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PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- This was one time Andy Reid didn't mind being a big target.

The man in the bull's-eye so often when he coached in Philadelphia was easy for Chiefs receiver Donnie Avery to find. At the end of Kansas City's 26-16 victory over the Eagles in Reid's homecoming Thursday night, Avery gave Reid a Gatorade shower.

Reid already looked strange decked in all red on the visitors' sideline. Now, he was drenched, too - but smiling, even joking he was doing Gatorade promotions.

"Yeah, it was different," Reid said. "I was on the opposite side of the field than I normally am at. But I can't tell you that I was caught up in that part of it."

The result was similar to what he gave Philadelphia in his 14 years in charge of the Eagles, thanks to a dynamic Chiefs defense that forced five turnovers and sacked a harried Michael Vick five times. Vick even limped off after a late fumble - he said his ankle got rolled, but he was fine - but stayed around to hug Reid following the final play.

"It was great to see the players that are here," Reid admitted. "I had a chance to talk to them after the game."

Kansas City, which has not had a giveaway in opening 3-0, has won one more game already than it did in 2012 - after which it hired Reid days after he was fired on the heels of Philly's 4-12 finish.

"It's important," he said of the fast start, "but there's still a lot of season left. There no time to relax on what you have done."

The usually stoic Reid showed some fire to match his bright red outfit late in the first half when he thought the Chiefs got a bad spot. He came out to the hash mark to yell at the officials, then walked off at halftime still gesturing his displeasure.

That was far more emotion than he displayed when he entered the stadium with the Chiefs just before kickoff. Although the Philly fans gave him a warm ovation, some standing in tribute to the man who won 140 games and six division titles for them, Reid walked briskly along the sideline, never turning his gaze toward the stands.

But he later said he recognized the tribute.

"I appreciate the fans and the support they gave me," he said. "That was kind of them."

He certainly had to like much of what he saw on the field from his defense, particularly linebacker Justin Houston.

It was offensive master Reid's defense and special teams that set the tone and put his team ahead early, silencing the sea of green at the Linc. The Chiefs forced four first-half turnovers and Houston had three of their four sacks in the first half. He had another half-sack to start the second half, off a bad snap to Vick, and he forced Vick to fumble with 1:34 remaining. Houston has 6 1/2 sacks in three games.

"The defense, man - the DBs, the linebackers giving great coverage, the big guys in the middle pushing the pocket," he said. "When they're doing that, it's real easy for me to do my job."

Damaris Johnson's muffed punt return gave Kansas City the ball at the Eagles 8, leading to Ryan Succop's 33-yard field goal for a quick 3-0 lead. Derrick Johnson then deflected Vick's ill-advised throw into the flat and Eric Berry picked it off, going 38 yards with the first interception of the year for the Philly quarterback.

There would be more mistakes as Philadelphia (1-2) lost its eighth straight home game.

"I take full responsibility," Vick said. "I didn't get the offense going. I didn't get the tempo going. We didn't play well by any stretch. We didn't execute at all and we didn't play the way we're capable of."

But after falling behind 10-0, Vick got the Eagles' no-huddle, fast-tempo offense in gear with the longest run of his 12-year career. He burst up the middle, shook off two attempted tackles and sped 61 yards. Two plays later, it was his arm doing the damage. Under a heavy rush, he stood in and led Jason Avant perfectly in the left corner of the end zone for a 22-yard score.

That three-play, 87-yard spurt epitomized the fast-paced offense coach Chip Kelly brought from Oregon in replacing Reid. But Kelly got cute, going for a 2-point conversion on tight end Zach Ertz's run that failed.

The takeaways kept the Chiefs in front. And after Avery turned a short pass into a 51-yard gain thanks to sloppy Eagles tackling, Succop made a 31-yard field goal. He kicked a 34-yarder moments later after another turnover, Sean Smith's interception, for a 16-6 halftime edge.

Avery had a big night, finishing with seven catches for 141 yards.

Alex Henery's 29-yard field goal was the only scoring of a sloppy third quarter, and when Jamaal Charles surged around right end for a 3-yard TD early in the fourth quarter, Reid's return was a rousing success. Not even LeSean McCoy's 41-yard TD run with 11:36 remaining could spoil that.

