Archives for November 20, 2017
ATLANTA FALCONS (5-4) AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (6-3)
Matt Ryan brought down by Dallas
KICKOFF: Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, Century Link Field. TV: ESPN, Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters (field reporter).
SERIES HISTORY: 16th regular-season meeting. Seahawks lead series, 10-5. They won 26-24 in Seattle last season. The Falcons have won the only two meetings in the playoffs, including a 36-20 victory in the divisional round last season.
KEYS TO THE GAME: After a 3-0 start, the Falcons have lost four of their past six games. But they are coming off an uplifting 27-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys that featured their third-best score of the season.
Matt Ryan and the offense have struggled under new coordinator Steve Sarkisian. After leading the league in scoring at 33.8 points per game in 2016, they are averaging a middling 21.9 this season.
But they catch the Seahawks at the right time: Seattle just lost cornerback Richard Sherman for the season and has a host of other injured defenders. Safety Earl Thomas is expected to return after missing two games, but strong safety Kam Chancellor is not expected to play, and several other top defenders (Frank Cark, Jarran Reed, et al.) are questionable.
The pressure is on Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ offense to find success against the Falcons’ sixth-ranked pass defense. Grabbing an early lead would be a nice boost in order to manage the clock, slow down Atlanta’s pass rush (featuring six-sack man of the hour Adrian Clayborn) and keep the defense off the field.
The Falcons’ run defense was solid against the Cowboys and Seattle has had trouble running the ball all season, so it might be up to Wilson to make it happen.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Seahawks LT Duane Brown or Matt Tobin vs. Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn. The Seahawks are hoping Brown, their prize trade acquisition, rallies from a sprained ankle suffered at Arizona. If not, fourth-string tackle Tobin will be tasked with stopping Clayborn, who recorded a franchise-record six sacks last week vs. Dallas. That tied for the second-most sacks in a game since the stat started being recorded in 1982. Derrick Thomas set the record of seven in 1990, against Seattle.
–Falcons WR Julio Jones vs. Seahawks CB Jeremy Lane. Jones is still the most difficult matchup for Seattle and made more problematic with the absence of Richard Sherman. Jones will draw Lane and rookie Shaquill Griffin in coverage, with Byron Maxwell potentially in on that action as well. Jones will be a major challenge for Seattle’s defense.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Falcons RB Tevin Coleman. With Devonta Freeman expected to miss the game as he recovers from a concussion, Coleman will assume the lion’s share of carries against Seattle’s ninth-ranked run defense. Coleman ran for 82 yards and a TD last week against Dallas and has been good on the road, scoring nine times in the past 11 games. Coleman caught a TD pass in the playoff game vs. Seattle last season, but he ran for just 10 yards on five carries in the regular-season game in Seattle.
FAST FACTS: Falcons QB Matt Ryan reached 40,000 passing yards in his 151st game, making him the fastest player in NFL history to attain the milestone. In his past 13 road games, Ryan has 3,778 passing yards (290.6 per game), 27 TDs and seven interceptions. He threw for 338 yards, three TDs and no INTs in the playoff meeting last season. … WR Julio Jones has 18 receptions for 266 yards (133 per game) and a touchdown in two career meetings. He has 25 receptions for 382 yards (95.5 per game) in his past four road games. … WR Mohamed Sanu has a TD catch in two of the past three games and also scored against Seattle in both games last season. … LB De’Vondre Campbell had a career-high 13 tackles last week. In his past four games, he has 33 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. … Seattle QB Russell Wilson leads the NFC with 2,543 passing yards. In his past four games, he has 1,321 yards (330.3 per game), 11 TDs and three INTs. In four career meetings, he has 1,167 yards (291.8 per game), six TDs and three INTs. Wilson is the NFL’s top-ranked passer in the fourth quarter (135.2), with 12 touchdowns and one interception. … WR Doug Baldwin has 27 catches for 349 yards (87.3 per game) and two TDs in in his past four games. Since 2015, he ranks third in the NFL with 24 TD catches. … TE Jimmy Graham caught two TD passes last week, his 15th career multi-TD game, tied for third among active players. He has nine TD catches in 12 career meetings with Atlanta. … DE Michael Bennett has five sacks in his past five home games. … LB Bobby Wagner led the team with 11 tackles last week and is targeting a fourth straight game with at least 10.
