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Road Suddenly Becomes a Soar Spot

November 09, 1998|From Associated Press

FOXBORO, Mass. — It didn't seem as if the Atlanta Falcons could be so good--or the New England Patriots so bad.

The Falcons won on the road against a team with a winning record--rare accomplishments for them--in defeating the Patriots, 41-10, on Sunday.

"Everybody was checking to see how the Falcons would respond--two first-place teams, a hostile environment--and we definitely responded," said Jamal Anderson, who ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns.

Chris Chandler threw for 240 yards and two touchdowns and the Falcon defense had six sacks and held the Patriots to a season-low 223 yards, and only 18 rushing.

The Falcons (7-2) improved on their best start and share the best record in the NFC West with the San Francisco 49ers, who they play next Sunday in Atlanta. The Patriots (5-4) fell out of a four-way tie for the best record in the AFC East in losing for the third time in four games.

"It never once entered my mind we would lose like this," Patriot linebacker Ted Johnson said. "We were overwhelmed. It seemed like nothing was working on both sides of the ball."

New England had a chance to come back midway through the second quarter with a fourth and two at the Atlanta 13-yard line and the score, 21-3. But when the Patriots tried for a first down rather than a field goal, Drew Bledsoe fumbled and 262-pound Chuck Smith returned it 71 yards for a touchdown and a 28-3 Falcon lead.

"It was a huge play," Falcon safety Eugene Robinson said. "That really demoralizes a team."

The Falcons handed the Patriots their biggest loss in 52 games, and erased any doubts they can play well on the road against a winning team. Until Sunday, they were 2-2 in road games and had defeated only two teams with winning records.

"It's a great win and all that but they keep getting bigger," Chandler said. "The 49ers game is by far going to be the biggest of the year, and it's at home."

The Falcons took a 14-0 lead on their first two possessions. Anderson scored on a one-yard run on Atlanta's third play and Chandler threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to O.J. Santiago on its eighth play after a fumble recovery by John Burrough.

"We wanted to establish a physical presence right away," Anderson said.

Chandler has thrown for at least one touchdown in 20 consecutive games, while Anderson has run for more than 100 yards in six of his last seven games.

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