"This was definitely bigger than coach Reid, and he would be the first to admit that," cornerback Sean Smith said. "This was about us as an organization, as a team, to go out there and be 3-0, which is big in the NFL."

NOTES: The Eagles retired Donovan McNabb's No. 5 jersey at halftime. ... The Chiefs are the fifth team to go 3-0 after losing 14 games or more the previous season. ... Kansas City came into the game tied for the league lead in sacks and now has 15. ... Chiefs LG Jeff Allen injured his groin and CB Brandon Flowers aggravated a knee injury,

--- AP NFL website: HTTP://WWW.PRO32.AP.ORG

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Friday, 20 September 2013 06:32
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DENVER (AP) -- Shortstop Pete Kozma could see the situation coming, his chance in the 15th inning to give the St. Louis Cardinals a hard-fought victory.

The Colorado Rockies intentionally walked Yadier Molina with one out and runners on first and third to load the bases for Kozma.

Batting against Rob Scahill, Kozma grounded into a double play. Corey Dickerson's RBI triple with one out in the bottom of the inning gave the Rockies a 7-6 victory in a marathon that lasted 5 hours, 9 minutes.

"He's a good sinkerball pitcher," Kozma said of Scahill. "Faced him a couple times in the minors. I was just looking for something to get up and drive. I had something to hit and didn't do anything with it."

What Kozma did was fire his helmet to the ground in disgust. He entered the game hitting just .218 but with a .324 average with runners in scoring position. It is rare for Kozma to show emotion, but this was not just any clutch situation.

"Game on the line," Kozma said. "The game lasts six hours or however long it lasted. Everybody was feeling something, especially at that point."

Charlie Blackmon finished with four hits and Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton homered for the Rockies in tying the second-longest game in Coors Field history.

Matt Holliday had three hits for the Cardinals, who had their NL Central Division lead over Pittsburgh trimmed to one game. The Pirates beat San Diego 10-1 on Thursday.

DJ LeMahieu started the winning rally with a one-out single to right. Dickerson then drilled a line drive into the right-field corner as LeMahieu rounded the bases. The relay from second baseman Matt Carpenter beat LeMahieu but catcher Molina couldn't control the ball as LeMahieu crawled to touch home.

It was Dickerson's second triple of the game and sixth of the season.

In the first inning, Helton tagged out Carpenter at first with the hidden-ball trick. After Roy Oswalt threw to first, Helton feigned a throw back to the mound and tagged Carpenter when he stepped off the bag to end the inning.

The teams traded late-game rallies.

Helton, who struck out with the bases loaded to end Wednesday's game, turned on Edward Mujica's fastball Thursday, drove an 0-1 offering into the Rockies bullpen to lead off the ninth and tie it at 6-all.

It was Mujica's fourth blown save in 41 chances.

Holliday hit his former team hard, going 8 for 21 with a home run, four walks and four RBIs in the series. He reached base in six straight at-bats Thursday and was poised to be the hero with his RBI single in the ninth before Helton tied it with his 14th home run of the season.

It was part of a back-and-forth that saw the Cardinals rally from four runs down but blow two late leads.

Trailing 4-0, the Cardinals got within a run in the fourth. Oswalt walked the first two batters, Carlos Beltran singled to score Jon Jay and Holliday came home on a sacrifice fly.

Tony Cruz doubled off the wall in left to make it 4-3.

Holliday tied it at 4-all with an RBI single in the fifth.

David Freese gave the Cardinals a 5-4 lead in the eighth with an RBI double to center, but Colorado tied it in the bottom of the inning on Dickerson's two-out triple.

Helton helped the Rockies take an early lead with a leadoff double in the second, his 588th career two-bagger. He moved to third on Charlie Culberson's infield single and scored on Yorvit Torrealba's blooper to right.

Culberson scored on a double play to make it 2-0.

Tulowitzki's two-run homer in the third made it 4-0. It was his 23rd of the season.

Cardinals starter Michael Wacha had a curious Coors Field debut. He allowed four runs and 12 hits but no walks with seven strikeouts in 4 2-3 innings.

"Plain and simple, I gave up too many hits," Wacha said. "And I didn't put our team in a good position to win a game. I feel it all starts with the starting pitcher, and I just wasn't able to get guys out there for a while and gave up entirely way too many hits."

