights of Monday Night Football. Ravens cheerleaders served as the best man and maid of honor. Surrounding fans took pictures and then high-fived the newly married couple.

“Well, for me, a woman who’s planned her wedding since she was 16, this was not my wedding,” Candace said. “But, I assure you, this was the best wedding I could even imagine because it infused everything I care about. I got to express my creativity, I got to marry the man of my dreams and we were sitting in the best seats we could at a great game. It was much more than just eating cake and then going to bed. We have so much to talk about.”

Weddings at stadiums have occurred before. In September 2019, a couple in Buffalo became the first couple married on the field during halftime of an NFL game.

What made this month’s event different is that Amala and Candace aren’t fans of the same team. Candace lives in Indiana and has long rooted for the Colts. Amala is from Illinois and has cheered for the Ravens since they drafted Jackson in 2018.

“He got to talking about Lamar and he wouldn’t stop to this day,” Candace said. “I’m like, we’ve gotta go to a game. The Colts-Ravens game just so happened to be the last week that I was going to be in Baltimore for work. We had no idea it was going to turn into our wedding date.”

Candace is a surgical technologist who had taken a travel assignment for healthcare at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Amala is in warehouse management. They met online in June and got engaged in September.

Amala and Candace had trouble finding a place to get married because many venues were too costly, and the courthouse lighting wasn’t going to cut it. So, Candace brought up the idea about having the ceremony at M&T Bank Stadium.

“To be honest, I thought it was going to be impossible,” said Amala, who had never before attended an NFL game. “But the more we talked about it and the more her plans were coming together, it was becoming more possible. If someone would have told me I would get married at Ravens Stadium, I wouldn’t believe it at all.”

Amala and Candace selected rings with their favorite teams’ logos on them. Their cake topper featured the bride standing in front of a Colts background and the groom in front of a Ravens one. Candace’s bouquet was filled with purple and blue flowers — a nuptial shoutout to both the Ravens and the Colts — along with a football rose made from leather of actual footballs.

Candace reached out to Moe Shoots, the Ravens’ guest experience manager, to see if they could get married during the game. Shoots eventually took online classes to become their officiant. Shoots thought about joking during the service, “Don’t leave him in the middle of the night like the Colts did us.” It would’ve been a lighthearted jab at the Colts relocating from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984.

“I decided not to put that one in there,” Shoots said. “It might go a little too far.”

During halftime of the Monday night game, the Ravens inducted Haloti Ngata into their Ring of Honor. Then, it was time for Amala and Candace to exchange their rings.

They streamed the wedding online so family and friends could watch. In 6½ minutes, they crossed the marital goal line.

“I swear it was like it was meant to be because they said their ‘I do’s’ and kissed each other right when the ball was kicked off to start the third quarter,” Shoots said.

After sharing cake with fans sitting around them, Amala and Candace decided to leave at the end of the third quarter because they had left their wedding certificate at the hotel and wanted it to get signed. The Colts had what looked like an insurmountable 22-9 lead at that point.

By the time they returned to the stadium, Jackson had completed the biggest comeback of his career, throwing the winning 5-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Brown in overtime. They watched the fourth quarter and overtime of the Ravens’ 31-25 victory on Amala’s phone.

“I was talking a little trash here and there,” Amala said. “But when we finally won, though, I told her, ‘I love you, baby, but we won.'”

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Derek Carr, Maxx Crosby want Rich Bisaccia back as Las Vegas Raiders’ head coach



CINCINNATI — Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and Pro Bowl defensive end Maxx Crosby both heartily endorsed Rich Bisaccia retaining the head-coaching job permanently following Las Vegas’ season-ending 26-19 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the opening round of the playoffs on Saturday night.

Bisaccia was promoted from special teams coordinator to interim head coach following Jon Gruden’s resignation on Oct. 11.

“I think we can all think that he’s the right guy,” Carr said of Bisaccia. “He’s proven that people listen to him. Our team listens to him. And I love him so much, I’m thankful for him. All those things will be decisions that I don’t make; I don’t get to make. I just play quarterback … but with everything that went on, if you really look at what happened, all the pieces missing, everything that changed, yeah, he held it together.”

Carr referenced the Raiders losing starting guards Richie Incognito and Denzelle Good to injury in the preseason and opener, respectively. He also talked about receiver Henry Ruggs III being cut following his involvement in a high-speed car crash that left a woman dead. Carr also cited Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller missing five games down the stretch; Pro Bowl running back Josh Jacobs being dinged up and unavailable at times; and losing versatile running back Kenyan Drake to a knee injury in Week 13.

“You go on and on and on and on, and that’s just offense,” said Carr, who had driven the Raiders to the Bengals’ 9-yard line before being intercepted at the 2-yard line on fourth-and-goal with 12 seconds to play Saturday night. “The fact that that staff kept everything together and kept us competitive and kept us finding ways to win football games, I think that’s what our organization is about, right? So, we’ll see what happens. We know what we want to have happen. But, again, we’re Raiders. We’re going to play football, but we just hope it, obviously, we hope it’s for somebody special.”

