Sunday, November 29, 2009

Falcons rally to beat Bucs in closing seconds

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Blame it on the throwback uniforms.

Longtime Falcons  fans knew nothing really good could come from the team wearing those 1966 originals.
Absolutely nothing.
Some will contend the Falcons shouldn't pay tribute to a luckless history they are trying to run away from. How else do you explain the team needing a do-or-die touchdown pass with 23 seconds left to beat the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers, previously 1-9, at the Georgia Dome on Sunday?
Backup quarterback Chris Redman, MIA much of the last two years, drilled a 5-yard touchdown pass to a slanting Roddy White  to pullout the hard-fought 20-17  victory that may prove extremely costly in the injury department. Gotta be the shirts.
Hoping for a stretch run to the playoffs, the Falcons could be without quarterback Matt Ryan (toe), running back Michael Turner (re-injured sprained right ankle), left tackle Sam Baker (elbow) and right guard Harvey Dahl (Achilles tendon, ankle) after a very costly 60 minutes.
Dahl was able to return to action, but the extent and severity of the other injuries are being evaluated.
The medical staff spent most of the first quarter trying to cram some padding in Ryan's right shoe that would allow him to continue to play. As many as eight people looked on as the staff feverishly worked on the foot. But padded and wrapped with black tape, Ryan tried to drop back twice, couldn't push off his right foot and was done for the day.
Despite the attrition, the Falcons (6-5) secured a necessary victory to keep pace in the NFC playoff race. Dallas (8-3), Philadelphia (7-4) and Green Bay (7-4) all won this week. New Orleans (10-0) plays Monday night against New England.
"We couldn't afford to lose this one,"  White said.
The Falcons improved to 12-1 in the Dome under second-year coach Mike Smith, including a 5-0 mark this season.
"We obviously didn't play our best, but the object each and every week is to win the football game and that's what we did today," Smith said. "We tried numerous ways not to win the game, but we were able to overcome that."
The Falcons definitely won't be mailing the film of this one back to Canton, Ohio, for display in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Twelve-point favorites, they allowed the Buccaneers to stay around in the game, trailing throughout most of the second half. They gave up six sacks, had a punt blocked that set up Tampa Bay's go-ahead touchdown and Jason Elam missed another field goal.
"It's one of the ugliest games that I've ever been apart of and won," center Todd McClure said. "But it is a win."
Things started off well as the Falcons jumped out to a 10-0 lead. Elam banged home a 45-yard field goal and Jerious Norwood scored from 22 yards out on a shovel pass from Redman with 6:31 left in the half.
But the Buccaneers tied it before intermission. Tampa Bay's rookie quarterback, Josh Freeman, found Antonio Bryant for a 42-yard touchdown on poor coverage by backup cornerback Tye Hill. Tampa Bay's Conner Barth added a 39-yard field goal 24 seconds left in the half to make it 10-10.
The Buccaneers seized control early in the third quarter. Corey Lynch blocked a Michael Koenen punt which  led to a Freeman-to-Cadillac Williams touchdown pass for a 17-10 lead just 3:18 into the period.
Elam made a 37-yard on the Falcons next possession to make it 17-13.
In the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay faked a punt that was unsuccessful and gave the Falcons good field position. But both Elam and then Barth each missed field goals -- Elam a 43-yarder and Barth a 51-yarder -- which set the stage for the game-winning possession.
Redman, who completed 23 of 41 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns, began the drive on the Falcons' 41-yard line with 2:30 remaining. Leaning heavily on tight end Tony Gonzalez and getting some help from a defensive holding penalty on Derrick Roberson in the end zone, Redman was finally faced with a fourth-and-goal situation on the 5-yard line. The game balancing on one throw, he found White open in the end zone.
"We just had double slants on," Redman said. "It looked like they were going to double Tony and you have Roddy Whiteout there in one-on-one. He's a Pro Bowl receiver. I liked my chances."
Redman had taken over for Ryan after the first series. The last time he quarterbacked the Falcons to a win was Dec. 30, 2007 (44-41 over Seattle).
"I'm always just ready to go at any time," Redman said. "I'm always preparing for that. So when they tell me to go in, I'm not nervous. That's what I'm here for and you just have to stay ready."

