Falcons emerge over Seahawks in classic style

932595.jpg

Falcons emerge over Seahawks in classic style

From Comcast SportsNetATLANTA (AP) -- Matt Bryant pumped his fist and celebrated atop the Falcons logo in the middle of the field. Tony Gonzalez broke down in tears. Matt Ryan relished the thought of not having to answer a familiar question.The Atlanta Falcons finally showed they could win a playoff game.And, wow, what a game it was!After a meltdown in the fourth quarter, the Falcons pulled off a comeback that will long be remembered in championship-starved Atlanta. Ryan completed two long passes and Bryant kicked a 49-yard field goal with 8 seconds remaining, lifting the NFC's top seed to a stunning 30-28 victory over Russell Wilson and the gutty Seattle Seahawks in a divisional game Sunday."Wow!" said Falcons coach Mike Smith, summing up this classic as well as anyone could.Atlanta (14-3) squandered a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, falling behind for the first time all day when Marshawn Lynch scored on a 2-yard run with 31 seconds left and Ryan Longwell knocked through the extra point for a 28-27 lead.No team has ever won a playoff game when facing such a daunting deficit in the final period.The Falcons, thanks to a pair of Matty Ices -- Ryan and Bryant -- didn't become the first.Ryan, shaking off his struggles in three previous playoff losses and two interceptions against the Seahawks, hooked up with Harry Douglas on a 29-yard pass in front of the Falcons bench, and Smith quickly signaled a timeout. Then, Ryan went down the middle to his favorite target Gonzalez, a Hall of Famer-to-be playing what could've been his final game.Gonzalez hauled in the 19-yard throw, and Smith called his final timeout with 13 seconds remaining. Instead of risking another play and having the clock run out, he sent Bryant in for the field goal try.The Seahawks called time just before the ball was snapped, and Bryant's kick sailed right of the upright. That turned out to be nothing more than practice. The next one was right down the middle as Bryant took off in the other direction, pumping his fist before he was mobbed by his teammates."Our quarterback is a special player," Smith said. "They call him Matty Ice, but I feel like we've got two Matty Ices. There's Matty Ice Ryan and Matty Ice Bryant."The Falcons overcame their reputation for choking in the playoffs, winning their first postseason game since the 2004 season. They'll host San Francisco in the NFC championship game next Sunday with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line."Nobody flinched," Ryan said. "We just kept battling, kept doing what we do. That's been the makeup of our team all season."Bryant knocked through his third game-winning kick of the season. But he'd never made one like this, with so much on the line."When they scored their touchdown, I walked down (the sideline)," he said. "I told the offensive line, I told Matt (Ryan), I told all the receivers, We've done this before.'"Wilson threw two touchdown passes and ran for another, doing all he could to pull off the most improbable of comebacks for the Seahawks (12-6). But the Seattle defense, which is one of the NFL's best and had totally stymied the Falcons in the fourth quarter, went to a softer coverage and got burned.Atlanta had just enough time to pull off a comeback of its own."We had high, high hopes for the rest of the season," Wilson said. "When the game was over, I was very disappointed. But walking back into the tunnel, I got so excited about next year. The resilience we showed was unbelievable."Wilson finished with 385 yards passing as the Seahawks wiped out a 27-7 deficit entering the final quarter. When Lynch powered over, the ball breaking the goal line just before it squirted from his arms, Seattle celebrated like it had won its second straight playoff game on the road, having already taken care of Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins.According to STATS, it would've