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Wilson, Seahawks close in on NFC West title
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Seattle's defense was stifling as usual and its offense had a record-breaking eruption against a defense that's supposed to be one of the NFL's best. That team from the Pacific Northwest sure looked a lot like the Super Bowl champs of last season in its 35-6 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night. "I think it feels better than last year," Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett said. Russell Wilson threw for two touchdowns and ran for another and the Seahawks amassed a franchise-record 596 yards to close in on another NFC West title and the No. 1 seed in the conference. "That's about as much fun as you can have playing NFL football in the regular season," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. Seattle (11-4) moved into a tie with Arizona (11-4) for first in the NFC West and holds the tiebreaker by virtue of two wins over the Cardinals. A Seattle win at home over St. Louis in next weekend's regular-season finale would clinch the NFC's No. 1 seed in the NFC. That would have the Seahawks at home throughout the playoffs, until they'd come back to this same Arizona stadium for the Super Bowl. "They're playing awesome football," Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "You can't taking nothing away from that ballclub. They have a championship pedigree, what it takes to win on the road, what it takes to win the division. Obviously, it's not over yet, but they're one step closer." Arizona's only remaining hope of winning the division is to have the Seahawks lose to the Rams and the Cardinals win at San Francisco. Otherwise, Arizona will be relegated to a wild-card spot and a first-round game on the road. The Cardinals would have clinched the No. 1 seed in the conference with a victory. Instead, the Cardinals suffered their most one-sided loss of the season and their only one at home in eight games. Wilson had the longest run of his career (55 yards) and matched the longest pass of his career (80) in the Seahawks' fifth straight victory. Marshawn Lynch sat out the first quarter with what the team called an "upset stomach," then came in to score on a 6-yard run in the second quarter and a spectacular, multiple tackle-breaking 79-yard scoring run in Seattle's 21-point fourth quarter. After his long run, Lynch spun around in the air and grabbed his crotch facing the field before falling to the turf. The Cardinals had their most one-sided loss of the season and their only one at home in eight games. Third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley, pressed into action with an injury to Drew Stanton in the previous game, was 18 for 44 for 216 yards and an interception against a Seattle defense that ranks No. 1 in the NFL and has allowed 33 points in its last five games. "He needed more help," coach Bruce Arians said. "He didn't jump offsides on third-and-goal, that's for sure. Points were going to be a premium for us. Overall, he threw about how we expected him to do." Wilson completed 20 of 31 for 339 yards, including touchdown passes of 80 and 20 yards to tight end Luke Willson. Lynch gained 113 yards on 10 carries, and Wilson ran for 88 yards in six attempts. The blowout would have been worse had Steven Hauschka not missed three field goals. Wilson's 55-yard run on the final play of the first quarter moved the Seahawks past midfield, but Seattle stalled and Hausschka's 52-yard field goal was wide right. Arizona took over at its 42 and, with the help of two Seattle penalties and Arizona moved in to get Catanzaro's first field goal and lead 3-0. On the second play after Arizona's kickoff, Willson got behind the Cardinals' defense, Wilson lofted the ball in perfectly and the 80-yard touchdown play put Seattle up 7-3 with 7:03 to play in the half. Another scramble, of 22 yards, helped set up Lynch's 6-yard touchdown run that made it 14-3 3:41 before the half. It stayed 14-3 until the fourth quarter, when the bottom fell out for the Cardinals in what had been termed the biggest regular-season game in franchise history. Then the three late TDs made it a blowout. Notes: The Seahawks have allowed a combined 33 points in their five-game winning streak. ... Seattle's previous total yards record was 591 at San Diego on Dec. 29, 2002. ... The Cardinals hope to have Stanton back for their playoff opener. .... The Cardinals are 13-3 at home in Arians' two seasons, and two of the losses were to Seattle. ... All 18 points in Arizona's last two games came by field goal. Mon, 22 Dec 2014 04:53:00 +0000
QB Jameis Winston cleared in conduct hearing
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was cleared Sunday of the accusations he faced at a student code of conduct hearing involving an alleged sexual assault two years ago. Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Major Harding wrote in a letter to Winston that the evidence was "insufficient to satisfy the burden of proof." Prosecutor Willie Meggs made a similar decision a year ago when he decided not to criminally charge Winston, citing a lack of evidence. This month, a two-day hearing was held to determine whether Winston violated four sections of the code of conduct - two for sexual misconduct and two for endangerment. The ramifications for Winston ranged from a reprimand to expulsion from school. The woman can request an appeal within five days. "We will consider an appeal but right now we feel a little duped," Baine Kerr, one of the woman's lawyers, said in an emailed statement. "At some point we have to recognize that Florida State is never going to hold James Winston responsible." AP is not identifying the woman because it does not identify people who say they are victims of sexual abuse. "Somehow Jameis Winston still wins," Kerr said. "The order doesn't even follow the Student Conduct Code and it ignores the bulk of the evidence." Kerr said that between his client, Winston, and two teammates that were at the off-campus apartment - Chris Casher and Ronald Darby - only the woman would answer questions about what happened. Winston did submit a lengthy statement detailing his version of events. Florida State president John Thrasher said the university selected the former state Supreme Court justice to remove any doubt about the integrity of the process. "He (Harding) conducted a thorough Student Conduct Code hearing and reviewed more than 1,000 pages of evidence generated by three other investigations, and we would like to thank him sincerely for his service," Thrasher