If this was a Super Bowl preview, that's going to be quite a game in Big D.
Roddy White hauled in a 33-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan with 20 seconds remaining and the Atlanta Falcons, after squandering a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter, rallied to beat the Baltimore Ravens, 26-21, on Thursday in a prime-time matchup between two of the NFL’s top teams.
With commissioner Roger Goodell looking on, just adding to the big-game feel, the Falcons (7-2) appeared to be in control after Ryan hooked up with White on a 4-yard touchdown with 11:34 remaining to make it 20-7. Curiously, Atlanta coach Mike Smith didn’t attempt a 2-point conversion, which nearly came back to bite him.
After barely touching the ball in the first half, Baltimore (6-3) rallied behind Joe Flacco’s two fourth-quarter TD passes, the second of them a 9-yarder to Todd Heap with 1:05 left.
Back came the Falcons, who improved to 18-1 at home with Ryan as the starter. He needed less than a minute to pull off an 80-yard drive, hooking up with Michael Jenkins on a huge third-down pass along the sideline before going back to his favorite receiver for the winner.
BROWNS’ BENARD COLLAPSES AT LOCKER
Cleveland Browns linebacker Marcus Benard has been released from a hospital after collapsing in the locker room on Thursday.
Benard was sitting in a chair in front of his cubicle when he suddenly fell to the carpeted floor. Some of his teammates, who were getting dressed for practice, thought he may have been joking before linebacker Matt Roth yelled for a trainer.
Benard had his hands near his face, but he did not appear to lose consciousness and his eyes were open as three members of Cleveland’s training staff checked on him. He was taken to Southwest General Hospital by ambulance for tests and later released.
STERGER MEETS WITH LEAGUE OFFICIALS
The woman who allegedly received lewd photos and inappropriate text messages from Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre met with NFL investigators Thursday, her manager said.
Phil Reese said in an e-mail that Jenn Sterger met with league officials and “we cooperated fully by providing them with substantial materials in our possession. We now await the NFL’s decision.”
The NFL is examining whether Favre sent Sterger messages and photos while he was with the New York Jets in 2008 and she was a game hostess for the team.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Atlanta likely will have to build a new stadium if it wants to host its third Super Bowl. Bengals right tackle Andre Smith has a broken foot that could end his season, the latest setback in his star-crossed career with Cincinnati. Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer says he’s returning to practice on a limited basis, going easy on his sore passing shoulder. He expects to play Sunday. ... Titans quarterback Vince Young got his first chance to practice with new teammate Randy Moss after being sidelined the past two days with a sprained left ankle. But the fifth-year quarterback was limited and split the work with backup Kerry Collins. ... St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Rodger Saffold was held out of practice because of a bruised left shoulder. ... Carolina linebacker Jon Beason called his $10,000 fine for a hit to the head of New Orleans receiver Marques Colston unwarranted and vowed to appeal. ... Buffalo coach Chan Gailey announced linebacker Shawne Merriman will not play against Detroit (2-6) this weekend, and is out indefinitely after aggravating an injury to his right Achilles’ tendon in his first practice a day earlier. ...Giants receiver Steve Smith was forced to leave practice after hurting a pectoral muscle. ... Minnesota’s Percy Harvin missed practice for a second straight day because of a migraine headache. ... Safety Chris Clemons and tight end Anthony Fasano returned to practice for Miami. ... The players union rejected a proposal from the NFL on long-term care for former players, saying the supplemental policy would exclude too many of them.