been the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in NFL playoff history.Not so fast.Ryan led the Falcons back, wiping out his 0-3 mark in the playoffs, including a crushing loss to Green Bay two years ago when the Falcons were in the same position, the NFC's top-seeded team with home-field advantage in the playoffs."The one thing I've learned during my five years in the league, and specifically in the postseason, is that it's hard," Ryan said.Now, he'll no longer be asked why he can't win in the playoffs."That's going to be nice," Ryan conceded. "But our goal is not to win one playoff game. Our goals are still in front of us. We still have two more games to go. That's the mind-set I have. That's the mind-set this team has."Wilson's last throw, a desperation heave into the end zone, was intercepted by Falcons receiver Julio Jones.Gonzalez, who had never won a playoff game in his 16-year career, broke down in tears after Bryant's kick went through the uprights."I've never cried after a win," said Gonzalez, who has stated repeatedly that he's "95 percent" sure this is his final year. "I was thinking, Here we go again. I guess it wasn't meant to be.'"It was.The Falcons finally lived up to their excellence during the regular season since Smith, Ryan and general manager Thomas Dimitroff took over in 2008, instantly reviving a franchise that seemed down and out after Michael Vick's dogfighting case. Atlanta has won 56 regular-season games over the last five years, more than any team except New England, but had a reputation for choking in the postseason.Check that off the list. Atlanta is one win away from the second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.Ryan threw three touchdown passes, tying a Falcons playoff record, and finished 24 of 35 for 250 yards -- the first time he's eclipsed 200 yards in the postseason. He threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Gonzalez, a 47-yarder to Roddy White and a 5-yarder to Jason Snelling, the latter with 2:11 left in the third quarter to give the Falcons a seemingly commanding lead.Wilson took over from there, running 1 yard for a touchdown to make it 27-14, then going to Zach Miller on a 3-yard touchdown pass that closed the gap to 27-21.Finally, taking over at his own 39 after an Atlanta punt, Wilson completed three passes for 50 yards, the last of them a short throw to Lynch that the bruising runner took all the way to the Falcons 3. The rookie quarterback made it all possible, spinning away from blitzing Atlanta linebacker Sean Weatherspoon to keep the play alive.The Seahawks, though, will spend the offseason kicking themselves for that last Falcons' drive, and for squandering two scoring chances in the first half.On fourth-and-1 at the Atlanta 11, Seattle passed on a field goal and a chance to give the ball to Lynch, their beast of a back. Fullback Michael Robinson took the handoff and was stuffed for a 1-yard loss by safety William Moore.Then, with the clock winding down before halftime, Seattle used up all its timeouts and wound up regretting it when Wilson was sacked by Jonathan Babineaux at the Atlanta 20. Time ran out before the Seahawks could get off another play, sending Atlanta to the locker room with a 20-0 lead.Bryant also connected on field goals of 37 and 39 yards in the first half."At halftime, we talked about how we can't get ahead right away. It's going to take a while," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "It was an exquisite job of refocusing to a football game after being down like that."NOTES:The Falcons played the second half without defensive end John Abraham, who re-injured his ailing right ankle. No word whether he'll be able to play next week. ... The Falcons did a good job on Lynch, who was held to 46 yards on 16 carries. ... Atlanta got surprising production out of its maligned running game. Michael Turner rushed for 98 yards, Jacquizz Rodgers added 64 and the Falcons finished with a season-high 167 yards overall.