said. Harding wrote that both sides' version of the events had strengths and weaknesses, but he did not find the credibility of one "substantially stronger than the other." "In sum, the preponderance of the evidence has not shown that you are responsible for any of the charged violations of the Code," Harding wrote. Winston family adviser David Cornwell did not respond to requests for comment. Cornwell has contended that attorneys for the former student pushed for the hearing after they were rebuffed in an attempt to reach a settlement with Winston. Florida State faces Oregon in the College Football Playoffs semifinal on Jan. 1. Before the ruling, there were questions whether Winston would be available to play. The Seminoles won a national championship with Winston at the helm last season and have not lost a game since he earned the starting job before the beginning of the 2013 season. Florida State is currently being investigated by the Department of Education on how hit handles possible Title IX violations. The woman who said Winston assaulted her filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, which decided the university should be investigated for possible Title IX violations over the way it responds to sexual violence complaints. Title IX is a federal statute that bans discrimination at schools that receive federal funding. The Department of Education in 2011 warned schools of their legal responsibilities to immediately investigate allegations of sexual assault and domestic violence, even if the criminal investigation has not concluded. Mon, 22 Dec 2014 00:54:00 +0000
Steelers, Packers, Cowboys, Seahawks win, move into playoffs
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers both qualified for the NFL playoffs with wins Sunday. Next week, they will play for division titles at home. Defending Super Bowl champion Seattle also qualified, routing Arizona 35-6, and moved into a tie for the top spot in the NFC West. The Seahawks (11-4) own the tiebreaker over the Cardinals should they both finish with the same record. Dallas clinched the NFC East with a 42-7 romp past Indianapolis, ending any chance for Philadelphia to make the postseason. The Steelers (10-5) beat Kansas City 20-12 to secure at least a wild-card berth. They will win the AFC North by defeating Cincinnati next Sunday night. The Bengals (9-4-1) host Denver (11-3) on Monday night. "It was such a sense of urgency this week, knowing what was at stake. I just thought we answered the challenge," said Pittsburgh defensive end Cam Heyward. Green Bay topped Tampa Bay 20-3 and heads to Lambeau Field for next Sunday's showdown with Detroit for the NFC North crown. Both are 11-4 after the Lions won 20-14 at Chicago. "We've won six out of seven games, so I'd like to classify that as playing a lot of solid football, that's for sure," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. Seattle's lopsided victory gave it a good shot at the top seed in the NFC and was its fifth in a row, ninth in 10 games. It swept Arizona over the last four weeks. The Seahawks host St. Louis, while the Cardinals visit San Francisco. With their wins in Week 16, the Falcons (6-9) and Panthers (6-8-1) set up a winner-take-all game for the NFC South next Sunday at Atlanta. Carolina beat Cleveland 17-13, and Atlanta defeated New Orleans 30-14. "Now it all comes down to one game and that's all we can ask for is to be in that situation," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. New England earned an AFC first-round bye with its 17-16 victory at the New York Jets. It will get home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs by beating Buffalo next week at home. The Patriots are the first team since the current format was adopted in 1990 to get five straight first-round byes. "I'm glad it came out the way it did - makes for a better Christmas," Tom Brady said. Still alive in the AFC are Baltimore (9-6), whose loss to Houston (8-7) also kept the Texans in contention; Kansas City (8-7); and San Diego (9-6), which won Saturday night at San Francisco. The Chargers will be in if they win at Kansas City next weekend. Buffalo (8-7) lost all chance of ending its NFL-high string of non-playoff appearances, now at 15, by falling at Oakland 26-24. The NFC is less muddled, except for which team will get the top seed. Dallas (11-4), which is at Washington next Sunday, Seattle, Arizona, Green Bay and Detroit all have a shot. "In so many ways, this is such a long journey and to get to a point to achieve your first goal of winning the division title, a lot goes into that," said Dallas coach Jason Garrett, in his fourth full season. "I think the way you play in securing that matters, and I thought we played really, really well." --- AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL Mon, 22 Dec 2014 04:51:00 +0000
LeBron scores 25 as Cavaliers tame Grizzlies 105-91
CLEVELAND (AP) LeBron James and Kyrie Irving stepped aside and let one of their teammates polish off an opponent. On Sunday, Dion Waiters finished Memphis. Waiters scored 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter as the Cleveland Cavaliers handled one of the Western Conference's best teams, beating the short-handed Grizzlies 105-91. The Cavs have been waiting for the enigmatic and inconsistent Waiters to become more reliable. It's still a work in progress but Waiters, who has frequently been mentioned in trade rumors over the past two seasons, is showing signs of developing into a steady scorer off the bench. "He's learning every day," said James, who had 25 points and 11 assists. "He's a young guy. He hasn't experienced much in this league, so for him to have a game like he had, we needed it." James scored 16 in the second half and the Cavs shot a season-best 61 percent from the field to improve to just 3-6 against West teams. Anderson Varejao scored 18 and Irving had 17 points and 12 assists for the Cavs, who are 11-3 since their sluggish 5-7 start. Marc Gasol scored 23 and added 11 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who played without forward Zach Randolph. He's nursing a sore and swollen right knee he injured in Friday's loss at Chicago. Jon Leuer added 16 points for Memphis, which dropped to 21-6. Gasol refused to use Randolph's absence as an excuse. "We play who we have," he said. "Whoever's not here is not here. Trust me, we have enough talent in this locker room not just to win tonight but to win the same amount of games we've won so far." Despite not having Randolph, their leading rebounder, Grizzlies were still within 79-74 when the Cavs went on an 8-0 run to take