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Brock’s slam of Douglas shouldn’t have drawn a flag

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When 49ers defensive back Tramaine Brock threw Falcons receiver Harry Douglas to the ground late in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s Candlestick Park finale, it seemed to be a penalty — especially in this safety-obsessed era of pro football.

But throwing the player to the ground, as vicious as it may appear, doesn’t constitute unnecessary roughness if it happens before the ball is dead.

It’s a new rule that was applied to the chagrin of the Texans and defensive back Kareem Jackson in overtime of a September 29 game between Houston and Seattle.  Jackson drew a flag for slamming receiver Doug Baldwin to the ground, but the action came after the whistle had blown.

But slamming a runner to the ground becomes a penalty only if the ball is dead.  On Monday night, the ball wasn’t dead when Brock threw Douglas to the ground.

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Bowman interception return for TD seals 49ers win in Candlestick farewell

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The San Francisco 49ers gave Candlestick Park a victorious regular season farewell and kept hope alive for a possible return encounter in the postseason.

And NaVorro Bowman quickly went from goat to hero in order to seal the win.

Bowman intercepted Matt Ryan and returned it for an 89-yard touchdown to seal a 34-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night. The play came three plays after the Falcons recovered an onside kick that dipped under Bowman’s hands and was recovered by Jason Snelling to keep hope alive for a miracle rally for Atlanta.

Ryan connected with Harry Douglas for 11 and Tony Gonzalez for nine more to move to the 49ers 10-yard line before Bowman sealed the deal.

After a slow first half offensive for the 49ers, San Francisco scored on all four of their possessions in the second half to rally from a 10-3 halftime deficit. The win keeps alive hopes of winning the NFC West for the 49ers and the potential for at least one more game at Candlestick.

The 49ers need to win next week against the Arizona Cardinals and hope for a second straight home loss by the Seattle Seahawks against the St. Louis Rams to win the division.

Colin Kaepernick threw for 197 yards and a touchdown and ran for another.

Kaepernick scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to give the 49ers a 20-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. San Francisco had completely dominated the half up to that point. They had scored 17 unanswered points in the half to take the lead and the 49ers’ defense had held Atlanta to just seven offensive plays on their first two possessions of the half.

But the Falcons weren’t ready to roll over just yet. Matt Ryan led Atlanta on a seven-play, 69-yard scoring drive to keep within reach of San Francisco. Ryan connected with Roddy White for a pair of third down conversions before hitting White for a 39-yard touchdown behind the 49ers’ defense.

White caught 12 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown for the Falcons on the night.

The touchdown cut the 49ers lead to 20-17. The Falcons defense couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain. Kendall Hunter broke free for 45 yards down to the Atlanta 2-yard line. Frank Gore scored from a yard out two plays later to extend the lead to 27-17.

But Atlanta wouldn’t quit. Ryan led the Falcons 61 yards on nine plays and hit Tony Gonzalez for a 2-yard touchdown pass to once again close the deficit to just three with 2:14 left to play. A roughing the passer penalty by Ahmad Brooks against Ryan moved the kickoff to midfield and gave the green light for Atlanta to attempt an onside kick.

The onside try by Matt Bosher dipped under Bowman’s hands and was one-handed by Snelling along the sideline to give the ball back to the Falcons.

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Pryor’s agent slams Dennis Allen

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The final game at Candlestick Park isn’t the only excitment in the Bay Area tonight.

The agent for Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor has gone public with an allegation that coach Dennis Allen has an agenda for making Pryor the starter for Week 17.

“I think they’re putting him in hopes that he fails,” Jerome Stanley told Scott Bair of CSN Bay Area.  “That’s what I think Coach is doing.  I think they’re putting him in hopes that he has a bad game, so he can then justify the Matt McGloin situation.  I think that’s what’s going on, I do and it’s ridiculous.”

Some would say it’s ridiculous for Stanley to go public with such an inflammatory allegation, since it will now be hard for Pryor to get a serious opportunity elsewhere — unless Pyor hires a new agent.

“You have to understand the [situation] Coach is putting him in, he doesn’t want him to look good,” Stanley said.  “And you can write that.  He doesn’t want him to look good because, if he looks good this week, it makes the past five weeks look like a bad decision.  [Allen] doesn’t want [Pryor] to look good, he wants him to look bad.  That is what is going on.”

What’s going on now is that, unless Pryor publicly disavows Stanley’s remarks, the situation becomes very awkward for Pryor, Allen, and the Raiders.  If Pryor doesn’t disagree with Stanley’s remarks, Allen risks looking weak and ineffective unless he says or does something.

Stanley’s comments suggest that Allen backed McGloin as the starter, and that someone else has made the decision to give Pryor another look.  If Pryor stinks in the regular-season finale, Allen’s support for McGloin becomes justified.

