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Dec 29, 2005

RACING TODAY

By: JOHN PIESEN


Condolences to the fans of the Atlanta Falcons and the Minnesota Vikings.

It's one thing to get eliminated from the post-season by losing in week 16. It's something else to go down with the bat on your shoulder.

At Tampa Bay

Game is tied at 24 with 1:08 left in overtime. The Falcons face fourth and two at their own 28. They need the win to remain alive for the post-season. A tie for Christmas? Forget it. Better Sherman takes Georgia.

That said, Atlanta coach Mora Jr. sends out the punting unit.

Must be a fake, said press box wags.

No fake.

They punted!

Thank you very much, said Tampa coach Gruden, who needed the win just as much as Mora to stay alive.

Two completions later, Tampa kicks the winning field goal. Now all the Bucs need do is beat the hapless Saints on Sunday (they are -13) and they can celebrate a division championship.

As for Mora, his post-game mission in life was to face an Atlanta radio station microphone 10 minutes later.

"Coach," he was asked, ".why did you punt?"

Mora went bonkers. He yanked off the headset, threw it to the floor, nearly hit a lady reporter when he tossed the microphone, and screamed and cursed his way out of the room.

When it came time to apologize, Mora really didn't. He blamed the Falcons' marketing and/or public relations department for making him do the radio interview, for which, I presume, he was handsomely paid.

And the worst part is that he never bothered to answer the question.

Personally, I would have asked Mora the question this way:

"Coach, since the Falcons are paying quarterback Vick $20 million a year, is it not asking too much for him to find a way to make two yards with the season on the line?"

Who knows, maybe Mora took the three points.

Whatever, the sizable New York market didn't get to see the OT.

Since Giants-Redskins ended on time, Fox had the option of showing the last minute (and the OT) of Tampa-Atlanta to New York. Instead, Fox cut to commercials, then to Terry and the Pirates, and never did cut to the game, one of the most important games of the season

In other words, damn the public!

At Baltimore

After a long and difficult season, the Vikings somehow were still alive going into week 16. If they beat Baltimore and Chicago (who will mail it in), the Love Boats have a major shot at reaching the post season.

That said, they were trailing the Ravens, 24-20, with nine minutes left - and looking at fourth and one from the Ravens' 40.

"Coach Tice has a decision to make," said one of the three ESPN non-stop talkers in the booth.

Decision? What decision?

You go get the yard.

But wait.

Here comes the punting unit out.

You've got to be kidding.

Yes, they punt.

Game over.

I presume Giants' coach Coughlan sent Tice a little something extra for Christmas.

And the Giants (who clinched a playoff spot as the result of the Minny loss) should at least send thank-you notes to the zebras.

In case you missed it, here's what happened.

Late in quarter three, a Raven pass fell incomplete, and no PI was called. Coach Billick went berserk on the sidelines, the crowd turned into a lynch mob. Yet the no-call stood.

On the next play (third and long), another pass fell incomplete. This time, the Vikes were called for a phantom roughing-the-QB. That kept the drive alive, and four players later, the Ravens connected for the winning TD.

That was one game decided by the zebras.

Another took place in Carolina when the zebras awarded Dallas a new set of downs inside the five for running into the kicker on a missed FG. The kicker deserves an oscar. And the Cowpokes are alive going into week 17.

What made this call so bizarre is that it actually went against the home team!

Finally, Monday Night Football on ABC ends its 35-year roll with Patriots-Jets from the booze-free Meadowlands. This is the 555 th game to be televised by ABC on Monday night.and be honest out there -- how many of you out there have seen them all?

MNF started with the Jets. And they finish with the Jets.

How appropriate?

I find it interesting that the Super Bowl-bound Pats spiked overnight from -4 to -7 because Cincinnati lost to Buffalo. Now, if the Pats win their last two, and Cincy loses at KC, the Pats move up a notch in the seedings.

Vegas must think this matters to the Brady Bunch.

Maybe Vegas is right. Maybe not. It's tough enough to pick NFL winners without being amateur shrinks.

Do the Pats care enough to win by eight points?

That should be the real theme of the MNF finale.

Instead, we'll get old footage of Howard, Dandy Don and the Giffer.

How appropriate?



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