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Chiefs offense hums in 41-14 rout of Patriots

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Perhaps the Kansas City Chiefs gave their neighbors across the parking lot a little bit of inspiration with their impassioned performance against New England. Jamaal Charles returned from an ankle injury to score three touchdowns, Alex Smith threw for 248 yards and three scores, and the Chiefs routed the Patriots 41-14 on Monday night, getting the sports week off to a smashing start in Kansas City with the Royals preparing to open the baseball playoffs on Tuesday. "To have back-to-back events like this, Monday night football and a home playoff game, yeah, it's special," Smith said. "Right next door to each other." Arrowhead Stadium, which was packed to the brim in red-clad Chiefs fans, is just a short walk from Kauffman Stadium, which will surely be packed with blue when the Royals end a 29-year playoff drought against the Oakland Athletics in the AL wild-card game. Several members of the Royals even showed up for the Chiefs-Patriots game, including starting pitcher James Shields, drawing huge roars when they were shown on the big screens. And some of the Chiefs said they were thinking about returning the favor, including wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. Regardless, the Chiefs will be able to spend Tuesday in a celebratory mood. They held the Patriots' Tom Brady to 159 yards passing and a touchdown, picking him off twice and returning one for a touchdown. Brady was also strip-sacked by Tamba Hali to set up a Chiefs field goal, capping off a miserable night for the two-time NFL MVP. "It was just a bad performance by everybody," Brady said. "We need to make sure we never have this feeling again. We've got to figure out what we have to do better." The Chiefs forced the Patriots to air it out by stuffing Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley. And when Brady dropped back, their front seven ran roughshod over New England's suspect offensive line. It hardly helped the Patriots offense that it was trying to operate on the same night Chiefs fans were trying to reclaim the record for loudest outdoor sports venue. The record was set in the first half, when Guinness World Records noted a noise level of 142.2 decibels - breaking the mark of 137.6 that Seattle Seahawks fans set last season. "My ears are still ringing," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said with a smile. Kansas City had 303 yards of offense by halftime, the most against any Belichick-coached team in the first half of a game. That includes his years coaching in Cleveland. "We just never got anything going. Nothing," Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. "They just executed. They executed perfectly. We were always out of the game, it seemed." Here are a few of the reasons why the Patriots were thumped so soundly: RUN, RUN, RUN: Charles looked just fine on his sprained right ankle, running for 92 yards. He was spelled by Knile Davis, who added 107 yards on 16 carries. "We kept each other fresh," Davis said. "When he went in, he did his thing. When I went in, I did my thing." TENSE MOMENT: Charles briefly went to the locker room after stumbling into the end zone on his third touchdown of the game. He appeared to grab his hamstring, and Reid said that he received an IV, indicating that he might have been cramping. "I feel sore," Charles admitted afterward. BRADY'S STRUGGLES: Brady is completing just 59 percent of his passes through his first four games, his worst rate since becoming the Patriots' starter in 2001. He is also averaging less than 200 yards passing per game. "I wouldn't say we've had a very productive four games to start, but hopefully we can learn from it and understand the things that we're doing wrong," he said. "There's nobody going to dig us out of the hole. We've kind of created it for ourselves and we're going to have to look each other in the eye and see what kind of commitment we're willing to make." KELCE STARS: Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who is quickly becoming one of Smith's favorite targets, had eight catches for 93 yards and a touchdown. "We know what we can do on our offense and our defense," Kelce said. "Our defense got a lot of turnovers today, and that was awesome to see." GAROPPOLO PLAYS: Rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo got into the game in the fourth quarter for New England, when the outcome was already decided. He was 6 of 7 for 70 yards with a touchdown. "I am a relief pitcher, pretty much," he said, "so that is my job."

Tue, 30 Sep 2014 07:04:00 +0000
Michigan AD apologizes for mistakes with QB injury