Florida-Alabama sequel will be unlikely

Matt Hayes

Don't even think about it. It's tempting, yes. But there's next to no chance it happens.
Florida vs. Alabama, Part II in the BCS national championship game?
Kellen Moore and Boise State are now in good shape to get selected for a BCS bowl.
Kellen Moore and Boise State are now in good shape to get selected for a BCS bowl.
"Can't we just play the first one?" said Florida cornerback Joe Haden.
That might not be enough.
Florida coach Urban Meyer summed up Sunday what many have been pointing to since September: No. 1 Florida vs. No.2 Alabama in the SEC championship game.
"College football wants this game," Meyer said.
As for Round 2, well, it's likely impossible. Human voters could keep Florida and Alabama Nos. 1 and 2—in either order, depending on the winner—with a classic game, but don't bet on it. A Texas victory over Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game would be too much for a one-loss SEC team to overcome.
Now, should Texas lose to Nebraska and Cincinnati lose to Pittsburgh, who knows what could happen—especially considering both Florida and Alabama's huge leads on TCU and Boise State?
"It would simply be up to the voters," said BCS guru Jerry Palm of "If they felt strongly enough, it could happen."

Start to panic

No. 11 Penn State. It looks more and more like there will be two Big Ten teams in BCS bowls. Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, and another league team in the Orange or Fiesta Bowl.
Both Iowa and Penn State would bring planeloads of fans, but the Orange and Fiesta bowls have been looking at Iowa since late October. Even the power of JoePa won't be enough to get the Nittany Lions—losers of both their games that mattered this fall—in a BCS bowl.

Don't panic

No. 6 Boise State. The Broncos did the heavy lifting Friday against Nevada (and got help with Georgia beating Georgia Tech on Saturday). Now all they need is a Texas victory over Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game, and it's a date in the Fiesta Bowl or Sugar Bowl.


No. 5 Cincinnati. Why exactly aren't the Bearcats in the No. 4 spot—instead of TCU—hoping for the unthinkable to happen? Cincy won at No. 16 Oregon State, beat No. 23 West Virginia and could have another big road win at No. 15 Pittsburgh. And please, don't tell me the Mountain West is a better league than the Big East.


The Big 12. Texas looked impressive in a shootout against Texas A&M, getting a kickoff return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to finally put away the Aggies. Then you realize that same Texas A&M team lost to Kansas State by 48, to Oklahoma by 55, to three-win Colorado, and—more important, with a Big 12 date against the SEC just around the corner—to Arkansas by 28.

Matt Hayes covers college football for Sporting News. E-mail him at

For Golf’s No. 1 Pitchman, Silence Doesn’t Sell

Tiger Woods is not available. He will talk in his own sweet time.

