Folk Enjoying His Hero Status in NY

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Former Cowboy would love to return to Big D for the Super Bowl.

Former Cowboy would love to return to Big D for the Super Bowl.

By Charean Williams

It was the moment Nick Folk had been dreaming of since the Cowboys selected him in the sixth round of the 2007 draft: A game-winning kick in a playoff game.
But Folk’s 32-yard field goal advanced the Jets in the playoffs, not the Cowboys.
His dream now is to return to his old stomping ground at Cowboys Stadium and kick the game-winning field goal for the Jets in Super Bowl XLV. How sweet would that be?

“That would be fine with me,” Folk understated.
Folk became a Folk hero in New York, almost making Jets fans forget Doug Brien.

Brien had missed field goal tries of 47 and 43 yards in the final 2:02 of regulation in a 20-17 playoff loss to the Steelers to end the 2004 season for the Jets. Brien never kicked for the Jets again.

Folk knew his kick Saturday was good the moment it left his foot. He let out a scream when the officials raised their arms, signaling a 17-16 victory over the Colts.

“It was exciting,” Folk said. “Playing Peyton Manning in Indianapolis in a playoff game, it’s exciting to get that win and move on to this week.”

Folk made the Pro Bowl his rookie season, making 26-of-31 field goals, including a 53-yarder on the final play of an improbable 25-24 victory over the Bills. He made 20-of-22 field goals in 2008, but he had no touchbacks, prompting the Cowboys to select David Buehler in the fifth round of the 2009 draft.

It was the beginning of the end to Folk’s career in Dallas.
Folk had hip surgery in May, and though the Cowboys kept both kickers on their roster, Folk eventually was released after his 10th miss in 14 games.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Folk said, “and it is what it is.”
He signed with the Jets, and aside from one rough spell when he missed six field goals in four games, Folk has been right at home in New York.

Starks surprises

The Packers admit they didn’t see this one coming. James Starks, a sixth-round draft pick, played in only three games during the regular season. He had only 29 carries for 101 yards.

Packers Coach Mike McCarthy said the team had “a couple of packages” for Starks against the Eagles.

A “few carries” turned into Starks carrying the load.
Starks produced the most rushing yards by a Packers’ running back this season.

His 123 yards on 23 carries also was the most by a rookie in the team’s illustrious postseason history, topping the 88 yards Travis Williams had in a Dec. 23, 1967, playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams.

“He looks great in practice. He runs really hard,” Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “We’ve known that since the first day he came in. We weren’t even wearing pads in the spring, and we knew he could do some great things. I think how he’s built and he runs, he’s so big and tall, he falls forward even when he’s getting tackled.”

The Packers have been looking for someone, anyone to fill the cleats of Ryan Grant, whose season ended after only eight carries with a severe ankle injury. They have used a running back by committee approach this season, with Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn and Dimitri Nance.

Starks didn’t join the mix until Dec. 5.

He was the University of Buffalo’s all-time leading rusher with 3,140 yards, and he scored 40 total touchdowns in three seasons. But he missed his senior season with a shoulder injury, dropping his draft stock.

Soon after arriving in Green Bay, Starks strained a hamstring and was placed on the physically unable to perform list.

He had 73 yards in his pro debut against the 49ers, setting a franchise mark for the most yards by a running back in his first game.

“I always had high hopes,” Starks said. “I prayed about it. I knew God would put me in the right situation at the right time. I just stayed focused, stayed in my playbook, tried to help as much I can in practice doing what the coaches ask me to do and what the teammates expect me to do. Everything worked out well for me.”

Starks will be a bigger part of the game plan this week against the Falcons. Now that they’ve seen Starks do what he did against the Eagles, they expect it against the Falcons.

“He’s just getting started,” Packers offensive tackle Chad Clifton said. “Hopefully, he can do some great things [against the Falcons] as well.”

Fourth and short

• Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington had surgery last month, the fourth major surgery on his throwing shoulder. He has not decided on his future yet.

• The Patriots are 11-2 at home in the playoffs in their history. After Robert Kraft bought the team 17 years ago, the Patriots won 11 consecutive home playoff games before Baltimore beat them last year.

• Falcons receiver Roddy White had only five catches for 49 yards the last time Atlanta played the Packers. It was his second-lowest output of the season next to the 43 yards he had against New Orleans on Dec. 27. White led the league with 115 catches, and in the four seasons since his breakout season of 2007, he has averaged 93 catches for 1,282 yards and 9 touchdowns.

• Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez has played 14 seasons and has yet to win a playoff game. He is 0-3 in the postseason in his career.

• Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had one touchdown and six interceptions in his first five postseason appearances. He passed for 265 yards and two touchdowns against the Chiefs in his sixth playoff game.

• Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe was shut out for only the second time all season. The Broncos shut down Bowe on Dec. 5, and last week against the Ravens, Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel never even targeted Bowe.

• Bowe led the NFL with 15 touchdown catches and caught 72 passes for 1,162 yards this season.

• Ravens tight end Todd Heap has been Joe Flacco’s favorite target in the two games he’s been back from a hamstring injury. Heap has been targeted 17 times in the past two games.

• Panthers owner Jerry Richardson said he is committed to keeping the top pick despite Andrew Luck’s decision to stay at Stanford. The last time the Panthers had the No. 1 overall choice, they traded it to Cincinnati and selected Kerry Collins with the fifth overall pick.

• The Bears have only one player on injured reserve, and that’s backup linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer. Twenty-nine of their starters and key backups missed no games or only one because of injury.

• In the first meeting against the Seahawks, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler completed 17-of-39 passes for 290 yards and was sacked six times.

• Josh Cribbs did not score a touchdown this season, the first time in his six-year career we was scoreless.

• The Broncos have not settled on their defensive scheme yet, but whether it is a 4-3 or a 3-4 they likely will take a lineman or two high in the draft. Denver has not selected a first-round defensive lineman since 1997 when it took Trevor Pryce.

• The Packers have lost at least one fumble in five consecutive games.

• Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 1,008 rushing yards, becoming the first Patriots player to top the 1,000-yard rushing mark since Corey Dillon had a team-record 1,635 rushing yards in 2004.

• Defensive end Vernon Gholston, the Jets’ first-round pick in 2008, has not had a sack in his three-year career. Last week, he was inactive for the first time this season.

• The Raiders will make their ninth head coaching hire in the 17 seasons since they have returned to Oakland.

• The Raiders will have 27 free agents. Though many could be restricted free agents, offensive lineman Robert Gallery could be among those who are unrestricted.

• Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a 7-2 regular-season record against Baltimore and is 8-2 overall. He also is 8-2 in the postseason.

• Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall ran for 13 touchdowns this season, tying the most by a Pittsburgh running back in 34 seasons. Franco Harris holds the record of 14 in 1976.

• Seahawks defensive end Raheem Brock has been in 17 playoff games. He was unsung hero in Saturday’s victory over the Saints, with a sack, a forced fumble and two tackles for loss.

• Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has the most postseason wins of any of the four NFC quarterbacks left, with a 5-5 playoff record in his 12-year career.

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