control. Irving triggered the spurt with a basket before Waiters, who was benched in the second half of a win over Brooklyn on Friday, fed James for an alley-oop dunk. Waiters then drained a 3-pointer to cap an 11-3 run, and the backup guard scored eight consecutive points to push Cleveland's lead to 100-83. Waiters scored 11 points in a span of 2:10, assuming the closer role usually played by James and Irving. "When it's not one of those guys nights, somebody's got to step up and my approach every game is to be locked in as far as being consistent and being aggressive at all times, that's just who I am," Waiters said. "I just try to let the game come to me now. I just take what they give me." Cavs coach David Blatt said his team would need to "bring it" to match the Grizzlies' physicality. Cleveland brought it, building a 20-6 lead in the first quarter, helped by Gasol going to the bench after picking up his second personal. The Grizzlies, though, battled back and were only down 11 at halftime. Grizzlies: An MRI taken Saturday on Randolph did not show any structural damage but the Grizzlies are going to be extra cautious with him as he's likely to sit out Monday against Utah. "He's a warrior and I just thought taking a night off isn't the worst thing in the world," said coach David Joerger. "A game or two can help you over the long haul." ... G Tony Allen missed his third straight game with a scratched cornea. ... Leuer's start was first since he was a rookie in 2011-12 for Milwaukee. Cavaliers: Cleveland has won eight of nine at home. .. The Cavs are 9-2 when James has at least nine assists. ... Irving shot 8 for 13. He came in shooting just 37 percent (30 of 81) in his previous five games, but Cavs coach David Blatt isn't worried about his point guard's slump lingering. "Guys go through periods like that," Blatt said. ... During a timeout, F Mike Miller's various hairstyles - long, high and tight and a mullet - were shown on the giant scoreboard, prompting James to turn to his teammate and say, "That's (messed) up, man." PROTEST: During the game several dozen demonstrators gathered outside Quicken Loans Arena to protest the recent death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer while carrying a toy gun. The group walked to the steps of the building where they were met by about 30 uniformed officers. Grizzlies: Host Utah on Monday. Cavaliers: Host Minnesota on Tuesday. Mon, 22 Dec 2014 04:36:32 +0000
Saints eliminated with 30-14 loss to Falcons
NEW ORLEANS (AP) As Jimmy Graham came down with a catch over the middle with his feet just short of the goal line, the star tight end began writhing in an effort to find just enough leverage to force his way through two Atlanta defenders and into the end zone. Short of using the type of goal-line technology employed in certain soccer and tennis matches, it may be tough to know if Graham did enough to score before safety Kemal Ishmael ripped the ball loose and made a momentum-swinging fumble recovery. And regardless of how long debate rages, it won't change the fact that New Orleans lost the game, 30-14, and was eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday. "Did I think it was a score? Yes," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "It looked pretty clear and yet - look - it is what it is, right? ... It's disappointing." Atlanta (6-9) next meets Carolina (6-8-1) for the NFC South title next week in the Georgia Dome. The Saints (6-9) are left with an anticlimactic visit to Tampa Bay after losing five straight at home in one season for the first time since the 1980 1-15 team. Graham's forward progress appeared to have been stopped by safety Dezmen Southward and Ishmael before the ball came loose, but that was not reviewable. One replay angle showed that the ball may have broken the plane of the goal line, and the Superdome crowd roared when it was shown on large video boards. However, referee John Parry could not find evidence conclusive enough to overturn the call. Parry's announcement spawned a cascade of boos from anxious Saints fans, whose team remained down 20-7 with its playoff hopes fading. "There was nothing clear and undisputable to make a change to the ruling from the field," Parry said. Graham was not present when locker rooms were opened to reporters. Southward said he never had a good look at whether Graham got in. "I was too busy putting my face in his ribs. I was just trying to keep him out," Southward said. "All that credit goes to Kemal, obviously coming in and not quitting on the play." Brees said he thought Graham scored, calling the consequences of the ruling, "huge." While the play was a momentum changer, the Saints might have lost anyway. After not practicing or playing for about two weeks, Jones caught seven passes for 107 yards. "For him to gut it out and to go play the way he did today, I think speaks volumes about his grit, his toughness but also showcases what a stud he is," said quarterback Matt Ryan, who completed 30 of 40 passes for 322 yards and a touchdown. Falcons running back Devonta Freeman added a 31-yard score. The Saints committed three turnovers in the fourth quarter and were eliminated officially with Carolina's victory over Cleveland. New Orleans still had a chance to drive for a winning score in the final three minutes, but Robert McClain's interception in Saints territory set up a Falcons field goal. Payton thought his defense was "good enough" against Atlanta's respected offense, adding, "Offensively, we weren't good enough." Atlanta sacked Brees five times. Brees finished 30 of 47 for 313 yards and one touchdown to Graham, which pulled the Saints as close as 20-14 with 5:48 to go. Brees was also intercepted by Desmond Trufant on a fourth-down pass in the first half. In the final seconds, Osi Umenyiora returned Brees' fumble for an 86-yard TD, turning and waving goodbye to Atlanta's long-time rivals as he trotted downfield. The result brought forth a devastating realization for the Saints, who'd sought a fifth playoff berth in six seasons. "As we walk out of this stadium, every person you see, you feel like you let that guy down today, and that's tough," right tackle Zach Strief said. "We deserve it. We got exactly what we deserved." Seeking to fire up the home crowd in a crucial game, the Saints changed their introductions, turning off the house lights during a pyrotechnic display while fans held up their mobile phones as if at a concert. Fans were in a frenzy when Jalen Saunders returned the opening kickoff 99 yards to set up Mark Ingram's 1-yard touchdown run. But those celebrations were short-lived as the Falcons scored the next 20 points. "It's disappointing to know that with two games left we controlled our own destiny," Brees said. "If we win we're in, and we were not able to do that." --- AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL Mon, 22 Dec 2014 00:50:00 +0000