NOTES: Cardinals 1B Matt Adams (right elbow soreness) did not start but came into the game as a defensive replacement in the eighth. He singled in the ninth and was replaced by a pinch-runner. ... Rockies OF Michael Cuddyer (left wrist, forearm) was out of the lineup but hopes to play Friday. ... RHP Shelby Miller (14-9) will open the Cardinals' weekend series in Milwaukee on Friday. ... RHP Jhoulys Chacin (13-9) will start the first game of Colorado's series against Arizona on Friday.

Thursday, 19 September 2013 23:33
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Adam Erne had two power-play goals and also scored in the shootout to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 4-3 win over the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday.

J.T. Brown had two assists for the Lightning, who rallied back from a 3-0 deficit. Tom Pyatt also scored for the Lightning.

Dmitrij Jaskin scored twice for St. Louis and Jaden Schwarz had the other goal for the Blues, who missed both attempts in the shootout.

Both teams held out most of their star players.

Jaskin had a wraparound goal in the first period and was also alone on his second goal at 1:52 of the second period.

The Blues forward threw a seemingly harmless shot at the goal from just inside the boards that Lightning goalie Cedrick Desjardins let sail over his shoulder for a 2-0 Blues lead.

Kristers Gudlevskis replaced DesJardins in the middle of the period and allowed a goal to Schwartz on the first shot he faced to make it 3-0.

Erne deflected a shot from Mark Barberio late in the second period to cut the deficit to 3-1.

Erne struck again 1:31 into the third period, scoring from right in front of the net after a centering pass from Brown.

Pyatt tied the game with a sharply-angled shot from the left wing that surprised Blues goalie Brian Elliott.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013 23:10
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DENVER (AP) -- Adam Wainwright pitched effectively into the eighth after a shaky start and helped himself at the plate with three hits as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Colorado Rockies 4-3 on Wednesday night to expand their lead in the NL Central race.

Wainwright (17-9) gave up two runs in the first and then found his groove to earn his 17th win, second-most in the NL this season.

He went 3 for 3 with a double and two RBIs to help the Cardinals stretch their lead to two games over Pittsburgh after the Pirates lost 3-2 loss to San Diego. St. Louis also reduced its magic number for clinching a playoff spot to three with 10 games to play.

Tyler Chatwood (7-5) allowed four runs in six innings before being lifted for a pinch hitter. Chatwood is rounding back into form after missing nearly a month with an inflamed right elbow.

The hard-throwing Wainwright allowed 10 hits and struck out eight before running into a jam with two on and two outs in the eighth. Reliever Trevor Rosenthal got Charlie Blackmon to ground out to end the threat. Edward Mujica pitched his way out of a bases loaded mess in ninth for his 37th save in 40 chances. He struck out Todd Helton, who's retiring at the end of the season, to quiet the cheering crowd and end the game.

Michael Cuddyer remains the NL batting leader, keeping his average at .331 after going 1 for 3 on Wednesday. Cuddyer left the game shortly after making an inning-ending diving catch in the sixth. The team announced he was day-to-day with a bruised right forearm.

Cuddyer, a career .271 hitter entering this season, has a slight lead in the batting race over Atlanta's Chris Johnson (.327).

St. Louis solve Chatwood in the third, stringing together four straight hits to tie the game at 2-all. Wainwright had an RBI double and Matt Carpenter followed with a run-scoring single. Carpenter now has 67 RBIs from the leadoff spot, the most by a Cardinals player since Lou Brock had 76 in 1967.

The Cardinals took the lead for good in the fourth when Yadier Molina led off the inning with a double and was brought home by Wainwright's single. He now has five RBIs this season.

The Rockies began the game with four straight hits off Wainwright, including a two-run single by Troy Tulowitzki. That was certainly more offense than the Rockies had off Wainwright in May, when the Cardinals ace took a no-hitter into the eighth and finished with a two-hitter during a 3-0 victory.

Wainwright escaped more trouble in the first by getting Helton to hit into a 3-6-1 double play. Jordan Pacheco followed by lining out to Matt Adams to end the inning.

This is Helton's last hurrah after announcing he was calling it a career after 17 years. Manager Walt Weiss said he plans to start Helton in each of the remaining nine games.

"I'm going to play him as much as he's physically able to do it," Weiss said. "Give the fans an opportunity to see him."

Helton had a double in the sixth, the 587th of his career.