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Roughly 12 hours after embattled Michigan coach Brady Hoke said he'd been given no indication that quarterback Shane Morris had been diagnosed with a concussion, athletic director Dave Brandon revealed in a post-midnight statement that the sophomore did appear to have sustained one. That capped a bizarre day in which Michigan tried to address questions about the coaching staff's handling of Morris, who took a violent hit in the fourth quarter of Saturday's loss to Minnesota. "In my judgment, there was a serious lack of communication that led to confusion on the sideline. Unfortunately, this confusion created a circumstance that was not in the best interest of one of our student-athletes," Brandon said in a statement released shortly before 1 a.m. Tuesday. "I sincerely apologize for the mistakes that were made. "We have to learn from this situation, and moving forward, we will make important changes so we can fully live up to our shared goal of putting student-athlete safety first." Morris took a crunching hit from Theiren Cockran on Saturday and briefly looked as if he was having trouble standing, but he remained in for the next play and threw an incompletion before coming out of the game. Devin Gardner replaced him, but later on that drive, his helmet came off at the end of a play. While Gardner sat out for a play, as required, Morris went back in and handed the ball off to a running back. Asked Monday if Morris had been diagnosed with a concussion, Hoke said: "Everything that I know of, no." Hoke said Morris would have practiced Sunday night if not for a high ankle sprain. But in his statement, Brandon said: "As of Sunday, Shane was diagnosed with a probable, mild concussion, and a high ankle sprain. That probable concussion diagnosis was not at all clear on the field on Saturday or in the examination that was conducted postgame. Unfortunately, there was inadequate communication between our physicians and medical staff, and Coach Hoke was not provided the updated diagnosis before making a public statement on Monday." Brandon said he has had numerous meetings since Sunday to determine what happened with Morris. He said Morris had been treated for a sprained ankle earlier in the game, and medical staff on the sideline believed that was why he stumbled while trying to walk around after being hit by Cockran. "The team neurologist, watching from further down the field, also did not see the hit. However, the neurologist, with expertise in detecting signs of concussion, saw Shane stumble and determined he needed to head down the sideline to evaluate Shane," Brandon said. As for how Morris went back in after Gardner's helmet came off: "Shane came off the field after the (incomplete pass) and was reassessed by the head athletic trainer for the ankle injury," Brandon said. "Since the athletic trainer had not seen the hit to the chin and was not aware that a neurological evaluation was necessary, he cleared Shane for one additional play." Brandon said the neurologist and other team physicians were not aware Morris was being asked to return to the field, and Morris left the bench when he heard his name called and went back into the game. "Under these circumstances, a player should not be allowed to re-enter the game before being cleared by the team physician. This clearly identifies the need for improvements in our sideline and communication processes," Brandon said. Brandon said Morris was examined for a concussion after the game and wasn't diagnosed with one at that point. Hoke was already facing pressure over Michigan's performance this season. The Wolverines fell to 2-3 after losing 30-14 at home to Minnesota. If there was one major point Hoke seemed to stress Monday, it was that he doesn't have input into whether a player is healthy enough to play. If a player shouldn't be going back in the game, that is the trainer's call. "I knew the kid had an ankle injury," Hoke said. "That's what I knew."

