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Falcons coach Arthur Smith jokingly offers tryout chance to Dikembe Mutombo

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Atlanta Falcons coach Arthur Smith loves basketball. He grew up in Memphis, watched the game his whole life. So every once in a while during his press conferences, a basketball analogy comes into his vernacular.

Such was the case on Monday, when he jokingly suggested a tryout to 55-year-old Dikembe Mutombo after using him as an example when describing the importance of length in blocking field goals and extra points.

“We’d put him on the field goal and extra point block,” Smith said. “Dikembe, if you’re watching this, we’ll get [Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot] to work you out here tomorrow. You got one good jump in here so we can get one of those.”

And then, Smith started wagging his finger in the tradition of Mutombo after a big blocked shot.

This started because of how Smith explained the Falcons blocking a Miami Dolphins field goal attempt during Atlanta’s 30-28 win in Florida on Sunday. And how rookie edge rusher Adetokunbo Ogundeji‘s length helped facilitate it.

In explaining the importance of it, he channeled back to basketball — and the legendary shot-blocker.

“It’s hard to coach size,” Smith said. “It’s like having Dikembe Mutombo. Goes up there and you wish you said you had a special drill to block shots and it’s one of those, but it’s like Ade, Ade’s got length.”

Which led to the obvious question — if the 7-foot-2 Mutombo were to have played American football instead of basketball, where might he actually play? Mutombo, after all, knows a little bit about blocks — the Basketball Hall of Famer is second in NBA history with 3,289 blocks and led the league in blocked shots for five seasons from 1993-94 to 1997-98.

Mutombo, the No. 4 pick in the 1991 NBA draft out of Georgetown who retired in 2009, played in 1,196 NBA games between the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets and also five years with the Atlanta Hawks.

The Hawks now play at State Farm Arena across the street from Smith’s Falcons’ home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Smith, 39, grew up in the age of Mutombo and Hakeem Olajuwon, the two most prolific shot-blockers in NBA history. Smith was asked why there aren’t many players that big in the NFL — the league occasionally has players who are 6-foot-9, but they aren’t a regularity and usually play on the offensive line or defensive line.

And Smith didn’t have an answer, but he didn’t rule out guys that big playing, either.

“The odds are saying, I would never count somebody out,” Smith said. “I know some of the battles we had with Calais Campbell when he was in Jacksonville, there are certain times where I felt like he was 7-feet tall coming at ya. Certain guys just have a lot of length, you’re talking about [J.J.] Watt and guys that are really good at knocking the ball down.

“I’ll never count anybody out. But historically there haven’t been a ton of guys that tall. But I’m not counting you out, Dikembe.”



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Buffalo Bills make playoff history with 7 touchdown drives in blowout win vs. New England Patriots

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills didn’t just beat the New England Patriots. They made a statement to the entire NFL.

The Bills dominated the teams’ third meeting in 41 days, winning 47-17 at home to move on to the Divisional round of the playoffs. Buffalo scored a touchdown on all seven of their possessions, becoming the first team in the Super Bowl era to score a TD on each of their first seven drives of a playoff game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

With the win, the Bills have beaten the Patriots twice by double-digits in a single season (33-21 in Week 16), becoming the first team to do so since Bill Belichick became head coach.

Dating back to that game in Week 16, the Bills’ last 13 drives against the Patriots have yielded 11 scores (10 touchdowns and one field goal). During that stretch, the only thing that stopped the Buffalo offense was the clock.

Not only did the offense put up an impressive performance, but the Bills continued to show improvements in areas that have caused issues throughout the season. The running game was effective and the offensive line that has had a rollercoaster year set the tempo.

But the most impressive part of the game for the Bills was the performance of quarterback Josh Allen. Coming into the game, one of the big questions was if Allen could step up in freezing temperatures. He did far more than that with temperatures below 10 degrees throughout the game, putting together one of the best performances of his career.

Allen continued his stellar performance against the Patriots from a few weeks prior, completing 21/25 passes (84%) for 308 yards and five touchdowns, in addition to six carries for 66 yards. It is the highest completion percentage in a playoff game with 25 or more attempts since Aaron Rodgers in the 2010 Divisional Playoffs (86.1%)

He became the third player in the Super Bowl era with at least 150 pass yards and 50 rush yards in a single half of a playoff game, per Elias, and joined Drew Brees (2009) and Russell Wilson (2020) as the only quarterbacks to throw for five touchdowns against a Belichick-coached team.

Allen’s performance included two touchdown passes to tight end Dawson Knox and one to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The score was Sanders’ first touchdown in the postseason, coming in his 14th career playoff game with his fifth different team.

Allen’s fifth touchdown was a one-yard throw to reserve offensive lineman Tommy Doyle. All five of his touchdown throws came in play-action, the most by any player in a regular-season or playoff game since 2006 when ESPN began tracking play-action. He has gone four straight games without being sacked.

Running back Devin Singletary ran for two touchdowns behind an offensive line that dominated the line of scrimmage throughout the game.

The defense limited rookie quarterback Mac Jones throughout the game, including forcing two interceptions.

The Bills will now head to the Divisional round of the playoffs for a second straight season with a perfect record in home playoff games under McDermott. With a Chiefs win on Sunday night, the Bills would head to Kansas City, the site of last year’s AFC Championship loss.

Buffalo is 0-3 in road playoff games since McDermott became head coach (0-3). With a Pittsburgh Steelers win, the Bills would host the Cincinnati Bengals next week.