PREDICTION: Wilson and the Seahawks are 8-2 at home with at least nine days to prepare, and Pete Carroll knows it’s time for his team to turn it on.
NEW YORK – (Staff report from Official News Release) – Eight of 10 BIG EAST schools are playing in tournaments this week. The action begins today when Marquette meets VCU in the first round of the Maui Invitational on ESPN2 at 2:30 p.m. ET. Creighton takes on UCLA in the Hall of Fame Classic on ESPNU at 7 p.m.
St. John’s and Xavier, a pair of 3-0 squads, are part of an FS1 doubleheader. At 6:30 p.m., St. John’s plays Molloy at Carnesecca Arena. At 8:30 p.m., Xavier battles Hampton at the Cintas Center.
Going into Monday, BIG EAST teams have a combined 27-5 record.
Marquette and Creighton will continue their tourney play in the only BIG EAST games on Tuesday. Marquette is making its third trip to Maui and its first since 2012. Creighton is playing its second straight ranked opponent away from home when it meets the Bruins, tied for No. 24 in the Associated Press poll, in Kansas City, Mo. Last week Creighton won 92-88 at then-No. 20 Northwestern.
After tonight’s game against Molloy, St. John’s travels to Orlando, Fla., for the Advocare Invitational and a first-round matchup against Oregon State on Thanksgiving Day. For Xavier, tonight’s game against Hampton precedes a trip to the Las Vegas Invitational where the Musketeers will meet George Washington in the first round, also on Thursday.
Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas
DALLAS – The teams with the best and worst records in the NBA will meet Monday night when the Boston Celtics put their 15-game winning streak on the line at the Dallas Mavericks. The Celtics’ run is the fifth-longest in franchise history – four shy of matching the record set in 2008-09 – but they’ve had to come from behind in many of their recent victories, including Saturday’s 110-99 triumph in Atlanta.
“I think the biggest thing is that we can’t keep digging these holes,” coach Brad Stevens told reporters. “We need to put an emphasis on playing with pace and getting the ball to the other side of the floor.” Boston has trailed at halftime in four of its last five contests and in the fifth – Tuesday at Brooklyn – it was tied at the break. The Mavericks have been easy pickings for most teams this season but turned the tables on Milwaukee on Saturday with a shocking 111-79 triumph. Wesley Matthews scored 22 points and led the team’s best 3-point shooting effort of the season (19-for-38) with a 6-for-8 performance.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBCS Boston, FS Southwest (Dallas)
ABOUT THE CELTICS (15-2): Kyrie Irving has been a galvanizing force for Boston but quietly had some shooting woes and entered Atlanta at a career-low 42.9 percent from the floor and 31.9 percent from long range. In his third game wearing a mask to protect facial fractures, he reversed that trend in a significant way by going 10-for-12 overall and 5-for-6 from beyond the arc en route to 30 points, just a bit better than Jaylen Brown’s career-high 27. “I could see just a little bit more of the crowd tonight,” Irving told the media. “The eye holes were a little bit bigger. The basket looked a little bit better. I was told to kind of keep it on, so it was a better fit.”
ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (3-14): Dallas snapped a four-game losing streak that included a 24-point home loss to Minnesota on Friday and seemed to really need a cakewalk like the one that came one night later. “It rejuvenates (the locker room),” Matthews told reporters. “The aches don’t hurt as much. You feel better about everything you’ve done. You don’t need moral victories, you’ve got the real one.” Dwight Powell came off the bench to tie a career high with 13 rebounds to help the Mavericks win the battle of the boards 49-38.
1. Brown is averaging 24.5 points and has one total turnover in the last two contests.
2. Mavericks PF Dirk Nowitzki needs 14 rebounds to become the 29th player in NBA history with 11,000.
3. Boston swept two meetings last season, winning 111-98 in Dallas on Feb. 13.
Where: Estadio Azteca, Mexico City D.F.
MEXICO CITY – Leave it to Rob Gronkowski to wrap up Sunday’s 33-8 New England Patriots rout of the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City on Sunday with one thought.