Tue, 30 Sep 2014 06:57:00 +0000
Bills bench quarterback Manuel, to start Orton

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) EJ Manuel is out as the Buffalo Bills' starting quarterback, and veteran Kyle Orton is in. Coach Doug Marrone's patience ran out following two straight losses that exposed 2013 first-round draft pick Manuel's lack of development. Marrone benched Manuel on Monday, one day after he completed less than half his passes and threw two interceptions in a loss to Houston. Orton will start Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions. The Bills signed Orton on Aug. 30 to back up Manuel. "It's not all EJ's fault," Marrone said, "but we need to get better production, obviously, out of that position. "We have to make adjustments. We've got to make some changes because we can't keep going in the direction that we're going." Manuel started 14 games over the past two seasons. The Bills (2-2) have sputtered on offense during two straight losses. Manuel had a season-low quarterback rating of 59.4 and threw an interception to J.J. Watt that was returned for a momentum-changing touchdown Sunday during the 23-17 loss. Manuel has completed just 58 percent of his passes through four games this year. "We've got to get better in a lot of situations," Marrone said. "Just the overall offense in itself. You can start on first downs, which we're not doing a good job of. Third downs, red zone touchdowns, I think all those things that you see, again, it's not pinning it just on one player, but we all have to do a better job in those areas." Marrone had previously said he wanted to be patient with Manuel's development. Orton, a nine-year NFL veteran, spent the past two seasons in Dallas before being cut by the Cowboys in mid-July after he skipped the team's offseason workouts amid reports he was considering retirement. Orton has a 35-35 career record split among four teams since being selected by Chicago in the fourth round of the 2005 draft. He has been a starter with every team he has joined, as well as a backup, and spent two years behind Tony Romo in Dallas. Marrone said he made the decision to change quarterbacks, then informed general manager Doug Whaley, Manuel, and the rest of the team. "This decision was based on what's giving us the best opportunity to win," Marrone said. "I believe that we have a playoff-caliber team. I think that we have to play better than we did the last two weeks, though." While Manuel has size and mobility, his decision-making and leadership have been questioned. He acknowledged needing better command of the offense days before the season opener, and understood he had plenty to prove as a bona fide starter. Manuel also faced injury issues last year that hampered his development. He missed six regular-season games and went 4-6 in 10 starts. The Bills invested heavily to improve their offense this season in order to give Manuel every chance to succeed. They made the biggest splash in the draft when they traded next year's first-round selection to move up five spots and select dynamic receiver Sammy Watkins with the No. 4 pick. The Bills also used three of their seven selections on offensive linemen, and acquired wide receiver Mike Williams in a trade with Tampa Bay. Marrone said as Orton began practicing with the team that the Bills first targeted Orton early in training camp as a backup; the need for a contingency plan emerged when former backups Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel didn't show enough progress. Before being informed of the change, Bills players backed Manuel earlier Monday. "You can't put it all on him," tight end Scott Chandler said. "I think he made a lot of great plays, a lot of great throws that we didn't help him out on." "It's not a one-man show," running back C.J. Spiller said. "In this league, the quarterback is the focal point and the emphasis of wins and losses of teams. Obviously, he didn't have his best day, and we didn't give him a lot of help either, as well." NOTES: DT Kyle Williams (knee) and LB Nigel Bradham (knee) had MRIs, but a team spokesman said their status for next week is not yet known. G Chris Williams (back) has a chance to play this week, Marrone said. Williams did not make the trip to Houston. Rookie Cyril Richardson started in his place. . The Bills extended their streak of games with a sack to 17 with two against the Texans. It's the team's longest streak since it went 29 straight games with a sack from Oct. 27, 1996 to Oct. 4, 1998.

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

PHOENIX (AP) Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer has been formally charged with assaulting his wife during two arguments in July at their Phoenix apartment. An indictment publicly released late Friday charges Dwyer with felony aggravated assault and eight misdemeanors, including assault, criminal damage and disorderly conduct. Investigators say Dwyer broke his wife's nose with a head-butt during a July 21 argument and engaged in a dispute the following day in which he punched his wife and threw a shoe at his 17-month-old son, who wasn't injured. Dwyer had been booked on Sept. 17 on suspicion of aggravated assault against his son, but the indictment doesn't charge him with any crimes related to the child. Prosecutors say it's not unusual for grand juries to return slightly different charges than those initially brought in a case. A message left for Jared Allen, an attorney representing Dwyer, wasn't immediately returned Monday. Police say the first dispute between the couple erupted after Dwyer's wife learned about his recent phone contact with another woman and came to believe her husband was cheating. The arrest came at a time when the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell are under fire over a series of violent off-the-field encounters involving some marquee players, including Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy. The NFL has said the Dwyer case will be reviewed under the league's personal-conduct policy. The day after his arrest, the Cardinals placed Dwyer on the reserve/non-football illness list, meaning he can't play for Arizona again this season. An Oct. 6 status conference has been scheduled for Dwyer.