Carr also said he would stay out of direct conversations when it came to his future with the team. He has one year remaining on the five-year, $125 million extension he signed in 2017.

He said his agent and the Raiders have a good relationship.

“Lord knows there’s been a lot of things to communicate about, right?” Carr said. “When the time comes, I never want a face-to-face. I’m going to play quarterback, but my message will be talked about.

“I’m not going to go to dinner and say, ‘We have to do something.’ I’m not that guy. I’ll let my voice be heard, but in a different way.”

Crosby, who was just named second-team All-Pro, called Bisaccia a “great leader” for the Raiders.

“If it was up to me, I think everyone in the world knows what my decision would be,” said Crosby, who had a sack among his six tackles on Saturday. “I love Rich. You know, I’m biased, obviously, but he’s, he’s a great coach … he came in and got us to 10 wins. We came on the road, on a short week, and gave Cincinnati everything they could handle.

“One of the best people I know. One of the most honest dudes I know. And I’ll go to bat for him any day of the week. I love that dude to death. He knows that. I appreciate everything he’s brought to the table. I hope we keep doing it.”

Raiders owner Mark Davis has remained silent on the team’s head-coaching search, as well as on the futures of Carr and general manager Mike Mayock.

Bisaccia, meanwhile, laughed when asked if he thought about being elevated to the full-time job.

“I’m just thinking about those guys in that locker room that played the game with their heart and soul out there like that,” he said, “and had a chance to win at the end.”

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Bengals win first playoff game in 31 years, set the table for a run at AFC title – Cincinnati Bengals Blog



CINCINNATI — Send those text messages. The Cincinnati Bengals have finally won a playoff game.

Cincinnati defeated the Las Vegas Raiders 26-19 at Paul Brown Stadium in an AFC wild-card game on Saturday. It was Cincinnati’s first playoff victory in 31 years, since before cell phones were capable of sending texts, as memes on the internet reminded folks in the days preceding the game.

But the win wasn’t just about ending the longest playoff win drought in the NFL. It was about the first step in making a run at the AFC title.

Over the course of the season, Cincinnati went from the projected cellar dweller in the AFC North to division champs, ending a six-year stretch without a playoff appearance. That journey included an overtime loss to the Green Bay Packers, one of the top teams in the NFL, and a Week 17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, the AFC representatives in last year’s Super Bowl.

Those performances indicated Cincinnati wasn’t just a team that could win a playoff game. They showed the Bengals can hang with the best in the NFL.

For the second time this season, the Bengals needed to hang tough against the Raiders in order to pick up a win. The first came on Week 11 and set the tone for the second half of Cincinnati’s season.

The second victory was much more significant. It gave the city of Cincinnati something it hasn’t experienced in decades and set the table for the Bengals to have a truly special postseason.

“We expect to beat everybody that we play, not just hang with them,” Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said after the game.

Burrow added: “I mean, it’s exciting. But this is expected. This isn’t like the icing on top of the cake or anything. This is the cake. So we’re moving on.”

Describe the game in two words: Curse ending. The Bengals ended the fabled “Curse of Bo Jackson” — the former Raiders running back’s final NFL game in January 1991 that also ended Cincinnati’s last playoff run that featured a win.

“I’m just really, really happy for the city of Cincinnati and that they get a chance to enjoy this,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “And now, just exhale and enjoy the ride we have. Because we’re not done yet.”

Pivotal play: On third-and-four at the end of the first half, Bengals quarterback Burrow scrambled and found Tyler Boyd for a 10-yard touchdown pass to give Cincinnati a 20-6 lead. Initially, it appeared Burrow was going to go out of bounds. A referee even blew an errant whistle. But the play continued and Cincinnati got a key red-zone touchdown.

QB breakdown: Burrow was efficient in his playoff debut. After throwing for 148 yards earlier in the season against the Raiders, Burrow finished Saturday’s win completing 24-of-34 passes for 244 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

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Josh Allen, Dawson Knox produce fireworks for Buffalo Bills in freezing weather vs. Patriots



ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills started off Saturday night’s wild-card matchup against the New England Patriots with a bang. Quarterback Josh Allen found tight end Dawson Knox for an impressive score in the back of the end zone, giving Buffalo a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

Allen was given plenty of time to scramble behind his offensive line (9.64 seconds), but initially it looked like none of his options downfield were open. The quarterback moved to his right and appeared to be throwing it out of bounds, but Knox made an impressive toe-tap grab for the score. The 32.1 run yards traveled before passing are the most on any touchdown of Allen’s career. The pass had a completion percentage of 18.4%, per NFL Next Gen Stats, the second-most-improbable passing touchdown of his career.

It was the first passing touchdown in the past five playoffs in which a quarterback took at least nine seconds to throw, per Next Gen Stats.

The scored capped off a nine-play, 70-yard drive that included Allen rushing for 41 yards on two carries.

On the Patriots’ ensuing drive, quarterback Mac Jones moved the ball downfield and appeared to have a touchdown pass to wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Safety Micah Hyde, however, had other ideas and jumped in front of Agholor for an impressive interception in the end zone.

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