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Jones has huge day, Falcons hold off Rams 31-24

Sunday, 15 September 2013 18:31 Published in Sports

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.

Molina's HR, 4 hits lead Cardinals past Mariners

Sunday, 15 September 2013 18:27 Published in Sports

 

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.

 

Mariners end 5-game skid, beat Cardinals 4-1

Saturday, 14 September 2013 22:49 Published in Sports

 

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Rookie James Paxton gave up two hits in six shutout innings and the Seattle Mariners ended a five-game losing streak, beating St. Louis 4-1 Saturday night and dropping the Cardinals into a first-place tie in the NL Central.

St. Louis and Pittsburgh share the division lead once again. The Pirates topped the Cubs 2-1.

The Cardinals mustered only three hits, including Matt Carpenter's league-leading 50th double in the eighth. He later scored on a wild pitch by Charlie Furbush.

Franklin Gutierrez hit a two-run double in the fifth inning that ended St. Louis rookie Michael Wacha's scoreless streak at 23 2-3 innings. Kendrys Morales hit his 22nd homer in eighth off Tyler Lyons to make it 3-0.

The St. Louis hitters have been struggling all week, and they never got going at all against the 24-year-old Paxton (2-0), who limited them to a pair of singles.

The first was by Wacha (3-1) in the third when Paxton came off the bag to field a tapper and then slipped and fell, losing his grip.

The Cardinals managed three hits in seven scoreless innings to start the weekend series against the Mariners before winning 2-1 in 10 innings. They broke up no-hit bids in the sixth against Wily Peralta and Marco Estrada, winning both games while taking two of three from the Brewers.

Paxton struck out five and walked two. He won his major league debut a week ago against Tampa Bay, allowing an earned run in six innings.

Danny Farquhar finished for his 14th save in 16 chances.

Wacha struck out five in his seventh career start but also walked four in five innings.

Mariners pitchers were 0 for 20 with 13 strikeouts at the plate this year before Wacha walked Paxton on four pitches in the fifth to put runners on first and second with none out, setting up Gutierrez's double.

Seattle leadoff man Brad Miller was removed with a mild left hamstring strain after running out a sacrifice bunt in the fifth. Replacement Carlos Triunfel had a sacrifice fly in the ninth off Fernando Salas.

NOTES: Yadier Molina, who threw out two runners attempting to steal in the same inning Friday, was the first Cardinals C to do that since manager Mike Matheny on May 1, 2001, at Florida. Matheny said he didn't remember the occasion, but added, "You don't normally get that many opportunities unless you're stinking, or else your pitcher's just giving you no chance."

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