Arsenal beats Leeds 1-0 to reach FA Cup fourth round
Arsenal's Sead Kolasinac, right, shoots on goal
during the English FA Cup soccer match between Arsenal and Leeds United at
the Emirates Stadium in London, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Kirsty
London (AP) — Reiss Nelson
secured Arsenal's passage to the FA Cup fourth round by sealing a 1-0
victory over Leeds after the English Premier League side was initially
outplayed by the second-tier opponent on Monday.
Nelson's close-range finish from Alexandre Lacazette's
cross came 10 minutes into the second half. It was the 20-year-old striker's
second goal on his 29th appearance for Arsenal after being among four
changes from the side that beat Manchester United last week.
Leeds out-shot Arsenal 15-3 and dominated possession in
the first half and demonstrated why Marcelo Bielsa's side is well placed to
end a 16-year exile from the Premier League.
"The way they play they make it very difficult, they
play man-to-man around the pitch," Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said. "If
you are not ready for that game you get exposed."
Arteta told players he has managed for only a couple of
weeks that they weren't reaching the standards expected of them.
"I cannot be happy and I have to let them know," Arteta
said. "We had to react and we changed some things.
"But the biggest change was how we approached the
second half, the mentality, how aggressive we were, how we played in their
half, won every duel, making runs forward. It was different."
The draw for the fourth round was made before the game
at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal goes to Bournemouth next on the weekend of
Arsenal is enduring a lackluster Premier League,
sitting in 10th place after struggles that prompted the firing of Unai Emery
Leeds' priority is clinching one of the two automatic
promotion spots in the Championship, which the northern club leads with a
nine-point cushion on third place.
McDavid leads Oilers past Maple Leafs 6-4
Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid celebrates
his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third-period NHL hockey game
action in Toronto, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press
Toronto (AP) — Connor McDavid had a dazzling
goal and three assists, and the Edmonton Oilers cooled off the Toronto Maple
Leafs with a 6-4 victory on Monday night.
Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Kailer Yamamoto, Alex
Chiasson and Leon Draisaitl also scored for the Oilers (22-17-5), who were
making their third stop on a five-game road trip.
Jason Spezza, Frederik Gauthier, Pierre Engvall and
Auston Matthews scored for the Maple Leafs (24-14-5), who were 9-0-1 in
their last 10 games.
McDavid got the puck at Toronto's blue line and used
his speed to cleanly beat Morgan Rielly 1-on-1 with a fake to the inside
before going wide and snapping the puck into the top corner on Michael
Hutchinson with 8:34 to go in regulation. The goal gave the Oilers a 6-3
Mike Smith made 31 saves in the victory.
Islanders 1, Avalanche 0
Uniondale, N.Y. (AP) — Semyon Varlamov stopped
32 shots against his former team, earning his second shutout of the season
and leading the Islanders to the win.
Anders Lee scored for New York, which had lost two in a
row and five of seven overall.
Varlamov got his 27th career shutout in his first
matchup with the Avalanche since signing a four-year deal with the Islanders
Philipp Francouz, had 32 saves for Colorado, which had
won two in a row.
Jets 3, Canadiens 2
Montreal (AP) — Nikolaj Ehlers had a goal and an
assist, powering Winnipeg to the victory.
Andrew Copp and Josh Morrissey also scored for
Winnipeg, which had dropped five of six. Captain Blake Wheeler had two
assists, and Connor Hellebuyck made 29 saves.
Ilya Kovalchuk picked up an assist in his Canadiens
debut. He agreed to a one-year, two-way contract on Friday.
Defenseman Ben Chiarot scored twice for Montreal, which
has lost six in a row. Carey Price stopped 24 shots.
Spurs hit 19 3-pointers to stop NBA-best Bucks, 126-104
San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan (10)
scores against Milwaukee Bucks forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo, left, during
the second half of an NBA basketball game in San Antonio, Monday, Jan. 6,
2020. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
San Antonio (AP) — DeMar DeRozan had 25 points
and the San Antonio Spurs hit a season-high 19 3-pointers to beat Milwaukee
126-104 on Monday night, snapping the Bucks' five-game winning streak.
Patty Mills added 21 points, shooting 6 of 10 on
3-pointers, for San Antonio (15-20). LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay added 18
The Spurs finished 19 for 35 on 3s and shot 51%
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 points, 12 rebounds and
eight assists for Milwaukee. Donte DiVincenzo added 16 points.
The Bucks, whose previous loss was on Christmas at
Philadelphia, maintain the NBA's best record at 32-6.
Milwaukee defeated San Antonio 127-118 on Saturday at
home but could not maintain its early momentum in a rare home-and-home set
of back-to-back games.
76ers 120, Thunder 113
Philadelphia (AP) — Joel Embiid scored 18 points
while playing with a dislocated left ring finger, Ben Simmons had 17 points
and 15 rebounds, and Philadelphia ended a four-game losing streak by beating
The 76ers lost all four games on a trip that knocked
them down the Eastern Conference standings and raised questions about how
far this team can go in the playoffs.
They usually last in the postseason as long as a
healthy Embiid can take them. The All-Star center dislocated his left ring
finger in the first quarter, an injury so gnarly that the bent finger
stretched across his pinkie and the sight did a number on gag reflexes for
those watching at home. Embiid made a brief stop in the locker room, got the
finger taped and returned to start the second period.
The Thunder, who had won five straight, closed within
two with three minutes left before the Sixers scored nine straight points to
put the game away.
Steven Adams had 24 points and 15 rebounds for Oklahoma
City, and Chris Paul scored 18.
Josh Richardson scored 23 points for the Sixers, and
Simmons fell two assists shy of a triple-double.
Jazz 128, Pelicans 126
New Orleans (AP) — Bojan Bogdanovic scored 35
points, Joe Ingles added 22 and Utah extended its winning streak to six
games by holding off New Orleans.
Brandon Ingram had 35 points for the Pelicans but could
not convert a driving layup attempt at the horn while being defended by Rudy
Gobert. The Utah center was chasing Ingram down the right side of the lane
and appeared to make body-to-body contact that forced Ingram over the
baseline as he attempted to take the final shot.
As the horn sounded, Pelicans players leaped off the
bench pleading for a foul call while Utah players celebrated Gobert's
defensive play and quickly disappeared down the tunnel. Officials briefly
went to the scorer's table to check if there should be any time left and
then ruled the game over, eliciting a cascade of boos from the crowd.
Gobert had 19 rebounds and Donovan Mitchell capped a
19-point night with a driving floater in the lane that broke a 126-all tie
with 1:12 left and wound up being the winning basket in a game that had 18
lead changes and 11 ties.
Wizards 99, Celtics 94
Washington (AP) — Missing star guard Kemba
Walker, the Boston Celtics became the latest NBA contender to surprisingly
come up short against one of the league's worst teams, losing to the
Washington Wizards as Ish Smith scored 27 points to lead a depleted lineup.
Walker sat out his third game in a row with the flu,
and while the Celtics won the previous two -- against also-rans Atlanta and
Chicago -- they couldn't overcome poor shooting, a slow start and a whole
lot of Smith.
One game after pouring in a career-high 32 points as a
reserve, Smith again came off the bench to pace the Wizards. The 31-year-old
guard even heard "M-V-P!" chants in the fourth quarter, when he scored 14
points, including 10 straight for the Wizards during one 5-for-5 shooting
That allowed Washington to regain an edge after an
11-point halftime lead had dwindled to zero when Jaylen Brown's 3-pointer
made it 80-all with eight minutes left.
Brown scored 23 points but shot 7 for 22. Marcus Smart
was 3 for 14, Jayson Tatum went 8 for 20 and Gordon Hayward was 4 for 11,
including an air ball on a wide-open 3 attempt with under 90 seconds
Mavericks 118, Bulls 110
Dallas (AP) — Luka Doncic scored 21 of his 38
points in the third quarter and had his NBA-leading 11th triple-double of
the season to lead Dallas past Chicago.
Doncic scored 17 of the Mavericks' 19 points in the
final 5:35 of the third to break open what had been a tie game. His
3-pointer gave Dallas a 72-69 lead it did not relinquish.
The 20-year-old added 11 rebounds and 10 assists for
the Mavs, who played without Kristaps Porzingis for the fourth straight game
because of right knee soreness.
Dwight Powell added 16 points for Dallas on 6-for-6
shooting from the floor and 4-for-4 from the line.
The Bulls lost forward Wendell Carter Jr. to an
apparent right ankle injury with 8:25 left in the third quarter. He was
taken off the court in a wheelchair.
Lauri Markkanen led the Bulls with 26 points, starting
the game despite spraining his left ankle Saturday night against Boston.
Nuggets 123, Hawks 115
Atlanta (AP) — Nikola Jokic scored a career-high
47 points, Will Barton added a season-best 28 and Denver held on to beat
The Nuggets, coming off a surprising loss at Washington
two nights earlier, have won four of six to improve to 25-11, second-best in
the Western Conference. Atlanta, worst in the NBA at 8-29, has dropped 11 of
Trae Young finished with 29 points and Kevin Huerter
had 22 for the Hawks.
Jokic surpassed his previous career high of 41 points
with a putback that gave Denver a 114-109 lead with 3:14 remaining.
Magic 101, Nets 89
Orlando, Fla. (AP) — Markelle Fultz scored a
career-high 25 points, including seven straight during a 15-1 run in the
fourth quarter that sent Orlando past slumping Brooklyn.
Nikola Vucevic had 24 rebounds and 11 points for his
300th career double-double, and the Magic pulled away in the final seven
minutes after going 9:20 without a field goal.
Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie scored 16 apiece for
the Nets, who lost their sixth straight game after charging back from a
16-point deficit to take a lead in the fourth quarter.
Seven players scored in double figures for the Magic.
D.J. Augustin came off the bench to contribute 16 points and five assists.
Fultz, the top pick in the 2017 NBA draft, shot 11 for
20 with four assists and two steals.
Pacers 115, Hornets 104
Charlotte, N.C. (AP) — T.J. Warren scored 30 of
his season-high 36 points in the second half and Indiana topped Charlotte to
halt a two-game skid.
Domantas Sabonis added 18 points, 12 rebounds and seven
assists, and Miles Turner had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Pacers,
who had lost four of five. The Pacers, who are 15-4 at home, improved to
8-10 on the road.
Indiana outscored Charlotte 37-21 in the third quarter
behind 13 points from Warren to open a 14-point lead. Warren finished 15 of
24 from the field.
Terry Rozier had 28 points for the Hornets, whose
two-game win streak ended. Devonte Graham added 22 points and six assists.
Kings 111, Warriors 98
Sacramento, Calif. (AP) — De'Aaron Fox had 21
points and seven assists, Buddy Hield also scored 21 and Sacramento thumped
Trevor Ariza added a season-high 18 points for the
Kings, and Harrison Barnes scored 18 as well. Sacramento led by 31 on the
way to winning for only the second time in 11 games, allowing coach Luke
Walton to rest most of his starters in the fourth quarter.
It was the Kings' second lopsided win over the Warriors
this season, having beaten Golden State 100-79 on the road Dec. 15.