“I expect Terrelle Pryor to be a successful starting quarterback in the NFL,” Stanley said.  “I expect that.  I’ll be shocked if it didn’t happen.  Terrelle Pryor is the best and most dynamic athlete in the NFL playing the quarterback position.  He also has won games and been productive when given the opportunity.  It’s not brain surgery. His coach stumbled upon a gem, the find of the season in Terrelle Pryor.  He stumbled upon him and then he botched the discovery.  It was ridiculous, just ridiculous.”

The situation is now officially ridiculous.  And the ball is in Pryor’s and/or Allen’s court.  Expect to hear something from one or both of them soon.

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49ers rally to take lead over Falcons

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After a slow offensive first half, the San Francisco 49ers hit some big plays against the Atlanta Falcons in the third quarter to rally from a 10-3 halftime deficit to take the lead.

The 49ers have put up 129 yards of offense on their first two possessions of the second half. Colin Kaepernick connected with Anquan Boldin for a 10-yard touchdown and Phil Dawson converted a 30-yard field goal as the 49ers took a 13-10 lead late in the third quarter.

Kapernick connected with Michael Crabtree for gains of 47 and 19 yards to set up the touchdown pass to Boldin to tie the game. San Francisco forced an Atlanta punt after just four plays on their opening possession of the half and the 49ers took advantage.

Another connection from Kaepernick to Crabtree for 22 yards moved the 49ers to the Falcons 28-yard line. Kaepernick was sacked by Jonathan Massaquoi to be knocked back to the edge of field goal range before a pass interference call against Paul Worrilow bailed the 49ers out. The 49ers moved to the Falcons’ 12-yard line before having to settle for Dawson’ field goal.

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Falcons fighting hard in big game for 49ers

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The 49ers have everything to play for and the Falcons have nothing to play for. But you wouldn’t know it from watching the start of this game.

Atlanta jumped out to a 7-3 lead in the second quarter on a Steven Jackson touchdown run, showing that the Falcons aren’t going down without a fight. The drive was set up by a huge play on third-and-long, when Matt Ryan felt the pocket collapse, stepped up and fired a pass to receiver Drew Davis, who raced down the field all the way to the 5-yard line for a 59-yard gain.

The touchdown was preceded by San Francisco safety Donte Whitner getting flagged for a hit on a defenseless receiver (Jackson), even though Whitner appeared to turn and lead with his shoulder. Whitner then got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for arguing the call.

The 49ers had one solid drive offensively, resulting in a Phil Dawson 49-yard field goal, but for the most part the Falcons’ defense has held San Francisco’s offense in check. You wouldn’t know from watching this game that the 49ers have one of the best records in the NFL, and the Falcons have one of the worst.

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ProFootballTalk: Saints praying for pretty playoff picture

The ProFootballTalk crew discusses the NFC playoff picture. Mike Florio talks about the Cardinals’ victory over the Seahawks in Seattle, the Carolina Panthers’ win over the Saints, Cam Newton’s clutch performance and more.

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ProFootballTalk: Dolphins to flip over AFC wild card?

The ProFootballTalk crew discusses the race for the No. 6 seed in the AFC.

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ProFootballTalk: What does Dallas do without Romo?

Mike Florio and Erik Kuselias discuss the latest on Tony Romo and his back injury. Florio notes that the Cowboys have no obligation to say anything about Tony Romo until Wednesday.

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Reports: Cowboys to work out John Skelton and David Carr

Carr Getty Images

The Cowboys haven’t ruled quarterback Tony Romo out for Sunday’s game against the Eagles, possibly because they have no obligation to say anything about Romo’s status until the first injury report of the week is issued on Wednesday.

Regardless, he’s injured badly enough to compel the Cowboys to kick tires on other quarterbacks.

Per multiple reports, the Cowboys will work out John Skelton and David Carr.  They currently have no quarterbacks on the roster other than Romo and Kyle Orton.

Carr, the first overall pick in the 2002 draft, spent five seasons in Houston as the starter.  He has served as a backup with the Panthers, Giants, and 49ers.  Skelton spent three years with the Cardinals before bouncing around the league this year.

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Munchak hopes for support from Webster

Munchak AP

Next week, Titans CEO Tommy Smith will decide whether a man who has been employed by the franchise for more than three decades will be around for at least another year.  Coach Mike Munchak, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman with the team when the team was known as the Houston Oilers, hopes that G.M. Ruston Webster will support Munchak at the proper time.

“I think there would be a discussion on ‘Does he see it the same way I do?‘” Munchak said Monday, via Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean.  “I am sure not everything would be on the same page, but that’s pretty much impossible on trying to figure out how to do it among coaches and players and other things you have to do.  But I don’t know why we’d be far off.”

Munchak wasn’t willing to say whether he believes Webster will support him.

“I think you’d have to ask Ruston that question probably, on how he feels,” Munchak said. “But this is a business. . . . We need to figure out, ‘Here’s how I think we need to do it, here’s what I think we need to do.’  And if we are all on the same page we go for it.  And if not, then obviously there’s changes made. . . .  We want to win and it’s a matter of whose vision we’re going to jump on.”

