Falcons have chance to make up for loss to Saints


Falcons have chance to make up for loss to Saints

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Some Atlanta players seem uncertain about who gave the Falcons' their lone loss of the season.

Did the Saints beat Atlanta, or did the Falcons beat themselves in their 31-27 loss at New Orleans on Nov. 11?

Receiver Roddy White was dismissive of the Saints after the game when he said, ``It's not like they came out here and won a game. I think we kind of gave it to them.''

Quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons were stopped at the Saints' 1-yard line late in the game. The Falcons (10-1) believe they have unfinished business with the Saints, who will visit Atlanta on Thursday night.

The Falcons are dominating the NFC South. They lead second-place Tampa Bay by four games and the Saints (5-6) by five games. Atlanta could clinch the division this weekend if it beats the Saints and Tampa Bay loses to Denver.

New Orleans has won 11 of the last 13 in the series. Running back Michael Turner said the lopsided recent history in the rivalry is a sore subject for Falcons players.

``We get tired of hearing about it,'' Turner said Tuesday. ``Each season is different. We've both been winning for a while now. When it comes down to this game, we know it's going to be a tough ballgame. We have to go out there and just handle business.''

White wasn't the only Atlanta player who believed the Falcons should have won in New Orleans.

``Yeah, I think the ball was in our court and we had every opportunity to win that game at the end,'' safety Thomas DeCoud said Tuesday. ``It was just that the ball didn't bounce in our favor.''

Tight end Tony Gonzalez said the Falcons ``let it slip away at the end.''

``Give them credit though,'' said Gonzalez of the Saints. ``But we had it.''

White's strong postgame comments struck a nerve with Saints players.

That may be one reason White wasn't talking on Tuesday.

``Y'all are getting no love from me today, I'm sorry,'' a smiling White told reporters as he walked quickly through the locker room.

Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton also wasn't feeling the love from White, his former teammate.

``I mean, it's just words,'' Lofton said in a telephone interview with Falcons beat writers on Tuesday. ``I think that part of your job as a professional is to take a loss and take a win and you give the other team the credit. You don't just say `We gave them the win.' Each team works hard each and every week and we worked hard and we came out on top that week.''

Saints defensive end Will Smith said White wasn't looking ahead to this week's game when he made his comment.

``Roddy has a problem with just saying things without thinking before he says things. So, I mean, he should have thought about that, knowing that we have to play them again,'' Smith said.

Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said White's words will add motivation this week.

``It definitely kind of set up a nice little fire or however you want to say it,'' Jenkins said. ``That's how it is - Atlanta versus the Saints. There's always going to be somebody talking trash. Most times it's Roddy White. And we enjoy it. I think that makes the game fun. It brings emotion to the game. He's Roddy White. You've got to know that's going to come from him.''

Lofton played four seasons with Atlanta before signing with the Saints in the offseason. Lofton said the rivalry feels different now that he's with the team that is dominating the series.

``Yeah, I would say so,'' Lofton said. ``Being here in this program, I feel like we see it as a divisional game, not a rivalry game.''

NOTES: The Falcons were missing three defensive starters in practice: CB Asante Samuel (right shoulder), CB Dunta Robinson (illness) and DT Peria Jerry (quadriceps). Samuel and Robinson were on the injury report on Monday. Robinson was an addition. ... Turner, who already holds the Falcons record with 56 career rushing touchdowns, is tied with Terance Mathis for the team record with 57 total touchdowns. ``It's going to be a great feeling,'' Turner said when asked about being one score shy of sole possession of the record.


AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report.


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Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired


Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired

On the newest banner that hangs from the rafters at Capital One Arena, a small microphone - embroidered with a white 33 - is subtly stitched into the bottom left corner. 

You'd barely notice it was there; Phil Chenier certainly didn't.

Chenier, who had his #45 jersey retired tonight during halftime of tonight's Wizards-Nuggets game, didn't even notice the mic, added to signify his three decades as a broadcaster with the team.

"I had no idea there was even a mic on it," Chenier said, laughing. "I'll have to go back out and look at it some more."

Despite the Wizards' 108-100 loss, the night was first and foremost a celebration of Chenier - the 5th player in franchise history to have his number rasied in the rafters. He joins Earl Monroe, Elvin Hayes, Gus Johnson, and Wes Unseld as the only players to achieve the honor so far.

"To be up there with the other 4 names means a lot – people I had the fortune of playing with," he added. "I remember my first day of practice and I had just watched this team play in the finals and now I’m plopped down with Wes Unfeld and Earl Monroe and Gus Johnson. It seemed like they accepted me from the get go."

Many from that 1978 Championship team were in attendance on Friday night, watching as one of their teammates cemented his professional legacy. For Chenier, that acceptance as an All-Time Bullets great is at the core of why he played the game.