Newton: Fans 'classless' for cheering when Manziel injured
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Quarterback Cam Newton said the Panthers fans who cheered when Johnny Manziel injured his hamstring in the second quarter are "classless." Manziel did not return to the game after the injury. "I was saddened to see the crowd's response to when he got hurt," Newton said. "It was classless. Anytime when a person gets hurt you don't celebrate. I have had that done in my career and it just takes the integrity out of the game." Newton has been friends with Manziel for a couple of years. Earlier this week on a conference call with Panthers beat reporters, Manziel said he looks up to Newton and thanked him for his support while he battled through off-the-field issues at Texas A&M. "For the crowd to respond in that sort of way - we're better than that," Newton said. Brian Hoyer took over at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns and had one touchdown pass and one interception in the loss. Manziel was injured with 1:49 left in the first half when he rolled out to his left side, and linebacker Luke Kuechly and safety Colin Jones converged on the rookie and took him to the ground. He attempted to get up and then fell back down. Manziel emerged from the locker room after halftime still in uniform but remained on the bench. The Browns were losing 10-3 at the time of the injury. Manziel, who struggled in his first start last week against Cincinnati, didn't having much success against Carolina either. He 3 of 8 for 32 yards and ran twice for 3 yards before the injury. The Browns were outgained 206-68 in the first half and Carolina had 15 first downs to Cleveland's two. The Browns (7-7) were eliminated from playoff contention Saturday when San Diego defeated San Francisco. --- Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL Sun, 21 Dec 2014 22:30:00 +0000
AFC South champion Colts lose 42-7 at Cowboys
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) So much for Andrew Luck and the AFC South champion Indianapolis Colts building some momentum for the playoffs. At least they avoided their first shutout in 21 years, long after Luck took his last snap Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. Tony Romo threw four touchdowns, one immediately after Dewey McDonald flubbed a perfectly thrown pass on a fake punt by the Colts, and Dallas clinched its first NFC East title in five seasons with a 42-7 victory. "We will find a way to get these things fixed. If we play the way we did tonight, we can't expect to do anything down the road," coach Chuck Pagano said. "It's the National Football League. It's a tough business. It's not for everybody. That's why we don't get discouraged. Disappointed, yeah, but discouraged? Never." Indianapolis (10-5), held to a season low in points and yards for the second week in a row, has one game left to get back on track before going straight into the playoffs without a first-round bye. "I'm thinking about Tennessee first," Luck said. "We've got to fix this game and focus on Tennessee, and then we can worry about the playoffs." Things went awry in a hurry for Indianapolis, with Dallas opening the game with a 15-play touchdown drive that took nearly 8 1/2 minutes and the Colts failing to get a first down on three rushing plays. When punter Pat McAfee saw McDonald uncovered on the outside, he threw a lofting pass. McDonald just flat out missed what would have been an easy first down. Romo threw his own perfect pass on the very next play, a 19-yard touchdown to Dez Bryant to give Dallas (11-4) a 14-0 lead. "A lot of these are self-inflicted wounds," said safety Mike Adams, who was then asked if the Colts are ready for the playoffs. "We have no choice but to be ready. After this performance, it's hard to say. ... The most dangerous team going into the tournament is the wounded team, and that's us right now." After Romo surpassed Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman as the Cowboys' career passing leader with a 25-yard TD to Jason Witten for a 35-0 lead with 4:41 left in the third quarter, Luck gave way to backup Matt Hasselbeck. The Colts, with only 1 yard rushing among their 229 total yards, finally scored on Hasselbeck's 1-yard TD pass to Zurlon Tipton after a pass interference call in the end zone wiped out a Dallas interception on a fourth-and-10 play. Hasselbeck, who finished 15 for 21 for 126 yards, appeared to have another touchdown. But tight end Jack Doyle - almost fittingly - dropped the ball in the end zone with 22 seconds left. There were other drops, and Luck (15 of 22 for 109 yards) had interceptions just before and right after halftime. But the tone was set on that failed fake in the first quarter. "I took my eyes off of it for just a split second," said McDonald, whose flub came right in front of the Colts' bench. "We've been practicing that play for a long, long time and executed extremely well during practice,," Pagano said. "They gave us an opportunity for that play to be there, and we didn't execute it." With a home playoff game already in hand, Indianapolis sat receiver T.Y. Hilton (groin injury) and right tackle Gosder Cherilus. NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray played with a broken left hand, but the Cowboys didn't need much from him. He finished with 58 yards, with a 1-yard score. Romo, in his eighth full season, was 18 for 20 for 218 yards to put him at 32,971 for his career, 29 more than Aikman, a three-time Super Bowl winner. "For us to get the W and Tony to break the record, that's a great accomplishment," Bryant said. "He's a warrior. Today he was on fire. He was on fire." Notes: By avoiding the shutout, Indianapolis has scored in 336 consecutive games since a 38-0 loss at New England on Dec. 26, 1993. That is the second-longest active scoring streak behind Denver's 355 games. ... Colts TE Dwayne Allen had a pair of drops on passes that should have gained first downs before leaving with a knee injury. ... A holding penalty stalled a drive after Indianapolis finally got a first down with six minutes left in the first half. --- Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL Mon, 22 Dec 2014 02:25:00 +0000
49ers squander 21-point lead in 4th straight loss
