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  • All eyes will be on Cutler when Bears face Saints Dec 15, 2014 6:00 AM
    After a tumultuous week at Halas Hall, where a dysfunctional team continued to unravel, the Bears face the Saints on Monday Night Football. All eyes will be on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who was at the center of the circus atmosphere and how hopes to lead his underdog team to a much-needed victory.

  • Woman pleads guilty to stalking Cubs’ Theo Epstein Dec 15, 2014 9:01 PM
    A woman has been placed on probation for two years after pleading guilty to stalking Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that 47-year-old Kathleen Kearney pleaded guilty but mentally ill to one count of stalking Epstein as part of a plea agreement on Monday.

  • Bears still in no rush to win Dec 15, 2014 11:38 PM
    The Bears ran the ball more frequently in the first half Monday night than they had in recent losses, but production was only so-so as they once again were shut out in the opening 30 minutes.

  • Butler, Bulls battle — but can’t catch Atlanta Dec 15, 2014 10:24 PM
    Facing a tough second leg of back-to-back games, the Bulls weren't up to the challenge against Atlanta on Monday, losing 93-86. The Bulls could have pulled into a tie with the Hawks for third place in the East with a victory.

  • Bears’ season continues to take on water Dec 16, 2014 12:25 AM
    Anyone who thought the Bears couldn't get any worse was proven wrong in another embarassing national-TV appeearance Monday night at Soldier Field. The defense was bad, and the offense was worse.

  • Imrem: Are Bears more embarrassing on, off field? Dec 16, 2014 7:49 AM
    The real pro football competition in town is whether the Bears are more laughable on the field or off the field. The Bears' offense certainly was a joke Monday night. Quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked seven times and was intercepted three times.

  • Bears GM addresses Kromer situation Dec 15, 2014 10:26 PM
    Bears G.M. Phil Emery spoke publicly Monday night for the first time regarding last week's absurd situation that started with offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer criticizing quartyerback Jay Cutler to an NFL Network reporter and then apologizing. Emery said he was "very angry."

  • Manning hits Beckham on 3 TD passes Dec 14, 2014 4:10 PM
    The New York Giants have found a real winner in rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Manning threw three touchdown passes to Beckham and the Giants took advantage of an overturned touchdown at the end of the half to defeat Washington 24-13 Sunday. Manning and Beckham combined 12 times for 143 yards, with touchdown passes covering 10, 35 and 6 yards. The win was the second straight for the Giants (5-9) after seven straight losses. Washington is finding all sorts of ways to lose, and this one was hard to believe. They blew a touchdown and command of the game on a fumble by Robert Griffin III as time expired at the end of the first half. Griffin scrambled for an apparent 8-yard touchdown as the half expired for a 17-7 lead, diving over the pylon and then running on to the field and spiking the ball with emphasis. It wasn’t to be. The video review by referee Jeff Triplette showed that Griffin lost control of the ball diving over the pylon and the play was ruled a touchback. The call incensed veteran Washington receiver Santana Moss so much that he bumped an official while arguing and was ejected. Instead of a 10-point lead, Washington led 10-7 with the go-ahead points a 9-yard TD pass from Griffin to Chris Thompson midway through the second quarter. New York, however, controlled most of the second half. Moss was called for two 15-yard penalties for his argument and the Giants went with onside kick from the Washington 35 to start the second half. They recovered at the Washington 17, setting up a tying 32-yard field goal by Josh Brown. The 35-yard TD by Beckham gave the Giants a 17-13 lead late in third quarter. The 6-yarder with 4:41 to go sent Washington (3-11) to its sixth consecutive loss. Washington’s only points in the second half came on a 38-yard field goal by Kai Forbath. Manning (23 of 34 for 250 yards) drove the Giants 81 yards on four plays on the ensuing series, combining for the final 35 on a crossing pattern to Beckham. The rookie’s catches were one shy of the Giants’ single-game record held by Tiki Barber. New York iced the game with a 76-yard drive that featured five catches by Beckham. Griffin, benched for Colt McCoy as the starting quarterback, finished 18 of 27 for 236 yards. He also ran five times for 46 yards in an impressive performance, but also was sacked seven times. There were moments late in the game when the oft-injured quarterback had trouble getting up. McCoy started and led Washington to a field goal before leaving after aggravating a neck injury on the opening series. Manning, who was listed on the Giants’ injury report with a back problem, got New York on the scoreboard late in the first quarter with a 10-yarder to Beckham.

