Patriots

Wakeup Call: 'Niners may have erased last vestige of replacement refs

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Wakeup Call: 'Niners may have erased last vestige of replacement refs

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Monday, December 17:

BASEBALL
Considering some of the fossils they've already signed and some of the names they've been linked with (Vernon Wells? Really?), I'd think the Yankees would be shouting Michael Bourn's name from the rooftops. (NBC's Hardball Talk)

The Yankees got a tax bill of 18.9 million last year, the 10th consecutive season they've paid the luxury tax. But the Red Sox avoided it -- they were 47,000 under the 178 million threshold -- by shipping Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to Los Angeles. (AP)

If R.A. Dickey can reach agreement on a new contract with the Blue Jays, he's Toronto-bound. (AP)

Josh Hamilton's decision to sign with the Angels means his "accountability partner," Shayne Kelley, is moving, too. (Hardball Talk)

Better bring along his attorney, as well. (AP)

Cleveland seems like a pretty small stage for the experience that is Nick Swisher, but whatever. (Hardball Talk)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Ooh, the NCAA's not going to like this: The breakup of the Big East has Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin saying it's time to end the hypocrisy of big-time college athletics . . . and part of fixing it means finally paying the players. (NBC's College Basketball Talk)

Jim Boeheim may enter a pretty elite club -- coaches with 900 career victories -- tonight. (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Temple is holding a press conference today at 2 p.m. to announce its new coach, but several current and former players beat them to the punch by taking to Twitter and telling the world that it's Giants assistant Matt Ruhle. (CSN Philly)

Wisconsin is "close" to hiring a replacement for the departed Bret Bielema. (AP)

This comes after A.D. Barry Alvarez considered -- "for about a day" -- taking over the job again. (NBC's College Football Talk)

Michigan coach Brady Hoke says it's an "honor" to play there, and you'd better abide by the rules. Because if you don't -- as these three players didn't -- you miss the Outback Bowl. (AP)

Andrew Luck's presumed successor at Stanford is transferring. (AP)

HOCKEY
If you want to see NHL hockey again in your lifetime, you'd better hope silence is golden. (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

The lawyers, though . . . they're talking. (AP)

PRO BASKETBALL
Methinks thou dost protest too much, Senor Bargnani. (NBC's Pro Basketball Talk)

Baby steps for the Lakers: Two wins in a row isn't much, but it beats what they'd been doing. (AP)

And here the Sixers thought they'd traded for a center last summer. (CSN Philly)

The one they traded for says he's feeling better and he'll be back, oh, any day now. Or not. (CSN Philly)

You can't say the high-flying Knicks miss Jeremy Lin, but they're still happy to see him return tonight. (AP)

Looks like the cost of throwing objects -- mouthguards, basketballs -- at referees is a one-game suspension. (AP)

PRO FOOTBALL
The Niners' win over the Patriots may have erased the chance that the stigma of the replacement refs would hang over the entire postseason. Let Mike Florio explain. (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

Winning the AFC South again is nice and all, but this year the Texans say they have bigger fish to fry. (CSN Houston)

There's a hierarchy emerging in the AFC playoff race. And, judging by what happened yesterday in Baltimore, the Broncos are in the upper half and the Ravens, ah, not so much. (AP)

The loss has Ed Reed embarrassed for the entire city. That's right, the whole city. (CSN Baltimore)

Still, the Ravens clinched a postseason berth . . . (CSN Baltimore)

. . . thanks to the Cowboys, who beat the Steelers in overtime. (AP)

Trying to remember the last time a defending Super Bowl champion got shut out by 34 points? Stop trying; the Falcons' 34-0 whipping of the Giants was the worse shutout defeat of a defending champ in history. (AP)

At this moment, the reeling Giants are out the playoffs. But they still control their own destiny: If they win their last two games, they're in. (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

Unlike New York, the Packers -- as in, the NFC North champion Packers -- appear to be peaking at the right time. (AP)

Another fiftyburger for the Seahawks, and this time they did it on the road. But they did it against the Bills, so . . . (AP)

RGIII respects, but doesn't like, the Redskins' decision to hold him out of their victory over the Browns. (CSN Washington)

London Fletcher's first NFL game in his hometown of Cleveland didn't go smoothly. At least not for several members of his family. (CSN Washington)

TENNIS
The U.S. Open surrenders to blandishments of players who don't like having the semifinals and finals on back-to-back days, pushing the women's finals to Sunday and the men's final to Monday. At least for 2013. (AP)

Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31

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Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31

SEATTLE - Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons did enough through 3 1/2 quarters that even the best comeback attempt by Russell Wilson fell short this time.

A couple of yards short to be exact.

Ryan threw a pair of touchdown passes, Adrian Clayborn returned a fumble 10 yards for a score and the Falcons watched Blair Walsh's 52-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds fall short, holding off the Seattle Seahawks for a 34-31 win on Monday night.

Atlanta won its second straight to stay on the heels of New Orleans and Carolina in the NFC South, and handed Seattle a second consecutive home loss.

"What an absolute team win from the guys tonight," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. "Coming here, in this environment, with the crowd, we thought it would be two competitive, tough teams that were going to battle for it in the biggest way."

Ryan threw TDs to Mohamed Sanu and Levine Toilolo, while Tevin Coleman added a 1-yard TD run on Atlanta's opening possession.

But it was Clayborn's fumble return that helped break the game open early in the second quarter and gave Atlanta a 21-7 lead. He scooped up a loose ball after Wilson was crunched by Takk McKinley and Courtney Upshaw.