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Colin Kaepernick jumped into the open arms of his leaping coach and all seemed right with the San Francisco 49ers for a few hours Saturday night. Then, in a matter of minutes, a matter of three clutch completions by Philip Rivers, the good feelings were gone. Just when San Francisco seemed poised for a rare celebratory moment between embattled fourth-year coach Jim Harbaugh and his highly criticized quarterback, Rivers changed everything and sent the 49ers to a fourth straight defeat. After Rivers led a 21-point rally in the second half, Nick Novak kicked a 40-yard field goal nearly 5 minutes into overtime to give the Chargers a 38-35 victory over the 49ers on Saturday night. Rivers completed his fourth touchdown pass of the day with a tying 11-yard TD pass to Malcom Floyd with 29 seconds left in regulation after completing a pair of fourth-and-longs as the Chargers (9-6) forced overtime. Phil Dawson's 60-yard field goal attempt for San Francisco as regulation ended fell way short. Quinton Patton then fumbled in overtime to set up San Diego's winning drive. A lot went right for San Francisco when it really didn't matter. Six days after the Niners' season essentially ended with playoff elimination at Seattle, Kaepernick, Frank Gore and the 49ers finally got it together in all phases - for most of the night, that is. On second down during the 49ers' first drive of overtime, Quinton Patton got loose in the open field on an end around for 20 yards and fumbled on his way down when Eric Weddle knocked the ball loose and nose tackle Sean Lissemore recovered at the San Diego 38. That gave Rivers the opportunity he needed to get his team into position. The 49ers blew just their second game when leading by 21 or more at halftime and lost their fourth straight game under embattled coach Jim Harbaugh. They lost 42-41 to Minnesota on Oct. 24, 1965, after leading 35-14 at halftime. Colin Kaepernick ran 90 yards for a touchdown and Gore had a 52-yard touchdown run as the Niners (7-8) grabbed early momentum. "Right now there's not much to say," Harbaugh said. "That's a tough one." Rivers threw touchdown passes of 21 and 1 yard to Antonio Gates and another to Eddie Royal, but also was hurt by three interceptions. On one of those, Antoine Bethea ran an interception back 49 yards for his first career touchdown, and a defense minus recently released starting lineman Ray McDonald never let Rivers find a rhythm. The 31-year-old Gore finished with 158 yards and he needs 38 yards in the final game next weekend against Arizona for a fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season and eighth in his 10 NFL seasons. His scoring run was his longest since a 64-yarder on Nov. 1, 2009, at Indianapolis. It also was the longest TD run allowed by San Diego since 2010 before Kaepernick topped it. Gore had more yards in this game than in his previous four combined, and New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez was in attendance wearing the running back's red No. 21 jersey. Gore broke four tackles on his 52-yard touchdown run in the first quarter six days after a concussion. The 49ers became the first team since at least 1960 to rush for as many as 355 yards in a loss. Kansas City had the previous high of 352 in a 20-13 loss to the Colts on Dec. 23, 2012. Rookie Bruce Ellington caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Kaepernick early in the second quarter that put the Niners up 21-0, then ran for a 1-yard score in the waning moments before leaving with a hamstring injury. In one half, San Francisco topped its combined scoring total from the previous three games of 23 points. The Niners had their biggest lead since going ahead 28-3 in the third quarter of the season opener at Dallas - and their first lead by 21 points at home since a 34-3 victory against Houston on Oct. 6, 2013. Rivers, 33 for 54 for 356 yards, had his team driving late in the first quarter before throwing an interception picked off by Perrish Cox. Unclear whether ailing, Rivers didn't look comfortable. He sat out Wednesday's practice with neck and back injuries, and he was without running back Ryan Mathews and wide receiver Keenan Allen. Harbaugh, who is facing a constant swirl of speculation about his future - like a report alma mater Michigan has made him a six-year offer to coach the Wolverines - has said there's still plenty to play for, like a winning season despite the disappointment following three straight trips to the NFC championship game. Four players sustained concussions or head injuries - 49ers safety Eric Reid and San Diego cornerback Shareece Wright with concussions and San Francisco cornerback Leon McFadden and linebacker Aldon being evaluated for a head injuries. NOTES: 49ers RT Anthony Davis returned for the first time since Nov. 9 after missing four games with a concussion. ... Cox's fifth interception moved him into a tie for third place in the NFC. ... 49ers S Bubba Ventrone and WR Brandon Lloyd suffered groin injuries. --- Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL Sun, 21 Dec 2014 05:58:00 +0000
Gruden praises RG3 after Redskins top Eagles 27-24
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) After all the negative things Jay Gruden has said about Robert Griffin III, the Washington Redskins' coach found some positives to discuss after the quarterback earned his first complete-game win in more than a year. So maybe they'll figure out a way to coexist next season, after all. Back as the starter because of an injury to Colt McCoy, Griffin threw for 220 yards and led the drive that resulted in Kai Forbath's 26-yard go-ahead field goal with 5 seconds left Saturday night. The Redskins beat the Eagles 27-24, pushing Philadelphia to the brink of elimination from playoff contention. "You have to be impressed with his performance," Gruden said. "I just thought he managed the game extremely well, getting out of the huddle and no delay-of-game penalties. He competed, man, and that's what you want to see a quarterback do - be a `competer,' be a leader. I told him before the game, `I don't care if you go 14 for 100, 10 for 10, or 1 for 1, man, just as long as we get the W."' Wins have been few and far between in Gruden's first season as an NFL head coach: This victory ended a six-game losing streak for Washington (4-11). Griffin, the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the year, hadn't been in from start to finish of a win since beating San Diego in overtime on Nov. 3, 2013. "It really isn't about me. This one's about this team. We've been through the wringer a little bit this year. We've been through a lot of adversity, a lot of mess," Griffin said. "Guys have responded." He was benched a few weeks ago, but regained the job by default because McCoy went on injured reserve this week with a neck injury. "Everybody's helped me get through this time," Griffin said. Griffin still looked a bit awkward and unsure at times, and threw an interception in the fourth quarter, but there were flashes of improvement as a drop-back passer. He connected with former Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson for two big gains - 51 yards in the second quarter, and 55 in the third. "Robert did a great job, getting the ball out of his hands and making good decisions," said Gruden, who earlier this season was publicly critical of Griffin's flaws as a QB. The Redskins certainly got plenty of help from the Eagles (9-6), who now have lost three games in a row and will be out of the hunt for a postseason berth if NFC East leader Dallas beats Indianapolis on Sunday. There were a couple of missed field-goal attempts in the third quarter - from 34 and 46 yards, both wide right - by Cody Parkey, who had botched two tries all season, going 29 of 31 until Saturday. There were three roughing-the-passer penalties by the Eagles, including two in a span of four plays during a drive that ended with one of Redskins fullback Darrell Young's two 1-yard TD runs in the third quarter. And there were Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez's turnovers. He fumbled on the game's opening possession - setting up a field goal by Forbath - and then threw an interception to Bashaud Breeland with 1 1/2 minutes left that led to Washington's six-play, 50-yard last drive. On the first play, Griffin completed a 23-yard pass to Pierre Garcon, before five runs by Alfred Morris. "You cherish those moments, those moments when you can go out there and lead your team to victory on that final, last drive," Griffin said. "And everybody was locked in." Notes: Morris went over 1,000 yards for the season, making him the only the team's second player - along with Stephen Davis - to gain at least that many three years in a row. ... Injured Redskins included LT Trent Williams (re-aggravated right shoulder) and LB Trent Murphy (broken bone in right hand). --- Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich --- AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/AP-NFL Sun, 21 Dec 2014 02:35:00 +0000
No. 23 Utah routs Colorado St in Las Vegas Bowl
LAS VEGAS (AP) Utah quarterback Travis Wilson ran for three touchdowns and passed for another Saturday, leading the No. 23 Utes to a 45-10 rout of Colorado State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Wilson rushed for a season-high 91 yards on 11 carries and completed 17 of 26 passes for 158 yards. Utah (9-4) scored three times in the first quarter and finished with 548 total yards, including 359 on the ground. Devontae Booker ran for 162 yards and a TD and Troy McCormick ran for 86. Colorado State (10-3) fell behind in the first three minutes and never got its vaunted offense in gear. Garrett Grayson completed 21 of 35 passes for 242 yards, but he was unable to avoid Utah's rush in the second half when the Rams were forced to throw the ball. Sun, 21 Dec 2014 00:28:00 +0000
Celtics trade Rondo to Mavericks
BOSTON (AP) The Boston Celtics traded point guard Rajon Rondo to Dallas on Thursday night, cutting ties with the last remnant of their last NBA championship while giving Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks a chance at another title. The Celtics will send Rondo and forward Dwight Powell to Dallas for Jameer Nelson, Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, two draft picks and a $12.9 million trade exception. "Welcome to Rajon Rondo the newest member of the Dallas Mavericks," team owner Mark Cuban wrote on the social media application Cyber Dust shortly before the official announcement. Cuban also thanked the three departing players, calling them "Amazing players and better people." Boston got a first-round pick in next year's draft and a second-rounder in 2016. The Celtics have eight first-round picks in the next four years, picking them up in trades for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and even coach Doc Rivers as they shed the pieces of the New Big Three that earned the franchise its unprecedented 17th NBA title in 2008. "We would not have won Banner 17 without Rajon and will always consider him one of our most valuable Celtics," the team's owners said in a joint statement. "We will always cherish the time he was here." The Mavericks get a pass-first point guard - a four-time all-star - to team with Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler in what they hope will make them a contender again. Dallas is 19-8 this season but in third place in the Southwest Division and sixth in the Western Conference. The Mavericks, who won their only NBA title in 2011, have not won a playoff series since. The deal has been years in the making, with the Celtics shopping Rondo every time a coach grows tired of his moods or his contract expectations grow too large for their budget. But every previous time Boston management decided that the offers weren't enough. Celtics general manager Danny Ainge found a partner in Dallas, which is coached by his former Boston teammate Rick Carlisle. Rondo, 28, joined the rebuilding Celtics as the 21st overall pick out of Kentucky in 2006 and became the point guard for an NBA champion in his second year when Boston acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett the next summer. They helped the Celtics reach the NBA finals again two years later. With the once-proud franchise mired in what now looks to be an extended rebuilding process, though, Rondo became more valuable as a trading chip. Due to be a free agent at the end of the season, he was reportedly expecting a contract at or near the NBA maximum. Rondo has averaged 11 points, 8.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds over his career. He missed the second half of the 2012-13 season and the first half of last season to have reconstructive knee surgery, and then reportedly fell in the shower in Las Vegas on the eve of training camp and missed all of the preseason. In 22 games this season for Boston, Rondo had an NBA-best 10.8 assists per game and also averaged 8.3 points and 7.5 rebounds. Nelson, who signed a two-year, $5.5 million deal last summer after 10 seasons in Orlando, was starting at point guard for Dallas, averaging 7.3 points and 4.1 assists while shooting 37 percent from the field. Wright has played about 19 minutes a game, averaging 8.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. Crowder has averaged 3.6 points per game for Dallas. Powell has totaled nine points and nine minutes in five games for Boston this season as the Celtics (9-14) opened their second season under new coach Brad Stevens. --- AP Basketball Writer Jon Krawczynski and AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report. Fri, 19 Dec 2014 02:36:00 +0000