  • Chiefs rout Raiders 31-13 Dec 14, 2014 4:10 PM
    The Kansas City Chiefs kept their fading playoff hopes alive on Sunday. Alex Smith threw for 297 yards and two scores, Kansas City shut down Derek Carr and the Oakland offense and the Chiefs beat the Raiders 31-13 to end a three-game losing streak. Knile Davis added touchdowns running and receiving, and De’Anthony Thomas returned a punt 81 yards for another touchdown as the Chiefs (8-6) got even for a 24-20 loss to the Raiders just last month. The Chiefs led 10-6 early in the third quarter before scoring three touchdowns in 4 minutes, 42 seconds. The last was a 70-yard throw from Smith to Davis, who had taken over the majority of running back duties after Jamaal Charles took a shot to the head. Charles appeared to pass a series of concussion tests and returned briefly to the game. Carr finished 27 of 56 for 222 yards, throwing a TD pass in the final minute. The Raiders’ rookie also was sacked four times and fumbled a snap that led to a Kansas City touchdown. The Chiefs, who had been poor against the run the past three weeks, even managed to bottle up Raiders running back Latavius Murray. The second-year pro had 112 yards and two scores on just four carries in their first meeting, but was held to 59 yards on 12 carries Sunday. The Raiders (2-12) have lost 10 straight on the road, and still have not won back-to-back games since Weeks 7 and 8 of the 2012 season. That includes a pair of duds in the appropriately named Show-Me State — they were routed 52-0 at St. Louis two weeks ago. Both teams got off to slow starts in a penalty-filled matchup Sunday, but Kansas City finally got a jolt of energy when Thomas fielded a punt at the 19-yard line and headed up the sideline. The rookie speedster, who had been close to breaking a return before, picked up a nice block from Kelcie McCray before somersaulting over the goal line for the opening touchdown. Chiefs kicker Cairo Santo atoned for missing his first field-goal attempt since Week 2 early in the second quarter by knocking through a 41-yarder. The Raiders’ Sebastian Janikowski matched him with a 53-yarder as time expired to close within 10-3 at the break. Oakland had a chance to make the game interesting in the third quarter when Travis Kelce fumbled and the C.J. Wilson recovered. But in a fitting summation of the Raiders’ season, Wilson ended up hurt on the play, and the Raiders went nowhere before Janikowski kicked another field goal. The Chiefs took advantage of the opening — and a roughing the passer penalty on Justin Tuck — to go 70 yards on their next possession. Davis finished it off with a short touchdown run. Carr fumbled the snap on the next play, Kansas City recovered and Smith hit Kelce from 20 yards for a touchdown. The Chiefs then forced three-and-out, and Smith’s throw to Davis a few minutes later capped their three-TD spurt and gave Kansas City a 31-6 lead.

  • Steelers win 27-20 over Falcons Dec 14, 2014 4:10 PM
    Ben Roethlisberger’s career season just keeps getting better. Roethlisberger threw for 360 yards to surpass his previous high for a season, capping his performance with a third-down pass to Heath Miller that clinched the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 27-20 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. William Gay scored off an interception return for the Steelers (9-5), who remained a half-game behind Cincinnati in the AFC North with their second straight win. The Falcons (5-9) slipped out of first place in the abysmal NFC South and ensured themselves a second straight losing season. But Atlanta can still make the playoffs by winning its final two games against division rivals New Orleans and Carolina. Pittsburgh led 13-0 after Gay picked off Matt Ryan’s pass over the middle on the first play of the second quarter, returning it for a 52-yard TD. The Steelers extended the lead to 27-13 with Le’Veon Bell’s second touchdown, a 13-yard run in the opening minute of the fourth period. The Falcons made a game of it, pulling within a touchdown on Ryan’s 4-yard pass to Roddy White. But the Steelers wrapped up the victory by running the final 4:34 off the clock. They converted twice on third down, the clincher coming on Roethlisberger’s 25-yard pass to Miller on third-and-1 from the Atlanta 39. Roethlisberger completed 27 of 35 and increased his season total to 4,415 yards, surpassing his previous franchise record of 4,328 from 2009 with two games to go. Bell also scored on a 1-yard run but fell short of becoming the first player in NFL history with four straight 200-yard games in total yardage. The back finished with 47 yards rushing and 72 yards receiving, leaving him and Walter Payton as the only players with three straight 200-yard games. Antonio Brown had 10 receptions for 123 yards, also setting a franchise record for catches in a season: 115, eclipsing the 112 by Hines Ward in 2002. Ryan threw for 310 yards, completing 26 of 37 even though he didn’t have his top receiver. Julio Jones skipped the game with a hip injury sustained in the closing minutes of a 259-yard performance against Green Bay. Early on, Ryan looked out of sync, most noticeably on a pass over the middle intended for Harry Douglas. Gay stepped in to grab it — and kept right on running until he reached the end zone. The Steelers were up 20-7 at the half, but Atlanta put together a pair of impressive drives in the third quarter. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they couldn’t get to the end zone, settling for short field goals by Matt Bryant. That was crucial when Roethlisberger guided the Steelers on a 80-yard drive, completing a 26-yard pass to Miller, then a 30-yarder Markus Wheaton to start the fourth quarter. On the next play, Bell took it around left end for the score. After Ryan’s touchdown pass to White with 10:21 remaining, Atlanta got the ball only one more time. The Falcons went three-and-out, and the Steelers ran out the clock.

