Falcons emerge over Seahawks in classic style

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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.

Amid signs his job might be in trouble, Julien says: 'I'm not quitting on this team'

Amid signs his job might be in trouble, Julien says: 'I'm not quitting on this team'

BRIGHTON, Mass – Roughly 12 hours after embattled Bruins coach Claude Julien bristled at a question about his job security and labeled it “shock journalism” in the heat of the moment after a tight loss to the Blackhawks, the B’s bench boss delivered a classy, heartfelt response to the same question.

Julien was asked about it in French by a reporter from the Montreal Gazette, but answered in English because of the “loyalty he feels to the people in Boston.”

In essence, Julien basically said he should be relieved of his duties if he’s deemed to be behind what ails the Black and Gold, but he’s going to keep working to fix things until that day comes.

It was exactly the kind of response you would expect from a coach who's taken the B’s to the mountaintop in his 10 years running the team and will always be respected and loved in Boston long after his coaching days are done.

“How do I deal with all of the rumors and all that is going on? I didn’t feel like [Friday night] was the appropriate time for me to answer that after a game where you’re emotions are pretty high. I wasn’t getting into that, but to be honest with you my job is to coach the hockey club,” said Julien. “Am I worried about my job? No, I’m not. Because it’s not my job to worry about it. My job is to fix things, and my job is to coach this team and do everything I can. If I become one of the reasons that we’re not doing well, then management has to make that decision.

“It’s not my decision to make. I’m not quitting on this team. I’m not quitting on anybody. I’m not quitting on management. I’m ready and willing to go through the hard times, and I said that at the end of last year. If it’s deemed my fault, then I shouldn’t be here, and that’s all I can say.”

While the Bruins roster is clearly less than perfect and has a larger dose of youthful players than in years past, Julien also freely admitted that they should be held to a higher standard after proving many nights that they should be a playoff team. That’s the mandate from Bruins ownership and that’s the challenge that Julien has willingly accepted.

It’s also the challenge that’s falling a bit short now as they’ve lost three crushing games in a row and have fallen behind the Ottawa Senators in the playoff standings, with Toronto also right behind them holding six games in hand.

“If we’re going with what we said we were going with and there’s going to be some growing pains along the way, so be it,” said Julien. “I think we put ourselves in a position earlier in the year where we could all of a sudden believe that we’re a playoff team...absolutely. I still think we’re a playoff team. Whether we can do it or not we’ll find out at the end of the year, but my job is to do everything I can to get us into the playoffs and that’s what I’m going to do.

“As far as the rumors are concerned, they’re out there and I know that. But I don’t worry about it because worrying is wasting a lot of my time. And my time is spent trying to fix things here.”

Julien and the Bruins are headed to Pittsburgh for a Sunday matinee against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and will have two games against the red-hot Pens headed into an All-Star break weekend that must feel like a well-earned oasis for Julien at this point in the season. 

Sox hope to bring David Ortiz back to Boston for new role

Sox hope to bring David Ortiz back to Boston for new role

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- David Oritz’s time in Boston as a player is over. He continues to say there’s no Brett Favre-type comeback, no matter how many people ask him.

However, that doesn’t mean his time with the Red Sox is over.

Sam Kennedy, Tom Werner and Dave Dombrowski are heading down to the Dominican Republic to tour the team’s academy on the island to see what changes, if any, need to be made.

Ortiz will join them on those tours.

“He’s just a good guy to go to the Dominican with,” Kennedy said. “We thought it’d be great to catch up. Haven’t seen him since before the holidays.”

But the front office members intend to exchange more than just pleasantries and stories from the holiday season. One goal on the trip is to bring Ortiz back to the organization as an employee.

“Yeah that’s something on the agenda,” Kennedy said. “We’re gonna talk about what he may or may not want to do. He did say after the season let’s just talk in January. He was so overwhelmed and tired so it’s a good time to start those conversations.

“I know he has a lot of plans, broadcasting, a lot of businesses he’s involved with and we’ll see what he’s up to. But we hope to cement something so he’s a part of the organization.”

What role that is yet to be determined. Assuming he doesn’t pursue a broadcasting career.

“I truly don’t know what’s on his mind,” Kennedy said. “He’ll obviously be good at whatever he decides to do, but I would hope that we could create a role where he has influence in the baseball operations side, he has influence in marketing, as an ambassador. A lot of our alums we’ve found really enjoy working with young players. Pedro [Martinez] is a perfect example of that.

“So we’ll see what he’s interested in doing, but I have heard him talk about broadcasting in the past and I think he’d be great at it if he decides to do it.”