Quotes, notes and stars: Wright "today was tough"

red-sox-steven-wright.jpg

Quotes, notes and stars: Wright "today was tough"

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 10-3 loss to the Rangers:

 

QUOTES

* “On a night when he didn’t have the consistency to the knuckleball that we’ve seen from many of his starts, he went to his fastball a little bit more. [Against] a good fastball hitting team . . . He’s typically made good adjustments staying over the rubber to get his release point out front -- that wasn’t the case [tonight].” John Farrell said about Steven Wright struggling with his knuckleball in his 4.2 inning outing.

* “The ball was spinning a lot out of my hand. It was a little bit hard to grip the ball because the humidity. But it was the opposite -- it was real sticky. That’s the first time I’ve had that ever. But I still felt like I should have figured that out. It was one of those things where I think I started trying to hard . . . I was trying to the throw the kitchen sink at them but it wasn’t working.” Steven Wright said about struggling to find his knuckleball in the 10-3 loss.

* “It’s hard for me because you want to go out there and try and go as deep as you can to try to help the bullpen, but, you know, today was tough, a tough day for me.” Wright said on his disappointment with only going 4.2 innings.

 

 

NOTES

 

* Hanley Ramirez laced his fourth homerun in his last 11 games. In his nine career games at Texas, Ramirez has six homeruns.

* David Ortiz went hitless for the first time since June 12th. Boston’s designated hitter also hasn’t hit a home run since June 17th -- his third longest homerless spell of 2016.

* Xander Bogaerts scored his 57th run of the season, putting him one run behind Ian Kinsler -- the fourth highest total in the majors.

 

 

STARS

 

1) Adrian Beltre

The ex-Red Sox third baseman finished 2-for-4 with an RBI, a walk -- scoring the team high three runs.

 

2) Ian Desmond

Desmond laced his 13th homer of the season in his second at-bat of the game, sparking Texas’ offense with its first run of the game.

 

3) Elvis Andrus

Andrus ended Steven Wright’s day quickly with a three-run triple in the fifth inning, finishing 1-for-2 with two walks and a run.

First Impressions from Boston's 10-3 loss to Texas

red-sox-steven-wright.jpg

First Impressions from Boston's 10-3 loss to Texas

First impressions of the Red Sox 10-3 loss to Texas:

 

Steven Wright can’t be stellar every night.

Although it’s seemed like it lately, it’s just not possible -- especially with a knuckleball.

He wasn’t even that bad Saturday night. He just didn’t get any help from his defense in the fifth frame.

But there’s no denying he didn’t have his best stuff. But whatever the reason, he couldn’t find consistent command or movement from his knuckler and he gave up some hard hits as a result.

Did he receive a fate worse than he pitched? Yes. But what Boston saw from Wright in his Saturday start is there will be times his go-to pitch is off -- and there’s really no way to work around that.

 

Hanley Ramirez’s “timing issue” seems to be coming around.

Although he hasn’t necessarily caught fire, Ramirez hit another home run -- once again to right field.

He’s shown more patience at the plate, and not trying to pull every ball out of the yard.

Ramirez doesn’t have everything completely figured out, but his homeruns have been plenty valuable at this point.

 

Ian Desmond is no joke.

The newly converted centerfielder is 5-for-10 against Boston pitching this series with a run and two RBI.

The ex-Nationals shortstop has good pop and good speed still. He seems to be a lot more comfortable in his new home after hitting .233 for Washington last year with 19 homeruns -- hitting his 13th Saturday night.

 

For all the criticisms Boston’s bullpen has received, the Rangers’ is definitely worse.

Although there wasn’t the same miraculous comeback witnessed Friday night -- and Boston’s pen wasn’t particularly stellar in the loss -- the Ranger relievers did not look good in the second game of the series.

They put themselves into deep counts right away -- and was lucky Boston’s offense was off.

Boston’s bullpen has its faults -- no question -- but it’s not nearly as bad as the one in Texas.

 

The Red Sox unfortunately have to rely on Clay Buchholz Sunday.

The bullpen is beaten down once again. The righty is still fighting for his job, so this would be the best time for him to pitch competitively into the sixth inning -- and maybe even longer.

DC United tops Revolution 2-0

new-england-revolution.jpg

DC United tops Revolution 2-0

WASHINGTON -- Lamar Neagle had a goal and an assist to give D.C. United an early lead that stood up in a 2-0 victory over the New England Revolution on Saturday night.

D.C., after being shut out in its two previous games and four of six, opened the scoring in the 20th minute when Luciano Acosta chipped a perfect pass over the defense to the foot of Neagle, who volleyed it in from 10 yards out.

Sean Franklin scored the second goal, his first of the season, when he knocked in Neagle's cross. Albaro Saborio sent a long ball down the right sideline that Neagle ran down and crossed to Franklin for the easy counter.

D.C. (5-6-5) leapfrogged the Revolution (4-5-7) into fifth in the Eastern Conference with its fourth shutout in the last seven games and improved to 2-0-1 in the series this season.