  • Panthers stay in playoff hunt, top Bucs 19-17 Dec 14, 2014 4:11 PM
    The Carolina Panthers are not giving up on the possibility of winning the NFC South with a losing record. Derek Anderson threw for 277 yards and a touchdown, Graham Gano kicked four field goals and the Panthers defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19-17 on Sunday to remain alive in the NFC South playoff race. The win, coupled with Atlanta’s loss to Pittsburgh, left the Panthers a half-game behind New Orleans in the division. Carolina (5-8-1) can move into sole possession of first place if the Saints lose to the Chicago Bears on Monday night. If the Panthers win the division, they will be only the second NFL team to do so with a losing record in a non-strike-shortened season. The 2010 Seattle Seahawks were the other team to accomplish that feat. Anderson completed 25 of 40 passes and improved to 2-0 as a starter in place of Cam Newton, who missed the game while recovering from a car accident Tuesday that left him with two fractures in his lower back. Greg Olsen tied a career high with 10 catches for 110 yards, and rookie Kelvin Benjamin had eight grabs for 104 yards. Josh McCown threw for one touchdown and ran for another to lead the Bucs (2-11). He was intercepted once by Luke Kuechly on a last-second heave from deep in his own territory. The Panthers reached or started in Tampa Bay territory on all 10 drives, but managed just one touchdown and settled for five field-goal attempts. They came into the game ranked 27th in red zone offense. The game turned on the opening drive of the second half when Carolina defensive ends Charles Johnson and Mario Addison converged to sack McCown at the Tampa Bay 4, jarring the ball loose. Kawann Short recovered, setting up a 2-yard touchdown pass from Anderson to Jerricho Cotchery to give Carolina a 16-10 lead they would never relinquish. The Panthers had plenty of chances of build on that lead in the third quarter, but struggled to do so. Jonathan Stewart fumbled at the Tampa Bay 3-yard line on Carolina’s next possession and Akeem Spence recovered, keeping it a one-possession game. It was Stewart’s first fumble since 2010. Two other Carolina drives faltered just outside of field-goal range. The Panthers finally got a 38-yard field goal from Gano to push the lead to 19-10 after Olsen caught his 10th pass on third-and-long to get Carolina into position. The Bucs, who were limited to a combined minus-2 yards on their first four possessions in the third quarter, finally broke through late in the fourth quarter. McCown led an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, rambling 16 yards for the score with 3:11 left in the game. The Bucs led 10-9 at halftime behind an 8-yard touchdown pass from McCown to Mike Evans, the rookie receiver’s 11th TD catch of the season. Anderson moved the Panthers into field-goal range on the first four drives with Gano converting from 29, 49 and 38 yards out, but missing from 50. Tampa Bay entered the game without three defensive starters before losing defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to a knee injury late in the first quarter. He did not return. Doug Martin ran for 96 yards on 14 carries for Tampa Bay.

