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Bills bench quarterback Manuel, to start Orton

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) EJ Manuel is out as the Buffalo Bills' starting quarterback, and veteran Kyle Orton is in.

Coach Doug Marrone's patience ran out following two straight losses that exposed 2013 first-round draft pick Manuel's lack of development. Marrone benched Manuel on Monday, one day after he completed less than half his passes and threw two interceptions in a loss to Houston.

Orton will start Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions. The Bills signed Orton on Aug. 30 to back up Manuel.

"It's not all EJ's fault," Marrone said, "but we need to get better production, obviously, out of that position.

"We have to make adjustments. We've got to make some changes because we can't keep going in the direction that we're going."

Manuel started 14 games over the past two seasons.

The Bills (2-2) have sputtered on offense during two straight losses. Manuel had a season-low quarterback rating of 59.4 and threw an interception to J.J. Watt that was returned for a momentum-changing touchdown Sunday during the 23-17 loss.

Manuel has completed just 58 percent of his passes through four games this year.

"We've got to get better in a lot of situations," Marrone said. "Just the overall offense in itself. You can start on first downs, which we're not doing a good job of. Third downs, red zone touchdowns, I think all those things that you see, again, it's not pinning it just on one player, but we all have to do a better job in those areas."

Marrone had previously said he wanted to be patient with Manuel's development.

Orton, a nine-year NFL veteran, spent the past two seasons in Dallas before being cut by the Cowboys in mid-July after he skipped the team's offseason workouts amid reports he was considering retirement. Orton has a 35-35 career record split among four teams since being selected by Chicago in the fourth round of the 2005 draft. He has been a starter with every team he has joined, as well as a backup, and spent two years behind Tony Romo in Dallas.

Marrone said he made the decision to change quarterbacks, then informed general manager Doug Whaley, Manuel, and the rest of the team.

"This decision was based on what's giving us the best opportunity to win," Marrone said. "I believe that we have a playoff-caliber team. I think that we have to play better than we did the last two weeks, though."

While Manuel has size and mobility, his decision-making and leadership have been questioned. He acknowledged needing better command of the offense days before the season opener, and understood he had plenty to prove as a bona fide starter.

Manuel also faced injury issues last year that hampered his development. He missed six regular-season games and went 4-6 in 10 starts.

The Bills invested heavily to improve their offense this season in order to give Manuel every chance to succeed. They made the biggest splash in the draft when they traded next year's first-round selection to move up five spots and select dynamic receiver Sammy Watkins with the No. 4 pick. The Bills also used three of their seven selections on offensive linemen, and acquired wide receiver Mike Williams in a trade with Tampa Bay.

Marrone said as Orton began practicing with the team that the Bills first targeted Orton early in training camp as a backup; the need for a contingency plan emerged when former backups Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel didn't show enough progress.

Before being informed of the change, Bills players backed Manuel earlier Monday.

"You can't put it all on him," tight end Scott Chandler said. "I think he made a lot of great plays, a lot of great throws that we didn't help him out on."

"It's not a one-man show," running back C.J. Spiller said. "In this league, the quarterback is the focal point and the emphasis of wins and losses of teams. Obviously, he didn't have his best day, and we didn't give him a lot of help either, as well."

NOTES: DT Kyle Williams (knee) and LB Nigel Bradham (knee) had MRIs, but a team spokesman said their status for next week is not yet known. G Chris Williams (back) has a chance to play this week, Marrone said. Williams did not make the trip to Houston. Rookie Cyril Richardson started in his place. . The Bills extended their streak of games with a sack to 17 with two against the Texans. It's the team's longest streak since it went 29 straight games with a sack from Oct. 27, 1996 to Oct. 4, 1998.

Mon, 29 Sep 2014 22:18:00 +0000
Cardinals running back facing 9 charges for hitting wife

PHOENIX (AP) Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer has been formally charged with assaulting his wife during two arguments in July at their Phoenix apartment.

An indictment publicly released late Friday charges Dwyer with felony aggravated assault and eight misdemeanors, including assault, criminal damage and disorderly conduct.

Investigators say Dwyer broke his wife's nose with a head-butt during a July 21 argument and engaged in a dispute the following day in which he punched his wife and threw a shoe at his 17-month-old son, who wasn't injured.

Dwyer had been booked on Sept. 17 on suspicion of aggravated assault against his son, but the indictment doesn't charge him with any crimes related to the child.

Prosecutors say it's not unusual for grand juries to return slightly different charges than those initially brought in a case.

