Bowman, 49ers shut down Falcons in 2nd half


Bowman, 49ers shut down Falcons in 2nd half

ATLANTA (AP) Everything was going wrong for the San Francisco 49ers and their proud defense.

Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons gouged them so often in the early stages of the NFC title game that the 49ers seemed too stunned to respond.

``It was us, it wasn't them at all,'' San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman said. ``We weren't communicating, playing the way we want to play. We regrouped in the second half and played our game.''

They certainly did.

Bowman, Patrick Willis and Ahmad Brooks combined to stop the Falcons 10 yards short of the end zone in the closing minutes of a 28-24 victory Sunday that sent San Francisco to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995.

The 49ers will play Baltimore for the NFL title in New Orleans on Feb. 3. The Ravens beat the New England Patriots 28-13 in Sunday's AFC title game.

After Bowman essentially sealed the game by breaking up a fourth-down pass from Matt Ryan to Roddy White with 1:09 remaining, the Falcons had time to run just one more desperate play before the buzzer sounded.

It was yet another big play for a defense that clamped down on Ryan and Atlanta's high-powered passing attack over the final 30 minutes.

``They've got some horses, man,'' San Francisco defensive tackle Justin Smith said. ``They made it tough on us. We made some adjustments at half, played a little bit better, but our offense picked up a lot of slack today, kept us rolling, kept us in it and we were able to win it.''

The Falcons got off to a dominant start as Ryan and Julio Jones combined for a pair of touchdowns that helped make it 17-0 early in the second quarter and 24-14 at halftime.

But midway through the third, cornerback Chris Culliver intercepted a pass at the San Francisco 38 that allowed the defense to build confidence.

Though the Niners' offense failed to score off the turnover when David Akers missed a 38-yard field goal attempt, defensive end Aldon Smith followed on the next defensive series by recovering Ryan's fumble on a botched shotgun snap.

The offense again failed to score when receiver Michael Crabtree lost a fumble at the Atlanta 1, but after forcing the Falcons to an ensuing three-and-out, the defense was delighted to see Frank Gore run for a 9-yard touchdown and a 28-24 lead.

``We believe in our offense,'' Willis said. ``We understand that if we get stops, they're going to score points.''

The turn of events contrasted sharply from the early stages of the game when the 49ers appeared to have no answer for Ryan, White, Jones and Tony Gonzalez.

By the first minute of the second quarter, Jones had scored two TDs, beating cornerback Tarell Brown both times. On the first score, it seemed that Brown mistakenly released Jones on a deep route, and the blown coverage allowed Jones to outrun free safety Dashon Goldson for a 46-yard score.

After Falcons kicker Matt Bryant's 35-yard field goal made it 10-0 on Atlanta's second possession, Ryan and Jones hooked up on a 20-yard TD. Jones caught the ball over his right shoulder in the left back corner of the end zone and deftly kept both feet inbounds to make it 17-0.

Jones and White combined for 226 yards receiving on 13 catches in the first half, many of them coming on underneath crossing routes as the two wideouts made several athletic plays.

In the second half, however, Jones and White combined for six catches and 62 yards.

Good fortune helped the Niners rally, too.

On the Falcons' final drive, cornerback Carlos Rogers fell down while covering slot receiver Harry Douglas on a deep pass near the right sideline, but San Francisco caught a big break when Douglas stumbled on his way to making a disputed 22-yard catch at the Niners 28.

Had he stayed on his feet, Douglas could have scored a touchdown on Atlanta's final drive.

``It made it tough on them,'' Rogers said. ``Things like that happen. No excuses. We made the plays and were able to get off the field.''

Such was the case throughout the regular season as the Niners ranked among the top four in scoring average, third-down efficiency, yards rushing and yards passing.

They just needed to reclaim their identity and prove they had moved past the disappointment of last year's NFC title game loss to the New York Giants.

``I don't really think it's destiny or anything like that written on the walls,'' Smith said. ``It's the team that works the hardest, prepares the hardest and has the best players and coaching staff. You pour all that in together and it comes out pretty good at the end.''