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

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) He was the third base coach who gave Kirby Puckett a high-five to punctuate his winning homer in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series. He was the trusting candidate who took Minnesota's managing job when many thought the Twins were about to be contracted in 2002. He was the affable everyman who presided over the team's turn-of-the-century renaissance and turned the AL doormat into a six-time division champion. Ron Gardenhire was just about everything in the 27 years he spent in the Twins organization. But even he couldn't survive the worst four-year stretch in franchise history. The Twins fired Gardenhire on Monday, saying it was time for a new voice after his 13-year tenure concluded with 383 losses over the last four seasons. "The reason for this change, I think it's safe to say, the last couple years we have not won enough games," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "That's what it comes down to. It's nothing more, nothing less than that." The move was made with one season left on Gardenhire's contract, ending the second-longest active tenure in the major leagues behind Mike Scioscia of the Angels. Gardenhire played an integral role in the franchise's turnaround, guiding the Twins to the playoffs six times in nine seasons from 2002-10. But Gardenhire's teams only got out of the first round once, and his postseason record was 6-21 with the last win coming in 2004. The Twins have long been the model of stability in not only baseball but major professional sports, with only two managers over the last 28 years and two general managers over the last 20 seasons. But all the losing of late became too much to overcome. Over the last four years, the Twins went 78-148 from Aug. 1 on for an abysmal .345 winning percentage. "I'm gone, I'm outta here because we didn't win," Gardenhire said. "That's what it gets down to in baseball. That's what it should get down to. You have to win on the field and these last four years have been tough for all of us." The Twins finished this season at 70-92, making Gardenhire just the fourth manager in the game's history to preside over at least four straight 90-loss seasons with the same team, joining Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics (nine), Zach Taylor of the St. Louis Browns (four) and his predecessor with the Twins, Tom Kelly (four). Kelly returned for one more season after his streak, and he retired after an 85-77 finish in 2001. "One of the things we hope to get back to here is a winning culture across our organization, and not just with the major leagues," Twins President Dave St. Peter said, later adding, "That's clearly one of the goals with this move is to jumpstart that. Not to say that Ron wasn't capable of that ... but I think we believe very strongly that we've gotten away from that in recent years." In an era when job security for managers is seemingly measured in months, Gardenhire's longevity has been truly unique. The outspoken and fiery Gardenhire quickly became one of the faces of the franchise, as synonymous with the Twins as the interlocking T and C on their caps. He took over for the revered Kelly, who won two World Series championships, just as the organization was starting to regain its footing after years of bad baseball. "I feel like he's my brother, not my manager," said a glassy-eyed Ryan, who has known Gardenhire dating to their days together in the New York Mets system in the 1980s. Ryan spent some time away from the organization this year to get treatment for cancer. He said Monday that a recent physical came back favorable and that he will return to the Twins next season. Ryan offered Gardenhire a chance to remain in the organization, but Gardenhire doesn't believe he's done managing just yet. "I would have loved to have won a World Series, but that didn't happen," Gardenhire said. "Maybe it's still to come." Gardenhire clashed with some players over the years, but there was an expectation and hope among the players that he would return. "We as players had a responsibility to the organization, fans, and coaches to win this season," starting pitcher Phil Hughes tweeted. "We failed." Gardenhire joined the organization in 1987 and was added to Kelly's staff in 1991. His record as Twins manager was 1,068-1,039. He won the American League Manager of the Year award in 2010, the last time the Twins not only made the playoffs but had a winning record. "As good as it gets in my opinion. Comes to the park ready to win each and every day. Kind of a players' manager," second baseman Brian Dozier said last week. "Always in good spirits. He knows the game better than anybody I've been around. I 100 percent want him back." The contracts of Gardenhire's coaches were expiring, but some of them could be brought back. Bench coach Paul Molitor is sure to be considered for Gardenhire's replacement, but Ryan's search will spread outside the organization, too. "Sometimes people need to hear a different voice," Gardenhire said. "They need a new face. I just want this organization to win; I'll be rooting just like everybody else." The run of futility has disillusioned a once-passionate fan base, with attendance in Target Field's fifth year the lowest for the Twins since 2004. Owner Jim Pohlad said dwindling attendance had "virtually zero" impact on the decision and they would have brought Gardenhire back next season if Ryan recommended it. "He connected with me and our family way more than any single person in our entire career as owners of the team," Pohlad said. "He's just a special guy. He's loved. He's loved by us. I'll always remember him as a winner."