Glenn Robinson III had 16 points for Golden State. The
Warriors, who played without Draymond Green and D'Angelo Russell, have lost
five straight after a season-high four-game winning streak.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr was ejected late in the
second quarter after getting hit with consecutive technical fouls by referee
Australia win 3rd test; claim series sweep over New Zealand
Australia's David Warner bats on day four of
the third cricket test match between Australia and New Zealand at
the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, Australia, Monday, Jan. 6,
2020. (Andrew Cornaga/Photosport via AP)
Sydney (AP) —
Australia closed out its home test season in emphatic fashion by
crushing New Zealand by 279 runs in the third test and completing a
3-0 series sweep over the International Cricket Council's No.
Australia quickly wrapped up victory on the
fourth day at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Monday, first dominating
with the bat and then simply sweeping away the visiting batsmen in a
devastating bowling spell in the afternoon.
David Warner scored 111 not out and shared
century partnerships with Joe Burns and Marnus Labuschagne as
Australia built a 416-run lead before declaring at 217-2.
New Zealand's Todd Astle bows on day four of
the third cricket test match between Australia and New Zealand at
the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, Australia, Monday, Jan. 6,
2020. (Andrew Cornaga/Photosport via AP)
Nathan Lyon then claimed his second five-wicket
haul in as many days and Mitchell Starc took three wickets as New
Zealand was dismissed for 136, its lowest innings score of the
"It's been an amazing summer," said
player-of-the-series Labuschagne, who scored an Australian record
896 runs, with four hundreds in five tests this southern summer at
an average of 112. "Us as a team have been playing really well and
it's good to see everything come together.
"The way the bowlers and the whole batting
group have performed together is tremendous."
Warner was at his counter-punching best in
bringing up his 24th test hundred and fifth at the SCG shortly after
lunch and celebrated with his customary leap, before kissing the
badge on his helmet and raising both arms to his home crowd.
Labuschagne (59) continued to accumulate
quickly and reached his half century off 64 balls with four
boundaries before holing out in the deep off Matt Henry, prompting
the innings declaration by Paine.
New Zealand received a rare bonus this series
with Australia incurring a five-run penalty for running on the pitch
late in its innings. The decision by umpire Aleem Dar that Warner
and Labuschagne were not veering off the pitch quickly enough while
running between wickets seemed harsh on the hosts. The five runs
were subtracted from the victory target for New Zealand which had
stood at 421.
Not that Australia needed that many runs, with
the bowling attack ending New Zealand's resistance inside 48 overs.
Starc (3-25) had opener Tom Blundell (2) caught
by a diving Lyon at point, before trapping captain Tom Latham (1)
LBW in his next over to have the tourists at 4-2.
Lyon (5-50) was bought into the attack and had
Jeet Raval and test rookie Wayne Phillips caught behind by Tim Paine
in consecutive wicket maidens to have the tourists at 27-4 at tea.
Pat Cummins produced the best ball of the
match, a delivery which straightened off the pitch and hit Ross
Taylor's (22) off stump, but not before the 99-test veteran became
the highest run-scorer in the history of New Zealand test cricket
when he surpassed former captain Stephen Fleming's 7,172 runs.
Colin de Grandhomme and B.J. Watling then
combined for a 69-run partnership for 23.3 overs to delay
Australia's push for victory.
Allrounder de Grandhomme showed good attacking
intent and reached his eighth test half century with a six off Lyon,
before he lofted his next delivery to Burns in the deep and was out
The end then came quickly with Todd Astle
spectacularly caught by a diving James Pattinson at deep mid-wicket
off Lyon for 17, before Starc bowled Greg Somerville (7).
Lyon sealed the win with his 10 wicket of the
game, ending Watling's 2 1/2-hour rearguard of 19 off 108 balls when
Cummins took a catch on the legside. He'd never taken a five-wicket
haul at the SCG until this test — now he's done it twice.
Henry didn't go out to bat because of a thumb
injury sustained in the field on the first morning of the test.
Australia resumed Monday at 40 without loss,
with Warner and Joe Burns adding 67 runs in 13 overs before
legspinner Astle made the breakthrough trapping Burns LBW for 40.
After three scores in the 40s this series,
Warner was in a typical upbeat mood as he completed his 31st test
half-century off 82 balls with four boundaries.
The hosts set up its dominant position on the
back of its first innings of 454, led by Labuschagne's maiden double
century, before bowling New Zealand out for 251.
Australia won the first test at Perth by 296
runs and second test at Melbourne by 247 runs, and the series win
will see Paine's team replace New Zealand as the ICC's No.2-ranked
"Credit to Tim (Paine) and the Australian team,
they were outstanding throughout the series and so clinical in all
areas," said captain Kane Williamson, who missed the third test
through illness. "They put us under pressure test after test, and we
were never able to reverse it."
Justin Thomas grabs a win he thought he had lost
Thomas holds the champions trophy after winning the Tournament of
Champions golf event, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, at Kapalua Plantation Course
in Kapalua, Hawaii. Thomas won after a three-hole playoff. (AP
Thomas plays his shot from the 13th tee during final round of the
Tournament of Champions golf event, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, at Kapalua
Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Kapalua, Hawaii (AP) — Justin Thomas began
the new year mildly disappointed by not having won more than he already
has on the PGA Tour.
That's not to suggest he ever thought it was easy.
Sunday at Kapalua was proof of that.
Thomas won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in a
three-man playoff over Patrick Reed and Xander Schauffele for his third
victory in his last six starts on the PGA Tour, and the 12th of his
career. Thomas, 26, now has more victories than any active players
younger than 30.
That took time to digest, mainly because of how he
got to No. 12.
He birdied six out of eight holes to turn a
two-shot deficit into a two-shot lead with three holes to play.
"Through 15 holes, it was one of the best rounds I
had played," he said.
He fell into a playoff by hitting at toe-hook off
the tee at the par-5 18th, followed by a 3-wood that landed in knee-high
vegetation so thick that a nine-member search party couldn't find it. He
"I botched it up pretty badly," he said.
Schauffele became only the fourth player in the
final round to reach the 18th green, a 3-wood that left him a 35-foot
eagle attempt. He three-putted for par, missing a 7-foot putt for the
Thomas, who had stood off the green with his cap
removed and his head bowed anticipating defeat, suddenly had another
chance. It also gave life to Reed, who nearly an hour earlier had made a
20-foot birdie putt for a 66 — matching the best score of the tournament
— that he figured would fall short at 14-under 278.
It was the first three-man playoff since the
tournament moved to Kapalua in 1999.
"I got very lucky to even have that opportunity,"
Schauffele was eliminated with a three-putt par
from 100 feet on the 18th in the playoff. Thomas had to watch Reed have
two putts at the win, a 30-foot eagle putt on the first extra hole, a
12-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole. Reed missed them both, and
Thomas finished him off on the final hole before darkness.
"That's what happens when you win," Thomas said.
"Obviously, you have to play well and make some putts and hit some
shots. But at the end of the day, you need stuff to go your way. And it
definitely did today. And it feels great."
It was more crushing for Schauffele than for Reed,
even though Reed had the last chance to win.
Schauffele had a one-shot lead going into the final
round and was two shots ahead through seven holes when Thomas went on
his big run with golf so pure that Schauffele said, "I'd like to see
anyone else try it."
But it was right there for him at the end when
Thomas chopped up the 18th hole.
The wind on the Plantation Course is most
treacherous on the greens, with players having to guess if a 30 mph gust
will knock putts offline or give them too much speed. That's what cost
him on the 18th in regulation, and it cost Reed on the last two playoff
"I should have won the tournament," Schauffele
said, pausing to consider how wild the final hour really way. "JT was
right there. But with the circumstances, I should have closed it out. I
did everything I was supposed to until the last moment."
Reed also spoke to the gusts on his 12-foot birdie
to win and 8-foot birdie to stay alive. What bothered him equally — at
least based on the glare he shot to the gallery — was the fan who
screamed, "CHEATER!" after he hit his putt on the third playoff hole.
Thomas says he didn't hear it, presumably because he was locked into his
The reference was to Reed scooping away sand to
improve his lie in the Bahamas, which was caught on video and shown to
him after the round, leading to a two-shot penalty. Reed heard plenty
more — and plenty worse — a week later from the Australian crowd at the
Thomas was more exhausted than elated, mainly
because of the sharp swing in emotions at the end.
He carries momentum to the Sony Open in Honolulu,
and perhaps the rest of the year and beyond. Thomas remains No. 4 in the
world, but his record since June bears noting. He has not finished worse
than a tie for 17th in his last 11 tournaments worldwide.
"It's not an accomplishment getting to 12," Thomas
said. "It's an accomplishment winning today. But I'll have fun with my
family and celebrate it tonight. And next week, we try to get 13."
Eller's goal completes Capitals' stunning OT win over Sharks
Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson (74), goaltender Braden
Holtby (70), left wing Carl Hagelin (62), left wing Alex Ovechkin (8),
of Russia, and others celebrate after an NHL hockey game against the San
Jose Sharks, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Washington (AP) — Lars Eller scored with
2:59 remaining in overtime after the Washington Capitals rallied from
two goals down in the final minute of regulation, completing a stunning
5-4 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.
T.J. Oshie tied it with 14.2 seconds left, and
Eller also assisted Jakub Vrana's second goal of the game inside the
Evander Kane had his third career hat trick for San
Jose, which never trailed before Eller's winner. Logan Couture also
scored for the Sharks.
Nic Dowd had a second-period goal for Washington.
Braden Holtby made 25 saves to snap a three-game losing streak in net
and picked up an assist on Eller's decisive goal, pushing the puck up
ice to John Carlson.
Lightning 3, Hurricanes 1
Raleigh, N.C. (AP) — Steven Stamkos had a
goal and an assist, Nikita Kucherov had two assists and Tampa Bay got
its seventh straight victory.
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 28 shots and Mitchell
Stephens and Brayden Point also scored for the Lightning.
Andrei Svechnikov scored for Carolina, which lost
its second straight and fell to 2-2 on its seven-game homestand.
Flames 5, Wild 4, SO
St. Paul, Minn. (AP) — Dillon Dube scored in
the seventh round of the shootout to give Calgary a win over Minnesota.
David Rittich stopped six of seven Wild shooters, and Derek Ryan also
scored in the shootout for the Flames, who are 4-0 in tiebreakers this
Milan Lucic, Travis Hamonic, Michael Stone and Mark
Giordano scored for Calgary. Rittich finished with 30 saves.
Marcus Foligno scored twice, and Kevin Fiala and
Jordan Greenway also had goals for Minnesota, which finished 1-2-1 on a
Panthers 4, Penguins 1
Pittsburgh (AP) — Mike Hoffman had a goal
and an assist, rookie Chris Driedger stopped 31 shots and Florida ended
an eight-game losing streak on Pittsburgh ice.
Brett Connolly scored his 16th of the season for
the Panthers, Frank Vatrano had his ninth and Evgenii Dadonov added an
empty-netter for his 18th. Florida bounced back from a loss to Buffalo
on Saturday by winning in Pittsburgh for the first time since Jan. 20,
Jared McCann scored his 11th for Pittsburgh.
Tristan Jarry finished with 31 saves, but the Penguins looked out of gas
at times while playing for the third time in four nights.
