Saints go marching as Falcons go missing
In case you were busy digging out after the Snowpocalypse, here's what happened in the world of sports last night.
Monday Night Football: It wasn't the prettiest game ever played, but it certainly lived up to the pregame hype, as the Saints handed the Falcons their first home loss of the season in a close-fought 17-14 win. It looked like Atlanta had taken control of the game to start the fourth quarter after Saints quarterback Drew Brees channeled Brett Favre with an ill-advised shovel pass that was returned by defensive end Chauncey Davis for a pick six to make it 14-10. On the Saints' next possession, Brees did his best Eli Manning impression when a pass was deflected and intercepted by John Abraham (his first career interception). But that's the thing about a Super Bowl champion. Don't count them out. Brees led the Saints on an impressive game-winning 90-yard, 13-play drive to score what proved to be the game-winning touchdown with 3:24 left.
With the win over the Falcons (12-3), the Saints (11-4) clinched a playoff berth; however, the NFC South championship is still undecided. There are a whole host of complicated playoff scenarios that make many of the final week's games meaningful for the Giants, Packers, Bears, Eagles, Saints, Falcons and Buccaneers. For my Giants fan friends, the only way into the playoffs is to beat the Redskins and get help with a Bears win at Green Bay.
NCAA men's basketball: In front of a sold-out and typically raucous crowd at the Petersen Events Center, No. 6 Pitt (13-1) handily defeated visiting No. 4 UConn (10-1) 78-63 behind Ashton Gibbs' 21 points. I had circled this game on the calendar and was very impressed with Pitt. UConn's Kemba Walker, the nation's leading scorer, scored 31 points in defeat, but no other UConn player hit double figures. Fun stat of the night: the Panthers are 8-0 all time against teams ranked in the top 5 at the Petersen Center. Note: No. 5 Syracuse will be stopping by on Jan. 17 for another Big East heavyweight battle.
College football: In the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, Air Force (9-4) defeated Georgia Tech (6-7) 14-7 in a matchup between the two best rushing teams in the country. In the game's most exciting storyline, the Air Force falcon went missing following the pregame fly-around but was later found safe and sound in downtown Shreveport, La. Yes, that really happened.
Around the NBA: Despite losing star Dirk Nowitzki to a knee injury in the second quarter, the Dallas Mavericks (24-5) beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 103-93 for their 17th win in 18 games. The Mavs are also an NBA-best 11-1 on the road. Thunder star Kevin Durant scored 28 points in the loss. An MRI on Nowitzki's knee is scheduled for Tuesday morning. ... The new-look Orlando Magic won their third straight game, defeating New Jersey 104-88. ... The Los Angeles Clippers have now won five of their last six games (this is not a typo) after a 100-99 win at Sacramento.