"I think we're moving in the right direction. We keep proving we can finish games and beat guys. We have to take the momentum and keep rolling with it," Clayborn said.

With Seattle down 11 points, Wilson hit Doug Baldwin on a 29-yard TD with 3 minutes left and then threw to Jimmy Graham for the two-point conversion. Seattle got the ball back and moved in range for Walsh, whose attempt was on line but landed short of the crossbar.

"That was in our range, and in hindsight I would have just driven it more," Walsh said. "I would have driven it more and not left it short. I was too accurate and didn't have enough on it."

Wilson again was the entirety of Seattle's offense, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdowns, and running for another 86 yards and a TD.

But it was an awful night for the Seahawks, filled with more injuries and questionable decisions by coach Pete Carroll. He called for a fake field goal late in the first half rather than attempting a 35-yard kick. He also made a questionable challenge in the fourth quarter that didn't go his way and left Seattle with just one timeout.

That lack of timeouts came back to haunt Seattle on the final drive when seconds ticked away and rather than running one more play, Walsh was sent out to attempt the 52-yard kick. His long for the season is 49 yards.

The conclusion only amplified Carroll's baffling decision at the end of the first half, when Seattle ran a fake field goal rather than having Walsh attempt a 35-yarder that would have pulled Seattle within 24-20. Holder Jon Ryan completed his shovel pass to Luke Willson, but Grady Jarrett read the play and tackled Willson for a 4-yard loss.

Willson said Atlanta's defense on the play was different than what Seattle had seen on film.

"It would have been a really good call if we had made it," Carroll said. "Terrific opportunity right where we wanted it and the defensive tackle made a better play."

Seattle played a game for the first time since the end of the 2010 season without Richard Sherman. His streak of 99 consecutive starts in the regular season was snapped because of a torn Achilles tendon suffered against Arizona. The Seahawks were also without safety Kam Chancellor because of a neck injury, leaving their vaunted secondary with several new faces.

"Those two are phenomenal players. ... It was a lot different," Sanu said. "They did a lot of different things but we just had to take advantage of our routes."

MATTY ICE

Ryan was more than happy to pick on a defense without Sherman and Chancellor. He was 19 of 27 passing for 195 yards and rarely faced pressure. Seattle had one sack, and the Falcons went 9 of 14 on third-down conversions.

Sanu made a great one-handed grab for a 2-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Ryan found Toilolo on a 25-yard TD in the third quarter to give Atlanta a 31-20 lead. Matt Bryant added a 19-yard field goal with 3:49 left to put the Falcons ahead by 11, and Wilson's late heroics weren't enough.

Ryan's streak of 64 straight games passing for at least 200 yards was snapped.

INJURIES

Seattle's injury woes continued. The Seahawks lost rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin to a concussion on the second play of the game, forcing newly signed veteran Byron Maxwell into a more prominent role than expected.

Early in the second half, promising running back Mike Davis was lost to a groin injury after taking a screen pass 21 yards. Davis had two receptions and had carried six times for 18 yards before getting hurt. Seattle also lost starting guard Oday Aboushi in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury.

Atlanta got a scare when safety Keanu Neal was checked for a concussion in the first half. He was cleared to return.

UP NEXT

Falcons: Host Tampa Bay on Sunday to open a three-game homestand.

Seahawks: Travel to division foe San Francisco on Sunday.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

We have seen the Boston Celtics play less-than-stellar basketball for long stretches, only to turn it on in the second half and escape with a win.

But Monday night’s game at Dallas was different.

Usually it has been Boston’s offense that has kept the game closer than expected, but on Monday it was the team’s defense that struggled more than usual.

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But this team continues to show an ability to withstand all in-game struggles to eventually emerge victorious which was exactly what happened as the Celtics rallied from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to knock off the Mavericks 110-102 in overtime.

The Celtics (16-2) have now won 16 in a row which ties the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

But this win, like so many of its predecessors during this historic run, was not one to celebrate afterwards.

“Quite a resilient comeback in the fourth,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Not our best foot forward before that. Of all the comebacks, that did not look good for a long time. We found a way to win it.”

Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 47 points, 10 of which came in the overtime period.

But his performance was just one of many Boston needed to extend its winning streak.

“In a game like this, you have to do whatever it takes, both ends of the floor,” Boston’s Jayson Tatum told reporters afterwards.

And he did just that.

In the final seconds of the fourth quarter, Tatum’s defense forced a Harrison Barnes miss that would have won the game for Dallas.

And in the fourth quarter, Tatum’s rebounding was critical to Boston (16-2) extending its stay atop the NBA standings.

The 6-foot-8 rookie had a near double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds, with four of his boards coming in overtime.

Boston also got another strong game from Jaylen Brown (22 points, nine rebounds) and Marcus Smart, whose shooting was well off the mark most of the night (3-for-15) but like he has done too many times to count, Smart managed to make a positive impact on the game.

He led the Celtics with eight assists off the bench, in addition to a slew of hustle plays that included a desperation save of a ball going out of bounds that managed to find its way into the hands of Kyrie Irving, who drained a much-needed 3-pointer late in the game.

“Those are worth more than whatever the shot goes in,” Stevens said. “That’s why it’s hard to quantify Marcus Smart.”

The same can be said about Boston’s winning streak, which has come about despite several stretches, every game seemingly, where the Celtics struggle.

But to their credit, they don’t allow the in-game setbacks take away from their focus night-in and night-out and that’s to find a way, any way possible, to emerge with a victory.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE