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Williams Puts Hurt on Falcons

October 23, 2000|From Associated Press

ATLANTA — Ricky Williams hardly practiced during the week because of an aching right knee. He was at full speed when Sunday rolled around.

Williams rushed for 156 yards and three touchdowns to carry New Orleans to its third consecutive victory, 21-19, over the Atlanta Falcons.

The Saints (4-3) surpassed their victory total for last season when they went 3-13, and ended a 10-game losing streak against the Falcons.

New Orleans also moved above .500 for the first time since winning its opener a year ago.

"I took it easy in practice all week," said Williams, who carried the ball 29 times. "It turned out great."

He was also fined $3,500 for ignoring Coach Jim Haslett's request to see a doctor about his knee.

"It's fine," Williams said. "It takes a lot to keep me out of a game. I was ready to go. I wasn't sure how effective I would be, but I was ready to go."

The Falcons (2-6) lost their fifth in a row when a late rally fell short. That equals their longest losing streak since Dan Reeves became coach in 1997.

Chris Chandler threw a 33-yard touchdown to Terance Mathis with 2:58 remaining, but Atlanta failed to make the two-point conversion. Chandler's pass went through the hands of Reggie Kelly, covered closely by Sammy Knight at the goal line.

The Falcons decided against an onside kick, only to have the Saints run out the clock. On third and six, Jeff Blake threw a nine-yard pass to Joe Horn with just over a minute to go.

"This is painfully frustrating for us," said Chandler, who was 15 for 20 for 240 yards but was sacked six times.

Williams, cheered on by thousands of gold-clad Saints fans who made the trip from New Orleans, surpassed 100 yards rushing for the fifth game in a row in extending his own team record.

"My job is pretty easy out there," he said. "I'm getting five, six yards without anybody touching me."

Williams scored on a 12-yard run in the first quarter, then put the Saints ahead to stay with a 26-yard dash around left end with 5:45 left in the third--the longest scoring run of his two-year career.

Williams gave the Saints some breathing room with 4:10 remaining, leaping into the end zone from the Atlanta one to cap a 15-play, 92-yard drive in which he ran for 40 yards and also caught a seven-yard pass.

New Orleans wore down the Falcons, who were left with only three healthy linebackers when Jessie Tuggle hurt his left knee late in the first half.

Tuggle, the leading active career tackler in the NFL, tore his medial collateral ligament and is probably out for at least four weeks.

"We knew they were hurting at the linebacker position, so we took advantage of it," Williams said.

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