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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.

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AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fri, 19 Dec 2014 05:07:00 +0000
Durant leaves Thunder game with ankle injury

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant sat out the second half of a 114-109 loss at the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night after spraining his right ankle.

Durant said the sprain was mild and X-rays were negative. The reigning NBA MVP said he hopes to play at the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night but will see how he feels.

"I wanted to play. I wanted go back out there, but we wanted to be cautious," Durant said.

Durant grabbed his ankle after stepping on Marreese Speights' left foot while going hard to the basket late in the second quarter. Durant was called for a charge on the play.

Durant lay on the ground in pain before walking to the bench with the help of teammates Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. Durant limped to the locker room at halftime under his own power.

"I was a little nervous, but I knew that when I got up and started walking that it felt good," he said. "I just wanted to make sure with the X-ray that everything was good."

Durant came back Dec. 2 after missing the team's first 17 games with a broken right foot, and his latest injury ended his best performance yet this season.

Durant scored 30 points on 10-for-13 shooting, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range. It was his highest-scoring game this season and the highest-scoring first half of his career.

Oklahoma City started the season 3-12 with Durant and Westbrook dealing with injuries but had been rediscovering its championship-contender form with both healthy again.

The Thunder had won seven straight entering the game, which was the longest active streak in the league after Memphis snapped Golden State's 16-game winning streak Tuesday night. Oklahoma City is 7-2 since Durant came back and 8-2 since the return of Westbrook, who sat out 13 games with a broken bone in his right hand.

Fri, 19 Dec 2014 07:25:00 +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
49ers' Harbaugh mum on reported offer

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is declining to respond to reports that he is weighing an offer from Michigan to become the new football coach at his alma mater.

Harbaugh has one season remaining on the $25 million, five-year contract he signed in January 2011. Several media outlets, including ESPN and the NFL Network, have reported Harbaugh has a six-year offer on the table from the Wolverines to return to Ann Arbor.

"As you know, I'll only talk about the job that I have. We've been together a long time and it's a longstanding policy," Harbaugh said Thursday.

All season long, he has said he won't let outside issues affect him. His name has emerged as a possible candidate for what should be several NFL vacancies after the season if Harbaugh and the 49ers part ways, including to fill the job across the bay in Oakland.

San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke said this week that a decision on Harbaugh's future would come after the season. The Niners (7-7) were eliminated from playoff contention in last Sunday's 17-7 loss at Seattle, giving them their first three-game losing streak under Harbaugh. San Francisco had reached three straight NFC championship games, losing the Super Bowl after the 2012 season.

"Trent and I have discussions every day," Harbaugh said, noting he still intends to coach out his contract. "I have said that I'm going to finish this `til the end. My focus is the same as the players' focus, the same as the coaches' focus, focused on the practice field, focused in meetings, by our players, by our coaches and by me."

Harbaugh said the 49ers still have plenty to play for in their final two games, Saturday at home against San Diego and next week hosting Arizona - like ending with a winning record.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who worked on Harbaugh's staff at Stanford before joining him in the jump to the NFL, said everybody wants to end this season on a positive note despite all the outside chatter about the coach's future.

"We don't talk about that stuff at all. We're focused on the Chargers, all that water cooler talk is just that," Roman said.

When asked whether he still has a special affinity for the Michigan program and university, Harbaugh again wouldn't bite.

"Again, I really don't want to talk about any other job than the one I have or talk about anybody else's process," Harbaugh said.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Thu, 18 Dec 2014 23:25:00 +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

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