Notes: Cardinals RHP Joe Kelly (right calf tightness) hopes to be ready for his next start. "Personally, I think I can go," Kelly said. "It's just something that you don't want to go out there and not be 100 percent and mess it up worse." ... Adams left the game in the seventh with right elbow soreness. ... Broncos DBs Omar Bolden and Duke Ihenacho were on the field for batting practice before the game. ... Rockies OF Carlos Gonzalez is visiting a hand specialist in Cleveland about his sprained right middle finger.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013 23:08
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Washington got back to playing baseball and swept Atlanta to keep the Braves from clinching the NL East. Meanwhile, the AL wild-card race remained tight with Texas beating Tampa Bay. A quick look at baseball's playoff picture:

TIGHTENING RACE: Four of the six teams vying for the two AL wild-card berths squared off against a fellow contender Tuesday night. Texas topped Tampa Bay 7-1 to move into a tie with the Rays atop the wild-card chase. Cleveland moved a half-game out while Baltimore is now within two games. Kansas City and New York both lost, but are still in the hunt 3½ games back.

STAYING HOT: The Washington Nationals swept Atlanta in a day-night doubleheader to postpone the Braves' first NL East title since 2005. Washington has won 10 of its last 11 games to close within five games of Cincinnati for the NL's second wild-card berth. The first game was a makeup following shootings at the nearby Washington Navy Yard on Monday. Rookie Tanner Roark (7-0) remained unbeaten by allowing just two hits in seven shutout innings in the nightcap. Manager Davey Johnson even seemed to make up a word — "posure," apparently a cross between poise and composure — to describe his young star.

WELCOME BACK MATT: Matt Kemp went 4 for 4 with three RBIs in his first start since coming off the disabled list Monday to lead Los Angeles to an easy 9-3 rout of Arizona. With the victory, the Dodgers reduced their magic number to clinch the division to two. They can clinch the NL West with a win Wednesday.

LOST PERFECTION: Boston closer Koji Uehara saw his run of 37 consecutive batters retired come to an end as the Orioles rallied against the Red Sox's star closer. Danny Valencia ended that streak with a triple to lead off the ninth and Matt Wieters hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly to give Baltimore the 3-2 win. Uehara fell four outs short of Bobby Jenks' major league record for a reliever of 41 consecutive retired batters set in 2007 and Mark Buehrle's mark for all pitchers of 45 in 2009. The run was the first off Uehara in 30 2-3 innings and ended a streak of 27 scoreless outings since July 9.

SLUMPING PIRATES: Pittsburgh can't wait for San Diego to get out of town. The Padres beat the Pirates for the second straight night, improving to 30-10 in Pittsburgh since the new ballpark opened in 2001. Pittsburgh fell a game behind St. Louis, which routed Colorado 11-4 to take the NL Central lead.
Wednesday, 18 September 2013 06:56
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DENVER (AP) -- Matt Holliday had four hits, including a two-run homer, to help the St. Louis Cardinals take over sole possession of the NL Central with an 11-4 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night.

The Cardinals entered the night tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who lost 5-2 at home to San Diego. St. Louis reduced its magic number for clinching a playoff spot to five with 11 games remaining.

Joe Kelly (9-4) baffled the Rockies as he allowed three hits over five sharp innings before turning a 10-0 lead over to the bullpen. The hard-throwing right-hander has been one of the team's most consistent pitchers since becoming a permanent member of the rotation in July.

Juan Nicasio (8-8) struggled with his command, lasting just 2 2-3 innings and allowing eight runs, which tied a career high.

Holliday led an 18-hit night by the Cardinals, who had seven players with at least two hits. Holliday finished 4 for 4 with a walk, double and two-run homer against his former team. He drove in three runs and scored twice.

The Cardinals ran away with the game in the third when they sent 11 batters to the plate and scored six times. Daniel Descalso had a two-run triple in the decisive inning, while Holliday added a double and an RBI single.

Colorado's Michael Cuddyer finished 2 for 3 with a walk and an RBI to raise his average to.331, which is tops in the NL.

Kelly hardly seemed intimidated in his first start at Coors Field. He didn't allow a base runner to reach as far as third base until the fourth inning. He wiggled out of that jam when first baseman Matt Adams corralled Josh Rutledge's liner.