Blackhawks 4, Red Wings 2
Chicago (AP) — Adam Boqvist snapped a
third-period tie, Dylan Sikura scored his first NHL goal and Chicago
rallied past lowly Detroit.
Dylan Strome also scored for Chicago, which won for
the fourth time in five games. Corey Crawford made 19 saves in his first
start since he was pulled in the second period of an ugly 7-1 loss to
New Jersey on Dec. 23.
Detroit dropped to 3-18-2 in its last 23 games.
Filip Zadina and Luke Glendening scored for the NHL-worst Red Wings, and
Jimmy Howard made 23 stops.
Ducks 5, Predators 4, SO
Anaheim, Calif. (AP) — Adam Henrique had two
goals and an assist, Ryan Getzlaf got the deciding goal in the fifth
round of the shootout and also had three assists, and Anaheim beat
Daniel Sprong had a goal and an assist, and Cam
Fowler also scored to help the Ducks end a three-game losing streak.
John Gibson made 22 saves.
Craig Smith scored twice, and Rocco Grimaldi and
Austin Watson each had a goal for the Predators, who have lost four of
five. Juuse Saros made 43 saves.
Roman Josi had an assist to extend his point streak
to 10 games, the longest ever by a Nashville defenseman.
Canada rallies to beat Russia 4-3, wins world juniors gold
celebrates after defeating Russia in the gold medal game at the World Junior
Hockey Championships, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
(Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)
Akil Thomas, 2nd left, celebrates with Canada's Raphael Lavoie, right, after
scoring his sides winning goal past Russia's goaltender Amir Miftakhov, 2nd
right, and Russia's Danil Zhuravlyov, left, during the U20 Ice Hockey Worlds
gold medal match between Canada and Russia in Ostrava, Czech Republic,
Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Ostrava, Czech Republic (AP) — Akil Thomas
scored the winning goal in the final period and Canada rallied from two
goals down to beat Russia 4-3 in the final of the world junior hockey
championship on Sunday.
It was the 18th title for Canada, the most successful
team in the tournament.
Thomas backhanded the puck past goaltender Amir
Miftakhov with 3:58 left for his only goal at the tournament to avenge a 6-0
loss to Russia at their group stage game, the worst loss for Canada in the
history of the tournament.
"I saw my defenseman get the puck and I saw he was
going to put it up the wall and (Connor) McMichael kind of chipped it, and
it found an opening," Thomas said. "The puck was almost going to the goalie.
I kind of panicked and brought it to my backhand and put it in."
Dylan Cozens, McMichael and captain Barrett Hayton also
scored for Canada. Goaltender Joel Hofer made 35 saves.
Nikita Alexandrov, Grigori Denisenko and Maxim Sorkin
netted Russia's goals.
The Canadians were looking to bounce back from a
disappointing sixth-place finish last year when it hosted the event. They
won the previous title in 2018 while Russia was seeking its first title
It was the ninth final between the two rivals since the
playoff system was introduced in 1996. Both teams had won four of them
before their encounter on Sunday.
The Canadians were 3-1 down after Sorkin's goal 8:46
into the final period. McMichael deflected a shot into the net with his leg
and Hayton tied it at 3-3 on a power play with a wrist shot from the right
circle, with the two goals coming in a span of 2:01.
McMichael added an assist and Calen Addison had three
assists. Alexis Lafreniere, who is projected to be the No. 1 pick at the
2020 NHL draft, contributed two assists to finish the tournament with four
goals and six assists from the five games he played. He was named the
Alexandrov broke the goalless deadlock 9:37 into the
middle period, deflecting a shot by Yegor Zamula from the point on Russia's
Canada answered on a 5-3 advantage 1:24 later with
Cozens netting on a rebound.
Denisenko restored Russia's one-goal lead, pushing the
puck under the pad of Hofer still in the frame.
Canada killed four power plays in the opening period
and its PK proved effective again when Russia pulled Miftakhov for an extra
attacker on another power play for a 6-4 advantage with 2:41 left in the
Earlier, Samuel Fagemo scored his eighth goal to become
the top scorer of the tournament and help Sweden beat defending champion
Finland 3-2 and take bronze.
Texans roar past Bills for 22-19 win in OT
Houston Texans kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn (7)
kicks a game-winning 28-yard field goal as Buffalo Bills cornerback
Kevin Johnson (29) tries to block the kick during overtime of an NFL
wild-card playoff football game Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Houston. The
Texans won 22-19. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Houston (AP) — Deshaun Watson's teammates
talked all week about how they never feel as if they're out of any game
when No. 4 is on the field.
On Saturday Watson showed why the Houston Texans
have so much trust in him, when the quarterback's dazzling performance
late after a tough start led them to a playoff victory.
Watson spun out of a would-be sack and coolly
completed a pass that set up the winning field goal in overtime as the
Texans rallied from a double-digit second-half deficit for a 22-19
victory over the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the playoffs.
DeAndre Hopkins was asked to describe Watson's play
on Saturday to somebody who might have missed the game.
"I hope everyone watched this today, but he's
amazing," Hopkins said. "You can't put too many words on it."
Both teams punted on their first possessions of
overtime — the first extra period in an AFC wild-card game since January
2012. On Houston's next drive, Watson evaded a sack by wriggling away
from one defender and bouncing off another before rolling out to find
Taiwan Jones for a 34-yard reception to set up first-and-goal.
Watson flexed both arms as the crowd at NRG Stadium
went wild — knowing their team was in position to pull off another
comeback win to Houston's playoff history.
"I told myself to stay up. I mean, it's do-or-die
now. I just had to make the play," Watson said.
Ka'imi Fairbairn then kicked a 28-yard field goal
to lift Houston to the victory.
The Texans (11-6) advanced to the divisional round
of the playoffs next weekend where they'll face the Kansas City Chiefs
The Texans got a boost from the return of J.J.
Watt, who had a sack that helped spark his team. Houston scored 19
straight points to take the lead before Stephen Hauschka's 47-yard field
goal tied it with 5 seconds left to force overtime.
"We never quit, regardless," Watson said. "Whatever
it takes to get the win. I mean, we're going to keep fighting."
Watt was wowed by the play of Watson.
"The play he made at the end of the game — nobody
makes that play," he said. "The guy's unbelievable. I'm very thankful
and lucky to have him as my quarterback. That's why you play the whole
It was Watt's first game after sitting out since
October with a torn pectoral muscle.
"This is why you come back," Watt said. "I don't
know if I meant to come back for these many plays or this much extra
time, but these feelings, these emotions, these fans, these players,
Deshaun Watson and all the guys on this team, this is why you come
The win gives the Texans their first playoff
victory since the 2016 season and extends Buffalo's postseason losing
streak to six games, with their most recent playoff win coming in 1995.
It's the first wild-card overtime game since the Broncos beat the
Steelers 29-23 in the 2011 season.
The game conjured memories of another huge comeback
in a wild-card game. The last time teams from Houston and Buffalo met in
the playoffs it was in a game that is known as "The Comeback." The Bills
set an NFL record for the largest comeback in NFL history by rallying
from a 32-point deficit for a 41-38 overtime win against the Houston
Oilers in a wild-card game in 1993.
This time Josh Allen and the Bills (10-7) used a
dominant first half to build a 13-point lead and were up 16-0 in the
third quarter, before Allen began to struggle.
"He was just trying to do too much and getting a
little bit extreme with what he felt like we needed at the time," coach
Sean McDermott said. "But overall, we just didn't make enough plays."
Watson had 247 yards passing and ran for 55 yards
and Hopkins had 90 yards receiving. Watson led the Texans to the victory
despite being sacked seven times, led by three from Jerry Hughes, and
hit 12 other times.
Allen threw for 264 yards, ran for 92 and caught a
touchdown pass on a trick play in the first quarter, but often looked
rattled late in his playoff debut.
Houston couldn't get anything going on offense
before halftime and had 81 yards in a first half where Hopkins didn't
catch a pass for the first time since Week 16 of the 2017 season.
They were finally able to sustain a drive on their
second possession of the third quarter when Hopkins had receptions of 14
and 10 yards to help move the ball. The Texans cut the lead to 10 when
Watson dragged two defenders into the end zone on a 20-yard touchdown
Watson then dived into the end zone for a 2-point
conversion that got Houston within 16-8 with about two minutes left in
The Bills were driving early in the fourth quarter
when Allen was sacked by Whitney Mercilus and fumbled, and it was
recovered by Jacob Martin at the Buffalo 47. Houston cashed in on the
miscue with a 41-yard field goal that cut the lead to 16-11 with about
11 minutes to go.
Watson connected with Carlos Hyde on a 5-yard
touchdown pass and Hopkins on a 2-point conversion with about five
minutes left to put the Texans on top 19-16. Hopkins had a 41-yard
reception earlier in that drive.
The Bills were in field-goal range on their next
drive when Allen got a 14-yard penalty for intentional grounding and
Buffalo lost a down to bring up fourth down. They went for it and Allen
was sacked by Jacob Martin for a 19-yard loss to give Houston the ball
back with 1:41 left.
"We didn't execute how we should have, and we
didn't make as many plays as we should have," Allen said. "That's what
it really comes down to. They made one more play than us."
The Texans trailed 13-0 at halftime and Hopkins
fumbled on their opening drive of the third quarter to give Buffalo the
ball at the Houston 32. Watt sacked Allen for a loss of 8 yards on third
down and the Bills settled for a 38-yard field goal to extend the lead
Allen scrambled 42 yards for a first down on
Buffalo's first possession for its longest rush of the season. Two plays
later, the Bills used some trickery to take the lead when John Brown
threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Allen to make it 7-0. Brown's pass was
wobbly, but Allen was wide open despite having to slow down to grab it.
It was early in the second quarter when Allen
appeared to fumble, and it was recovered by Houston. But the play was
reviewed and overturned, giving Buffalo the ball at the Houston 32. The
Bills were unable to move the ball after that and made a 40-yard field
goal to make it 10-0.
The Bills added another 40-yard field goal at the
end of the second quarter to push the lead to 13-0 at halftime.
Not so fast
Houston's DeAndre Carter looked to have made a
major mistake when caught the opening kickoff of the second half in the
end zone and tossed the ball toward a referee without taking a knee. The
Bills scooped it up and thought they had scored a touchdown on the play.
But the play was reviewed, and it was determined that Carter "gave
himself up" so it was called a touchback and Houston kept the ball.
Watt was pleasantly surprised with how good he felt
on Saturday in his return from injury. But there was one moment where he
was a bit worried that his surgically repaired pectoral muscle wouldn't
As he was about to dive to try and grab Allen, he
wondered if that could be the moment where he was re-injured.
"But I dove and landed right on it, popped up,
checked it out and looked over at the doctor who was standing like 10
feet away," he said. "And I was like: 'It's all right.'"
Bills: Season over.
Texans: Advance to divisional round.
Titans pleased, but not satisfied after win over Patriots
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, left, and New England
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speak at midfield after an NFL wild-card
playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP
Foxborough, Mass. (AP) — Titans coach Mike
Vrabel posted himself outside the locker room following Tennessee's
20-13 wild-card playoff win over the New England Patriots and waited.
He wanted to personally shake the hand of every
member of his team as they came off the field. Between the flood of
high-fives and hugs, Vrabel mostly said, "Thank you" as his smiling
players streamed by.
