Falcons win for playoff bye while Johnson sets mark

Updated 23 December 2012
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Falcons win for playoff bye while Johnson sets mark

DETROIT, Michigan: Atlanta’s Matt Ryan threw four touchdown passes and the Falcons clinched a first-round National Football League playoff bye with a 31-18 victory over the Detroit Lions on Saturday night.
Detroit’s Calvin Johnson broke the NFL record for most receiving yards in a season in a losing cause with one game to play, earning a standing ovation from home supporters who saw the Lions, 4-11, suffer their seventh defeat in a row.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Johnson said. “Never thought it would be this special. It’s a tough season but you can’t take that moment away.” Johnson’s feat was overshadowed by the Falcons, who improved to an NFL-best 13-2 to secure a home-field edge throughout the National Conference playoffs. They are one of only two teams unbeaten at home this season.
The Falcons, in the playoff for the fourth time in five seasons, are also at an NFL-best 33-6 at home since 2008 and playing inside their domed home gives them a big edge in the fight to reach the Super Bowl in February at New Orleans.
“It’s huge,” Ryan said. “It’s what we aimed to do since the beginning of the season and to accomplish that was perfect.” Ryan, who completed 25 of 32 passes for 279 yards, found Johnson after the game to congratulate him on breaking the old NFL one-season reception yardage mark of 1,848 yards, set by Jerry Rice of the San Francisco 49ers in 1995.
“I’m a fan,” Ryan said. “He is an unbelievable player.” Johnson made 11 catches for 225 yards, giving him an NFL record 1,892 reception yards for the season. He hopes to push the record beyond 2,000 yards next week when the Lions close their season at home against Chicago.
“It has become very realistic,” Johnson said of 2,000 yards. “But we have a tough opponent next week. We have to do our homework.” Rice, who had hoped to crack 2,000 yards 17 years ago, said he thinks Johnson will do it.
“This guy is really amazing,” Rice said. “He is a true talent.” Johnson broke the record on his 10th catch of the night, cutting left across the middle of the field and taking the throw from Matthew Stafford before turning upfield to complete a 26-yard play with 2:57 remaining.
As the crowd chanted his name, Johnson quickly ran to the sidelines and gave the ball to his father, Calvin Sr, as they shared a hug.
On the play, Johnson also set an NFL record with his fourth consecutive game with at least 10 receptions.
Johnson, nicknamed “Megatron,” turned a short crossing pattern catch into a 49-yard pass play early in the first quarter to set a team mark for yardage in a season and then took aim at bigger record books.
He made a 22-yard catch with 36 seconds remaining in the second quarter for another two NFL records: an unprecedented eighth 100-yard receiving game in a row and a record-matching 11th 100-yard receiving game in a season.
Another 100-yard receiving performance next week would push Johnson into sole possession of the mark he shares with former Dallas Cowboys star Michael Irvin.
Ryan completed his last ten passes last week against the New York Giants and his first 12 passes against Detroit, the 22 completions in a row over two games matching the third-longest completion streak in NFL history.
Atlanta opened the scoring on Ryan’s 44-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White, added a 39-yard touchdown pass to White in the second quarter and a 16-yard touchdown toss to Julio Jones to give the Falcons a 21-3 lead.
Jason Hanson kicked his second field goal two seconds before half-time to pull the Lions within 15 points. Detroit’s Mikel Leshoure scored on a 1-yard run and Hanson connected on a 20-yard field goal to trim Atlanta’s lead to 21-16 with 13:26 to play.
But Ryan responded by marching the Falcons 78 yards in 11 plays over 6:14 for a touchdown on his 1-yard pass to Michael Palmer, putting the Falcons ahead 28-16 with 7:12 to play.
It was Ryan’s 31st touchdown pass of the season, matching a team record.
“We came up with drives when we needed them,” Ryan said.
On Detroit’s next possession, Stafford threw an interception while trying to connect with Johnson for the Lions’ third turnover of the game, setting up a 20-yard field goal by Atlanta’s Matt Bryant.
Detroit’s defensive unit produced the final points on a safety with 81 seconds remaining.


Liverpool's Andrew Robertson ready for Roma Champions League test

Updated 23 April 2018
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Liverpool's Andrew Robertson ready for Roma Champions League test

  • Young Scottish star was very impressive during Liverpool's 5-1 aggregate destruction of Man City in last-eight clash.
  • Robertson refuses to take Roma lightly after their shock victory over Barcelona in the last round.

