Tony Gonzalez's career ends in disappointment


Tony Gonzalez's career ends in disappointment

From Comcast SportsNetATLANTA (AP) -- The only thing missing from Tony Gonzalez's impressive resume is a Super Bowl championship.One of the greatest tight ends in NFL history will have to settle for that omission after the Atlanta Falcons wasted another postseason lead.Matt Ryan passed for 396 yards and three touchdowns, but the Falcons were shut out in the second half of their 28-24 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game Sunday."I'm not going to cry about it," Gonzalez said after the conclusion of his 16th season. "I walk away with the satisfaction I left everything, absolutely everything, every time I was on the field."I wish it would have culminated with the Super Bowl, but it didn't."The 36-year-old Gonzalez still has a 13th Pro Bowl to play in, but after spending the season saying he was 95 percent certain he'll retire, he sounded like he's now at 100 percent.The Falcons led 17-0 in the first half and 24-21 entering the fourth quarter. Frank Gore's second touchdown run midway through the final quarter gave San Francisco its first lead.Ryan and the Falcons were left 10 yards short of their chance for a second straight last-minute comeback this postseason. The quarterback led the Falcons from the Atlanta 20 to the 49ers 10. On fourth-and-4 from the 10, Ryan's pass over the middle for Roddy White was deflected by linebacker NaVorro Bowman."On fourth down we tried to make something happen and we just couldn't get it done," Ryan said. "We fell a little short. I thought everybody battled real hard, we just didn't make enough plays to get it done."It was the second straight week the Falcons blew a big lead. They led Seattle 20-0 in the first half of last week's divisional playoff game, but needed a late field goal by Matt Bryant for a 30-28 win. The field goal was set up by Ryan's two clutch passes.This time, Ryan, Gonzalez and the Falcons came up short in the fourth quarter.Gonzalez had eight catches for 72 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown reception with 25 seconds remaining in the first half. The Falcons didn't score again.Gonzalez wasn't the only Atlanta player wondering if he would come so close to the Super Bowl. Center Todd McClure, 35, and defensive end John Abraham, 34, each said he plans to play at least one more season. Even so, they were hit hard by the loss.McClure had to stop and gather his emotions during his postgame comments."It's really tough," McClure said. "You play your whole career to get in this situation and to come up short, it's tough."Asked how he felt, Abraham said, "It's a feeling I can't comprehend and can't even speak about because I thought I was going to go on."No one in this locker room has any vacation plans because we all thought we were going to the Super Bowl," Abraham said. "You don't get many chances in life to get something you want so bad and to have it taken away from you, it hurts. You never know when you'll get the chance again."The Falcons had one last chance, taking the ball on their 41 with 6 seconds remaining. Ryan completed a pass to Julio Jones at the 49ers 35 as the game ended.Ryan said the last pass was intended to be the start of a razzle-dazzle, last-gasp attempt at a big play."It was one of those where we toss it all around," Ryan said, adding the play wasn't executed properly.Ryan took a hit on his left shoulder during the game but said it was "good enough to go" late in the game.The Falcons (14-4) were denied their second Super Bowl appearance. They lost to Denver in the Super Bowl following the 1998 season.Despite all the passing yards, Ryan was hurt by two turnovers: an interception and a lost fumble on a shotgun snap.Penalties didn't help, either.The Falcons set NFL record lows for a 16-game schedule with 55 penalties for 415 yards, but coach Mike Smith bemoaned two personal fouls against his team. Linebacker Stephen Nicholas was called for unnecessary roughness in the first half.A more crucial call came late in the third quarter when defensive end Cliff Matthews hit 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's helmet. If not for the roughing the passer penalty, the Falcons would have had a third-down stop."I asked and it was explained to me as forcible contact to the quarterback on the third down that would have gotten us off the field," Smith said. "By rule if it's forcible, it is a penalty. If it's a grazing blow, it's not a penalty."

Bears Talk Podcast: What's next for Bears at QB after Brian Hoyer suffers broken arm?


Bears Talk Podcast: What's next for Bears at QB after Brian Hoyer suffers broken arm?

