Originally created 12/13/04

Falcons' win clinches division



ATLANTA - T.J. Duckett might play the rest of his career and never score four touchdowns in a game.

The hefty third-year running back set a franchise record for production Sunday afternoon, but he spent no time reflecting on history. Duckett simply wanted to savor his performance and his team's third division title Sunday afternoon after the Atlanta Falcons coasted to a 35-10 victory over the Oakland Raiders.

"The bottom line is I was blessed," Duckett said. "That's how it unfolded."

Though it's uncommon for Duckett to carry the football 12 times and score on four attempts, his team's success rate as a division champion is even smaller.

Atlanta - which last year had a losing record for the 28th time in 38 seasons - seems to have turned around its unfortunate luck under rookie head coach Jim Mora.

The Falcons (10-3) not only earned the NFC South title by blowing out the Raiders, they also put themselves closer to securing a first-round bye in the playoffs and a home game the following week in the divisional round.

A win over the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome on Saturday likely would clinch the No. 2 conference seed behind Philadelphia.

"We've got a lot of goals left to achieve," Mora said after triumphantly exiting the field with his 9-year-old son, Cole, flanking him on the left and the game ball held tightly in his right hand. "We just have to stay on point and stay focused."

He told Michael Vick as much as he pulled his star quarterback aside and spoke quietly about goals not yet accomplished.

"We can go far, and we'll be a dangerous team," Vick said after passing for 145 yards and rushing twice for 31. "A lot of teams are not going to want to play us come the playoffs."

Duckett's touchdown-rich afternoon perfectly complemented teammate Warrick Dunn, who gained 103 yards on 25 carries.

Scoring three touchdowns in a 7:33 span of the second quarter essentially buried Oakland (4-9), which lost for the sixth time in eight games.

The Raiders suffered the indignity of watching defensive tackle Rod Coleman, who played his first five seasons for them, alertly make an over-the-shoulder interception on a ball that teammate Travis Hall batted into the air.

Coleman ran 39 yards for his first career score, dodging a poor attempt at a tackle by quarterback Kerry Collins. Cornerback Kevin Mathis escorted the 285-pounder into the end zone for a 21-3 lead with 1:14 remaining before halftime.

"It seemed like the end zone was moving back," Coleman said with a chuckle.

"This was my first touchdown. Last year, I picked up a fumble and only had to get three yards - I got two."

Atlanta's first touchdown came on Duckett's longest scamper of the day, a 28 yard run.

Vick drove the offense nine plays for the Falcons' second score. The drive including a 22-yard pass down the right side to tight end Alge Crumpler and a 17-yard dart along the left sideline to Brian Finneran before Duckett bulled over the goal line from 2 yards out.

The Falcons converted a season-high 10 of 16 third-down attempts, went 3-for-3 in the red zone and had Allen Rossum set up their first touchdown with a 50-yard punt return.

"We are going to enjoy this for a little while and then we are going to get back to work because we ain't stopping here," Mora said. "This isn't for us."

Reach George Henry at georgehenry44@hotmail.com.



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