  • Ravens top Jaguars 20-12 Dec 14, 2014 4:11 PM
    The Baltimore Ravens did just enough to get past the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars and remain in the thick of the AFC playoff race. Baltimore sacked rookie Blake Bortles eight times and returned a blocked punt for a touchdown to squeeze out a lackluster 20-12 victory Sunday. The Ravens (9-5) gained only 31 yards rushing through three quarters and scored just once with their offense on the field. But the defense was sound, and special teams helped Baltimore escape with its four win in five games. Terrell Suggs was credited with 2 1/2 sacks and rookie Timmy Jernigan, starting for the suspended Haloti Ngata, had two. Jacksonville (2-12) tried just about everything in its bid to pull off an upset, including an onside kick and a fake punt. Both worked, but it wasn’t enough to earn the Jaguars their first win on the road. Joe Flacco went 20 for 30 for 221 yards and a touchdown for the Ravens, who blanked the Jaguars over the final 30 minutes after trailing at halftime. Bortles completed 21 of 37 passes for 210 yards, and an interception that came in the game’s final minute. He threw under pressure for most of the game — Baltimore’s season-high seven sacks increased the number Jacksonville has yielded this season to 62. The Jaguars’ points came on four field goals by Josh Scobee. After leaving to jeers on its first series of the second half, the Ravens mounted an 80-yard drive to take a 17-12 lead with 8:34 left in the third quarter. Flacco went 5 of 5 for 65 yards, including a 27-yard completion to Owen Daniels and a 3-yard touchdown pass to the tight end. The Jaguars were then poised for a three-and-out, but punter Bryan Anger flipped a pass to Will Ta’ufo’ou for 19 yards to extend the drive. Five plays later, however, Jacksonville punted. Neither team had much success moving the ball until the Ravens put together a late 49-yard march that produced a field goal and an eight-point cushion with 1:11 remaining. Baltimore trailed 12-10 at halftime after gaining only 13 yards on the ground and going 0 for 6 on third-down conversions. Three straight plays during the game’s opening series showed why Jacksonville came to town with only two wins. After tight end Mercedes Lewis dropped a second-down pass, Bortles missed connecting with a wide-open Cecil Shorts. On fourth down, Baltimore’s Darian Stewart burst through the line to block Anger’s punt. Kamar Aiken scooped up the ball and went 11 yards for a touchdown, Baltimore’s first score on a blocked punt since Ed Reed did it against Seattle in 2003. Scobee answered with a 53-yard field goal, then added a 45-yarder after Bortles was sacked twice following a first-and-goal. Minutes later, Jacksonville recovered a fumble by Kyle Juszczyk and Scobee kicked another 53-yarder for a 9-7 lead. The Jaguars added to Baltimore’s misery by pulling off a successful onside kick. But Scobee misfired from 42 yards out, and the Ravens went 65 yards the other way before Justin Tucker kicked a field goal. Late in the half, Tucker missed a 54-yarder and Scobee capped a rushed drive with a 45-yard kick.

  • Colts clinch AFC South with win over Texans Dec 14, 2014 4:11 PM
    The Colts threw Reggie Wayne the party he had been craving all week — the celebration of another division title. Andrew Luck threw two touchdown passes, Indianapolis’ defense clamped down on Houston’s short-handed offense and Wayne broke two franchise records as the Colts held on for a 17-10 victory that clinched the AFC South. Luck was 18 of 34 for 187 yards with one interception as Indy (10-4) won its fourth straight game. The Colts also have won 12 straight against division foes, the longest active streak in the league. Meanwhile, Wayne broke two of Peyton Manning’s franchise records — games played (209) and career wins (142). Afterward, he hugged teammates and Texans before slapping hands with some fans in the stands. Wayne finished the day with four catches for 24 yards in the Colts’ regular season home finale. But for the Texans (7-7), it was another rugged trip to Indy where they are now 0-13. The offense managed just 289 total yards and one field goal, which came after their best play of the day -- a 25-yard TD run from Arian Foster on fourth-and-1 -- was nullified by a holding call on DeVier Posey. Houston had to settle for a 53-yard field goal that made it 14-10 early in the fourth. Indy sealed it with a late drive that took 5 minutes, 3 seconds off the clock and was capped by Adam Vinatieri’s 29-yard field goal with 2:11 to play. That wasn’t even the worst part for Houston. Already playing without two starters, receiver Andre Johnson and tight end Garrett Graham, the Texans lost starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick early in the second quarter. He was carted off the field with his left leg in an air cast. Rookie Tom Savage struggled after throwing for a first down on his first pass. Savage missed his next three throws, was sacked once and missed an exchange with Arian Foster to help set up one of Indy’s scores before halftime. Savage finished 10 of 19 with 127 yards and one interception, while Foster ran 26 times for 99 yards. Luck & the Colts were only marginally better. Indy’s turnover woes resurfaced as a poor throw from Luck was picked off by Kendrick Lewis and run back 27 yards for a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter and Wayne lost a fumble in the second quarter. But Luck rebounded with a 26-yard TD pass to Hakeem Nicks that tied the score on the first play of the second quarter. After Wayne’s fumble, Savage botched the handoff on the next play and it took Luck only three more plays to find Dwayne Allen for a 3-yard TD pass and a 14-7 lead. That’s all the Colts needed.