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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

Braden Holtby has made Barry Trotz’s weekend very difficult, but in a good way.

Back-to-back games against the New York Islanders offered the Capitals an opportunity to play both Philipp Grubauer and Holtby. Grubauer stayed hot earning another win for Washington. On Friday, Holtby got his first start since March 6 and played very well.

“A win is good,” Holtby said after the game. “I felt pretty comfortable. Some things to build off of and things that I want to get better at. It was a step in the right direction.”


A 22 save effort on Friday was bookended by two big saves. The first shot Holtby faced was a turnover on the power play that led to a dangerous shorthanded scoring opportunity for John Tavares early in the first period. Then in the third, with the Capitals leading 5-3 and the Islanders trying to mount a comeback, Holtby turned aside a breakaway opportunity for star rookie Mathew Barzal.

“I thought he was pretty solid,” Trotz said. “He looked really confident.”

“I felt a lot better,” Holtby said. “Not that I was feeling horrible before, it's just you get refreshed. It's like anything, you have a week off work, a holiday or something, you come back a little refreshed.”

And that brings us to Sunday.

On Sunday, the Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are a team in playoff position in desperate need of points after seven of their last eight games.

When asked on Wednesday who he thought would start Sunday’s game, Trotz said, “We're in a result business and we need some results so we'll see who is looking the sharpest and gives us the best chance to win.”

Both Grubauer and Holtby were impressive in their starts over the Islanders. You can’t argue Holtby is suddenly the hotter hand after one win considering how well Grubauer has played of late, but if Holtby remaisn the team’s No. 1, shouldn’t he get the next start after a strong winning performance?


Trotz was asked after the game who would start on Sunday after Holtby’s win.

“They're both playing well so I can't even answer that right now to be honest with you,” he said. “I do know that we have a number of games this week and whatever way go, obviously I'm going to sit down with the coaches and whatever way we go, I think they're both going to get some time this week.”

“I think you have to take it game-by-game,” Trotz added. “Bottom line is that you've got to make a decision and go with it and if your decision is that goalie A is a little hotter or you've just got a gut feel then you go with it and you have to live with it good or bad.”

So for now, it sounds as if we will see a rotation in net as Trotz continues evaluating which netminder gives the team the best chance to win in the playoffs. It is a tough position for the Caps’ bench boss, but, if both goalies continue to perform, having to choose between a hot Grubauer and a resurgent Holtby is a good problem to have and much preferable to having to choose between backup Grubauer and slumping Holtby.

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Not only did UMBC own Virginia on the court, they owned the Twitter world

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Not only did UMBC own Virginia on the court, they owned the Twitter world

They said it could not be done, no No. 16 seed would ever beat a No. 1 seed. The odds would be too great and the obstacle too steep.

As we all know, University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), just proved that all wrong.


All season the top-ranked Virginia Cavaliers dominated their opponents. They dictated pace, held opponents to less than 55 points, and smothered teams by forcing turnovers.

The roles filled on Friday evening and with an up-tempo 74-54 victory, UMBC proved the impossible.

The hardwood is not the only place that UMBC owned last night, they grabbed headlines, attention, and thousands of fans (literally) on Twitter.

Someone grabbed a hold of the UMBC Athletics Twitter account and took the upset by storm.

It all started when Seth Davis poked the bear:

and they were relentless.

Oh yeah, I forgot Seth Davis:

Then they started get snarky and owning everyone:

As someone the graduated from a commuter school, I can relate:

More Seth Davis:

Back to Twitter:

I guess that application wave actually was a thing or people wanted to know what ‘UMBC’ stood for:

Game. Set. History.

Now here come the shots against other schools:

Yeah, don’t jump on this bandwagon Terps fans. Stay in College Park:

I did not take long for other social media icons to start reaching out:

Oh and Seth Davis eventually did apologize:

Started the night at 5,588 and jumped up to 51.7 K. No one cares what you think Steven:

If you liked what you saw thank Zach Seidel, not an intern, not a student athlete who provided those tweets last night.

Zach, you just earned yourself a raise and we’ll see you in the Second Round.