Once Kelly was out of the game, the Rockies went to work as they scored four runs off reliever Carlos Martinez in the seventh. But the bullpen shut down the Rockies from there, with Kevin Siegrist striking out pinch-hitter Jordan Pacheco to end the game.

Leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter was frequently on base for the Cardinals, with two singles and a hit by pitch. He leads the league hits (187), doubles (51) and multi-hit games (60).

Yadier Molina gave the Cardinals a lead in the first inning with a two-out single to center. Molina is one of the top hitters in the league with runners in scoring position.

Todd Helton nearly tied the game in the bottom half of the first, but Holliday made a leaping catch against the fence in left field.

The 40-year-old Helton announced last weekend his decision to retire after his 17th season with the Rockies. He leaves as the franchise's leader in virtually every offensive category.

NOTES: Kelly is 9-2 with a 2.14 ERA in 14 starts this season. ... The only Cardinals starter without one was OF Carlos Beltran. ... St. Louis will send RHP Adam Wainwright (16-9) to the mound on Wednesday, while the Rockies counter with RHP Tyler Chatwood (7-4). ... Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado missed the game after aggravating his right thumb on Monday. "He may be down for a few days," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said Tuesday. "His thumb is real tender." ... Rockies C Yorvit Torrealba replaced Wilin Rosario (right calf soreness) in the third inning.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013 23:30
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Jeff Fisher says officiating mistakes were the biggest reason the St. Louis Rams fell short in their bid for a second comeback victory in as many games.

The Rams (1-1) had seven penalties for 53 yards in a 31-24 loss at Atlanta on Sunday.

After reviewing tape Monday, their coach said he wasn't concerned about the penalties because only two made by referee Scott Green's crew should have been called.

"I was upset after the ballgame, but looking at the tape those are incorrect calls," Fisher said.

"There were some other instances where there should have been some things called against our opponent that were not called, that could have created some situations for us."

Among others, Fisher judged that twice-whistled rookie Stedman Bailey had proper technique on calls for illegal block above the waist and offensive holding on special teams.

The call Fisher disliked most came on the third play of the game when defensive end Chris Long was penalized for offside after tackle Lamar Holmes moved. Fisher said it was an example of "False Start 101."

Instead of third-and-17 and a chance to give rookie punt returner Tavon Austin a chance to take off, it was third-and-7.

Matt Ryan hit Tony Gonzalez for an 11-yard gain and eight plays later they had the game's first score on an 8-yard pass to Steven Jackson.

"You get off the field, get the ball back," Fisher said. "You're also talking about field position and a young punt returner that's not backed up with his heels on the 8-yard line.

"He's got a chance to put his hands on the ball."

Fisher also thought officials missed an intentional grounding call on the Ryan out of the end zone in the third quarter. The Falcons had seven penalties for 53 yards.

Two calls Fisher thought the referees got right were holding on center Scott Wells in the third quarter and an illegal motion call on wide receiver Austin Pettis in the second quarter.

Softening the critique slightly, Fisher added: "By no means am I placing blame. I have great respect for the officiating department and the officials and work very close with them, and we move on."

The first Bailey penalty pushed the Rams back to their 11 in the second quarter, and the second one pushed them back to the 13. Fisher said those calls drove home the point not to rush to judgment "unless I see the act."

The Rams erased an 11-point deficit against Arizona in the opener. They trailed 21-0 early at Atlanta and twice cut the gap to a touchdown in the second half after going to a no-huddle, spread offense.

"I think it made a pretty big difference," quarterback Sam Bradford said. "It seemed to just put them on their heels a little bit."

So, there's no quit.

"We just eliminated the mistakes," tackle Jake Long said. "We just calmed down and started protecting, Sam was flinging the ball around and it was a little too late."

Officiating was far from the lone culprit, with miscues canceling out big plays.

Austin caught two touchdown passes, but dropped two passes and missed some other reads.

"I could have had some big plays but didn't," Austin said. "So I blame myself for that. I will correct it, it is something that definitely will be corrected."

Daryl Richardson's dropped pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown and Janoris Jenkins got burned for Julio Jones' 81-yard score.

"I took my eye off of it," Richardson said. "I was looking to run and I need to make sure I eyeball that ball and catch it."

Fisher said he'd have more information Wednesday on the status of offensive tackle Rodger Saffold, who injured his left knee.