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

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Tony Romo wasn't trying to look like DeMarco Murray. The 34-year-old Dallas quarterback instead showed everyone that his surgically repaired back is coming along just fine. Romo threw three touchdown passes and Murray ran for a pair of scores in another 100-yard game - one of them after the longest scramble of Romo's career - in the Cowboys' 38-17 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night. The Cowboys went up 31-3 when Romo broke free on third down and slid for the first down a play before Murray ran loose in the secondary, juked Jairus Byrd at the 10 and was pushed across the goal line by Corey White. "It makes me feel old and the fact that I haven't gotten more than 21 yards is pretty pathetic," said Romo, whose previous long run was 17 yards despite a career known for scrambles that keep plays alive. "But other than that, it feels pretty great." The Cowboys kept Drew Brees and the Saints scoreless in the first half after giving up an NFL-record 40 first downs in a 49-17 blowout loss in New Orleans last year. Brees had touchdown passes to Josh Hill and Jimmy Graham early in the fourth quarter to get the Saints to 31-17 before the Cowboys regained control. The former Texas high school star threw for 340 yards, but had just 84 yards with an interception while Dallas was building a 24-0 halftime lead after he had 838 yards with seven touchdowns and no picks in his previous two games against Dallas, both wins. "I think we're a different team than we were last year," Romo said. "What you find is you forget it's the Saints and Drew Brees and just go play." Dallas reached 3-1 for the first time under coach Jason Garrett after also starting 2-1 the three previous seasons. The Cowboys are tied with Philadelphia for the NFC East lead. The Saints (1-3) couldn't sustain the momentum from their win over Minnesota and lost to the Cowboys in Texas for the first time since 1991. "There's not going to be too much good to see in this film," New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. "We're 1-3 right now, and that's about how we're playing." The Cowboys had 445 yards against former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who directed the scheme that led to one of the franchise's worst offensive performances in years last season, about 10 months after they fired him. Romo was 22 of 29 for 262 yards without an interception. He finished an 80-yard drive to open the game with a 6-yard pass to a leaping Terrance Williams in the end zone and found him again for 23 yards to put Dallas up 24-0 with 19 seconds left in the first half. Williams led Dallas with 77 yards receiving, and Bryant had an 18-yard scoring catch late in the fourth quarter to secure the second win for Dallas in the past 10 games against New Orleans. Murray's first touchdown, a 15-yard run virtually untouched around right end, was set up when Bruce Carter tipped Brees' pass and Justin Durant intercepted it at the New Orleans 39. The NFL's leading rusher joined Emmitt Smith as the only Dallas running backs with 100 yards in the first four games of a season, and he didn't fumble in the first quarter for the first time this season. He had 149 yards to push his season total to 534. "DeMarco is inspirational," owner Jerry Jones said. "Glad to see him have a game that he didn't turn the ball over. About the time New Orleans was thinking about getting some life, he'd go out and make those yards." Brees had 256 yards passing after halftime, and the Saints ended up with 438 total yards. But New Orleans had three turnovers to none for Dallas. "We had our chances in the second half," Brees said. "But at the end of the day when you look at this game, the entire game, we got beat. We got beat in every facet of it." After pulling to 31-17 early in the fourth quarter, the Saints had a chance to get closer, but a drive stalled and punter Thomas Morstead was tackled for a 2-yard loss while trying to throw a pass on a fake punt. That set up Bryant's clinching touchdown. "Hindsight's probably 20-20," Payton said. "It was on the hash mark that we wanted, and they covered it pretty well." NOTES: Cowboys K Dan Bailey's 51-yard field goal in the second quarter was 29th in a row. He broke Chris Boniol's franchise record of 27 last week at St. Louis. ... Saints RB Khiry Robinson had 87 yards rushing, 62 of them on a run that set up the touchdown to Hill. ... Cowboys CB Morris Claiborne left in the first quarter with a left knee injury. Jones said after the game the initial exam "was not encouraging."