Jaguars hold off Titans late, win 21-13 in home finale
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Blake Bortles revived a stagnant offense. Jordan Todman provided some cushion. And Sen'Derrick Marks sealed it with the most rewarding sack of his career. The trio provided all the highlights in the Jacksonville Jaguars' 21-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night. In a matchup that was widely billed as unwatchable, Bortles, Todman and Marks offered some compelling moments in a relatively meaningless game. "The neat thing about this was different guys stood up at different times," Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. Bortles completed 13 of 26 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown, a 4-yard pass to Marcedes Lewis that got Jacksonville going late in the second quarter. He also ran for 50 yards playing with a sprained right foot. "I wasn't going out there if I couldn't move around and help the offense," Bortles said. Todman's 62-yard run put the Jaguars ahead for good. He juked one defender and stiff-armed another in his first carry of the night, ending his first score of the season with a leap into the stands. Marks' play, though, got the most attention. With the Titans driving, Marks sacked Charlie Whitehurst on the final play. It gave him 8 1/2 sacks on the season, triggering a $600,000 bonus in his contract. "What a great way to end the night," Bradley said. Marks stood up and starting rubbing his fingers together before getting mobbed by teammates near midfield. "Oh, we're going to spend some of that money," Jaguars defensive end Red Bryant said. The Jaguars (3-12) won for the second time in four weeks thanks to a rejuvenated offense that had scored just two touchdowns in the previous four games. Playing the Titans (2-13) surely aided the effort. Tennessee lost its ninth consecutive game and moved a step closer to securing the No. 1 draft pick. "It was more about mistakes that we made than anything else because when we did it right - as you can see by most of the first half - we played pretty good," Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said. The Jaguars had only 16 yards of offense until Bortles led them on an 80-yard drive at the end of the first half, ending it with the jump ball to Lewis in the left corner of the end zone. The Jaguars got the ball to start the second half, and Bortles found Marquise Lee on a 34-yard catch-and-run on third-and 7. After two more completions, Jacksonville went to some trickery with a backward to Cecil Shorts III, who then threw across the field to Todman to the 9. It looked as if Jacksonville would have to settle for a tying field when Bortles was flushed from the pocket and scrambled down the sideline to the 2 on third-and-goal. But linebacker Avery Williamson was called for holding Lewis away from the play, giving the Jaguars new life. Toby Gerhart punched it in from the 1 on the next play. The turnaround for the Jaguars was surprising. Losers of seven of their last eight games, the Jaguars had only two offensive touchdowns in their previous 46 drives over four games and nearly two quarters, and just like that, Bortles took them down the field for touchdowns on consecutive drives. That was a bright spot in a game otherwise devoid of them early. For the final NFL game on Thursday night this year, about the only thing at stake was the inside track for the No. 1 pick, and likely a slightly easier schedule. In this case, the loser had more to gain. The Titans were led by third-stringer Whitehurst, who was replacing Zach Mettenberger. Whitehurst couldn't miss at the start, and for the first time this year, the Titans scored a touchdown on their opening possession. Tennessee made it 10-0 in the second and had a 179-16 advantage in yards. But things turned from there, with Bortles, Todman and Marks providing the big plays. "It was a great feeling," Todman said. "You're looking up at the scoreboard just hoping you don't get caught from behind. It was a great call. The line did a good job. I made a guy miss and then it was off to the races. It was just what we needed - just what I needed." Notes: The Jaguars gave up four sacks, giving them 66 for the season and breaking the franchise record of 63 set in 2001. Jacksonville has allowed at least four sacks in six consecutive games. ... Jaguars RB Toby Gerhart left the game with bruised ribs, tried to return and then sat out for good late. He finished with 53 yards on 12 carries. ... Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton was on the sideline for the first time this season. ... After NFL observers complained and maybe threatened a fine, Jaguars LB J.T. Thomas removed his teal-tinted visor at halftime. --- AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL Fri, 19 Dec 2014 05:07:00 +0000
Jones scores 21 to lead No. 2 Duke over UConn
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Freshman point guard Tyus Jones scored 21 points, Justise Winslow hit two key baskets late in the game and No. 2 Duke responded to a tongue lashing by coach Mike Krzyzewski to beat defending national champion Connecticut 66-56 on Thursday night. Winslow and Jahlil Okafor - the other two members of the Blue Devils' trio of talented freshmen - added 12 points apiece. Ahead 30-25 at the break, Duke (10-10) got off to a slow start in the second half and UConn (4-4) tied it, raising Coach K's ire. Amile Jefferson added 11 points and 13 rebounds for Duke in a game that had the feel and intensity of a NCAA tournament contest. Ryan Boatright had 22 points to lead the Huskies. Kentan Facey added 14 points and Daniel Hamilton had 10. Fri, 19 Dec 2014 03:37:00 +0000
Yankees GM Cashman: A-Rod now a full-time DH