A message left for Jared Allen, an attorney representing Dwyer, wasn't immediately returned Monday.

Police say the first dispute between the couple erupted after Dwyer's wife learned about his recent phone contact with another woman and came to believe her husband was cheating.

The arrest came at a time when the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell are under fire over a series of violent off-the-field encounters involving some marquee players, including Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy.

The NFL has said the Dwyer case will be reviewed under the league's personal-conduct policy. The day after his arrest, the Cardinals placed Dwyer on the reserve/non-football illness list, meaning he can't play for Arizona again this season.

An Oct. 6 status conference has been scheduled for Dwyer.

Mon, 29 Sep 2014 21:40:00 +0000
Twins fire manager Ron Gardenhire after 13 seasons

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) He was the third base coach who gave Kirby Puckett a high-five to punctuate his winning homer in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series.

He was the trusting candidate who took Minnesota's managing job when many thought the Twins were about to be contracted in 2002.

He was the affable everyman who presided over the team's turn-of-the-century renaissance and turned the AL doormat into a six-time division champion.

Ron Gardenhire was just about everything in the 27 years he spent in the Twins organization. But even he couldn't survive the worst four-year stretch in franchise history.

The Twins fired Gardenhire on Monday, saying it was time for a new voice after his 13-year tenure concluded with 383 losses over the last four seasons.

"The reason for this change, I think it's safe to say, the last couple years we have not won enough games," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "That's what it comes down to. It's nothing more, nothing less than that."

The move was made with one season left on Gardenhire's contract, ending the second-longest active tenure in the major leagues behind Mike Scioscia of the Angels.

Gardenhire played an integral role in the franchise's turnaround, guiding the Twins to the playoffs six times in nine seasons from 2002-10. But Gardenhire's teams only got out of the first round once, and his postseason record was 6-21 with the last win coming in 2004.

The Twins have long been the model of stability in not only baseball but major professional sports, with only two managers over the last 28 years and two general managers over the last 20 seasons.

But all the losing of late became too much to overcome. Over the last four years, the Twins went 78-148 from Aug. 1 on for an abysmal .345 winning percentage.

"I'm gone, I'm outta here because we didn't win," Gardenhire said. "That's what it gets down to in baseball. That's what it should get down to. You have to win on the field and these last four years have been tough for all of us."

The Twins finished this season at 70-92, making Gardenhire just the fourth manager in the game's history to preside over at least four straight 90-loss seasons with the same team, joining Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics (nine), Zach Taylor of the St. Louis Browns (four) and his predecessor with the Twins, Tom Kelly (four). Kelly returned for one more season after his streak, and he retired after an 85-77 finish in 2001.

"One of the things we hope to get back to here is a winning culture across our organization, and not just with the major leagues," Twins President Dave St. Peter said, later adding, "That's clearly one of the goals with this move is to jumpstart that. Not to say that Ron wasn't capable of that ... but I think we believe very strongly that we've gotten away from that in recent years."

In an era when job security for managers is seemingly measured in months, Gardenhire's longevity has been truly unique. The outspoken and fiery Gardenhire quickly became one of the faces of the franchise, as synonymous with the Twins as the interlocking T and C on their caps. He took over for the revered Kelly, who won two World Series championships, just as the organization was starting to regain its footing after years of bad baseball.

"I feel like he's my brother, not my manager," said a glassy-eyed Ryan, who has known Gardenhire dating to their days together in the New York Mets system in the 1980s.

Ryan spent some time away from the organization this year to get treatment for cancer. He said Monday that a recent physical came back favorable and that he will return to the Twins next season.

Ryan offered Gardenhire a chance to remain in the organization, but Gardenhire doesn't believe he's done managing just yet.

"I would have loved to have won a World Series, but that didn't happen," Gardenhire said. "Maybe it's still to come."

Gardenhire clashed with some players over the years, but there was an expectation and hope among the players that he would return.

"We as players had a responsibility to the organization, fans, and coaches to win this season," starting pitcher Phil Hughes tweeted. "We failed."

Gardenhire joined the organization in 1987 and was added to Kelly's staff in 1991. His record as Twins manager was 1,068-1,039. He won the American League Manager of the Year award in 2010, the last time the Twins not only made the playoffs but had a winning record.

"As good as it gets in my opinion. Comes to the park ready to win each and every day. Kind of a players' manager," second baseman Brian Dozier said last week. "Always in good spirits. He knows the game better than anybody I've been around. I 100 percent want him back."