Wyatt writes that Webster likely will have a say in whether Munchak will return.  But why should anyone assume Webster will return?  If Smith intends to start fresh, the Titans could have both a new coach and a new G.M.

As Smith has said, the Titans aren’t in the losing business.  The challenge will be to assess responsibility for the fact that the team recently has been in the non-winning business.  It could be Munchak.  It could be Webster.  It could be someone else.

Regardless, if the goal is to turn a losing team into a winner, it’s impossible to declare anyone whose fingerprints have been on the franchise as safe.

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Mike Iupati back, Mario Manningham out for 49ers

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The 49ers are getting healthier on the offensive line, but the problems in the receiving corps continue.

Mike Iupati, the San Francisco guard who had missed the last four weeks with a knee injury, is active and will start tonight against the Falcons. However, receiver Mario Manningham is inactive with an illness. Both Iupati and Manningham were listed as questionable on the injury report.

Also listed as questionable was Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, who is active and will play through a toe injury tonight.

The 49ers’ inactives are TE Derek Carrier, LB Nick Moody OG Ryan Seymour, DT Quinton Dial, OG Joe Looney, and WR Jon Baldwin.

The Falcons’ inactives are LB Sean Weatherspoon, WR Darius Johnson, RB Josh Vaughan, S Zeke Motta, OT Terren Jones, G Sean Locklear and DT Travian Robertson.

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Jonathan Martin breaks silence, on Twitter

Jonathan Martin AP

We haven’t heard much from Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin since he abruptly left the team on October 28.  Apart from a prepared statement read outside the league office after he met with NFL investigator Ted Wells, Martin has said nothing.

He also has been silent on Twitter.  As several of you have pointed out, Martin has returned to Twitter for the first time since the day he threw down a tray of spaghetti and exited the facility.

The message?  “Happy Holidays!

The responses?  Creative, in some instances.

Meanwhile, Wells continues his work, largely out of sight.  While a second round of interviews with Dolphins linemen was reportedly canceled, a league source tells PFT that Wells intended to conduct the follow-up sessions by phone.

Eventually, a report will be delivered to Commissioner Roger Goodell.  The report, when finalized, will be made public.

Some expect the report to be held until after the Super Bowl.  At a minimum, the report won’t be issued while the Dolphins’ season continues.

Martin has been placed on the team’s non-football illness list.  He has been paid since leaving the team.  Guard Richie Incognito remains on paid suspension; through the end of the regular season, Incognito will have been paid for six games.

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Jeff Fisher confirms Jake Long tore ACL, MCL on Sunday

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When left tackle Jake Long was carted off with a knee injury on Sunday, the fear was that he tore his ACL.

Coach Jeff Fisher confirmed that injury on Monday, adding that Long also tore his MCL during the victory over the Buccaneers. Long will wait four to six weeks before having surgery and will spend the offseason rehabbing in hopes of a full recovery in time for the 2014 season.

“I would have confidence in him coming back. He’s an exceptional athlete and takes care of himself,” Fisher said.

The Rams will likely have to take a slightly different approach to the offseason in regard to tackle with Long coming off such a serious injury. Rodger Saffold will move back to his old spot on the left side of the line for Week 17 before heading into free agency, although the fact that Saffold has played 16 games just once in his career may not make him their top choice.

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League will look into whether Cowboys hid Romo back injury

Tony Romo AP

After Sunday’s win over the Redskins, both owner Jerry Jones and quarterback Tony Romo suggested that Romo entered the game with a back injury.

The only problem?  Romo wasn’t listed on the injury report.

“We will look into it,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told PFT via email regarding Romo’s absence from the injury report.

Helping the Cowboys is the fact that Romo played, and that he didn’t seem to be affected by the injury, even after he tweaked the back.  Still, if Romo had an injury and it wasn’t disclosed, that could be a problem for the Cowboys.

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Mike Sherman: Lack of productive run game early caused us to abandon it

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The Dolphins ran the ball 12 times during Sunday afternoon’s 19-0 loss to the Bills, which was just five more times than Ryan Tannehill was sacked by a Bills defense that feasted on an overmatched offensive line.

On Monday, Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman explained why things got so pass-happy in the second half of the game. Sherman explained that running the ball nine time for nine yards in the first half led him to move away from running in the second half, even though he says he believes balance is essential for an offense to operate at its best.

“We really haven’t had many explosive runs this year which is not good, we need to continue to build towards that,” Sherman said, via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. “A lack of productivity in the run game caused me to veer off into another direction.”

There’s no way to argue that the Dolphins were productive on the ground on Sunday, but they weren’t productive through the air either and their quarterback was taking a pounding. Things may not have played out any differently if the Dolphins called more runs against Buffalo, but Buffalo’s defense is built to stop the pass so it may have been a missed opportunity for Sherman and the Dolphins to make some inroads offensively.

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