The last player to come down the corridor was
running back Derrick Henry. When he locked eyes with his coach, he
beamed as well and began shouting, "We want more! We want more!" before
the pair eventually shared their own embrace.
Tennessee's methodical effort against the defending
Super Bowl champion Patriots and the league's top-ranked defense was one
of the biggest surprises of Saturday's opening day of the playoffs. But
the Titans made one thing clear afterward: They feel like their best
football is still ahead of them. They advanced to face AFC top seed
Baltimore in the divisional round.
"That's the way we like it. We don't want nothing
easy. We want it gritty, we want it dirty," said Henry, who carried 34
times for 182 yards and a touchdown.
Henry, whose 444 scrimmage yards rank second in the
Super Bowl era for a player in their first three career playoff games,
said they weren't fazed playing against a Patriots team that had
motivation after losing to the Titans during the regular season last
year. It was a game that also could have potentially been quarterback
Tom Brady's final game with the Patriots. The six-time champion's
current contract expires following the season.
"We knew what type of game this was going to be. We
knew this was a hostile environment," Henry said. "We knew this was a
different type of team in the playoffs. But we just had to play our
game. Not worry about the outside noise. Just do what we needed to do."
The Titans also did it the same way they did it in
winning seven of their 10 games to qualify for the playoffs: grinding
out points through Henry and riding the resurgent play of quarterback
Ryan Tannehill, who is 8-3 since taking over the starting role from 2015
first-round pick Marcus Mariota.
Tannehill led the NFL during the regular season
with a career-best 117.5 passer rating, and also led the league
averaging 9.6 yards per pass attempt. He was just 8 of 15 for 72 yards
and an interception Saturday night, but stayed poised and kept the ball
moving — which limited the number of possessions for the Patriots.
Tennessee's 72 passing yards are the fewest by any
team in a playoff win since the 2009 Ravens (34) against the Patriots in
the 2009 wild-card round.
Combined with his time as Miami's starter,
Tannehill now has five victories over New England. Including the
playoffs, those are the second-most wins of any quarterback during the
Belichick and Brady era, behind only Peyton Manning's six.
"I'm so proud of this team," Tannehill said. "It
was ugly at times offensively. But we kept fighting and found a way to
make a couple of plays at the end."
The biggest of the night came on the Patriots'
final possession of the night — after All-Pro Brett Kern's 58-yard punt
put the ball at the 1 — when cornerback and former Patriot Logan Ryan
intercepted Brady and ran it in for a 9-yard touchdown.
The defense also had a goal-line stand in the
second quarter that limited New England to a field goal just before the
"This is amazing. But it's not over," tackle Taylor
Lewan said. "The last two decades, they've been the greatest team in
football. We played good football. We took care of the ball and our
defense stepped up when they needed to. Offense stepped up. And now we
play the Ravens."
City wins, United draws in FA Cup; Brighton, Villa out
Manchester City's Taylor Harwood-Bellis, right, celebrates scoring his
side's third goal of the game with teammate John Stones during the English
FA Cup third round soccer match between Manchester City and Port Vale at the
Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. (Martin Rickett/PA
(AP) — Watching John Stones make defensive
mistakes while playing for England in the Nations League finals in June,
Port Vale striker Tom Pope took to Twitter to say he'd "love to play … every
week" against the Manchester City center back.
"I'd get 40 a season!" wrote Pope, who described Stones
as "soft" and "weak."
Well, he got his chance when fourth-tier Port Vale was
drawn to play City in the third round and both players were selected to
And Pope did go on to score, although he wasn't being
marked by Stones when heading in a shock equalizer at Etihad Stadium to
cancel out Oleksandr Zinchenko's deflected opener.
"I never dreamed I would score," Pope said. "I would
have been happy to have a few touches."
City reacted by scoring through Sergio Aguero,
youngster Taylor Harwood-Bellis - who deflected in a shot from Stones - and
Phil Foden as the holders made a successful start to their title defense
with a 4-1 win.
"Before the game, I was worried that teams have come
here and been annihilated but I'm sure the fans are proud of the team," said
Port Vale manager John Askey, whose players were invited into City's locker
room after the game and took selfies.
"We rode our luck a little bit at times. When that goal
(from Pope) went in, you start to dream a little bit."
It was a gentle warmup for City ahead of a derby match
against Manchester United in the first leg of the English League Cup next
week. United had a much more grueling test, against Wolverhampton away, and
fought to a 0-0 draw that necessitates a replay on either Jan. 14 or 15.
United's goalkeeper Sergio Romero, left, speaks with Manchester United's
Victor Lindelof during the English FA Cup third round soccer match between
Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester United at the Molineux Stadium in
Wolverhampton, England, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
It adds to the fixture congestion at the start of 2020
for United, which has to play five league games, a two-legged League Cup
semifinal and potentially three FA Cup matches from Jan. 1 to Feb. 1.
Marcus Rashford struck a shot against the crossbar soon
after coming on as a substitute, while Wolves later had a goal by Matt
Doherty ruled out for handball.
"I'm happier to be in the replay than going out,"
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said. "It's a tough place to come.
Whether Villa and Brighton will be too disappointed
with their FA Cup exits is open to question.
Survival in the lucrative Premier League is their first
priority and that is far from guaranteed, with both teams within four points
of the relegation zone.
A semifinalist last year, Brighton didn't even win one
game in this season's competition after losing 1-0 at home to second-tier
Sheffield Wednesday because of Adam Reach's 65th-minute winner.
Villa is now four years without a victory in the FA Cup
after losing 2-1 at another second-tier opponent in Fulham, which scored
long-range goals through Anthony Knockaert and Harry Arter. Arter's stunning
74th-minute winner came two minutes after he came on as a substitute.
Aaron Wilbraham celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during
the English FA Cup third round soccer match between Rochdale and Newcastle
United at The Crown Oil Arena, Rochdale, England, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020.
Newcastle has been taken to a replay by third-tier Rochdale in the third
round of the FA Cup to continue its poor recent record in the world’s oldest
club knockout competition. (Richard Sellers/PA via AP)
Watford's resurgence under new manager Nigel Pearson in
the Premier League - with three wins in the last four games to ignite its
survival hopes - looked like being transferred to the FA Cup when the team
took a 3-0 lead after 34 minutes against third-tier struggler Tranmere.
Then the early-season version of Watford returned.
After conceding goals in the 65th, 78th and 87th minutes, the hosts had
Argentina midfielder Roberto Pereyra sent off in the 89th and ended up
scraping a draw.
Another team taken to a replay by third-tier opposition
was Newcastle, which also squandered a halftime lead and drew 1-1 at
Aaron Wilbraham, a 40-year-old striker whose first
career goal came in 1998, scored Rochdale's equalizer against Newcastle,
which has not gone beyond the fourth round since 2006.
A replay was the last thing Newcastle or Watford needed
after playing four games in 11 days over Christmas and the new year.
Newcastle, in particular, was hit hard by injuries during the festive period
and picked up two more at Spotland, with scorer Miguel Almiron (groin) and
Yoshinori Muto (hip) forced off in the second half.
Easy for Leicester
Leicester, in second place in the Premier League, was
among the top-flight teams to make wholesale changes for the cup but it
didn't stop Brendan Rodgers' side beating second-tier Wigan 2-0 thanks to an
own-goal and a strike by Harvey Barnes.
Burnley, Southampton, Norwich and Bournemouth also
avoided upsets with some ease to book their places in the fourth round.
Burnley beat third-tier Peterborough 4-2, with striker
Jay Rodriguez scoring twice, Southampton beat second-tier Huddersfield 2-0
and Norwich won 4-2 at Preston, with Irish striker Adam Idah scoring a hat
Bournemouth beat second-tier Luton 4-0.
Premier League teams entered the FA Cup at the
third-round stage and there was another top-flight matchup set to take place
on Sunday: the Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton at Anfield.
A one-minute delay preceded all third-round games to
raise awareness of a mental-health campaign, "Heads Up," which is
spearheaded by English Football Association president Prince William.
Australia beats Canada to move atop Group F at ATP Cup
Firefighters drag their water hose after putting out a spot fire near
Moruya, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Minaur of Australia reacts after he won his match against Denis
Shapovalov of Canada at the ATP Cup tennis tournament in Brisbane,
Australia, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)
Brisbane, Australia (AP) — John Millman got
a late call to fill in for Nick Kyrgios and got Australia off to a
winning start on his home court against Canada.
Alex de Minaur secured the match when he rallied
from a set and a break down to beat Denis Shapovalov 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-2
later Sunday at Pat Rafter Arena.
And with that, Australia moved atop Group F at 2-0
in the new ATP Cup, a 24-team tournament that is kicking off the
southern summer for the first time. Canada, which beat Australia in the
Davis Cup quarterfinals in Madrid last November after Kyrgios withdrew
injured, was 1-1 after opening with victory over Greece.
The six group winners and the two best second-place
teams advance to the playoffs in Sydney next week, and Australia is a
good shot of making it.
That would be a boost for sports lovers in a
country experiencing its worst wildfire season in recorded history,
which has already left 24 dead, 2,000 homes destroyed and burned through
large swathes of Australia.
Two days after launching his cash for aces plan to
raise funds for the national wildfire recovery effort, Kyrgios pulled
out of his scheduled match against Felix Auger-Aliassime in Brisbane
because of a sore back. No. 48-ranked Millman stepped in to win 6-4,
Kyrgios pledged to donate 200 Australian dollars
($140) for every ace he serves this month. He hit 20 in his opening win
and promising more.
Other athletes and celebrities have also pledged to
donate to the cause. Organizers of the ATP Cup are also pledging
donations per ace in the competition, and Australian Open organizers are
planning a major fundraising event in Melbourne on Jan. 15, five days
before the season's first Grand Slam tournament begins.
In Sydney on Sunday, Bulgaria made it two wins from
two in Group C, following up its opening 2-1 win over Britain with a
more comfortable result against Moldova.
Grigor Dimitrov had a 6-2, 6-3 win over Radu Albot
to secure an unbeatable 2-0 lead after Dimitar Kuzmanov beat Alexander
Cozbinov 6-1, 7-5. Albot led Moldova to a 6-4, 7-6 (4) win in the
doubles to make the final margin 2-1.
Italy and Norway were meeting in the day session in
Perth. The night session was set to feature the United States against
Russia in Perth, Greece against Germany in Brisbane and Belgium against
Britain in Sydney.
Chelsea denied by overhead kick; Arsenal beats Man United
Brighton's Alireza Jahanbakhsh, centre,
scores his side's first goal of the game, during the English Premier
League soccer match between Brighton and Chelsea at the AMEX Stadium,
Brighton, England, Wednesday Jan. 1, 2020. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)
London (AP) — Having finally ended a goal
drought, Alireza Jahanbakhsh is now celebrating the greatest strike of
With an acrobatic overhead kick, the Brighton
forward stunned not just Chelsea but his own team, too.
The south-coast club's record signing had endured
18 months without a goal until scoring in Saturday's victory over
Now the Iranian has two goals in two games, coming
off the bench to deny Chelsea a victory by sealing the 1-1 Premier
"When (Lewis Dunk) gave me that ball, I tried to
hit it as hard as possible," Jahanbakhsh said. "The only way to connect
with it was just to bicycle kick it, and it went in the right direction.
