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Falcons Get a Win, and a Scare

November 23, 1998|From Associated Press

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons can breathe again. Chris Chandler appears to be OK.

Chandler threw two touchdown passes as the Falcons rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half to beat Chicago, 20-13, Sunday for their fourth straight victory.

But Chandler, probably the team's most irreplaceable player, wasn't around at the end. He sprained his right knee and ankle on a ugly-looking play with 6:29 remaining, causing a giant gasp in the Georgia Dome.

Team doctor Andrew Bishop said the ankle sprain appeared to be the most serious part of the injury. Chandler suffered no ligament damage in his knee, though he is questionable for next Sunday's game at St. Louis.

"It's certainly not a season-threatening or career-threatening injury," Bishop said.

The injury occurred on a false start by center Robbie Tobeck. Officials were trying to whistle the play dead when Chicago's Mike Wells broke through the line and pulled down Chandler, whose right leg buckled under his body and caused a burning sensation in his knee.

"It scared me real bad," Chandler said.

Chandler said he didn't think Wells needed to take him to the turf, but no other penalty was called.

"It was kind of a fluke play," Wells said. "I didn't mean anything by it."

Clearly, Atlanta (9-2) must have Chandler on the field to remain on top of the NFC West and advance in the playoffs.

Over the past two seasons, the Falcons are 14-4 when Chandler plays an entire game. They are 2-7 otherwise, including a 28-3 loss to the New York Jets with 44-year-old Steve DeBerg as the starter.

"We don't need those demons back in this locker room," receiver Terance Mathis said. "We don't need those demons back in this organization. We've got to keep Chris healthy."

DeBerg finished out Sunday's victory and will start against the Rams if Chandler can't play.

"I think we're good enough to win without Chris, but we're definitely not as good a team when he's not in there," DeBerg said. "He's one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. It was a long time ago that anybody thought of me in that class."

Before he was injured, Chandler brought the Falcons back from a 13-3 deficit. He threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Mathis late in the third quarter and an 11-yarder to Todd Kinchen with 9:32 remaining.

Jamal Anderson, who didn't practice most of the week because of an ankle injury, started slowly for the Falcons. The 1,000-yard rusher gained only 12 yards in the first half, but had 60 yards in 15 carries in the second, including an effort in which he broke at least four tackles for an eight-yard run.

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