Is this the best team in the NFL?

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Is this the best team in the NFL?

From Comcast SportsNetTAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- No one has led more late game-winning drives during the past five seasons than Matt Ryan, and the Atlanta Falcons quarterback did it again with his fifth one this season.Matty Ice threw for 353 yards and overcame two critical turnovers to stop Tampa Bay's four-game winning streak with a 24-23 victory on Sunday.The Falcons (10-1) are tied with the Houston Texans for the NFL's best record, and Ryan had plenty of help in withstanding a challenge from the up-and-coming Buccaneers (6-5)."They are playing with a lot of confidence," said Ryan, who has won seven of his past eight starts against the Bucs. "It's always been a tough place for us to come play. They play with great effort, and I think they have a good football team."Ryan teamed with Julio Jones on an 80-yard TD midway through the third quarter, but the Falcons found themselves trailing 23-17 after the Bucs marched for a touchdown, then used a sack-fumble to set up a field goal that left Atlanta needing another strong finish from their quarterback.Ryan obliged by a leading a six-play, 64-yard march that Michael Turner finished with a 3-yard TD run that put the NFC South leaders ahead for good with 7:55 remaining.Connor Barth missed a 56-yard goal for Tampa Bay (6-5) in the closing minutes, and the winning streak that's helped the Bucs climb back into playoff contention following a slow start ended when Josh Freeman's desperation pass fell incomplete in the end zone on the final play."The last drive, that's something we've done before this season," Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez said. "I really think that's a positive for us to be able to come up with plays like that when we have to like that. ... I'm really happy with the way we responded."It's getting to be a way of life. Ryan has also led late marches to beat Carolina, Washington, Oakland and Arizona this season and has put together 21 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime since entering the league in 2008 -- four of them against the division rival Bucs.The Falcons won't have long to celebrate this one. The host the New Orleans Saints Thursday night in a rematch of the only game they've lost."Ten-and-1 is great, but I'll tell you what I've said since the beginning of the season: We're just jockeying for position," Gonzalez said. "We just want to put ourselves in the best position, playing the best football. Right around this time is when you want to start gelling as a team and take it on into the playoffs because that's the most important thing."The win stopped the Bucs, who've won five or seven following a 1-3 start, from tightening the NFC South standings. Turner also scored a fourth-quarter TD that helped the Falcons overcome six turnovers to beat Arizona 23-19 last week.Doug Martin scored on a pair of 1-yard run for the Bucs, however the rookie who began the day leading the NFL in total yards from scrimmage was limited to 50 yards rushing on 21 carries.Barth kicked field goals of 22, 42, and 48 yards, the latter giving the Bucs their six-point lead after cornerback E.J. Biggers sacked Ryan to force a fumble. Ryan threw a second-quarter interception -- his sixth pick in two weeks -- that led Barth's field goal that made it 10-10 at the half.Ryan completed 26 of 32 passes, including four straight on the drive that Turner finished with his TD run. Jacquizz Rodgers had a 5-yard TD run in the first quarter, and Jones finished with six receptions for 147 yards despite playing on a sore right ankle that limited him in practice.Ryan started the game with 10 straight completions before Ronde Barber's interception and 28-yard return to the Atlanta 31 led to Barth's first field goal.The Falcons drove to the Tampa Bay 4 in the closing seconds of the half, but wasted an opportunity to regain the lead when Matt Bryant hooked a 22-yard field-goal attempt wide left as time expired. The Atlanta kicker missed a 48-yarder with 8 seconds left, giving the Bucs one more chance to pull out what would have been their first signature victory under first-year coach Greg Schiano."It was a hard-fought game by both teams, a very physical game," Schiano said. "But I do think missed opportunities were a big part of it. There were some chances both offensively and defensively, and in the kicking game."Freeman finished 19 of 30 for 256 yards, and Vincent Jackson had five catches for 96 yards. A big factor in the loss, though, was Atlanta's held the Bucs to field goals after each of Ryan's turnovers, once after Tampa Bay had 1st-and-goal at the Atlanta 3."I thought our defense did an outstanding job again. They were put in some tough situations after turnovers," Falcons coach Mike Smith said, adding that slowing Martin was one of the keys to the game as well."We knew it was going to be one of our musts,' and I thought we did a nice job," Smith added. "I thought we played the run extremely well, controlled the line of scrimmage. That is an outstanding running back."NOTES:Falcons starting cornerbacks Asante Samuel (shoulder) and Dunta Robinson (head) left the game with injuries in the third quarter. ... Barber, who made his 210th straight start to tie Jim Otto for the seventh-most consecutive starts in NFL history, has 47 career interceptions. ... Martin has 1,050 yards rushing yards, eighth-most in a season by a Tampa Bay running back. ...Gonzalez had five receptions for 62 yards, and Roddy White had six for 57 yards for Atlanta.

Warriors bury Clippers rivalry with 50-point barrage in third quarter

Warriors bury Clippers rivalry with 50-point barrage in third quarter

OAKLAND -- The Warriors-Clippers rivalry, dead for a couple years, was buried 50 points deep Thursday night.

There were, and may always be, occasional fits of temper in which both players and officials will be tested. That surely was the case during the Warriors’ 123-113 victory over LA at Oracle Arena.