"You know, when you play this game, you play for acceptance," he said. "You want to be the best, you want to be accepted. Having players and childhood friends – and of course, your family – here, you’re surrounded by so many people that meant a lot to you both before and now. It’s a really humbling feeling.”

It was hard to find someone in DC without something good to say about Chenier on Friday night. Even in the basement of Capital One Center, after the Wizards' fifth loss in seven games, head coach Scott Brooks took a moment out of his press conference to praise Chenier. 

"[Chenier] is a great ambassador and we all love him," Brooks said. "It's well deserved. It's going to be pretty cool seeing his jersey every time we step into this building."

Fans left the arena with a commemorative Phil Chenier cut out. Phil Chenier left the arena with his number retired. The experience was, according to the man himself, everything he thought it'd be. 

"You don’t know what the emotions are going to be..." he told media members after the ceremony."...Obviously it’s something I thought about, but it really was exciting to see the 45 up there and my name."

Then Chenier cracked a smile.

"I’m glad it’s over with."

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

The Washington Wizards lost to the Denver Nuggets 108-100 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Another loss: It is becoming more and more clear that the Wizards need a shot in the arm, something to change the direction of where they are currently heading.

Whether that will come in the form of All-Star point guard John Wall returning from his months-long absence, an adjustment to their lineup or strategy, or something else entirely, the losses are piling up and at a tough time in the season.

With another loss on Friday night, their seventh in their last 11 games, the Wizards are now 40-32. They have plenty of room to still clinch a playoff berth, as their magic number stands at two, but they only have 10 games left to secure their all-important playoff seed.

Both the Pacers and Cavaliers, two teams just ahead of them in the playoff race, won on Friday.

The Wizards lost their second straight game and again offense was their problem. They scored 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers.

Big third quarter: The Denver Nuggets have emerged as a team on the rise, a young squad with burgeoning stars that could someday soon make some noise in the Western Conference. The reason is because they are very good on offense. Defense is a much different story.

That was not the case on Friday night, as the Wizards had all sorts of trouble scoring in three of their four quarters. They managed just 43 points by halftime, the fewest the Nuggets have allowed in a first half since Jan. 27.

The Wizards, though, did get cooking in the third quarter. They erupted for 33 points in the frame while shooting 63.2 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from three. Markieff Morris, who finished with 17, had 11 points in the third quarter and Bradley Beal (24 points) hit three threes.

The Wizards also found a solution for Jamal Murray, one of the Nuggets' brightest young stars. He had 20 points at halftime, but went scoreless in nine minutes in the third quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. (15 points) was among those who gave him trouble. Murry finished with 25.

The big third quarter reflected well on the Wizards' ability to make adjustments, but their 24-point fourth quarter flipped the script again.


Didn't force mistakes: The first time these teams squared off back in October, the Wizards forced the Nuggets into 23 turnovers. This game was a very different story. 

The Nuggets didn't commit their first turnover until midway through the second quarter and had only three by halftime. They had just 10 turnovers for the game.

Denver deserves some credit for limiting their mistakes, but all of it did not reflect well on the Wizards' defense. They didn't put enough pressure on the ball and failed to disrupt passing lanes like they usually do. It was uncharacteristic, as the Wizards entered the game 10th in average turnovers forced.

Not creating mistakes allowed the Nuggets to get way to many field goal attempts. Though they shot just 43.5 percent, Denver managed 108 points. And not getting turnovers offered the Wizards few opportunities for easy transition buckets.

Turnovers were one issue with the Wizards' defense. So was defending the perimeter, as the Nuggets shot 17-for-34 (50%) from long range. It is worth noting the Nuggets were without their leading scorer Gary Harris, a guy who is dangerous from long range.


Special night: Halftime offered a memorable moment in franchise history as legendary player and broadcast Phil Chenier had his No. 45 jersey retired by the team. His longtime broadcaster and friend Steve Buckhantz hosted the ceremony with about 20 friends and family members of Chenier's seated behind him. Buckhantz had opening comments, then majority owner Ted Leonsis spoke as everyone in the crowd stood and cheered.

Then, it was Chenier's time to talk. He thanked his former teammates, members of the organization and those close to him. He kept his composure until the very end when he brought up his mother, Peggy, who could not make the event. Chenier choked up and wiped away tears as he described what she has meant to him in his life.

It was a powerful moment and a great ceremony to honor a guy who has impacted the lives of many in the D.C. area. Now, his No. 45 will hang up in the rafters forever. That banner, by the way, features a picture of a microphone and the phrase '33 years,' signifying how long he was the color analyst for Bullets and Wizards games.


Up next: The Wizards do not have a game Saturday, though they are going to practice and Wall is expected to take a big step forward in his rehab. Their next game is Sunday at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington when they host the Knicks. That will also be a special game, as the Wizards are set to honor the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship.

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