  • Pats clinch AFC East with win over Dolphins Dec 14, 2014 4:10 PM
    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Another strong game by Tom Brady. Just another AFC East title for the New England Patriots. Rebounding from a mediocre first half, the Patriots clinched the division for the sixth straight season as Brady threw two touchdown passes and made an uncharacteristic long run in a big third quarter that carried them to a 41-13 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. The Patriots scored on their four series and piled up 24 points, a team record for that period. New England (11-3) can secure home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs by beating the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills in their remaining games. Miami (7-7) saw its slim postseason hopes dwindle further. The Dolphins cut the lead to 14-13 on Ryan Tannehill’s 32-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace with five seconds left in the first half, a play on which the on-field call that Wallace landed out of bounds was overturned. Then the Patriots took charge. On the first play of the second half, Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for a 34-yard gain down the middle, setting up a 3-yard touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount. That came one play after Brady, hardly known for his running, scrambled 17 yards for a first down — the third longest run of his career. The Patriots kept rolling with 10 points in 13 seconds. Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 35-yard field goal, giving him a team record 1,160 points, two more than Adam Vinatieri. After Patrick Chung intercepted Tannehill’s pass, Brady connected with Gronkowski for a 27-yard touchdown with 4:30 left in the third quarter. Just over three minutes later, New England boosted the lead to 38-13 on Brady’s 6-yard pass to Julian Edelman. Gostkowski made it five straight scoring possessions with a 36-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. The Patriots evened the season series that began with the Dolphins’ 33-20 win on Sept. 7, snapping New England’s streak of 10 season-opening victories. In that game, Miami scored a touchdown on its first series after blocking Ryan Allen’s punt. On Sunday, Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins blocked Caleb Sturgis’ 41-yard field goal attempt on Miami’s first possession and Kyle Arrington returned the ball 62 yards for a touchdown. Sturgis kicked the first of two field goals late in the first quarter before the Patriots capitalized on another turnover. Duron Harmon returned an interception 60 yards to the Miami 8 and Shane Vereen scored on a 3-yard run three plays later. Leading 14-6, the Patriots played conservatively after getting the ball with 40 seconds left in the half at their 15 following a punt and it cost them. Vereen ran three times for 2 yards with the Dolphins calling timeout after each play. Jarvis Landry then returned Allen’s punt 32 yards to the Patriots 32 with 11 seconds remaining. On the next play, Wallace leaped over cornerback Malcom Butler to catch Tannehill’s pass on the left side of the end zone. The Patriots won the AFC East for the 11th time in 12 years. They only fell short in 2008, when Miami won the division after Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener.

  • Bengals rough up Manziel, Browns Dec 14, 2014 4:04 PM
    Woe, Johnny, woe. Johnny Manziel spent his first NFL start being chased and taunted by Cincinnati defenders as the Bengals rudely welcomed the hyped rookie quarterback to the league with a 30-0 demolition of the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Manziel failed to live up to the overwhelming hype surrounding his debut as the AFC North-leading Bengals (9-4-1) built a 20-point halftime lead and rolled to their fourth straight road win. Bengals rookie Jeremy Hill rushed for 148 yards and two touchdowns, backing up his postgame trash talk of the Browns following a loss to them last month. Manziel, promoted over the slumping Brian Hoyer to spark the Browns (7-7), finished 10 of 18 for 80 yards and two interceptions. He was sacked three times, under pressure all afternoon and had Bengals players imitating his signature “money-rubbing” gesture more than once. The Bengals overwhelmed the Browns on the field and in the boxscore, recording their first shutout since Dec. 21, 2008 — in Cleveland. Cincinnati had 347 yards to Cleveland’s 107. The Bengals picked up 24 first downs to five for the Browns, who went just 1 of 10 on third down. Mike Nugent kicked two 44-yard field goals and added a 34-yarder for the Bengals, who turned a day of promise and potential for the Browns into Cleveland’s worst nightmare. Manziel didn’t look ready for the big stage, panicking in the pocket and failing to deliver any of the magic that made him a college football star. Johnny Football has some work to do. The Bengals put together a complete game to strengthen their grip on the division. They set the tone with a time-consuming, 81-yard touchdown drive to start the game and atoned for a 24-3 loss last month when they were dominated at home by the Browns and Hoyer. Cincinnati led 20-0 at halftime, and spent the next two quarters making sure Manziel never got comfortable. The shutout capped a week in which Manziel was called a “midget” by Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, a comment that shows professionals aren’t ready to let him come in and “wreck the league” like he boasted he would do before the Browns selected him with the No. 22 overall pick. The Browns were blanked for the first time since a 16-0 loss to Baltimore in 2009. Manziel’s first half couldn’t have gone much worse. With Cincinnati’s defense bent on stopping Manziel, the Browns didn’t move the ball, committed costly penalties and the 22-year-old quarterback made several rookie mistakes. He was intercepted twice and was lucky that a third pick was nullified by a penalty. The Browns managed just 58 total yards in the first half and their best scoring chance ended when Manziel scrambled and forced a pass to the end zone that was intercepted by Adam “Pacman” Jones. Cleveland had just four first downs, two of them coming on penalties against the Bengals defense. Cincinnati linebacker Rey Maualuga was whistled for taunting after he batted down one of the quarterback’s passes and followed it up by getting in Manziel’s face. Hill gave the Browns motivation with his postgame comments after last month’s loss, saying “they’re probably worse than I thought” despite Cleveland’s dominant performance. Hill carried the ball on the game’s first plays and gave the Bengals a 7-0 lead with his 2-yard TD run. After Nugent kicked a 44-yarder to make it 10-0, Hill scored again, breaking several tackles on a 16-yard run to make it 17-0 early in the second quarter. Hill tried to celebrate by leaping into the stands, but was turned back by a Browns fan wearing a Joe Haden jersey. It was one of Cleveland’s best stops of the first 30 minutes. The Browns lost star cornerback Joe Haden with a shoulder injury and rookie corner Justin Gilbert went out with a concussion.

