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.

Curran: Do Bledsoe's recollections give insight to Brady's state of mind?

Curran: Do Bledsoe's recollections give insight to Brady's state of mind?

Drew Bledsoe’s being asked to reminisce a lot this fall. And not exactly about fuzzy, feel-good topics that warm the heart.

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Instead, it’s reminiscing about 2001, the year his heart got lacerated and he was replaced for good by Tom Brady, who went on to win a Super Bowl. Or about 2006 when -- as Cowboys quarterback -- he got yanked in favor or Tony Romo and never got back in.

This being the 15th anniversary of SB36 has caused Bledsoe’s phone to ring. And the Brady-Jimmy Garoppolo-Jacoby Brissett dance early this season has brought to the fore discussion of the Brady succession plan, especially now that it appears both players aren’t going to be disasters. How is this situation similar to the one in 2001? Meanwhile, the emergence of Dak Prescott in Dallas puts the oft-injured Romo in more immediate peril of losing his job.

In the past few days, Bledsoe’s opened up to both Albert Breer of MMQB and Michael Silver of NFL Media about the emotions of getting bumped and -- with Breer especially --– the depth he goes into discussing the situation and his emotions then and now are kind of moving.

If you think you’ve heard it all before -- and I believed I had -- you probably haven’t.  The seriousness of Bledsoe’s 2001 injury was not exaggerated, as he explains in an anecdote. He acknowledges feeling entitled to a degree and admits to being bitter about the way he’s recalled.

“One thing I do bristle at a little bit is, I feel like there’s too much of me and Wally Pipp (the Yankees first baseman famously replaced by Lou Gehrig who never got his job back and birthed the verb “Pipped” for anyone who missed a day and got replaced),” Bledsoe told Breer. “I was the single-season passing leader for three organizations when I left. Unfortunately, Tommy’s been so damn good that people sometimes forget I had a pretty nice career.”

Speaking with Silver regarding Romo-Prescott, Bledsoe plumbed his experience with Brady and Bill Belichick in 2001.

"When you're young in the league -- when you're young in life -- you think you're 10-foot tall and bulletproof," said Bledsoe. "You think nobody can ever replace you, and that you're gonna be the guy forever. Eventually, you learn the lesson that it's a replacement business. Sometimes that hits you right between the eyes, which is what happened to me with [Tom] Brady, and again with Tony.

"It happens to all of us. I don't know if it's the time for Tony, but it's something that every quarterback has to confront."

In less than a week, Brady -- the best quarterback in NFL history in the minds of many -- will be back from his suspension. He will have seen in a month’s time that the NFL train rolls along without him and that, while he could never be cloned, he can be capably replaced.

Brady, because of the way he ascended to the job and the friends he’s seen get taken behind the barn in New England, has always been open about understanding he could be replaced. But now he’s got concrete evidence.

Said Bledsoe: "In our heart of hearts, we all want to feel indispensible. We all want to believe, 'There's no way the team can succeed without me.' Then you see the team going on, and winning with a young guy playing the position, and playing it well, and you do some soul searching . . . and you start to think, 'Maybe the team's gonna make that decision to move on.'

"You always want the team to do well, but it's hard. It can be [awkward]. Tommy and I are still good friends, and I text with Romo once in awhile . . . but it's hard to love 'em if they've got your job and you want it back."

Please read both.

Marchand: 'No place I'd rather play' than Boston

Marchand: 'No place I'd rather play' than Boston

The Bruins made it official on Monday -- mere minutes after the news had broken -- as they clearly couldn’t wait to announce an eight year, $49 million contract extension for Brad Marchand. who is finishing up his Team Canada gig at the World Cup of Hockey.

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The deal averages $6.125 million per season, broken up between actual salary and signing bonus money. The Bruins were most definitely given a hometown discount by an elite player who snapped home a career-high 37 goals and 60 points last season, the most goals scored by a Bruins player since Glenn Murray in 2002-03. And everybody knows goal scorers get paid in the NHL, even if Marchand won’t be expected to score quite that many every year.

Marchand, 28, has also been the second-leading scorer in the entire World Cup of Hockey tournament, behind only Sidney Crosby, and continues to raise his profile in the NHL world beyond his customary agitator role. The “Nose Face Killah” could have waited for until free agency if he'd wanted to pick up every last nickel on the table, but it’s very clear he’s invested in the team that drafted and developed him, and with which he won a Cup five years ago.

"This is an extremely exciting day for me and my family," said Marchand, who now has a full no-move clause for the first five years of his next contract. "I would like to thank the Jacobs family, [president] Cam Neely, [general manager] Don Sweeney, [coach] Claude Julien, the coaching staff, my teammates and our fans for their continued support and belief in me. I have been a Bruin since the start of my pro career and there is no place I would rather play. I look forward to doing everything I can to help our team achieve success and bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston."

Marchand has been among the team’s leading scorers since joining the league in 2010-11, has been the NHL’s most dangerous penalty killer over the last five years, and pairs with Patrice Bergeron to anchor the top line. He’s also become much more of a leader in the last few seasons as other character veterans have been peeled away from the core group, and a hometown discount proves it one of the most meaningful ways possible.

It was clear Marchand was invested in the Bruins when he helped recruit free agent David Backes with phone calls this summer, and he was also present for the recruiting pitch to Jimmy Vesey at Warrior Ice Arena last month.

The Bruins players at training camp were happy to hear No. 63 was going to be in Boston for the long haul.

“Marchy is Marchy. I think everybody kind of knows what that means,” said Kevan Miller. “He’s been great for our organization and great for the fans and for this city. He’s been all in since Day One, and he’s been a guy that I looked up to.”

While the Bruins have confirmed the contract, Sweeney won't weigh in until later today. But one would expect there will be an appreciation for the skill of the player, and Marchand’s commitment to the organization after accepting less than he could have gotten on the open market.