But scoring 50 points in 12 minutes, as the Warriors did in the third quarter, is a rather emphatic statement that serves as its own embellishment. It sent the Clippers back home, unable to muster even a half-hearted comeback.

“That was incredible,” Kevin Durant said of third-quarter scoring frenzy.

“That’s a lot of points,” Klay Thompson said. “It’s that the most we’ve had all season?”

Well, yes, it is. The Warriors’ previous high for points in a quarter was 45, also against the Clippers, on Jan. 28.

So this was astonishing even to the Warriors, the highest-scoring team in the NBA for three seasons running. This is the Warriors’ fourth 50-point quarter in franchise history and their first since March 1989. They made nine 3-pointers, tying a franchise record for triples in a quarter.

Fifties are rare, period; the last one by any team in the NBA was on March 25, 2014, when the Lakers dropped 51 in a quarter against the Knicks.

“I had no idea we scored that much,” said Stephen Curry, who scored 20 in the quarter -- 17 in the final 3:37 before halftime. “Obviously, coming back from 12 down to having a double-digit lead, it all started with the defensive end and finding transition.”

The scoring breakdown: Curry scored 20, Durant 15, Thompson 5, Andre Iguodala and Zaza Pachulia 4 each and JaVale McGee 2. The Warriors shot 73.9 percent (17-of-23) in the quarter.

“It all started from our defense, getting rebounds and getting out in transition,” Durant said.

The Warriors forced five LA turnovers in the quarter, off which they scored 11 points. Trailing by 12 at the half, they led by 12 entering the fourth quarter.

The Warriors have defeated the Clippers 10 consecutive times overall. They’ve beaten them 11 straight times at Oracle Arena. The average margin of victory in four games this season is 21.5 points.

This was a matter of how the Warriors responded to the threat posed by LA in the first half.

“I’m not sure what needed to happen,” Draymond Green said. “But I know we took that quarter over. And it was pretty spectacular.”

With Clippers rivalry over, Warriors feed off feud with Foster

With Clippers rivalry over, Warriors feed off feud with Foster

This will come as a sharp blow to Warrior fans who like things the way they are, but they probably can no longer use Scott Foster as an alibi for failure, or a stalking horse for rage.
 
Well, I mean they can, but let’s be honest here – the evidence just doesn’t support it any more.
 
Foster, who no matter what you say is one of the elite officials in the league, has also been cast as a bête noire by all things Golden State. Either he’s imperious, or he’s standoffish, or he makes himself too conspicuous – they’re all standard complaints made of all officials who aren’t otherwise branded as just plain terrible.
 
Only Foster isn’t terrible, given the fact that he has worked a series of NBA Finals, and that remains the gold standard for officiating.
 
But the Warriors bang their heads against the backboard when he works their games, and were on the verge of doing that again Thursday night against the Los Angeles Clippers. Foster called third quarter technicals on Andre Iguodala and the Warrior bench, and J.T. Orr called one on Draymond Green, all in the space of 6:34. The Warriors were unhinged, the fans were unhinged, innocent bystanders were being hit with flying hinges throughout the arena.
 
And in that stretch, the Warriors outscored the Clippers, 26-15, en route to a 50-point quarter (the first in two seasons and the third since the turn of the millennium) and another harsh slapdown of what used to be known as the Warriors-Clippers Cavalcade Of Hate, this time 123-113.
 
It isn’t that any more, not close. Truth is, the Warriors have won 10 consecutive games against the Clips, but probably never quite at decisively as this. At the game’s most lopsided stretch, Golden State outscored Los Angeles, 72-33, in a shade over 17 minutes.
 
Because that’s what they do.
 
Only this time, the comeback was not fueled by the existence of the Clippers, who had outplayed them pretty convincingly for the first 22 minutes and change, but with the officials, who as we have said before irk the hell out of them when their number includes Foster.
 
Who, again, is one of the game’s best officials. I think it’s a personality clash, to be frank, in which both sides can take some blame.
 
Truth is, though, when a team can go for 50 in a quarter and still have time to engage in a feud with the officials, it is making a kinky little statement about what they can do when enraged, and how difficult it is to stop them when they have a serious mad-on.
 
Yes, it is probably stretching a point to make this case, especially when the Warriors make 17 of 23 shots (9 of 15 from three) and assist on 13 of the 17 field goals. It is probably minimizing Stephen Curry’s 20-point quarter and his four assists, or Kevin Durant’s 15 and five rebounds, or David West imposing his body between Green and the officials to keep him from getting T’d up again for the second successive game.
 
But we have already established that rivalries are dying at their feet left and right. In the last three years the Clippers have gone from the Warriors’ arch-enemies to a team that has finished an aggregate 44 games behind the Dubs in the standings, making whatever animosity they can still stir 

Against the Clips a curio of a much earlier time. The Oklahoma City Thunder have come and gone, and even the Durant-Russell Westbrook has lost its last bit of elasticity.
 
Oh, there is still Cleveland, but that cannot be resumed for another 14 weeks at the earliest.
 
The Warriors, in short, have run out of opponents, and given that they will manufacture a foe when one does not otherwise exist, Scott Foster may have to serve for the time being, even if he is nothing but an intermittent prop to amuse the customers when the game cannot provide.
 
Though you’d have to think the third quarter Thursday makes that pretty thin oatmeal. The Warriors ate an entire game in 12 minutes, including the officials. They seemed like they got their fill.