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

GLENEAGLES, Scotland (AP) The tone was set by Rory McIlroy, the best player in the world. The winning shot came from Jamie Donaldson, a Ryder Cup rookie. Europe added another layer to its Ryder Cup dominance on Sunday by leaving no doubt who had the best team, if not the best players. Behind two early comebacks that showed its resolve, Europe clinched the cup with four matches still on the course. With a 16 1/2-11 1/2 victory, Europe kept that gold trophy for the eighth time in the last 10 tries. McIlroy played some of his best golf this year - even for a guy who won the last two majors - by trouncing Rickie Fowler to put the first point on the board. Donaldson finished off the Americans with a 9-iron that settled 18 inches from the cup on the 15th hole at Gleneagles and set off the celebration. "It came down to me to close it out," Donaldson said. "But it's all about the team." That concept appeared lost on the Americans. Not long after the closing ceremony, Phil Mickelson said the Americans have strayed from the winning formula at Valhalla in 2008 under Paul Azinger - their only victory in these matches dating to 1999. Even with U.S. captain Tom Watson sitting six seats away, Mickelson said that American team was invested in each other, which was different from Watson's style of doing it his way. It was an awkward way to end another bad week for the Americans in the Ryder Cup. Watson defended his philosophy, though he conceded he might have erred in using some players who were too tired, leading to a 10-6 deficit going into Sunday singles. "The bottom line is they kicked our butts," Watson said. "They were better players this week." Watson said he had a pit in his stomach watching the Americans blow a 10-6 lead two years ago at Medinah. The PGA of America brought him back as captain - at age 65, the oldest in Ryder Cup history - hopeful he could repeat some history. Watson was the last captain in 1993 to win on European soil. It might not have mattered where this was played. Graeme McDowell rallied from 3 down after five holes to close out his match against Jordan Spieth on the 17th hole. Justin Rose was 4 down after six holes when he won four straight holes with birdies against Hunter Mahan, and got up-and-down for birdie on the 18th to give Europe a half-point. Rose went unbeaten for the week at 3-0-2. That set the stage for Donaldson, a 38-year-old from Wales playing in his first Ryder Cup. He seized control over Keegan Bradley at the turn, and then it was a matter of when Europe could pop the champagne. Donaldson was so locked in on his task that he was unaware that he had retained the cup for Europe when he was 4 up with four holes to play. From 146 yards in fairway, he fired a 9-iron at the flag and let the club twirl through his hands. It was close to perfect. Watson walked over and shook his hand, and then put his arm around McGinley as they headed to the green. Bradley got onto the putting surface, and as soon as he saw Donaldson's ball next to the cup, he removed his cap and shook hands. McGinley talked all week about a template of European success. The message was to embrace their role as the favorites, and to be proud that they had earned it. And the final instruction was to avoid complacency. Europe won the Sunday singles session for the second straight Ryder Cup. "I didn't execute the plan. All these guys sitting at this table did," McGinley said with the 17-inch trophy on display. "I know how difficult it is to play in a Ryder Cup. I know when your heart is jumping out of your chest how incredibly excited and nervous you are. But we relish this challenge. We did it with a smile on our face, which is so important. And we did everybody proud." The Americans had a few bright spots. Patrick Reed went unbeaten as a rookie. Reed and Spieth had to settle for a half-point Saturday afternoon, in part because Reed missed a 2-foot putt. The gallery heckled him before he teed off against Henrik Stenson, and it inspired him. Reed rallied from an early deficit, putting his finger against his lips to hush the crowd, and he won the point on the 18th hole when Stenson missed a 4-foot putt. Reed went 3-0-1 and earned the most points for the Americans. The three American rookies - Spieth, Reed and Jimmy Walker - contributed nearly half of the points for the U.S. team. Going into the Ryder Cup, Watson had singled out Ian Poulter as the European with the best record and the man to beat. Poulter wound up playing only three matches and he didn't win any of them, settling for two halves. It wasn't about Poulter, though. It was about Europe, a formidable team.

Sun, 28 Sep 2014 15:34:00 +0000
Gore powers 49ers past Eagles to avoid 3-game skid

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers got Frank Gore involved in the offense again, and it returned them to their winning ways. Hard-nosed defense helped, too. Gore caught a career-best 55-yard touchdown and ran for 119 yards in his first 100-yard game of 2014, leading the San Francisco 49ers past Philadelphia 26-21 on Sunday to hand the Eagles their first loss. The 49ers (2-2) avoided their first three-game losing streak under fourth-year coach Jim Harbaugh, containing the league's top passer. Nick Foles threw two incomplete passes from the 1 in the waning moments after gaining six first downs a lengthy drive, more than the five the Eagles managed before that. Foles completed a 22-yard pass to Jeremy Maclin on the right sideline on that late drive. The 49ers challenged whether he had possession, but the play stood, costing the 49ers their final timeout. The Eagles couldn't pull off the second-half magic that had carried them in their three wins. On a day the 49ers gave up big plays on special teams, Gore delivered. Colin Kaepernick also threw a touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson and Phil Dawson kicked three field goals - two of at least 46 yards. Kaepernick finished 17 for 30 for 218 yards, two TDs and four sacks. Darren Sproles had a career-best 82-yard punt return for a touchdown, Malcolm Jenkins ran an interception 53 yards for a score for the Eagles (3-1). Brad Smith recovered Trey Burton's blocked punt against Andy Lee for a TD. The 49ers produced in the second half for the first time this season to give Harbaugh a win against former Pac-10 foe Chip Kelly. Antoine Bethea intercepted his first pass with the 49ers and forced a fumble, then the secondary kept the pressure on in the red zone. Perrish Cox made an interception with 41 seconds left to seal it. Gore's long scored from an off-balance throw by Kaepernick on the first play of the second quarter was the longest TD catch by a running back this season. But on San Francisco's next series, Kaepernick threw right to Jenkins and he broke three tackles on the way to the end zone. The 49ers won their first game at new Levi's Stadium, where thousands of fans skipped out at halftime. San Francisco outgained the Eagles 232-73 in the first half, but still trailed 21-13. Then Johnson tiptoed both feet inbounds inside the left pylon in the third quarter for a 12-yard catch, the first second-half TD of the year for San Francisco, outscored 52-3 after halftime in its first three games. Dawson kicked a 51-yarder before halftime, but the NFL's most-penalized team hurt itself with seven more flags for 60 yards in the first half and 10 total for 80 yards. The Eagles also had 10 penalties for 70. San Francisco right tackle Anthony Davis made his season debut but went down on the final play of the first quarter when Kaepernick took a sack right into the back of Davis' left knee. Tight end Vernon Davis was sidelined with a back injury early in the third quarter; he missed last Sunday's loss at Arizona with a hurting left ankle. Foles, who led the NFL in passer rating a year ago, was 21 for 43 for 195 yards and two interceptions.