The contracts of Gardenhire's coaches were expiring, but some of them could be brought back. Bench coach Paul Molitor is sure to be considered for Gardenhire's replacement, but Ryan's search will spread outside the organization, too.

"Sometimes people need to hear a different voice," Gardenhire said. "They need a new face. I just want this organization to win; I'll be rooting just like everybody else."

The run of futility has disillusioned a once-passionate fan base, with attendance in Target Field's fifth year the lowest for the Twins since 2004.

Owner Jim Pohlad said dwindling attendance had "virtually zero" impact on the decision and they would have brought Gardenhire back next season if Ryan recommended it.

"He connected with me and our family way more than any single person in our entire career as owners of the team," Pohlad said. "He's just a special guy. He's loved. He's loved by us. I'll always remember him as a winner."

Tue, 30 Sep 2014 01:54:00 +0000
Romo, Murray lead Cowboys past Saints 38-17

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Tony Romo wasn't trying to look like DeMarco Murray.

The 34-year-old Dallas quarterback instead showed everyone that his surgically repaired back is coming along just fine.

Romo threw three touchdown passes and Murray ran for a pair of scores in another 100-yard game - one of them after the longest scramble of Romo's career - in the Cowboys' 38-17 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night.

The Cowboys went up 31-3 when Romo broke free on third down and slid for the first down a play before Murray ran loose in the secondary, juked Jairus Byrd at the 10 and was pushed across the goal line by Corey White.

"It makes me feel old and the fact that I haven't gotten more than 21 yards is pretty pathetic," said Romo, whose previous long run was 17 yards despite a career known for scrambles that keep plays alive. "But other than that, it feels pretty great."

The Cowboys kept Drew Brees and the Saints scoreless in the first half after giving up an NFL-record 40 first downs in a 49-17 blowout loss in New Orleans last year.

Brees had touchdown passes to Josh Hill and Jimmy Graham early in the fourth quarter to get the Saints to 31-17 before the Cowboys regained control.

The former Texas high school star threw for 340 yards, but had just 84 yards with an interception while Dallas was building a 24-0 halftime lead after he had 838 yards with seven touchdowns and no picks in his previous two games against Dallas, both wins.

"I think we're a different team than we were last year," Romo said. "What you find is you forget it's the Saints and Drew Brees and just go play."

Dallas reached 3-1 for the first time under coach Jason Garrett after also starting 2-1 the three previous seasons. The Cowboys are tied with Philadelphia for the NFC East lead.

The Saints (1-3) couldn't sustain the momentum from their win over Minnesota and lost to the Cowboys in Texas for the first time since 1991.

"There's not going to be too much good to see in this film," New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. "We're 1-3 right now, and that's about how we're playing."

The Cowboys had 445 yards against former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who directed the scheme that led to one of the franchise's worst offensive performances in years last season, about 10 months after they fired him.

Romo was 22 of 29 for 262 yards without an interception. He finished an 80-yard drive to open the game with a 6-yard pass to a leaping Terrance Williams in the end zone and found him again for 23 yards to put Dallas up 24-0 with 19 seconds left in the first half.

Williams led Dallas with 77 yards receiving, and Bryant had an 18-yard scoring catch late in the fourth quarter to secure the second win for Dallas in the past 10 games against New Orleans.

Murray's first touchdown, a 15-yard run virtually untouched around right end, was set up when Bruce Carter tipped Brees' pass and Justin Durant intercepted it at the New Orleans 39.

The NFL's leading rusher joined Emmitt Smith as the only Dallas running backs with 100 yards in the first four games of a season, and he didn't fumble in the first quarter for the first time this season. He had 149 yards to push his season total to 534.

"DeMarco is inspirational," owner Jerry Jones said. "Glad to see him have a game that he didn't turn the ball over. About the time New Orleans was thinking about getting some life, he'd go out and make those yards."

Brees had 256 yards passing after halftime, and the Saints ended up with 438 total yards. But New Orleans had three turnovers to none for Dallas.

"We had our chances in the second half," Brees said. "But at the end of the day when you look at this game, the entire game, we got beat. We got beat in every facet of it."

After pulling to 31-17 early in the fourth quarter, the Saints had a chance to get closer, but a drive stalled and punter Thomas Morstead was tackled for a 2-yard loss while trying to throw a pass on a fake punt. That set up Bryant's clinching touchdown.

"Hindsight's probably 20-20," Payton said. "It was on the hash mark that we wanted, and they covered it pretty well."