It's a great feeling to be involved in such important games and I've
been working hard to get my chance.
"It's been a very tough time for me, but I'm very
glad to turn it around in a great game."
The 84th-minute bicycle kick lifted Brighton four
points clear of the relegation zone. It was a setback for an erratic
Chelsea side, with Christian Pulisic wasting chances to extend the lead
secured by captain Cesar Azpilicueta in the 10th minute.
Chelsea still strengthened its grip on fourth place
to five points thanks to Manchester United losing 2-0 at Arsenal but it
could have been a greater cushion.
Tottenham's top-four chase also had a setback with
a 1-0 loss at Southampton.
Runaway leader Liverpool is not in action until
Thursday against Sheffield United. Leicester is 10 points behind, having
played two games more, after Ayoze Perez, James Maddison and Hamza
Choudhury scored in a 3-0 win at Newcastle.
Manchester City is a point further adrift after
beating Everton 2-1 through Garbriel Jesus' two goals.
Completing the nine games on New Year's Day, West
Ham beat Bournemouth 4-0, Aston Villa won 2-1 at Burnley, Watford
overcame Wolverhampton by the same score and Norwich held Crystal Palace
Papastathopoulos, left, celebrates with teammate Lucas Torreira after
scoring their side's second goal during the English Premier League
soccer match between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates
Stadium in London, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. Papastathopoulos scored once
in Arsenal's 2-0 victory. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Mikel Arteta earned his first win as Arsenal
manager at his third attempt through first-half goals from Nicolas Pépé
and Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
After collecting one point from his first two games
since replacing Unai Emery, Arteta secured Arsenal's first win at home
in the league in three months to guide the north London club up to 10th
Moyes' winning return
David Moyes received a lukewarm reception from West
Ham fans as he returned to the dugout he vacated in May 2018.
They were soon celebrating as Mark Noble scored
twice, and Sebastien Haller and Felipe Anderson also netted as the east
London club cruised to a victory over Bournemouth in the first game
since Manuel Pellegrini's firing.
West Ham is two points and two places above the
Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho grumbled about a
Southampton coach and VAR after Danny Ings' goal handed Spurs a 1-0
There was also the blow of losing striker Harry
Kane to a hamstring injury after he had a possible equalizer ruled out
for an offside that riled Mourinho.
The Portuguese was booked by referee Mike Dean for
going over to the Southampton bench after arguing with goalkeeping coach
Andrew Sparkes over apparent time-wasting.
"I think the yellow card is fair because I was rude
but I was rude to an idiot and for some reason, for some reason I was
rude," Mourinho said. "But I was and because I was rude I deserve the
Villa midfielder Jack Grealish's early header was
ruled out at Burnley after a lengthy VAR review determined that striker
Wesley's heel was offside in the buildup.
But the goal did count when Grealish set up Wesley
in the 27th minute before striking powerfully in the top corner himself
Burnley pulled one back through Chris Wood's header
in the 80th but Villa held on to move a point above the relegation zone.
Brady, Patriots don't get usual R&R heading into playoffs
(AP) —Tom Brady and the defending champion
New England Patriots aren't getting their usual bye week to rest, relax
Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens earned the
AFC's top seed for the first time since the current playoff format was
adopted in 1990.
Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs earned
the No. 2 seed, a holiday gift from the Patriots, whose stunning 27-24
loss to Miami at home last weekend sent New England into the wild-card
round for the first time in a decade.
"Just too many bad mistakes," Brady lamented.
And too many bad breaks for the Patriots, a team
that features a terrific defense but a sputtering offense behind an
aging Brady, who has averaged just 197 yards on 59 percent passing in
his last four games and who posted his lowest passer rating since 2006.
The Brady-led Patriots have never reached the Super
Bowl while playing in the wild-card round.
"We talk about it each year, each team has their
own journey and this is our journey," Patriots safety Devin McCourty
The Patriots host the Tennessee Titans on Saturday
and the Buffalo Bills visit the Houston Texans to kick off wild-card
1. Baltimore Ravens (14-2). AP Pro32
Ranking: No. 1. Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 47, 34-31 over San Francisco
on Feb. 1, 2013. Last year: No. 4 seed, lost wild-card game at home to
Los Angeles Chargers 23-17. Second consecutive trip to AFC playoffs.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson looks to throw against the
Cleveland Browns during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday,
Dec. 22, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Yea: Since their last loss, way back in late
September, the Ravens have been virtually unstoppable on offense and
exceedingly stingy on defense. That combination has produced 12 straight
victories, and during that span no team came close to putting the breaks
on Jackson and the league's highest-scoring team. Not only did Jackson
set an NFL single-season record for yards rushing by a QB, but he also
threw 36 TD passes. Baltimore is 19-3 with Jackson as a starter during
the regular season, including 13-2 this year.
Nay: Baltimore prefers any opponent other
than the Chiefs, who have beaten Jackson and the Ravens twice in the
past two seasons. KC prevailed in OT last year when Mahomes threw for
377 yards, and 28-20 on Sept. 22. Baltimore should also be wary of
Buffalo, which limited Jackson to 40 yards rushing and 145 yards through
the air in a 24-17 Ravens triumph on Dec. 8. Any defense facing the
Ravens can make things tough for Jackson by taking away the edges and
covering the tight ends, easier said than done.
Say: "It's not easy to win in this league.
It's a tough league, and we just have a lot of guys who believe in each
other, care about each other and understand the value of hard work." —
Ravens RB Mark Ingram.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4). AP Pro32
Ranking: No. 4. Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 4, 23-7 over Minnesota on Jan.
11, 1970. Last year: No. 1 seed, beat Indianapolis Colts 31-13 at home
in divisional round, lost to New England 37-31 (OT) in AFC championship
at home. Fifth consecutive trip to AFC playoffs.
City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates following an NFL
football game against the Los Angeles Chargers in Kansas City, Mo.,
Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. Kansas City Chiefs won 31-21. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Yea: The Chiefs' biggest strength the past
couple of years has been their offense, led by reigning league MVP
Mahomes and with a group of high-powered playmakers including TE Travis
Kelce, WRs Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins and RB Damien Williams. But
their emerging defense may be even more crucial to postseason success.
It held back-to-back opponents without a TD before holding the Chargers
in check in KC's regular-season finale.
Nay: The Chiefs' biggest weakness is their
secondary, where the loss of safety Juan Thornhill to a season-ending
ACL tear against the Chargers leaves a big void in the back end.
Say: "We've got a lot of confidence, man.
Defense is balling and our offense is getting things rolling. We're the
hottest team. We have the most swag in the AFC." — Hill.
3. New England Patriots (12-4). AP Pro32
Ranking: No. 7. Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 53, 13-3 over Los Angeles Rams
on Feb. 3, 2019. Last year: No. 2 seed, beat Los Angeles Chargers 41-28
at home in divisional round, beat Kansas City Chiefs 37-31 (OT) on road
in AFC championship, beat Rams at Super Bowl 53 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium
in Atlanta. Eleventh consecutive trip to AFC playoffs.
New England Patriots
quarterback Tom Brady (12) points to Benjamin Watson (84) after a play
during the first half of an NFL football game. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Yea: One of the surprises of the 2019 season
was how inconsistent the Patriots were on offense as Brady relied
heavily on veteran Julian Edelman while trying to work with a group of
young receivers. But New England still has a shot to make it back to its
fourth consecutive Super Bowl thanks to a defense that allowed a
league-low 14.1 points per game. CB Stephon Gilmore leads a defense that
had 38 takeaways and makes New England a very tough out.
Nay: Brady topped 4,000 yards passing for
the 11th time, but the six-time champion showed signs of slowing down at
age 42. Brady and the rest of the offense declined over the last half of
the season when the schedule got tougher and the injury-riddled O-line
struggled to find chemistry. The Patriots scored on just half of their
red zone opportunities, which was 26th in the NFL, and Brady's 60.8%
completion rate was his lowest since 2013. Unlike in years past, New
England isn't equipped for a shootout in the playoffs.
Say: "No one feels sorry for the Patriots
not getting a first-round bye in the playoffs. — safety Devin McCourty.
4. Houston Texans (10-6). AP Pro32 Ranking:
No. 10. No Lombardis. Last year: No. 3 seed, lost to Indianapolis Colts
21-7 at home in wild card. Second consecutive trip to AFC playoffs.
Yea: The Texans are only as good as QB
Deshaun Watson. He's shown a penchant for coming up huge in big games
but wasn't great in his playoff debut last year. The Texans rested him
last week and he should be fresh to take on the Bills. Watson threw 26
TD passes and Houston's offense can be dangerous if he can figure out a
way to rediscover the consistency he had early in the season when he had
three 300-yard passing performances in five games.
Nay: Houston's secondary has struggled all
season and the Texans rank 29th in the NFL by allowing 267.2 yards
passing a game. The Texans added several players during the season to
improve the group, but the defense continues to allow QBs to pile up big
numbers. Houston has failed to develop a consistent pass rush, which has
added to the woes in the secondary. However, this could improve in the
postseason with the anticipated return of star J.J. Watt from a torn
Say: "To be here with this staff and a lot
of these players, to be here for six years and to win four division
titles, I think that's pretty good. So, I think ultimately when you get
in the playoffs we all understand what the ultimate goal is." — coach
5. Buffalo Bills (10-6). AP Pro32 Ranking:
No. 9. No Lombardis. Last year: 6-10. First trip to AFC playoffs since
quarterback Josh Allen (17) throws a pass during the first half of an
NFL football game against the New York Jets in Orchard Park, N.Y. In
making his NFL playoff debut against the Texans this weekend,
second-year Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen gets an opportunity to
show how far he's come since his last trip to Houston 14 months ago. (AP
Photo/David Dermer, File)
Yea: The Bills are at their best when
second-year QB Josh Allen doesn't force throws. Allen is 10-1 overall
when attempting 29 or fewer passes and 8-2 when not committing a
turnover in a game he starts and finishes. The Bills' offense relies on
a balanced attack, and playing complementary football with a defense
that's held opponents to under 300 yards eight times this season.
Nay: Allen complained of experiencing early
jitters in several high-profile games in December, most notably a 17-10
prime-time playoff-clinching win at Pittsburgh on Dec. 15, followed by a
24-17 loss at New England. Although Allen has five wins this season with
the Bills tied or trailing in the fourth quarter, he's also struggled in
crunch time. Buffalo's losses to the Ravens and Patriots were decided in
the final two minutes, with Allen misfiring passes on fourth down in the
Say: "We have the confidence we could play
with anybody, because we've played against the Patriots, played them
head to head, toe to toe. ... Same thing with the Ravens. So we're not
scared to compete or see anybody in the playoffs." — LB Lorenzo
6. Tennessee Titans (9-7). AP Pro32 Ranking:
No. 12. No Lombardis. Last year: 9-7. First trip to AFC playoffs since
quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) passes against the New Orleans Saints in
the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in
Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Yea: The Titans are dangerous if Pro Bowl RB
Derrick Henry keeps running like the NFL rushing leader with 1,540 yards
in 15 games. Henry ran for 211 yards in the regular-season finale after
taking a game off to rest his sore left hamstring. Henry is why
Tennessee's play-action threat is so effective, and QB Ryan Tannehill
has shown pinpoint accuracy, leading the NFL in both passer rating at
117.5 and 9.59 yards per pass attempt. That's how Tennessee has averaged
30.4 points in Tannehill's 10 starts.