This tactic works fine at golf tournaments and any time he has a product to push. He appears when he is good and ready, and is just blandly helpful enough to give a few snippets of quotes to the waiting world. He’s a green-jacketed master at it.
This is a man who has never had the yips in public. But we are now witnessing his hooking and slicing his image straight into the rough, into the trees, into the drink.
As the great salesman and role model of a very difficult and upscale sport, he is in danger of setting off a recession in the golf industry, unless he puts out a more complete story, soon. Why was he leaving his house in the middle of the night? How and why did he hit a fire hydrant at the end of his driveway?
Just about the entire United States population, even those who do not much care about golf, was discussing Tiger Woods as we got over our turkey this weekend. And no matter what happened in the dark on Friday morning, he did not stop the buzz from spreading.
No mulligans on this one. He has already sullied his controlled image by not having a statement ready within 12 hours of his running over a fire hydrant and hitting a tree after 2 a.m. on Friday.
Just guessing that if I hit a hydrant, the police would be at my door later that day. And if my wife said I was not available, the way Elin Woods did Saturday, the police would be back the next day, more persistently. Woods is not legally bound to give them a statement, but he has endangered his reputation and possibly his value to his sponsors by remaining hidden.
Fire hydrants are public property. Automobile accidents are a public matter. We are witnessing one of the richest and most famous athletes and celebrities in the world stonewalling the authorities in his chosen home of Windermere, Fla. Maybe the authorities are afraid he will move away if they come back with a piece of paper. Bad for real-estate values.
The police are looking rather timid, but Woods is looking worse. He is looking like a man who has something to hide. As we chatted about Woods over the weekend, I advanced the theory that he was probably rushing out to buy baby aspirin because one of his two children was running a fever. He was so worried, he lost control of the car. It could happen.
In the absence of a detailed explanation, however, Woods set up all kinds of speculation.
As the hours went by, Tiger and his flotilla of lawyers, sponsors, agents, managers, publicists, trainers, caddies, gofers and friends did not produce a pediatrician’s note that said Woods had been on an aspirin run. Or he could say he was running out to the all-night convenience store for an iced mochaccino. Or any other logical story. Instead, Woods hunkered down. And his sponsors probably started holding their breath.
On Sunday, the second straight day his door did not open to police investigators, Woods put out a statement on his Web site,, saying the incident was his fault. This is what politicians always say when they have no intention of explaining.
“I’m human and I’m not perfect,” Woods said, adding: “This is a private matter and I want to keep it that way.” He also referred to “the many false, unfounded and malicious rumors” about him and his family and said they were irresponsible.
He was referring, undoubtedly, to reports, based mostly on anonymous sources, in tabloids and on gossip Web sites about his private life, which were out there even before Friday’s car wreck. It was hardly worth referring to rumors like that until Woods hit a fire hydrant and a tree, and his wife broke a car window with a golf club. And now he has stonewalled the authorities for a few days.
Tiger Woods, after all, is not some politician who was caught straying off the fairway of life. Politicians merely sell themselves; they don’t sell an entire lucrative sport, the way Woods does.
He can get back some of his lost image by putting out a plausible story. But at this moment, Tiger Woods has lost his touch.

Streaking/Slumping for Nov. 29

Ben Finfer looks at who was streaking and slumping in Sunday's Bears-Vikings game

By Ben Finfer

Brett Favre

Brett Favre

Add another three touchdowns and 392 yards to his resurgent season. The future hall of famer has Prince and the rest of the Vikings fans partying like it's 1998.
Jay Cutler

Jay Cutler

He threw two more interceptions, but the loss in Minnesota wasn't Cutler's fault. He was on his back so often that Ron Turner should have painted the Bears playbook on the Metrodome ceiling. It wouldn't have taken very long.
Hunter Hillenmeyer

Bears' defense

This battered unit gave up 537 yards and 36 points to Minnesota. Basically it was the type of performance that would have allowed the Maine South offense to have a field day. So congratulations to the Vikings for winning the Class 9A state championship.
Lovie Smith

Bears franchise

No hope, no prospects, no fun. That should be the team's slogan in the final five weeks of the season. Either that or "Are you still here?"
Brad Maynard

Brad Maynard

It's bad if the punter is your franchise player, right?
Orlando Pace

Orlando Pace

He was listed as questionable after limping off the field with a groin injury. That should have been his listing since Week 1. It's pretty evident that this is his "Willie Mays in a Mets uniform" year.
Vikings mascot

NFC North

The Vikings have a three-game lead on the Packers, who they already have defeated twice. This division race contains about as much drama as a Michael Bay movie.
Lance Briggs


Bears' injuries included Zack BowmanLance BriggsAlex BrownOrlando Pace, and Charles Tillman. Also among the wounded was Jay Cutler's ego.
Johnny Knox

Rookie wide receivers

Percy Harvin had a touchdown, 101 yards receiving, and 45 yards rushing. Johnny Knoxhad a touchdown and a 77-yard kickoff return. Also, Knox lost a fumble and Harvin's team won by 26. So we'll call it even.
Steven Jackson

The schedule

There's only one elixir for a team that has lost six of their past seven -- the St. Louis Rams. It should be the Bears' fifth win. It should also be a win for anyone who has Steven Jackson on their fantasy team.