Fal­cons’ Ryan tries to put dis­mal year be­hind him

The Covington News - - SPORTS -

Be­fore the World Cup, Uruguay was wor­ried about Luis Suarez’s knee and Colom­bia was fret­ting over in­jured Radamel Fal­cao.

Less than a month af­ter surgery, Suarez came back Thurs­day to score two vi­tal World Cup goals, and Colom­bia hasn’t lost de­spite miss­ing its star striker. Both South Amer­i­can teams won 2-1 Thurs­day, Uruguay push­ing Eng­land to the brink of elim­i­na­tion, and Colom­bia beat­ing Ivory Coast to go to first place in Group C.

The re­sults fur­ther un­der­scored South Amer­ica’s dom­i­nance of the World Cup in Brazil. The con­ti­nent’s teams now have 25 points out of a pos­si­ble 30.

Colom­bia con­tin­ued to pro­duce goals even with­out Fal­cao. For Uruguay, Suarez rein­vig­o­rated its cam­paign af­ter an open­ing 3-1 loss to Costa Rica. Uruguay is level with Italy and Costa Rica in Group D, and those team meet Fri­day in Re­cife.

About 15 miles from the site of the Uruguay-Eng­land game in Sao Paulo, about 2,000 people protested against the World Cup, some smash­ing win­dows at banks and car deal­er­ships and spray-painted anti-cap­i­tal­ist slo­gans on build­ings.

It was the lat­est protest to hit Brazil, which has seen hun­dreds of demon­stra­tions in the past year by people ex­press­ing anger about poor pub­lic ser­vices, cor­rup­tion in govern­ment, the bil­lions spent to host the World Cup and a litany of other com­plaints.

In­side the sta­dium, Suarez was hoisted aloft by team­mates af­ter the game as if he had won the World Cup.

Ear­lier in the tour­na­ment, stars have been com­ing through for their na­tions: Ney­mar for Brazil, Robin van Per­sie for the Nether­lands, Thomas Mueller for Ger­many and Lionel Messi for Ar­gentina. Suarez got started later, but he made up for miss­ing a game with his star per­for­mance Thurs­day.

Af­ter May 22 surgery on his knee left lit­tle hope for a World Cup ap­pear­ance, Suarez looked com­pletely healthy. He pro­duced his toothy smile even be­fore his header crossed the line to open the scor­ing. And af­ter Wayne Rooney fi­nally scored his first World Cup goal to tie the game for Eng­land, Suarez capped his re­turn with some­thing al­most mag­i­cal in Sao Paulo.

With Uruguay un­der in­tense pres­sure in the 85th minute, Suarez gath­ered a long clear­ance that was ac­ci­den­tally headed on by Eng­land’s Steven Ger­rard — his Liver­pool team­mate.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — At­lanta Fal­cons quar­ter­back Matt Ryan likes to hang out with fam­ily and friends, play golf and take a va­ca­tion or two in the off­sea­son.

He hasn’t af­forded him­self too much time to re­lax, how­ever, since the Fal­cons limped to a 4-12 fin­ish last year.

For Ryan, a two-time Pro Bowl pick and the NFL’s of­fen­sive rookie of the year in 2008, this off­sea­son has been markedly dif­fer­ent.

“It’s some­thing that you don’t want to get used to,” Ryan told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “That’s for sure. It’s been longer than pre­vi­ous off­sea­sons, so that’s not a good thing.”

Af­ter leading At­lanta to a 54-22 record and two di­vi­sion ti­tles in his first six sea­sons, al­most noth­ing went right last year.

The Fal­cons were con­sid­ered cham­pi­onship con­tenders af­ter fin­ish­ing the 2012 sea­son just 10 yards shy of the Su­per Bowl, but they in­stead tied for the NFC’s worst record.

In­juries side­lined re­ceivers Julio Jones and Roddy White, run­ning back Steven Jack­son, line­backer Sean Weather­spoon, of­fen­sive tackle Sam Baker, de­fen­sive end Kroy Bier­mann and oth­ers for much of the sea­son.

Poor play on the of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive lines led to coach­ing staff changes, but Ryan, who en­dured a ca­reer-high 44 sacks and was pres­sured 203 times, most in the NFL, re­fused to pub­licly blame his team­mates.

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