NEW YORK (AP) Alex Rodriguez faces a diminished role in his return to the New York Yankees, who have stripped A-Rod of his third-base job and plan to limit his role to full-time designated hitter - at most. General manager Brian Cashman said Tuesday that A-Rod's days as an everyday fielder are over in the Bronx and Chase Headley will start at third after agreeing this week to a $52 million, four-year contract. Coming off a season-long suspension for violations of baseball's drug agreement and labor contract, Rodriguez will have to compete with Martin Prado for time as Headley's backup at third. "I can't expect Alex to be anything," Cashman said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "I've got to think the worst and hope for the best. Even before the suspension, he wasn't the same player at third base on the defensive or offensive side. And that was before the suspension. "And now he's been out of the game for a year. He's approaching 40 years of age. And just to automatically assume given his circumstances that he'll be able to plug right in, play third as an everyday guy and hold up and be productive, I think that would be dangerous thinking from my perspective, in the seat I'm sitting in." Rodriguez turns 40 in July and has not played a full season since 2007 because of leg injuries, operations on both hips and the suspension. Cashman said A-Rod will have to prove to manager Joe Girardi he can play the field. "So given all that circumstance, we look forward to him hopefully solidifying himself as a tremendous DH for us, and if he shows he has retained athleticism, then he can play third as a choice when Joe decides to give Headley a rest," Cashman said. "He can compete for Joe's thought process, whether it's Prado swinging over or Alex playing third." Cashman said he has not spoken with Rodriguez about his new role. "I don't need to. I've been very consistent with my conversations publicly from October on," he said. "I have not heard from Alex on any of that, and I know he reads all this stuff." Rodriguez is owed $61 million by the Yankees in the final three seasons of his contract, and New York could use improvement at DH - its players there combined to hit .230 this year (12th in the AL) with 18 homers (11th), 63 RBIs (13th), a .290 on-base percentage (14th) and a .372 slugging percentage (12th), according to STATS. Acquired from San Diego in July, Headley convinced the Yankees to keep him. He will get $13 million each year and the chance to earn an additional $1 million annually in performance bonuses based on plate appearances. He would receive a one-time $1 million assignment bonus if traded. "We measure a lot of different things on the hitting analytics as well as our scouting assessments of him," Cashman said. "He's got plate discipline. He's got power. ... We like his leadership. We like his abilities. We think he's an exceptional defender." Headley hit .229 with seven homers and 32 RBIs last season for the Padres and .262 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 191 at-bats for New York. His offense improved after a herniated disk in his back was treated with an epidural injection June 20. "If the back rears its ugly head, we know the process necessary to deal with that. So it was a risk that we felt worth taking," Cashman said. New York anticipates Headley, a 2012 Gold Glove winner, will be joined in the infield most days by Didi Gregorius at shortstop, Prado at second and Mark Teixeira at first. "We believe we now have a very strong defensive infield," Cashman said, "that will serve our pitching staff and our run prevention well." Tue, 16 Dec 2014 23:07:00 +0000
Sprint to end NASCAR sponsorship after 2016 season
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Sprint informed NASCAR it won't extend title sponsorship of the top Sprint Cup Series beyond its current contract, which expires after the 2016 season. "Sprint has long benefited from the unprecedented level of brand integration available in NASCAR, and the passionate fan base that is the most loyal in sports," Steve Gaffney, vice president of marketing for Sprint, said in a Tuesday statement. "Without question, the NASCAR sponsorship property has been a valuable investment for us and will be for our successor. "As we look to the future, Sprint is focused on investing in maintaining a competitive edge and providing consumers with the best value in wireless," The wireless carrier assumed a 10-year sponsorship agreement with NASCAR when it acquired Nextel in 2005. The Nextel Cup Series became the Sprint Cup Series in 2008, and Sprint later agreed to a three-year extension that took the contract through 2016. Now, the company is citing "a need to focus more directly on its core business priorities," in ending its relationship with NASCAR. SoftBank bought out Sprint in 2013 and the change in leadership has led to a new CEO and changing marketing strategies. The announcement Tuesday gives NASCAR two seasons to find a replacement, and NASCAR chief communications officer Brett Jewkes said the series understands that significant changes within Sprint led to the decision. "The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is a very unique, premium sports marketing platform with strong momentum, so we are very confident of moving forward in 2017 with an outstanding new partner," Jewkes said in a statement. "In the meantime, we look forward to Sprint's partnership on the best racing series in the world for the next two seasons." Sprint's exit means NASCAR will enter a new entitlement agreement for just the fourth time since 1971, when RJ Reynolds began its 33-year sponsorship of the top series through its Winston brand. RJR pulled out after the 2003 season and Nextel stepped in until Sprint's corporate merger. Since Sprint stepped in, the wireless carrier has implemented fan-friendly innovations ranging from a new generation scanner in 2005, a mobile app in 2008 and the Miss Sprint Cup ambassador program in 2007. The Miss Sprint Cup program has more than 1.5 million social media followers. Sprint is also responsible for funding the season-ending point fund, which was approximately $22 million this past season and awarded $4.8 million to first-time champion Kevin Harvick. Sprint also promotes the series through various marketing campaigns. "Much like 2004, this is an enormous opportunity for a prospective sponsor to join one of the country's most popular sports on its highest level," Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage said. "NASCAR has reached out in advance to industry people like myself to assist them in identifying a replacement title sponsor. We encourage NASCAR to find an active, supportive and long-term sponsor with broad consumer reach and minimal category conflict that proves beneficial to the entire industry in the future." NASCAR signed a deal with Xfinity this year to replace Nationwide as entitlement sponsor of the second-tier series, and NASCAR extended its current deal with Camping World through 2022 for title sponsor of its Truck Series. Tue, 16 Dec 2014 23:15:00 +0000
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