Backup safety Matt Daniels will undergo surgery this week for a fractured right ankle after kickoff returner Benny Cunningham rolled into him in the first quarter.

Monday, 16 September 2013 23:58
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DENVER (AP) -- Todd Helton started his final homestand with a key single in the eighth inning that helped the Colorado Rockies beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-2 on Monday night.

Charlie Blackmon had three hits and drove in three runs for the Rockies, who prevented the Cardinals from taking over sole possession of first place in the NL Central. They remained tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who lost 2-0 to San Diego.

Matt Carpenter and Matt Adams had two hits each for the Cardinals.

Helton was playing in front of Colorado fans for the first time since he announced his plans to retire at the end of the season, his 17th. He received a standing ovation when he came to the plate in the first, and Cardinals starter Lance Lynn stood behind the mound and waited as the crowd saluted Helton.

The first baseman was given a loud ovation in each of his four plate appearances. His night started slow, but he had a big hit during the decisive rally.

Troy Tulowitzki led off with a walk against reliever Trevor Rosenthal (2-4), and one out later Helton singled to center to put runners at the corners. Wilin Rosario singled to give Colorado a 3-2 lead.

Helton was caught in a rundown between third and home for the second out, but Blackmon doubled to right to score Josh Rutledge from first to make it 4-2.

Pinch-hitter Ryan Wheeler's two-run single off John Axford gave the Rockies a 6-2 cushion.

Collin McHugh started for Colorado in place of lefty Jorge De La Rosa, who has a sore thumb on his pitching hand that forced him to miss his turn in the rotation. McHugh allowed one run on four hits, with the only damage coming on David Freese's RBI single in the fifth.

He left after throwing 75 pitches in five innings.

Lynn stuck around longer and got stronger as the game progressed. He scattered four hits through six innings and didn't let a runner past first after Tulowitzki's double before running into trouble in the seventh.

After Lynn retired Helton in a nine-pitch at-bat, Rosario singled and moved to third on Rutledge's bloop single to right.

Left-hander Kevin Siegrist relieved Lynn, and Blackmon lined an RBI single over the pulled-in infield to give the Rockies a 2-1 lead.

The Cardinals tied it in the eighth on Carpenter's RBI double off Chad Bettis (1-3) that scored pinch-runner Pete Kozma from second.

The Rockies took a 1-0 lead in the first on Tulowitzki's RBI double.

NOTES: Rockies OF Carlos Gonzalez will see a hand specialist in Cleveland this week to see if he needs surgery on his injured right middle finger. "It looks like I'm going to," Gonzalez said. "I think that's what is best for my finger right now. I'm thinking about the future. I don't want to continue to deal with the same pain over and over. If that's what I have to do, I'm going to do it." ... The Rockies made a donation to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund as the area recovers from devastating flooding. ... Cardinals OF Matt Holliday entered Monday hitting .358 against his former team.

Monday, 16 September 2013 23:55
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ATLANTA (AP) — With so many teammates hurting, Julio Jones had to play an even bigger role for the Atlanta Falcons.

He was up to the task.

Jones matched the best game of his career with 182 yards receiving, including an 81-yard touchdown catch, and the Atlanta Falcons held on for their first win of the season, 31-24 over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.

"I know the other guys on the field are counting on me to make those plays when the ball comes my way," Jones said.

Matt Ryan threw for 374 yards and two scores despite taking quite a beating behind the Falcons' shaky offense line. Jason Snelling clinched it for the Falcons (1-1) with an 11-yard touchdown run with 6:12 remaining, Atlanta's longest play of the day on the ground.

There were plenty of flaws in the Falcons' performance — hardly any running game, a lack of protection for Ryan, not much pressure on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford — but they'll take it considering all the players who went down.

Five starters were done by halftime: running back Steven Jackson (thigh), linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (foot), defensive end Kroy Biermann (right ankle), cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh) and fullback Bradie Ewing (shoulder).

"While you don't want see anybody go down, nobody panicked, nobody blinked," said Ryan, who was sacked twice and hit eight times after throwing. "We just stayed the course."

The Rams (1-1) fell behind 21-0 when Osi Umenyiora returned an interception 68 yards for a touchdown. Atlanta led 24-3 at halftime before St. Louis fought back on a pair of short touchdown passes by Bradford, who finished with 352 yards and three TDs.