NOTES: Cowboys K Dan Bailey's 51-yard field goal in the second quarter was 29th in a row. He broke Chris Boniol's franchise record of 27 last week at St. Louis. ... Saints RB Khiry Robinson had 87 yards rushing, 62 of them on a run that set up the touchdown to Hill. ... Cowboys CB Morris Claiborne left in the first quarter with a left knee injury. Jones said after the game the initial exam "was not encouraging."

Mon, 29 Sep 2014 02:45:00 +0000
Europe defeats U.S. to win Ryder Cup once again

GLENEAGLES, Scotland (AP) The tone was set by Rory McIlroy, the best player in the world. The winning shot came from Jamie Donaldson, a Ryder Cup rookie.

Europe added another layer to its Ryder Cup dominance on Sunday by leaving no doubt who had the best team, if not the best players. Behind two early comebacks that showed its resolve, Europe clinched the cup with four matches still on the course.

With a 16 1/2-11 1/2 victory, Europe kept that gold trophy for the eighth time in the last 10 tries.

McIlroy played some of his best golf this year - even for a guy who won the last two majors - by trouncing Rickie Fowler to put the first point on the board. Donaldson finished off the Americans with a 9-iron that settled 18 inches from the cup on the 15th hole at Gleneagles and set off the celebration.

"It came down to me to close it out," Donaldson said. "But it's all about the team."

That concept appeared lost on the Americans.

Not long after the closing ceremony, Phil Mickelson said the Americans have strayed from the winning formula at Valhalla in 2008 under Paul Azinger - their only victory in these matches dating to 1999. Even with U.S. captain Tom Watson sitting six seats away, Mickelson said that American team was invested in each other, which was different from Watson's style of doing it his way.

It was an awkward way to end another bad week for the Americans in the Ryder Cup.

Watson defended his philosophy, though he conceded he might have erred in using some players who were too tired, leading to a 10-6 deficit going into Sunday singles.

"The bottom line is they kicked our butts," Watson said. "They were better players this week."

Watson said he had a pit in his stomach watching the Americans blow a 10-6 lead two years ago at Medinah. The PGA of America brought him back as captain - at age 65, the oldest in Ryder Cup history - hopeful he could repeat some history. Watson was the last captain in 1993 to win on European soil.

It might not have mattered where this was played.

Graeme McDowell rallied from 3 down after five holes to close out his match against Jordan Spieth on the 17th hole. Justin Rose was 4 down after six holes when he won four straight holes with birdies against Hunter Mahan, and got up-and-down for birdie on the 18th to give Europe a half-point.

Rose went unbeaten for the week at 3-0-2.

That set the stage for Donaldson, a 38-year-old from Wales playing in his first Ryder Cup. He seized control over Keegan Bradley at the turn, and then it was a matter of when Europe could pop the champagne. Donaldson was so locked in on his task that he was unaware that he had retained the cup for Europe when he was 4 up with four holes to play. From 146 yards in fairway, he fired a 9-iron at the flag and let the club twirl through his hands.

It was close to perfect.

Watson walked over and shook his hand, and then put his arm around McGinley as they headed to the green. Bradley got onto the putting surface, and as soon as he saw Donaldson's ball next to the cup, he removed his cap and shook hands.

McGinley talked all week about a template of European success. The message was to embrace their role as the favorites, and to be proud that they had earned it. And the final instruction was to avoid complacency. Europe won the Sunday singles session for the second straight Ryder Cup.

"I didn't execute the plan. All these guys sitting at this table did," McGinley said with the 17-inch trophy on display. "I know how difficult it is to play in a Ryder Cup. I know when your heart is jumping out of your chest how incredibly excited and nervous you are. But we relish this challenge. We did it with a smile on our face, which is so important. And we did everybody proud."

The Americans had a few bright spots.

Patrick Reed went unbeaten as a rookie. Reed and Spieth had to settle for a half-point Saturday afternoon, in part because Reed missed a 2-foot putt. The gallery heckled him before he teed off against Henrik Stenson, and it inspired him. Reed rallied from an early deficit, putting his finger against his lips to hush the crowd, and he won the point on the 18th hole when Stenson missed a 4-foot putt. Reed went 3-0-1 and earned the most points for the Americans.

The three American rookies - Spieth, Reed and Jimmy Walker - contributed nearly half of the points for the U.S. team.

Going into the Ryder Cup, Watson had singled out Ian Poulter as the European with the best record and the man to beat. Poulter wound up playing only three matches and he didn't win any of them, settling for two halves.

It wasn't about Poulter, though. It was about Europe, a formidable team.

Sun, 28 Sep 2014 15:34:00 +0000

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