Atlanta Falcons halfway home to a perfect season

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Atlanta Falcons halfway home to a perfect season

From Comcast SportsNetATLANTA (AP) -- Matt Ryan came up with two words to describe his performance Sunday night."Good enough," he said.It's a familiar summary for the 2012 Atlanta Falcons, who just keep winning -- even when they make a couple mistakes.Michael Turner had a tiebreaking 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, Matt Bryant kicked four field goals and the Falcons beat the Dallas Cowboys 19-13 to extend their run as the NFL's only unbeaten team."I think at the end of the day it's a league that's based on wins and losses and tonight was a solid effort by this team and we did what we needed to do to come out with a win," Ryan said.Turner had 20 carries for 102 yards and Ryan had a season-high 342 yards passing for the Falcons (8-0), who took their first lead with 14:16 left in the game."We have a very good football team," coach Mike Smith said. "It says a lot about the resolve because there is going to be ebbs and flows in a football game, and there were a lot tonight. We did a nice job staying focused."Tony Romo completed 25 of 35 passes for 321 yards for the Cowboys (3-5), who have dropped four of their last five games. They were held to 65 yards rushing, including 39 yards on nine carries by Felix Jones."There's a reason they're undefeated halfway through the season," Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. "This is a challenging place to play at. I thought we did some good things in the ballgame. They did more good things. We didn't do enough to win this game in all three phases of our football team."The Cowboys trailed 16-6 before Romo tried to put together a comeback. He completed all six of his attempts on a big drive that ended with a 21-yard TD strike to Kevin Ogletree.The Falcons then worked the clock, holding the ball for 5 minutes, 4 seconds, leaving only 17 seconds after Bryant's 32-yard field goal.The Cowboys burned all their timeouts as Ryan kept the Falcons' offense on the field in the crucial time-consuming drive. Ryan passed to Jacquizz Rodgers for 31 yards and 11 yards on third-down plays. A defensive holding call against cornerback Orlando Scandrick on another third down prolonged the possession.Finally, the Cowboys stopped Turner on a third-down run at the Dallas 14.Romo never attempted a deep pass, though he had only 17 seconds to cover 80 yards. He found Jason Witten for passes of 7 and 11 yards, leaving 9 seconds. He passed to Felix Jones for 8 yards, leaving time for one play from the Cowboys 40.Romo scrambled before passing to Jones, who was dropped near the Atlanta 22 to end the game."I think any time you're in that situation you obviously want to get the ball back with a chance, and it's tough," Romo said. "That's why they're a good football team. They're tough to beat at home. They proved it when they were able to run the clock out at the end."Ryan was 24 for 34. Roddy White had seven catches for 118 yards and passed Terance Mathis for the most receptions in Falcons history. Julio Jones had five catches for 129 yards.There also is a new Dallas leader for career receptions. With seven catches for 51 yards, Witten has 754 for his career, passing Michael Irvin's record of 750.Miles Austin led the Cowboys with seven catches for 76 yards.Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he was "extremely, extremely" disappointed."We certainly didn't plan to end up here at 3-5 halfway through the season," Jones said. "We've got some tough ballgames. We've got half our season left."For three quarters, it was a kicking contest -- and a pretty shaky one, too.Bryant kicked field goals of 45 and 46 yards in the second quarter for Atlanta's only points before Turner's score. Bryant also missed from 43 and 37 yards, wide right each time."Tonight was not a very good day as far as overall body of work," said Bryant, who made 27 of 29 attempts in 2011 and was 16 for 17 this season before Sunday night's game. "It was just one of those days where you have to have a short memory and get ready for the next game."Dan Bailey's field goals from 23 and 32 yards were the Cowboys' only points in the first half. He missed from 54 yards.Ryan was sacked three times and faced constant pressure.Ryan's 48-yard pass to Jones set up Bryant's 36-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, pushing the lead to 16-6.NOTES:NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell conducted a fan forum for Falcons season-ticket holders before the game. Goodell attended the Steelers-Giants game in East Rutherford, N.J., earlier Sunday. ... Mathis, who began his career with the Jets, had 573 catches with the Falcons from 1994-2002. White now has 577. ... Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware had 1 sacks and a forced fumble. ... Dallas DT Jay Ratliff suffered an apparent left leg injury late in the first half but returned in the second half. ... Falcons DT Peria Jerry left in the second quarter with a knee injury and did not return. ... Playing behind Felix Jones, Lance Dunbar had eight carries for 26 yards, including an 18-yard run.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

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Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Hosting the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 25, the Boston Celtics had the perennial title contenders on the ropes with the lead in the fourth quarter only to lose it and the game, 109-103.

On the road at Houston, one of the Western Conference’s top teams, the Celtics led in the fourth quarter and wound up losing their Dec. 5 matchup 107-106 as Al Horford missed what would have been a game-winning lay-up as time expired.

Boston played well in both games, but not well enough to win which unfortunately for the Green Team has been how things have gone when they’ve faced some of the better teams in the NBA this season.

They are hoping to break that trend tonight when they hit the road and face the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder (14-9) come in with a slightly better record than the Celtics (13-10).

Boston’s issue isn’t that they can’t play with the better teams.

It’s their finish that needs work.

Boston has lost five of its six games this season against teams that are currently among the top-4 in their respective conferences. 

Losses to San Antonio and Houston only highlight Boston not being able to make the late-game runs needed to win.

Even in their 101-94 loss to Toronto on Friday, it was the Raptors’ ability to make one clutch play after another when it mattered most, that proved to be what was needed to propel them to victory.

“That’s what good teams do; they execute at the end of the game,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “We just have to execute better and get stops at the end of the game. That’s what it comes down to.”

And while the Celtics have a number of returners from last season, every season brings about a different team and with that, a need to learn how to collectively be successful especially down the stretch in close games.

“We’re learning,” Bradley said following the Raptors loss. “We’re moving on to the next game.”

And that would be the Thunder who come in having won six of their last seven games.

Of course when it comes to the Thunder, everything starts with Russell Westbrook who is on everyone’s short list for league MVP.

He is averaging a triple-double this season with 30.9 points, 11.3 assists and 10.8 rebounds per game.

“He’s amazing,” said Boston’s Terry Rozier who will likely spend some time defending Westbrook tonight. “He’s going to be aggressive. We have to try and find a way to stop that. He’s putting up video game stats. It’s tough but we gotta do something.”

The Celtics will likely lean heavily on Marcus Smart and Bradley, a first-team all-NBA defensive selection last season, when it comes to trying to slow down Westbrook.

“Russell’s a good player,” Bradley said. “I look forward to every matchup. If it’s him, whoever it is, I look forward to it. That’s what this league is about.”

It’s also about growth and development of franchises into title contenders, something the Celtics are eager to continue pushing towards tonight.

Horford spent the previous nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, advancing to the playoffs every season.

He saw first-hand how they went from a team that could barely get into the playoffs, into one that produced four all-stars in one season and had the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Horford saw the loss to Toronto as an example of a really good team doing what great teams do and that’s finding a way to win regardless of how things are going most of the night.

“We made a run early (against Toronto), they stayed with it, didn’t rattle and eventually got over us,” Horford said. “We’re growing as a group.”