Nay: The Titans started out holding
opponents to 20 or fewer points in each of their first seven games and
ended up doing that in 10 games overall. But the secondary lost CB
Malcolm Butler to a broken wrist on Nov. 3, and CB Adoree' Jackson has
missed a month with an injured foot. If a game comes down to a field
goal, the Titans are on their fourth different kicker, Greg Joseph,
who's perfect on extra points but hasn't attempted a field goal in two
Hey: "I'm not going to be out there trying
to pass rush Tom (Brady). ... This isn't about my career, my eight years
in New England. This is about the Titans and our preparation to go up
there and face a team that's won three Super Bowls in the last five
years. They're 8-0 at home in that span. They've got the No. 1 defense,
they've got the best coach, they've got the best quarterback, so it's
quite a challenge." — Titans coach Mike Vrabel.
San Francisco roars back into playoffs as NFC's top seed
(AP) —For the first time since 1997, the San
Francisco 49ers are the top seed in the NFC playoffs, a stunning
turnaround for a team that owned the second overall pick in the NFL
draft just nine months ago.
After four straight losing campaigns, including
only 10 wins in coach Kyle Shanahan's first two seasons, the 49ers went
from 4-12 to 13-3 this season.
They emerged as the top team in the NFC thanks to a
big-play offense and a vastly improved defense sparked by Nick Bosa,
whom they chose with that No. 2 draft pick.
They earned the top seed with a thrilling finale at
Seattle when rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw made a stop inches from the
goal line, earning his team a week off and up to two home games in the
49ers' quest to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in seven years.
"It feels good to get where we're at," Shanahan
said. "Our goal was to get in the playoffs, it feels much better with
being the one seed. By now everyone knows there is only one team that is
happy at the end of year."
The Green Bay Packers secured the other first-round
The Seahawks visit the Philadelphia Eagles on
Sunday and the Minnesota Vikings visit the New Orleans Saints in the
other NFC wild-card game.
1. San Francisco 49ers (13-3). AP Pro32
Ranking: No. 3. Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 29, 49-26 over San Diego
Chargers on Jan. 29, 1995. Last year: 4-12. First trip to NFC playoffs
San Francisco 49ers
quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo smiles after his team beat the Seattle
Seahawks in an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Seattle. (AP
Yea: The 49ers have won different ways with
the defense dominating early and the offense playing better late. The
returns of edge rusher Dee Ford and S Jaquiski Tartt should help the
defense return to its early season form. If QB Jimmy Garoppolo and the
offense can maintain its play from the second half when the team ranked
second in plays of at least 20 yards, the Niners should be tough to
Nay: The Niners will still be missing at
least one key defensive piece at the start of the playoffs in LB Kwon
Alexander and several depth pass rushers also are out for the year. That
could limit the improvement on defense and there is little playoff
experience on offense with WR Emmanuel Sanders the only key skill
position player who has been in the postseason. Garoppolo has improved
the past few weeks but still has a propensity for turnovers, which could
Say: "We knew going into the year we had a
chance to be pretty good with what we had on paper and watching the guys
throughout training camp. We knew that pretty well after the first five
games, we could feel it. Then you go through a number of injuries and
stuff and you never know how you're going to be able to fully handle
that. That's what I have been impressed the most with the guys, no one
has wavered." — Shanahan.
2. Green Bay Packers (13-3). AP Pro32
Ranking: No. 5. Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 45, 31-25 over Pittsburgh
Steelers on Feb. 6, 2011. Last year: 6-9-1. First trip to NFC playoffs
Green Bay Packers
quarterback Aaron Rodgers throws during the first half of an NFL
football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in
Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Yea: RB Aaron Jones is the team MVP. The
third-year pro is Green Bay's first 1,000-yard rusher since Eddie Lacy
in 2014 and his 19 total touchdowns (16 rushing, three receiving) tied
Carolina's Christian McCaffrey for the league high. In the Packers'
three losses this season, Jones averaged fewer than 42 scrimmage yards.
If first-year coach Matt LaFleur gets Jones the ball early and often and
QB Aaron Rodgers can add in a splash of his old magic, Green Bay could
find itself in Miami in February.
Nay: Though Rodgers has had flashes of his
old greatness, the 36-year-old two-time MVP has played far below his
soaring standards. Rodgers had a passer rating of less than 80.0 in each
of his last three starts and had a career-high 16 overthrows against
Detroit in the regular-season finale. If the Packers are going to win
another Super Bowl, they're going to need the Rodgers of old, not the
Say: "We haven't always made it easy and we
haven't always made it pretty, but for the most part, we've found a way
to win every game. You have to say a lot about the resiliency of this
team, because we've gotten ourselves into a lot of different scenarios,
but we always believe we can go out there and put up a bunch of points
in a hurry." -- WR Davante Adams
3. New Orleans Saints (13-3). AP Pro32
Ranking: No. 2. Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 44, beat Indianapolis 31-17 on
Feb. 7, 2010. Last year: No. 1 seed, beat Philadelphia Eagles 20-14 at
home in divisional round, lost to Los Angeles Rams 26-23 (OT) in NFC
championship at home. Third consecutive trip to NFC playoffs.
Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passes against the Carolina
Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte,
N.C., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
Yea: QB Drew Brees, who'll turn 41 on Jan.
15, has been in vintage form lately with a big assist from the NFL's top
WR Michael Thomas. Brees has passed for 1,188 yards and 15 TDs in the
past four games, evidence of his strong comeback from a thumb surgery
that sidelined him five games. Thomas racked up a single-season record
149 catches for 1,725 yards and nine TDs. The Saints' eight turnovers
are an NFL record low for a season. New Orleans had 51 sacks, third most
in the NFL and ranked fourth against the run.
Nay: While the Saints don't have many
weaknesses, they can be their own worst enemy. Their 120 penalties for
1,036 yards ranked sixth worst in the NFL in both categories and their
minus-323 net penalty yards ranked second worst. New Orleans' secondary
has been beset with late-season injuries. Both starting safeties and a
starting cornerback did not play in Week 17.
Say: "Down the stretch here I think we've
been an ascending team. We've been playing a little bit better each and
every week, despite the fact that we have had some guys go down." —
4. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7). AP Pro32
Ranking: No. 11. Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 52, 41-33 over New England
Patriots, Feb. 4, 2018. Last year: No. 6 seed, beat Chicago Bears 16-15
in wild-card game on road, lost to New Orleans Saints 20-14 in
divisional round on road. Third consecutive trip to NFC playoffs.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz throws a pass during the
first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys Sunday,
Dec. 22, 2019, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)
Yea: The Eagles are hungry and Carson Wentz
is determined to do what Nick Foles did in his absence two years ago —
win a Super Bowl. If Wentz continues playing at the MVP level he
displayed in December, the Eagles are dangerous. They have a strong
rushing attack that can control the clock and an experienced defense
that shuts down the run and forces teams to be one-dimensional.
Nay: Seattle beat the Eagles in Philadelphia
17-9 on Nov. 24. Russell Wilson is 4-0 against Philly. The Eagles have
been riddled by injuries and finished the regular season without seven
starters on offense. Three of those players could return to face the
Seahawks but it's likely two will be game-time decisions.
Say: "In the last couple games, (Wentz) has
really put this team on his back and said, 'Hey, follow me.' And I think
that's a sign of growth, a sign of maturity. I spent eight years in
Green Bay with Brett Favre, and that's what Brett did. Brett just put
the team on his back when the chips were against us and just said,
'Follow me.' And that's what Carson can do." — Coach Doug Pederson.
5. Seattle Seahawks (11-5). AP Pro32
Ranking: No. 6. Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 48, 43-8 over Denver Broncos
on Feb. 2, 2014. Last year: No. 5 seed, lost to Dallas Cowboys 24-22 in
wild-card game on road. Second consecutive trip to NFC playoffs.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) is chased by San
Francisco 49ers' Nick Bosa on a carry during the second half of an NFL
football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen
Yea: Unlike years past, if the Seahawks are
going to make a deep playoff run, it's going to be because of QB Russell
Wilson. He's coming off the second-best season in terms of passing
yards, completion percentage and a career-low five interceptions.
Wilson's never been asked to carry Seattle in the playoffs but if he can
rediscover the success from when he was in the MVP conversation with
Lamar Jackson, Seattle has enough other parts to make some noise.
Nay: Injuries have stacked up for Seattle.
The Seahawks lost their top three running backs, a starting edge rusher,
tight end and center to season-ending injuries. Jadeveon Clowney is
playing through a painful core muscle injury. Bobby Wagner has a bad
ankle as does safety Quandre Diggs. Left tackle Duane Brown underwent
knee surgery after Week 16. Eventually the lack of some key stars is
likely to catch up with Seattle.
Say: "We have everything we want in the
locker room. We have everything that we could need. We have everything
that it takes. So it's been a tremendous season. It's been a battle so
far. It's been a long one, but it's been a great one so far. The good
thing is it's a refresh button, you get to hit the refresh button, start
over, 0-0, see how far we can go." — Wilson.
6. Minnesota Vikings (10-6). AP Pro32
Ranking: No. 8. No Lombardis. Last year: 8-7-1. First trip to NFC
playoffs since 2017.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins throws a pass in front of
Green Bay Packers linebacker Rashan Gary (52) during the first half of
an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 23, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP
Yea: The Vikings have an experienced,
accomplished defense that can pose problems for elite QBs and clever
play-callers on the other side. The Vikings were sixth in the NFL with
an average of 18.9 points allowed and fourth with 31 takeaways. Their
play-action passing attack with Pro Bowl RB Dalvin Cook poses a dual
threat and QB Kirk Cousins throwing deep to WR Stefon Diggs can be
awfully dangerous, too.
Nay: The downside on defense is the erosion
of the pass coverage. After ranking in the top three in passing yards
allowed in the league in each of the past three years, the Vikings
dropped to 15th in 2019. They also fell to 19th in the NFL in third down
conversions allowed after leading the league in 2017 and 18. The offense
carries its own reasons to doubt a playoff run, with Cousins never
having won a postseason game in the NFL and a recent dud at home against
division rival Green Bay.
Say: "I know it's been done before. Why not
us?" — coach Mike Zimmer on the prospect of winning three road games to
reach the Super Bowl.
Outdoor hockey in Texas? Sure thang, and was a hoot to boot
Stars left wing Blake Comeau (15) falls to the ice after being checked
by Nashville Predators left wing Austin Watson (51) in the first period
of the NHL Winter Classic hockey game at the Cotton Bowl, Wednesday,
Jan. 1, 2020, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)
Dallas Stars fans get
hyped in the midway outside the Cotton Bowl before the NHL Winter
Classic hockey game between the Dallas Stars and the Nashville
Predators, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey
Dallas (AP) — Ryan Clare chewed on a turkey
leg as he milled about the Texas state fairgrounds hours before another
major sporting event inside historic Cotton Bowl Stadium.