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Derek Carr, Maxx Crosby want Rich Bisaccia back as Las Vegas Raiders’ head coach

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CINCINNATI — Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and Pro Bowl defensive end Maxx Crosby both heartily endorsed Rich Bisaccia retaining the head-coaching job permanently following Las Vegas’ season-ending 26-19 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the opening round of the playoffs on Saturday night.

Bisaccia was promoted from special teams coordinator to interim head coach following Jon Gruden’s resignation on Oct. 11.

“I think we can all think that he’s the right guy,” Carr said of Bisaccia. “He’s proven that people listen to him. Our team listens to him. And I love him so much, I’m thankful for him. All those things will be decisions that I don’t make; I don’t get to make. I just play quarterback … but with everything that went on, if you really look at what happened, all the pieces missing, everything that changed, yeah, he held it together.”

Carr referenced the Raiders losing starting guards Richie Incognito and Denzelle Good to injury in the preseason and opener, respectively. He also talked about receiver Henry Ruggs III being cut following his involvement in a high-speed car crash that left a woman dead. Carr also cited Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller missing five games down the stretch; Pro Bowl running back Josh Jacobs being dinged up and unavailable at times; and losing versatile running back Kenyan Drake to a knee injury in Week 13.

“You go on and on and on and on, and that’s just offense,” said Carr, who had driven the Raiders to the Bengals’ 9-yard line before being intercepted at the 2-yard line on fourth-and-goal with 12 seconds to play Saturday night. “The fact that that staff kept everything together and kept us competitive and kept us finding ways to win football games, I think that’s what our organization is about, right? So, we’ll see what happens. We know what we want to have happen. But, again, we’re Raiders. We’re going to play football, but we just hope it, obviously, we hope it’s for somebody special.”

Carr also said he would stay out of direct conversations when it came to his future with the team. He has one year remaining on the five-year, $125 million extension he signed in 2017.

He said his agent and the Raiders have a good relationship.

“Lord knows there’s been a lot of things to communicate about, right?” Carr said. “When the time comes, I never want a face-to-face. I’m going to play quarterback, but my message will be talked about.

“I’m not going to go to dinner and say, ‘We have to do something.’ I’m not that guy. I’ll let my voice be heard, but in a different way.”

Crosby, who was just named second-team All-Pro, called Bisaccia a “great leader” for the Raiders.

“If it was up to me, I think everyone in the world knows what my decision would be,” said Crosby, who had a sack among his six tackles on Saturday. “I love Rich. You know, I’m biased, obviously, but he’s, he’s a great coach … he came in and got us to 10 wins. We came on the road, on a short week, and gave Cincinnati everything they could handle.

“One of the best people I know. One of the most honest dudes I know. And I’ll go to bat for him any day of the week. I love that dude to death. He knows that. I appreciate everything he’s brought to the table. I hope we keep doing it.”

Raiders owner Mark Davis has remained silent on the team’s head-coaching search, as well as on the futures of Carr and general manager Mike Mayock.

Bisaccia, meanwhile, laughed when asked if he thought about being elevated to the full-time job.

“I’m just thinking about those guys in that locker room that played the game with their heart and soul out there like that,” he said, “and had a chance to win at the end.”

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Bengals win first playoff game in 31 years, set the table for a run at AFC title – Cincinnati Bengals Blog

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CINCINNATI — Send those text messages. The Cincinnati Bengals have finally won a playoff game.

Cincinnati defeated the Las Vegas Raiders 26-19 at Paul Brown Stadium in an AFC wild-card game on Saturday. It was Cincinnati’s first playoff victory in 31 years, since before cell phones were capable of sending texts, as memes on the internet reminded folks in the days preceding the game.

But the win wasn’t just about ending the longest playoff win drought in the NFL. It was about the first step in making a run at the AFC title.

Over the course of the season, Cincinnati went from the projected cellar dweller in the AFC North to division champs, ending a six-year stretch without a playoff appearance. That journey included an overtime loss to the Green Bay Packers, one of the top teams in the NFL, and a Week 17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, the AFC representatives in last year’s Super Bowl.

Those performances indicated Cincinnati wasn’t just a team that could win a playoff game. They showed the Bengals can hang with the best in the NFL.

For the second time this season, the Bengals needed to hang tough against the Raiders in order to pick up a win. The first came on Week 11 and set the tone for the second half of Cincinnati’s season.

The second victory was much more significant. It gave the city of Cincinnati something it hasn’t experienced in decades and set the table for the Bengals to have a truly special postseason.

“We expect to beat everybody that we play, not just hang with them,” Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said after the game.

Burrow added: “I mean, it’s exciting. But this is expected. This isn’t like the icing on top of the cake or anything. This is the cake. So we’re moving on.”

Describe the game in two words: Curse ending. The Bengals ended the fabled “Curse of Bo Jackson” — the former Raiders running back’s final NFL game in January 1991 that also ended Cincinnati’s last playoff run that featured a win.

“I’m just really, really happy for the city of Cincinnati and that they get a chance to enjoy this,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “And now, just exhale and enjoy the ride we have. Because we’re not done yet.”

Pivotal play: On third-and-four at the end of the first half, Bengals quarterback Burrow scrambled and found Tyler Boyd for a 10-yard touchdown pass to give Cincinnati a 20-6 lead. Initially, it appeared Burrow was going to go out of bounds. A referee even blew an errant whistle. But the play continued and Cincinnati got a key red-zone touchdown.

QB breakdown: Burrow was efficient in his playoff debut. After throwing for 148 yards earlier in the season against the Raiders, Burrow finished Saturday’s win completing 24-of-34 passes for 244 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

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