“It was just a fiesta all over the field, man,” said Gronkowski, who had three catches in the win, after his team cruised to its sixth straight victory in what turned out to be a very easy win.
Tom Brady threw for 339 yards and three touchdowns and Stephen Gostkowski kicked four field goals, including a franchise-record 62-yarder, powering the Patriots to their second win on the same “road trip.”
New England (8-2) routed Denver 41-16 the previous Sunday night, then stayed in high altitude to work all week at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs — before climbing even higher in elevation and having no trouble at all with the Raiders (4-6).
Quick math shows the Patriots won the two high-elevation games against the AFC West by a combined 74-24. And they have held all six opponents to 17 points or less during the winning streak.
Brady, 30 of 37 through the air, notched his sixth 300-yard game of the season — he had five in his 12 games in 2016 — and 82nd of his career.
“We played from ahead, which is kind of the way we wanted to,” said Brady. “We didn’t turn it over and that’s a good formula for winning.”
His head coach, Bill Belichick, broke a tie with Tom Landry and moved into sole possession of third place on the NFL’s career coaching wins list with 271.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have had a lot of great players,” said Belichick, who vowed “I’ll always be a Navy man” while wearing an Air Force hoodie at his post-game media conference.
The Patriots have won a team-record 13 straight road games, 12 of them quarterbacked by Brady, the second-longest QB streak in NFL history. The 13 straight is also the second-longest of all-time (Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers won 18 in a row from 1988-90).
Sunday’s contest was considered a home game for Oakland, which ignored the altitude change by flying in the night before the game, and played in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 77,357.
Brady, who went 9 of 9 with a touchdown on the first New England drive, threw touchdown passes of 15, 5 and 64 yards to running back Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks, respectively. Amendola, who had to leave the game briefly in the second half because of dehydration, caught eight passes for 66 yards while Cooks had six receptions for 149 yards.
Brady also cleared the 3,000-yard season mark for the 15th time, third all-time in the league.
The Patriots led 30-0 when Derek Carr hit Amari Cooper with a 9-yard touchdown pass and then connected with Michael Crabtree on a 2-point conversion for the only scoring by the Raiders, who came out of their bye week by laying a giant egg.
“I stood in that huddle with my guys, down 30, everyone hurt and everyone mad,” Carr said. “Nothing changes with us.”
Gostkowski, kicking in high altitude, also hit on field goals of 51, 40 and 29 yards. He is the only Patriots kicker with two 50-plus-yard field goals in the same game, and he has done it three times.
The only real chance the Raiders had to compete came late in the first half, when Seth Roberts fumbled the ball away at the New England 3 in the final minute. The Patriots then moved the ball to set up the 62-yarder, and it was 17-0 instead of 14-7.
“That was a major turn of events … that was a 10-point swing right there, a tough one to swallow,” said Oakland head coach Jack Del Rio.
The 62-yarder ended the half, marking the seventh straight game New England has scored in the last two minutes of the first half. For the year, the Patriots have outscored their opposition 27-0 in the last two minutes of the first half.
Belichick had been telling players his kicker was good from 70 yards and in at this elevation the 62-yarder easily cleared. So did the 51-yarder.
Carr, limping by game’s end, was 28 of 49 for 237 yards, the touchdown and one interception. Oakland receivers dropped several passes on the day.
Asked if it’s tough for his team to maintain focus with a 4-6 record, Del Rio said, “I don’t give credence to those kinds of questions.”
Marshawn Lynch ran for 67 yards on 11 carries, including 25-yarder that was his longest with his new team. Lewis led the Patriots on the ground with 60 yards (including five after losing a shoe on one carry) on 10 carries.
NOTES: Oakland CB David Amerson (foot) and T Marshall Newhouse (hip/quad) were inactive. … New England WR Chris Hogan (shoulder), T Marcus Cannon (ankle), C David Andrews (illness), special teams captain Matthew Slater (hamstring), CB Eric Rowe (groin) and DT Malcolm Brown (ankle) were out and RB Mike Gillislee was inactive for the second straight week. … A moment of silence was held before the game for the 468 lives lost in recent Mexican earthquakes. … The Raiders host the Denver Broncos and the Patriots face the Miami Dolphins next Sunday. New England has six games remaining, including two each against AFC East opponents Miami and Buffalo.