No, this wasn't the Texas-Oklahoma football game,
always held in October during the fair. Clare has never been to the
annual Red River rivalry, but the Dallas resident has been a fan of
hockey and the Stars for more than 20 years.
Getting tickets to the NHL's Winter Classic for
Dallas' 4-2 win over Nashville was a no-brainer for Clare, and probably
many others among the 85,630 who filled a venue that used to be famous
for college football on New Year's Day.
"This is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime event and
everything," said Clare, the bottom of the Dallas resident's green No. 4
Miro Heiskanen jersey covering the top of his black kilt. "When are you
going to something like this in Texas ever again?"
Yes, outdoor hockey in Texas was as much the
spectacle as that phrase sounds, with racing pigs just outside the rink
on the stadium floor, and horses spooked by fireworks during "The
At one end of the stadium, line dancers stepped to
the beat of live country music in front of a stage that wasn't far from
a mechanical bull.
"I understand Twitter is going nuts in a good way
about the pig races," Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "We tried to blend
Texas and hockey. Each year we try and learn something and do it a
little bit better."
The midway on the fairgrounds was filled with
thousands of fans several hours before the game, some riding the giant
Ferris wheel just southwest of the stadium and others on the swinging
pirate ship or the haunted house ride.
Some waited in line at least an hour for the other
headliner alongside a turkey leg at the State Fair of Texas every fall:
a corn dog. "It was worth it," one said. There were so many lines, some
didn't know where one started and the other ended.
Others almost ended up on the sky tram that
crisscrosses the fairgrounds, when all they wanted to do was get in the
"We didn't know," said Samantha Williams, a
Nashville season ticket-holder visiting Dallas for the first time.
There was some impatience in a huge cluster of fans
outside the main entrance to the Cotton Bowl about an hour and a half
before the start, a standstill bad enough for some to think it was the
only way into the stadium when there were actually plenty of other
"It's been sensational," Bettman said. "The only
complaints that we've been getting is that it's been too crowded. And in
this business, you'll take that."
Bettman said the weather was perfect in every way:
a temperature in the mid-50s with overcast skies that blocked the sun to
prevent glare without bringing rain, which would have been an even
bigger problem for the ice.
The Predators took a 2-0 lead early in the first
period before the Stars thrilled the huge crowd with four goals in less
than eight minutes in the second and third periods.
"We're very fortunate to be a part of it, hockey
down in Texas and a couple of Southern teams, and fill the building the
way we did," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "It was an
incredible day. You want the score to go in a different direction if
you're part of the game. But the game overall, the ice, the atmosphere,
it was excellent."
The biggest difference from the Texas-OU spectacle
was the fairgrounds emptying out once the game started. When the
Longhorns and Sooners play, there are still thousands of regular
fair-goers to see in the aerial television shots.
Inside, there was a bunch of Dallas green rather
than the 50-yard line split of burnt orange and crimson, and a strong
contingent of yellow-clad Predators fans.
Among them was Sonya Baird, a lifelong resident of
southeast Texas who can't really explain how she became a Nashville fan.
Baird did say she liked the style and energy of Shea Weber, who spent
his first 11 seasons with the Predators.
And Baird's never been to the state fair, so ...
"I didn't know where this place was," she said.
"It's pretty cool. I don't like crowds for some reason. It wasn't going
to keep me away."
Same with Bryan Granstaff, who came from outside
Nashville because his daughter wanted to attend. He wasn't much of a
football fan, and couldn't say he'd seen a football game from the Cotton
Bowl on TV.
"The only thing I keep up with is hockey," said
Granstaff, a Predators fan for about five years. "Hockey and huntin'."
Well, at least half of that is quintessential
Texas. As for the hockey half, it took quite a step to start 2020.
A refined Kapalua presents different test to start new year
this Jan. 7, 2017, file photo, Dustin Johnson hits for the fourth
fairway during the third round of the Tournament of Champions golf event
at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. The course has gone
through a refinement to prepare for the winners-only event on the PGA
Tour that starts Thursday, Jan. 2. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)
Kapalua, Hawaii (AP) — Lush green grass,
Pacific blue horizon.
That much about the Plantation Course at Kapalua
hasn't changed for the 34 winners on the PGA Tour last year who have
assembled for the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Fifteen players are
competing for the first time and won't notice the $12.5 million
refinement project by designers Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.
Dustin Johnson did.
"It's definitely a little harder," said Johnson,
who has been playing every morning as the sun climbs over the horizon
and is done with 18 holes before the breakfast buffet has been cleared.
"The greens are firmer because they're new. The greens are firm and the
fairways are soft. I think it will play more difficult."
What really got his attention was the third hole,
which for 10 years has been a driver and a wedge. With a new tee some 30
yards farther back, and facing a stiff trade win, Johnson blasted driver
and reached for a 6-iron.
"I knew it was longer and that I'd have longer in,"
Johnson said. "I didn't think I'd have that far. It's a difficult green
with wedge to get it close. With a 6-iron, it's not that much fun."
This refinement was not all about length.
The Plantation Course had grown old enough that it
lost its speed from so much thatch in the grass. The idea was for this
course to play fast. That would make it more difficult for elite players
to control their shots, and make it easier for resort guests who found
the course too long because the ball wasn't rolling as far as it once
The entire course was grassed with a new strain
called "Celebration Bermuda." The greens were redone with TifEagle
Bermuda, with some ridges and plateaus added to create more hole
locations and restore some shot-making value. Missing on the wrong spot
of certain greens becomes more penal.
"Instead of having one gradual slope, now it's kind
of turned into shelf," Justin Thomas said. "And you have to maybe focus
a little bit more on being on the correct side of the shelf, or the
correct side of the hole."
The course re-opened two months ago. The first big
test is the Tournament of Champions.
Because the grass is new, and with ample rain over
the last month, the fairways remain relatively soft. That should change
over time, but there have been enough examples during practice to let
players know what to expect.
Defending champion Xander Schauffele hammered a
drive on the downhill, 667-yard closing hole and was surprised to see it
hop out of pitch mark instead of bouncing forward. The pitch mark was 8
feet behind where his ball finished.
"If it firms up, it's going to be awesome," said
Kevin Kisner, who needs some roll to play a 7,596-yard course at par 73.
All the bunkers were rebuilt with drainage. Some
were moved to tighten the landing area, such as on the 16th and most
noticeably on the par-5 fifth. It appears to be in the middle of the
fairway, but it narrows the landing area. For now, that might not be an
issue because the fairway is soft enough it's hard for anyone to reach
The biggest change, at least for the players who
have previously played this winners-only event, are the sharpened slopes
on some of the greens and the length, mainly on No. 3, 4, 9 and 10.
"Another one they renovated they didn't make
shorter. I've yet to see that," Kisner said with a grin.
Kisner hit 3-iron into a strong wind on the
409-yard third hole. On the ninth, playing the new tee, he hit driver
and a 3-wood that barely reached the second portion of the fairway. That
wasn't just because he doesn't hit it a country mile. J.B. Holmes, one
of the longest hitters, said he barely cleared the steep slope to get
back to the fairway.
Holmes wouldn't expect that tee to be used dead
into the wind.
"They can set it up and make all the changes look
terrible, or they can set it up and make it look good," he said.
"Overall, I think they did a good job."
Holmes had a few complaints, such as the severity
of the 13th green and the length on No. 3, saying the green wasn't
designed for the club required into the wind.
Then again, no one is ever happy with change,
especially on the PGA Tour.
"I've seen a redo on some golf courses and was
like, 'What the hell were they thinking?' It's not like that here,"
Holmes said. "I think they made the shots more challenging."
Either way, it's the hardest event on the PGA Tour
to play — winning is the only criteria. It's on the west end of Maui
with endless views of the Pacific and the occasional splash of a
humpback whale. There's no cut. Last place gets $64,000.
"You never complain about being in Kapalua," Kisner
Killorn, Johnson lead Lightning in 6-4 win over Sabres
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tyler Johnson (9) scores past Buffalo
Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark (35) during the second period of an NHL
hockey game Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey
Buffalo, N.Y. (AP) — Alex Killorn scored two
goals, Tyler Johnson had a goal and two assists, and the Tampa Bay
Lightning rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat the Buffalo Sabres
6-4 on Tuesday night for their fourth straight win.
Ondrej Palat and Anthony Cirelli each added a goal
and an assist, Kevin Shattenkirk also scored, and Andrei Vasilevskiy
stopped 18 shots as the Lightning opened a four-game road trip with
their 12th consecutive win against an Atlantic Division opponent.
Conor Sheary had a goal and two assists, and Marcus
Johansson had a goal and an assist for Buffalo.
The Sabres also got goals from Jack Eichel and
Jimmy Vesey in losing their fourth in a row. Linus Ullmark made 16
Hurricanes 3, Canadiens 1
Raleigh, N.C. (AP) — Erik Haula had a goal
and an assist, leading Carolina over Montreal.
Sebastian Aho also scored and Teuvo Teravainen had
two assists for the Hurricanes (24-14-2), who won their second straight
game after a three-game losing streak. Ryan Dzingel scored into an empty
Max Domi scored for the seventh straight game for
the Canadiens (18-16-6), who dropped their third straight and closed out
a seven-game trip with a record of 3-4.
Petr Mrazek stopped 28 of 29 shots for the
Hurricanes. Charlie Lindgren made 33 saves in his first start of the
season for the Canadiens.
Blue Jackets 4, Panthers 1
Columbus, Ohio (AP) — Zach Werenski got his
first career hat trick, Elvis Merlikins stopped 36 shots in his first
NHL start and battered Columbus beat Florida.
Werenski and the Blue Jackets served up a rude
homecoming for Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who was making his first
appearance in Columbus since leaving as a free agent last summer.
Bobrovsky, who played in Columbus for seven seasons and won two Vezina
Trophies, had 24 saves.
Boone Jenner also scored for the Blue Jackets, who
are missing 10 players to injuries and may have lost another, forward
Alexander Texier, on Tuesday. Texier left the game with an upper-body
injury in the first period and didn't return.
Columbus won for the first time in three games, but
extended its points streak to 11 games (7-0-4).
Colton Scevior had the lone goal for Florida, which
had a two-game win streak snapped.
Red Wings 2, Sharks 0
Detroit (AP) — Jonathan Bernier made 34
saves, Tyler Bertuzzi scored his 15th goal and Detroit snapped a
six-game losing streak with a victory over San Jose.
It was Bernier's first shutout of the season and
18th of his career. Filip Hronek also scored for Detroit, which had
dropped all six games during its skid in regulation.
Martin Jones stopped 21 shots for San Jose, which
has lost 11 of its last 13 (2-9-2).
Maple Leafs 4, Wild 1
St. Paul, Minn. (AP) — Auston Matthews and
William Nylander each had a goal and an assist and Toronto beat
Alexander Kerfoot also scored and John Tavares
added an empty-net goal for Toronto, which improved to 7-0-1 in its last
eight games. Toronto has won 13 of 18 games since Sheldon Keefe took
over as coach. Frederik Andersen stopped 26 shots.
Ryan Suter had a goal and Devan Dubnyk made 25
saves for Minnesota. The Wild, 10-4-3 at home, lost the first two games
of a stretch in which they play 16 of 19 games at Xcel Energy Center.
