BOSTON For Kevin Youkilis, the final month of the Red Sox season, was painful.No surprise, given his season was cut short by injury, while his team went 7-20 in September, bringing to fruition the worst collapse in baseball history.It was painful, literally and figuratively, I think, said the Sox third baseman Thursday night, before a charity event for his Youks Kids organization.But the good thing is thats the past and you can correct it. You cant correct injuries and stuff like that now. That happened. You cant worry about that. What I got to worry about now, and all my teammates have to worry about, is just going out and coming together and playing hard . . . I think thats the whole thing, coming together in spring training and just working on the same goal, winning a World Series. Every guys just got to take care of themselves, and just get themselves better each and every day.While much has been said and written about the need to change the culture in the Sox clubhouse, Youkilis acknowledged the attitude permeating the team for most of the season was less than desirable.I definitely didnt think we had the best vibe in the clubhouse, he said. It was very different, and it was noticeable early. But when you win, winning heals all the wounds. But we definitely didn't have the right attitude in a lot of ways . . . Sometimes it just snowballed out of control.We were worrying about things that we shouldn't have been worrying about and not playing the game of baseball. So I think this year, with the coaching staff that's coming back, they saw things too that we can change. We're going to all can sit down and talk about it and basically, play the game. Thats the whole key, is just playing the game and not worrying about other stuff and the media hype and things that are going on. Because if you get up to going crazy with that stuff, it's going to eat you all up. But if you just play the game, not worry, not read what's put out there, everything that's said, it handles itself."Youkilis was caught off guard from some of the fallout that resulted from the teams epic collapse.I was surprised more along the public things that were said and people coming up with stories and no sources, stuff like that, he said. That kind of hurt me the most. But thats stuff you cant control. And it kind of seemed like it was a witch hunt. What player is doing this, what player did that wrong. Were a team. We lose as a team and we all failed. There wasnt one player that didnt fail because we lost, and we all failed. So were going to make a difference this year and that difference is going to be winning. And were going to go out there and win and hopefully start out winning a lot earlier this year. Last year was a little tough at the beginning.Of the teams offseason moves, the one that has surprised him the most was the trade of shortstop Marco Scutaro to Colorado.I was surprised and disappointed personally abut Marco getting traded but thats more of a personal issue to me because hes right next to me at my locker, Youkilis said. But on the other end too one of the positives one of my really close friends, Nick Punto we got. So kind of mixed emotions there, and he might be the starting shortstop or Mike Aviles. But I think we got a great team. And its kind of great that were not counted to be the team thats going to win 120 games. So I think its kind of fun to watch these other teams with Albert Pujols going to Anaheim and now Prince Fielder going to Detroit and all the hype. So if we can keep the hype off us and just keep the hype on winning ballgames during the year, thats going to be the good hype.Youkilis said he has met with the Sox medical staff and is fully recovered from the sports hernia surgery that cut his season short."I'm doing great, feeling good," He said. Ive met with all the medical staff here, the new medical staff, its very cool to meet a lot of new people, were definitely going in the right direction, Ive been cleared to do. For the past two weeks, I've felt great, my whole body. Little things here and there, that this time of year, you have to get going and ramp it up. So I've started to ramp up as much as I can, and I feel great, healthy, lifting with no restrictions.My rehab was pretty much over when I left Boston. There was little things I had to do, and I continue to do, and I keep continuing to do, like core activities because when you have a sports hernia, you got to make sure . . . Definitely doing that.
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."
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.
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.
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
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.