LIVERPOOL: With a desire stoked in the stands of Parkhead, Andrew Robertson is now fired up to fulfil a childhood dream.
While following the fortunes of Celtic, the defender’s first Champions League final memory was when Zinedine Zidane volleyed Real Madrid to success in 2002 as the contest was staged in Robertson’s home city of Glasgow. He was just eight years old.
While Robertson was deemed too small to play for his boyhood idols, released at 15 with a future uncertain, he has grown to prove his worth on Europe’s biggest club stage with Liverpool.
Now, with a semifinal encounter against AS Roma after beating Premier League champions Manchester City in the last eight, he wants to emulate those Reds heroes who lifted the trophy five times before.
“I was a big Celtic fan growing up and my heroes were Henrik Larsson and Co,” Robertson told Arab News ahead of tonight’s first-leg clash 
at Anfield.
“But these heroes who have won the European Cup and Champions League for Liverpool, you have to look up to them — and we want to emulate them and hopefully get a winner’s medal too.
“The club’s won it five times and the history of the club has always been this, the Champions League, where the fans create a special atmosphere and the club challenges for the trophy. It would be unbelievable to be a part of that history.
“This is the highlight for me so far and an incredible feeling, but it just makes you hungry for more. I don’t want it to end.
“As a kid, you sit back and watch how great it would be to play in this competition, let alone in the final.
“I always used to go to Celtic and we didn’t progress very far in the Champions League, but the occasions at Parkhead were always unbelievable.
“The fans at Celtic are incredible, world renowned, but Anfield was unbelievable against Man City and we have another chance for them to create that same atmosphere and hopefully we can put in another great performance.”
Having beaten Pep Guardiola’s City so convincingly, 5-1 over two gripping games, Liverpool will start favorites against Roma.
That is despite the Italians upsetting Barcelona in the previous round with an epic 3-0 win in the second leg after a 4-1 loss at the Nou Camp.
But Robertson will take nothing for granted against a Roma side who last reached the final in 1984 where they were beaten by Liverpool in a penalty shootout at their Stadio Olimpico home.
“Barca are an unbelievable team,” added the Scotland left-back, 24. “But let’s not kid ourselves. For Roma to score three goals against Barcelona, that’s special.
“They’ve been unbelievable this season too in the Champions League and deserve to be in the semifinals. It will definitely not be an easy game.
“But once you get to the semis, the fear of who you are playing has gone because you know how good the teams are.
“It’s like you look forward to the possibility of playing in the final, that’s what drives you forward. We will have fire in our bellies because we are so close to getting there.”
Jurgen Klopp’s men will no doubt be looking to Mohamed Salah to conjure more magic against the club he left in the summer for £36.9 million ($51.5 million).
But Robertson insisted Liverpool are no one-man team and the Egyptian, crowned PFA Player of the Year on Sunday night after scoring 41 goals in an unforgettable campaign, epitomizes a team united and ambitious in their quest for glory.
“He’s just unbelievable,” said Robertson of the frontman.
“In the first half (of the second leg) against Man City we struggled to get him in the game and he wasn’t quite at it. But the second half he was different class and pops up with a goal to help us win it. That’s what he does.
“His goals have been incredible and long may that continue. He’s a great guy, so humble, and for someone who has done so much this season he’s so down to Earth.
“That’s credit to our squad because we don’t let anyone get ahead of themselves.
“Mo is no different, he’s a lovely person and stands for what we are as a team.”

 

HEART OF GOLD

Five years ago Andrew Robertson was playing in the fourth tier of Scottish football with Queen’s Park and earning extra money by selling concert tickets in the corporate offices at Hampden Park.
Last summer he suffered relegation from the Premier League with Hull City before Liverpool signed him for £10 million ($13.9 million).
In a career fraught with setbacks and hardships, he has been grateful, supporting foodbanks that help those in need.
“It’s all about giving something back to the less fortunate,” said Robertson.
“I’m in a fortunate position where I do a job I love and get paid well and it’s nice to give something back, especially in my hometown. I’ll always do that.
“It’s been a great journey for me in my career, and I’ve enjoyed every minute. But I don’t forget where I came from. Maybe it is rare, but a lot more people are doing it now and I hope even more will.”