Sun, 28 Sep 2014 23:58:00 +0000
A's, Tigers, Cards win playoff races on final day

Sonny Gray pitched Oakland into baseball's last playoff spot, shutting out King Felix this October. David Price delivered the AL Central crown to Detroit, St. Louis scratched ace Adam Wainwright after wrapping up the NL Central. And on a final day that featured Derek Jeter's farewell, Jordan Zimmermann injected even more drama by throwing a no-hitter preserved when Washington rookie Steven Souza Jr. made a catch for the ages. "Just an epic day for an epic season," Nationals outfielder Denard Span said. Going into Sunday's first pitch, not a single postseason matchup was set - plus the possibility of three tiebreakers loomed. Hours later, the brackets were all settled in Game 162. Gray blanked Texas 4-0, helping the shaky Athletics hold off Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners for the second AL wild-card slot. The A's will open this year's postseason at Kansas City on Tuesday night, with Jon Lester facing the Royals' James Shields. The Royals went 5-2 against the A's this season - both losses were to Lester. For Oakland slugger Adam Dunn, it will be his first playoff appearance. He's been in 2,001 games, the most by any active major leaguer without reaching the postseason. "I played scenarios of this day out in my head probably a thousand times," Dunn said. On Wednesday night, Madison Bumgarner and San Francisco visit Edinson Volquez and Pittsburgh in the NL wild-card game. The Pirates lost their chance to catch the Cardinals with a 4-1 loss to Cincinnati. No matter, they'll be back home at PNC Park, where they won the wild-card game last season. "I expect it to be like last year: So loud you can't hear the ball off the bat," said Josh Harrison, who almost won the NL batting title. Both of the best-of-five AL division series begin Thursday. It'll be the wild-card winner at the Los Angeles Angels and the Tigers at Baltimore. In NL openers Friday, the wild card plays at Washington and the Cardinals are at the Los Angeles Dodgers. Price, acquired by Detroit in late July to win big games, stopped Minnesota 3-0. The Tigers needed a victory to close out the Royals for the division title. "On a day where we needed an enormous outing after giving up 20-something runs over the previous two, he stepped right up. He showed why he's a true No. 1," first-year Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. At Fenway Park, the World Series champion Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees were long gone from the playoff race. But the place was packed for Jeter's goodbye. On his final swing, Jeter chopped an RBI single. He left to a rousing ovation, stopping to embrace Boston pitcher Clay Buchholz on the mound. The 40-year-old Jeter left after 20 years with 3,465 hits, five World Series rings and no regrets. "I felt like the time was right," he said. "My emotions were so all over the place on Thursday in New York, and when I got here I was ready; I was ready for my career to be over with." The Nationals punctuated a season in which they had the NL's best record with an exclamation point - the first no-hitter in team history. Zimmermann was in total control until two outs in the ninth, when Christian Yelich hit a deep drive. Souza, in left field as a defensive replacement, raced back into the gap and made a sensational diving grab. Zimmermann winced when the ball was hit, figuring it was bound to be a "no-doubt double." "And then he comes out of nowhere and makes that catch," Zimmermann said.

Mon, 29 Sep 2014 00:44:00 +0000
Zimmermann's no-hitter for Nats ends on great grab