Jones matched the best performance of his career; he also put up 182 yards receiving in last season's NFC championship game.

"Julio and Matt seemed to be in sync," coach Mike Smith said. "They were seeing the defense the same way."

Atlanta turned in the drive it needed to clinch it, throwing on eight straight plays before Snelling's TD run. St. Louis scored again with 2:09 left when Bradford connected with Tavon Austin for their second scoring play of the game. But the Falcons managed to run out the clock.

"We ran with them all day," Rams defensive end Robert Quinn said. "We just needed to make a few players earlier in the game."

The Falcons escaped with a victory they absolutely had to have if they wanted to show they are a legitimate Super Bowl contender, avoiding their first losing streak since 2009. They have now won 13 straight coming off a loss.

Jackson, facing the team he played with the last nine years, capped Atlanta's opening drive with an 8-yard touchdown catch, but the celebration was short-lived. Apparently injured when he stretched for the goal line, he walked slowly to the locker room and didn't return.

Then it was Jones beating Janoris Jenkins in man-to-man coverage, breaking free down the middle for the longest reception of his career to make it 14-0. Umenyiora extended the lead when he picked off a deflected pass and showed surprising speed in front of the Rams bench. He then staggered to the sideline, smiling, and grabbed an oxygen mask.

The Rams could've folded. Instead, they really began teeing off on Ryan in the second half. While the Atlanta offense bogged down, Austin hauled in a 6-yard scoring pass late in the third, and Austin Pettis' 3-yard TD catch made it 24-17 with just under 12 minutes remaining.

Atlanta turned to Jones to clinch it. He hauled in a short pass and broke free on a 22-yard play. Then, on third-and-3 at the Rams 40, Ryan rolled to his left away from pressure and lobbed a pass that Jones leaped up to grab for an 18-yard gain.

Three players later, Snelling ran it in.

"We never believe we're out of the game until the clock says zero," Quinn said. "We just fell a play or two short."

NOTES: The Falcons had 1 yard rushing in the first half and finished with 36 yards on 16 carries. ... Rams WR Chris Givens had five catches for 105 yards. ... Falcons WR Roddy White played but was still slowed by a high ankle sprain. He had three catches for 21 yards. ... Atlanta P Matt Bosher made a huge play at the end of the third quarter, leaping up to grab a high snap in his own end zone. He then got off a wobbly punt that rolled for 63 yards.

Sunday, 15 September 2013 18:31
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Yadier Molina broke out of a slump with a home run and three singles as Shelby Miller and the St. Louis Cardinals remained tied for first place in the NL Central with a 12-2 win Sunday over the Seattle Mariners.

Matt Adams also homered as St. Louis won for the seventh time in nine games and kept pace with Pittsburgh. Both teams are 87-62 with 13 games remaining.

Miller (14-9) gave up one earned run and three hits in five innings. He became the first St. Louis rookie to reach 14 wins in a season since Dick Hughes won 16 in 1967.

Molina's second-inning homer off Erasmo Ramirez (5-2) snapped an 0-for-15 skid. Molina scored three times and raised his batting average to .317.

St. Louis got 19 hits after totaling just three runs on seven hits over the first two games of the series.

The Cardinals batted around in the fourth and fifth, scoring four runs in each inning to hand Seattle its sixth loss in seven games.

Matt Carpenter keyed the fourth-inning burst with a two-run, bases-loaded single. Daniel Descalso and Matt Holliday also had RBI hits in the inning.

Holliday and Carpenter finished with three hits and two RBIs two apiece.

Adams pushed the lead to 7-2 with his 14th homer to highlight the fifth.

NOTES: The Cardinals open a seven-game road trip on Monday at Colorado. Lance Lynn (13-10, 4.23) will face Jorge De La Rosa (16-6, 3.49) in the first of a four-game set. ... Seattle continues its 10-game road trip with four games in Detroit. Joe Saunders (11-14, 5.18) takes on Rick Porcello (12-8, 4.56) in the opener. ... St. Louis INF Brock Peterson grounded out in the fifth inning to extend his skid to 0 for 14. ... St. Louis C Audry Perez made his debut in the eighth inning.

 
Sunday, 15 September 2013 18:27
Published in Sports
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