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Year-End Review: Top 10 plays involving Atlanta/Georgia teams

Ronald Acuna Jr., Matt Ryan, Josef Martinez, Julio Jones and Sony Michel produced the state's most signature sports plays of 2018.

The city of Atlanta/state of Georgia had a rock-solid sports year in 2018.

**Atlanta United captured the MLS Cup in decisive fashion, thus ending the city's 23-year drought of major sports championships.

(If you want to debate whether Major League Soccer should be on the same plane as the NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL ... have at it with friends, family and co-workers. It's a purely subjective experience.)

**The Braves posted an 18-win improvement from the 2017 campaign and cruised to the National League East title (90 victories).

**Georgia won the Rose Bowl (double overtime), clinched back-to-back SEC East crowns and asserted itself as no worst than the No. 3 team for the 2017 and '18 seasons. 

(Sorry, Oklahoma and Notre Dame.)\

CLEMONS: Here are UGA Football's top 10 plays from the calendar 2018

**The Falcons knocked off the Rams during last January's wild-card round ... and fell one Julio Jones near-catch from beating Philly (on the road) for Divisional Playoff Weekend.

**Georgia Tech ushered in a new era of football by hiring the excitable and forward-thinking Geoff Collins

The coach's bold new plan: Operating a pro-style offense and recruiting enough elite-level athletes to compete with UGA.

**Regarding the Hawks ... well, they're doing everything in their power to stockpile lottery picks; and that's certainly a noble pursuit. 

Even if it doesn't pay off for another three years.

Which brings us to this: The 11Alive Sports staffers got together to brainstorm the Top 10 Plays for 2018, primarily involving the Hawks, Braves, Falcons, United and Georgia or Georgia Tech.

One last caveat: Ronald Acuna Jr.'s absurd streak of home runs during the summertime doesn't count as a single play; but spoiler alert: The NL Rookie of the Year made the countdown anyway.


TEAM: Braves

SKINNY: Ronald Acuna Jr.'s first major league homer (in Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark). 

Estimated count: A blast of roughly 445 feet.


TEAM: Braves

SKINNY: Dansby Swanson rips a walkoff RBI single against the Marlins. 

The significance here: It capped Atlanta's six-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning

Just minutes prior, the club appeared listless while trailing Miami 9-4.



SKINNY: Superstar Josef Martinez breaks the MLS single-season scoring record, notching his 28th goal before the end of August.


TEAM: Georgia Bulldogs

SKINNY: For one fleeting moment, this Jake Fromm-to-Riley Ridley TD connection had seemingly clinched an upset victory of No. 1 Alabama, a second straight SEC championship for Georgia ... along with a berth in the College Football Playoff.

And yes, this Tweet below was written in French. Who knew 'Futbol Americain' was so popular there?


TEAM: Hawks

SKINNY: Nothing to see here, folks. Just you average tomahawk dunk off an offensive rebound (John Collins) ... followed by Deandre' Bembry's miraculous steal/buzzer-beating triple.



GAME: Georgia Tech @ UGA

SKINNY: Tech's Juanyeh Thomas fights elite-athlete fire with proverbial fire, reeling off a 100-yard kickoff-return touchdown against the Dawgs.


GAME: Georgia @ LSU

SKINNY: No honey words can do this steamrolling effort from Elijah Holyfield any further justice. 

Straight up, the junior tailback (and son of boxing icon Evander Holyfield) bowled over a willing, but overmatched LSU opponent ... in dizzying fashion.


GAME: Ravens @ Falcons

SKINNY: Check out linebacker Vic Beasley's arduous journey to end-zone glory, recovering a fumble, dancing laterally for a stretch ... and then turning on the jets for a looooooooooooong recovery touchdown.


GAME: Mets @ Braves

SKINNY: Utility infielder Charlie Culberson becomes an overnight sensation, after crushing a walkoff homer against the hated Mets.

How big of a sensation? Factions of the 11Alive newsroom had three separate nicknames to describe Culberson's late-inning heroics:

Charlie Walkoff (my personal preference)
Charlie Clutch


GAME: Auburn @ Georgia

SKINNY: Poor Auburn. The Tigers were on the brink of a comeback in mid-November ... before D'Andre Swift reached into the defense's collective hearts and ripped 'em out, one by one.

Seventy-seven yards for the touchdown ... cold-blooded.


GAME: Georgia vs. Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl (CFB Playoff)

SKINNY: Yes, the signature play of the calendar year took place on Day 1 ... but its place atop this countdown was hardly challenged. 

Sony Michel's wildcat touchdown run in double overtime helped clinch Georgia's first Rose Bowl triumph since 1943. It also positioned the Bullodgs for a run at the national title game the following week ... down the road in Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium).

Against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl, the Dawgs rallied from a 17-point hole to likely post the second greatest bowl victory in school history. 


GAME: Falcons @ Redskins

SKINNY: Julio Jones went the first seven weeks without finding the end zone this season, a streak made even worse by his low count of three touchdowns from 2017.

But everything changed for the better in Week 9, when Jones channeled his inner-Beast Mode on this memorable play.

And for what it's worth, Jones racked up eight touchdowns over the final nine games.


GAME: Panthers @ Falcons

SKINNY: Quarterback Matt Ryan (272 yards passing, 4 total TDs in Week 2) boldly called his number in the final quarter versus Carolina and subsequently enjoyed the most gravity-defying touchdown run of his career.


GAME: MLS Cup final ... Portland @ ATL UTD

SKINNY: Josef Martinez's opening salvo in the Cup finale helped United bring home the MLS championship, while halting the city's championship drought of 23 years and 41 days.


GAME: Dodgers @ Braves (NLDS playoffs)

SKINNY: For Game 3 at SunTrust Park, Atlanta ended its postseason scoring drought in the second inning ... thanks to a bases-loaded walk to pitcher Sean Newcomb.

After the Braves put runners on 2nd and 3rd with two outs, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had the seemingly brilliant plan of intentionally walking Charlie Culberson (batting in the 8-hole), thus forcing Newcomb to deliver the first run.

Incredibly, though, Dodgers starter Walker Buehler ended up walking Newcomb on five pitches. After witnessing this crazy sequence, it's fair to wonder if Los Angeles would have been better off ... by just letting Newcomb swing away from a tee.

The fireworks didn't end there: Next up, Acuna launched a grand slam to left-center field, boosting the Braves' lead to 5-0.

(For history buffs, Acuna became the youngest player since Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle to hit a grand slam during the MLB postseason.)