WASHINGTON (AP) One out away from pitching the Washington Nationals' first no-hitter, Jordan Zimmermann watched his 104th pitch on a crisp, clear Sunday afternoon get smacked toward deep left-center. Zimmermann leaned his head back and winced. His first thought: "Double. No-doubt double." "And then," the right-hander said later, "he comes out of nowhere and makes that catch." Thanks to a dramatic, diving grab by little-used rookie Steven Souza Jr., who came on as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning, Zimmermann completed his gem, a 1-0 victory for the NL East champion Nationals over the Miami Marlins. "I thought there was no way this would ever happen. My career numbers are something like one hit per inning, so I figure if I can make it out of the first, the hit's coming in the second," said the 28-year-old Zimmermann, a quiet guy who was a second-round draft pick in 2007 out of Division III University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. "But today was one of those special days." Almost morphed into a one-hitter, though. With two outs in the ninth and a 2-1 count, Marlins leadoff man Christian Yelich turned on a 94 mph fastball over the plate. Souza was shaded well over toward the left-field line at a coach's prompting. "He probably couldn't have been more out of position," said right fielder Jayson Werth, who watched it all unfold from what became a nearly silent home dugout. "I was just thinking to myself, `It is not optimal to be Steven Souza right now, because as soon as you come into the game, every time, the ball's going to find you,'" Werth said. "I had a feeling something crazy would happen. But not that crazy, that's for sure." Souza sprinted, extended his glove and leaped for the sensational catch, using his bare hand to squeeze the ball in his mitt as he fell. "The one thing on my mind is, no matter how I'm going to get there, I'm going to get there," Souza said. "Getting there, I kind of blacked out." Souza held his glove aloft to show he had the ball. Zimmermann raised both arms. Nationals relievers in the home bullpen lifted their arms, too. So did thousands in the Nationals Park crowd of 35,085, who roared with every pitch late. "I don't think anyone in the stadium expected Souza to get to that," Zimmermann said. Indeed, Miami's Mike Dunn said he and other relievers in the left-field visitors' bullpen started cheering as the ball headed their way. "When he caught it," Dunn said, "it was just like, `Really? Did that just happen?'" Said Yelich: "With that on the line, that might be one of the best plays I've ever seen. Ever." Souza jogged in and Zimmermann greeted him with a hug. Souza handed over the baseball, which Zimmermann shoved in his back pocket. "It was too loud to hear everything he was saying," Souza said. "But I heard, `I love you' and `Thank you.'" Souza's name now belongs alongside those of other players delivering superb catches to save no-hitters. The name that kept coming up in the Nationals' clubhouse was Dewayne Wise, the defensive replacement whose juggling, tumbling grab in the ninth saved Mark Buehrle's perfect game for the White Sox in 2009. No major leaguer had thrown a no-hitter in Washington since Bobby Burke did it for the Senators in 1931 against Boston. Quite a way to cap a regular season in which the Nationals finished with the NL's best record, 96-66. Washington hosts San Francisco or Pittsburgh in Game 1 of a division series Friday. "Just an epic day for an epic season," said Denard Span, who set a Nationals season record with his 184th hit. Zimmermann (14-5) struck out 10 and allowed only two baserunners. After retiring the first 14 batters, he walked Justin Bourn on a low, full-count fastball with two outs in the fifth. In the seventh, Garrett Jones reached first base on a strike-three wild pitch; moments later, catcher Wilson Ramos picked him off. Zimmermann's accuracy was unassailable: 79 strikes and 25 balls. Starting on seven days' rest because his pitching shoulder got bruised by a line drive his last time out, Zimmermann poured in fastballs in the mid-90s mph, used his mid-80s slider to great effect and had his changeup fooling a Marlins lineup without NL home-run champion Giancarlo Stanton. It was the fifth time there has been a no-hitter on the final day of the season. Happened last year, too, when Henderson Alvarez of the Marlins did it against Detroit. On Sunday, Alvarez (12-7) was Miami's starting pitcher against Zimmermann, allowing Ian Desmond's 24th homer for the only run. With only a few clouds and the first-pitch temperature at 79 degrees, Zimmermann didn't need a whole lot of defensive help until Souza's memorable play. That might have been a good thing, because Nationals manager Matt Williams pulled his starters as the game went on. The closest Miami came to hits before Yelich were three liners in the fifth grabbed by backup infielders - Tyler Moore at first, Kevin Frandsen at third, and Danny Espinosa at shortstop. "Three rockets, and right at guys," said Zimmermann, who had shaving cream in both ears from the on-field celebration. "That's when I knew there might be something special happening." Frandsen wasn't so sure, saying: "Fifth inning's a little early to think, `He's got a no-hitter.'" Maybe. But after the third, pitching coach Steve McCatty pulled Williams aside to point out that their initial plan to let Zimmermann have a light day's work with an eye to the postseason might not hold up. "I said, `What do we do if we're going to give him six (innings) and he doesn't (allow) a hit?'" McCatty recounted. "He just looked at me and said, `That's not funny.' I said, `Well, there's a good chance that's going to happen.'" Thanks in part to Souza, it did.

Sun, 28 Sep 2014 19:48:00 +0000