Lance Briggs, Alex Brown and Jim Miller break down where the Bears go at QB following Brian Hoyer’s injury and evaluate the defense’s gutsy performance on Thursday night against the Packers despite numerous injuries. Plus, a look at the big picture and who can help the Bears down the road.

Check out the latest edition of the Bears Talk Podcast here:

Anthony Rizzo/Javier Baez antics show how this Cubs team doesn’t feel the same weight of history

Anthony Rizzo/Javier Baez antics show how this Cubs team doesn’t feel the same weight of history

LOS ANGELES – Within minutes of the last out on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, ESPN’s @SportsCenter account sent out a photo of Moises Alou at the Wrigley Field wall to more than 30 million Twitter followers: “The last time the Cubs were up 3-2 in an NLCS was Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS vs. the Marlins. Most remember it as ‘the Bartman Game.’”

As Kerry Wood once said: “Irrelevant, dude.”
Look, the Cubs still need to find a way to beat either Clayton Kershaw or Rich Hill this weekend, with Kenley Jansen resting and waiting for the multiple-inning saves. The obligatory description for Kershaw is “the best pitcher on the planet.” Hill’s lefty curveball – and “the perceptual velocity” of his fastball – freezes hitters. Jansen has a mystical cutter reminiscent of the great Mariano Rivera. The top-heavy part of this Los Angeles playoff pitching staff has held the Cubs to zero runs in 16.1 innings.

But until proven otherwise, forget about this idea of a Cubs team weighed down by the history of a franchise that hasn’t played in the World Series since 1945.

Just look at Javier Baez getting in Anthony Rizzo’s airspace during Game 5, the human-highlight-film second baseman standing right next to the All-Star first baseman as he caught a Kike Hernandez pop-up for the second out of the third inning.

It didn’t matter that this was a 1-0 game and MVP-ballot players Justin Turner and Corey Seager were coming up. This is what the 2016 Cubs do. Rizzo caught the ball, quickly flipped it underhand and it bounced off Baez’s chest – in front of a sellout crowd of 54,449 and a national Fox Sports 1 audience.

“We always mess around,” Rizzo said at his locker inside a tight clubhouse jammed with media after an 8-4 win. “So I’m screaming: ‘Javy! Javy! I got it! I got it, Javy, I got it!’

“And usually he’ll yell at me: ‘Don’t miss it!’ Or I’ll yell at him: ‘Don’t miss it!’

“We do that a lot. If it’s a pop-up to him, I’ll go right behind him. It’s just little ways of slowing the game down and having fun, too.”

Rizzo is a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman for a team that led the majors in defensive efficiency this year. As a super-utility guy, Baez got credit for 11 defensive runs saved in 383 innings at second base, or one less than co-leaders Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler, who each did it in almost 1,300 innings.

“Sometimes when I call (Rizzo) off to get a fly ball, he starts talking to me,” Baez said. “I tell him: ‘Hey, you can do whatever you want. Just don’t move my head. You can touch me if you want. Just don’t move my head.’

“And I told him to be ready for it, because I was going to do the same thing. You just got to be focused on the fly ball. No matter what’s happening around you, you just got to catch it.”

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

This isn’t about Bartman. It’s about a group of young, confident players who are growing up together and absolutely expect to be in this position. It’s manager Joe Maddon designing “Embrace The Target” T-shirts and telling them to show up to the ballpark whenever they want and then blow off batting practice.

“For sure, we’re relaxed,” said Baez, who’s gone viral during these playoffs, the rest of the country witnessing his amazing instincts and flashy personality. “I’m relaxed when I play defense.”

The thing is, Rizzo and Baez could be playing next to each other for the next five years, the same way Kris Bryant and Addison Russell will be anchoring the left side of the infield.

This is how Rizzo introduced Russell to The Show when a natural shortstop tried to learn second base on the fly last year and track pop-ups in front of 40,000 people: “Hey, watch out for that skateboard behind you! Don’t trip!”

“Oh yeah, we yell at each other all the time,” Rizzo said. “It’s just one of those things where you got to stay loose.”