Golden Knights 5, Ducks 2
Las Vegas (AP) — Jonathan Marchessault
scored twice, and Vegas beat Anaheim.
Vegas closed out December with a 9-4-2 mark, and on
a 13-6-3 run since Nov. 17, and remained in sole possession of first
place in the Pacific Division.
Mark Stone, Alex Tuch and Reilly Smith also scored
for the Golden Knights, while Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves and
improved to 15-4-0 against Anaheim. Fleury earned his 455th win to take
over sole possession of sixth place all time, passing Curtis Joseph.
Korbinian Holzer and Jakob Silfverberg scored for
the Ducks and John Gibson made 38 saves while dropping to 2-8-1 against
Islanders 4, Capitals 3
Washington (AP) — Casey Cizikas scored twice
for the first time this season and Tom Kuhnhackl scored the go-ahead
goal as the Islanders topped Washington.
Former Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov stopped 36
shots in the victory. Brock Nelson also scored in the first period for
the Islanders, who won their second straight to close a three-game trip.
Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his 14th and 15th goals for
Washington, which lost consecutive games in regulation for the first
time this season.
Tom Wilson also scored for the Capitals, and Braden
Holtby made 18 saves.
Devils 3, Bruins 2, SO
Newark, N.J. (AP) — Damon Severson scored in
the sixth round of the shootout to give New Jersey a victory over
Severson beat Jaroslav Halak with a backhand and
Mackenzie Blackwood clinched the win by stopping Patrice Bergeron.
Blake Coleman and Jesper Bratt scored for the
Devils in regulation and Blackwood stopped 28 shots as New Jersey earned
its second straight win.
Brad Marchand and Joakim Nordstrom scored for
Boston and Jaroslav Halak stopped 42 shots. The loss snapped the Bruins'
winning streak at three but they did extend their points streak to eight
Jets 7, Avalanche 4
Denver (AP) — Kyle Connor had three goals
for his first regular-season hat trick, leading Winnipeg over Colorado.
Blake Wheeler scored twice and Mark Sheifele and
Nikolaj Ehlers had empty-net goals for Winnipeg. Scheifele had three
assists and Ehlers had two. Connor Hellebuyck stopped 39 shots.
Connor's only other hat trick came in the playoffs
Nathan MacKinnon had two goals and Gabriel
Landeskog and Nazem Kadri scored for the Avalanche. Colorado is 1-4-1 in
its last six games despite outshooting the Jets 43-26. Philipp Grubauer
stopped 19 shots.
Kings 5, Flyers 3
Los Angeles (AP) — Adrian Kempe had a goal
and an assist, Anze Kopitar added two assists and Los Angeles used a
four-goal first period to beat Philadelphia.
Kyle Clifford, Alex Iafallo, Tyler Toffoli and
Martin Frk also scored for the Kings, who are 5-3-2 in their last 10
games. Jonathan Quick made 32 saves to snap a three-game losing streak.
Justin Braun, Claude Giroux and Scott Laughton
scored for Philadelphia. Brian Elliott allowed four goals on 15 shots in
the first period before being replaced by Carter Hart at the first
intermission. Hart made 13 saves.
Coyotes 3, Blues 1
Glendale, Ariz. (AP) — Phil Kessel scored
the go-ahead goal in the third period and Arizona beat St. Louis,
halting the Blues' eight-game winning streak.
Conor Garland also scored, Jakob Chychrun assisted
on both goals and Antti Raanta stopped 38 shots as the Coyotes ended a
three-game losing streak. Nick Schmaltz added an empty-net power-play
Tyler Bozak scored the Blues' only goal. The Blues
ended up 0 for 4 on power plays and lost despite outshooting the Coyotes
38-27. St. Louis failed to score on a power play for the first time in
Blackhawks 5, Flames 3
Calgary, Alberta (AP) — Patrick Kane had two
goals and two assists, and Chicago raced out to a four-goal lead and
held on to beat Calgary.
Kane set up goals by Olli Maatta at 4:14 and Alex
Debrincat at 5:35 and then made it 3-0 at 12:44 of the first period when
he cut across the slot and beat David Rittich with a wrist shot from 30
Kane's 21st goal of the season was the 377th of his
career, tying him with Denis Savard for fourth on the Blackhawks'
all-time list. The top three are Bobby Hull (604), Stan Makita (541) and
Steve Larmer (406).
Kane's second of the game was an empty-netter at
19:59 of the third.
Dylan Strome also scored for Chicago (18-17-6),
which has won three straight and five of six. Robin Lehner finished with
Sam Bennett, Michael Frolik and Sean Monahan scored
for Calgary (20-17-5). The Flames are winless in their last five at
Oilers 7, Rangers 5
Edmonton, Alberta (AP) — James Neal had
three goals and an assist and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a goal and three
assists as Edmonton built a six-goal lead and held on to beat New York.
Leon Draisaitl, Josh Archibald and Kailer Yamamoto
also scored for the Oilers (21-17-4) who snapped a two-game losing skid
and won for just the third time in 11 games.
Chris Kreider, Ryan Strome, Marc Staal, Artemi
Panarin and Mika Zibanejad scored for the Rangers (19-16-4) who saw a
two-game winning streak come to an end.
Harden returns to lead Rockets over Nuggets, 130-104
Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) shoots as Denver Nuggets forward
Torrey Craig defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game,
Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Houston (AP) — James Harden scored 35 points
after missing the last game with an injury to lead the Houston Rockets
to a 130-104 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night.
The Rockets were back to full strength after Harden
missed his first game of the season because of a sprained right toe in a
loss to New Orleans on Sunday. Clint Capela (bruised heel) and Russell
Westbrook (load management) also returned after sitting out on Sunday in
the 127-112 defeat.
Nikola Jokic scored 21 points for the Nuggets, who
had a two-game winning streak snapped.
Westbrook had 28 points for his 11th straight games
with 20 or more points, which is the longest streak by a Rockets player
besides Harden since Yao Ming did it in 14 games in a row in 2006.
Pacers 115, 76ers 97
Indianapolis (AP) — Domantas Sabonis had 23
points, 10 rebounds and five assists to lead Indiana over Philadelphia.
T.J. Warren had 21 points and Myles Turner added 14
for the Pacers, who ended a three-game losing streak in the series and
improved to 22-12 overall.
Josh Richardson had 20 points and Ben Simmons had
18 points and 10 rebounds for the 76ers, who have lost three straight
with a game remaining in a four-game road trip. Philadelphia dropped to
Philadelphia was without center Joel Embiid. The
two-time All-Star, who leads the team 23.7 points and 12.4 rebounds per
game, was out with a sore left knee.
Celtics 109, Hornets 92
Charlotte, N.C. (AP) — Jayson Tatum scored
24 points, Kemba Walker had 22 and Gordon Hayward added 21 as Boston
Boston has won six of seven and improved to 23-8.
PJ Washington led Charlotte with 15 points, and
Miles Bridges had 14 points and 10 rebounds. The Hornets have lost six
Clippers 105, Kings 87
Sacramento, Calif. (AP) — Paul George had 21
points with season highs of 11 rebounds and nine assists to shake off a
slow start, and short-handed Los Angeles thumped Sacramento.
Kawhi Leonard scored 14 of his 24 points in the
third quarter to help the Clippers to their 14th consecutive win in
Sacramento dating to 2013. Ivica Zubac added eight points and 13
rebounds, and Maurice Harkless scored 12 points.
The Clippers played without Patrick Beverley and
sixth man Lou Williams. Beverely is nursing a sprained right wrist he
injured during Saturday night's loss in Utah, while Williams missed the
game because of personal reasons.
Richaun Holmes had 22 points and 10 rebounds for
Sacramento. The Kings have lost eight straight.
Raptors 117, Cavaliers 97
Toronto (AP) — Kyle Lowry scored 24 points,
Terence Davis matched his career high with 19 and Toronto finished 2019
on a winning note by beating Cleveland.
Serge Ibaka had 20 points and 10 rebounds and
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 14 points in his first start with Toronto
as the Raptors recorded their fifth straight home win over the
OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet each scored 12 points
in the Raptors' second 20-point win over Cleveland this season. The
Cavaliers lost 133-113 at Toronto on Dec. 16.
Toronto had lost three of four, but won for the
14th time in 19 home games. The Raptors went 9-7 in December, their
busiest month of the season.
Collin Sexton scored 22 points and Tristan Thompson
had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who had won four of
Spurs 117, Warriors 113, OT
San Antonio (AP) — DeMar DeRozan had 24
points and San Antonio escaped with a victory over short-handed Golden
Dejounte Murray scored seven of his 15 points in
overtime, and San Antonio won its eighth in 13 games. LaMarcus Aldridge
added 17 points and 12 rebounds, and Patty Mills had 18 points.
Alec Burks had 28 points and Glenn Robinson III
added 25, including 15 in the first quarter, for Golden State.
The Warriors — already without stars Stephen Curry
and Klay Thompson long-term — were without starters D'Angelo Russell and
Willie Cauley-Stein. Draymond Green had 10 points, 10 rebounds and nine
assists in 36 minutes.
Thunder 106, Mavericks 101
Oklahoma City (AP) — Danilo Gallinari and
Dennis Schroder each scored 20 points, Chris Paul hit the go-ahead
basket with 40.9 seconds left and Oklahoma City rallied from a
seven-point deficit in the final three minutes to beat Dallas.
Paul scored 13 of his 17 points in the fourth
quarter and added eight rebounds and seven assists for the Thunder, who
have won seven of their last eight games to move into seventh place in
the NBA's Western Conference standings.
The Thunder (18-15) are three games above .500 for
the first time this season.
Luka Doncic led the Mavericks with 35 points, 10
rebounds and seven assists, but he and Maxi Kleber each missed a
potential tying 3-point attempt in the final seconds.
Last yacht finishes Sydney-Hobart race, 4 days after winner
Competitors begin their journey south after the start of the 75th Sydney
Hobart yacht race in Sydney Harbour, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. (Rolex/Kurt
Arrigo via AP)
Hobart, Australia (AP)
— The final yacht has finished the annual Sydney to Hobart race — more
than four days after the line honors winner.
After six nights at sea and with rations low, Tasmanian
30-foot yacht Take Five crossed the finish line Wednesday in 5 days, 23
hours, 41 minutes for the 628-nautical-mile course in the 75th edition of
Comanche, one of five 100-foot super maxis among the
157 starters, finished Saturday morning in a time of 1 day, 18 hours, 30
minutes and 24 seconds to take line honors for the third time. Ichi Ban took
handicap honors on Monday for the second time in three years.
"It took a few days longer than I was hoping but it's
bloody awesome," Take Five owner and skipper Ian Gannon said of the
six-night trip. "We did plan for a seven-day voyage, with emergency rations
as well. Another day out there would have finished up everything that we
Gannon and his six-person crew were forced to spend
four hours on Monday tucked into Tasmania's east coast when thunderstorms
struck. They were not able to see the New Years’ Eve fireworks in Hobart
because they were blocked by Tasman Island off the southeast coast of
Only three yachts — Faster Forward, Hollywood Boulevard
and Minerva — failed to finish. There were no reported serious injuries.