  • Manning leads Broncos to victory despite illness Dec 14, 2014 7:11 PM
    Peyton Manning was sick and sore, and still helped the Denver Broncos clinch their fourth straight AFC West title. Manning played through a thigh injury and flu-like symptoms and Connor Barth kicked five field goals to lead Denver to a 22-10 victory against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. Manning came out of the game late in the second quarter. He apparently hurt his thigh while blocking linebacker Donald Butler on a run by C.J. Anderson. He returned for the start of the third quarter and on Denver’s second possession threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas to give the Broncos a 16-3 lead. The Broncos (11-3) won their fourth straight game and are tied with New England for the AFC’s best record. New England beat the Broncos 43-21 on Nov. 2. Denver’s 12th straight division road win tied San Francisco’s NFL record set from 1987-90. The Chargers (8-6) entered the game as the AFC’s No. 6 seed and saw their wild-card chances diminished. They’ve lost two straight. Manning completed 14 of 20 passes for 233 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. A week earlier, Manning’s touchdown streak came to a halt at 51 games, three shy of Drew Brees’ NFL record, and he was picked off twice for the fourth time in the past six games. San Diego pulled within six points when Antonio Gates caught a 5-yard pass from Philip Rivers with 10:13 left. Gates joined Rob Gronkowski as the only tight ends in NFL history with four seasons with at least 10 touchdown catches. Then Manning led the Broncos on a drive capped by Barth’s 49-yard field goal with 4:53 to play. After Aqib Talib intercepted Rivers, Barth kicked a 44-yarder to give the Broncos a 12-point lead. Manning came in with flu-like symptoms and hurt his thigh in the second quarter. On third-and-goal from the San Diego 1, Anderson started right but then cut back. Manning stepped up and blocked Butler. Officials initially ruled Anderson scored, but reversed the call after a review, saying his knee was down. The Broncos settled for a third field goal from Barth, from 19 yards, for a 9-0 lead with 1:50 before halftime. Manning headed to the locker room. Butler was spun around on Manning’s block and injured an elbow. The Broncos forced the Chargers to punt, and Manning’s backup, Brock Osweiler, trotted out for the Broncos. After an incompletion on first down, Osweiler was whistled for intentional grounding after being pressured by Dwight Freeney. Denver punted and a 58-yard return by Eddie Royal, a former Broncos player, helped set up Nick Novak’s 30-yard field goal to pull San Diego to 9-3 at halftime. The Broncos got inside the Chargers 10 on consecutive drives in the first half but had to settle for field goals each time. Manning threw a 36-yard pass to Thomas and Anderson had four carries, including an 8-yard gain to the San Diego 1. Manning then threw two incompletions, which brought on Barth the 19-yarder. After forcing the Chargers to punt, Manning hit Julius Thomas on a 30-yarder and the Broncos got to the Chargers 8 before the drive stalled. Barth kicked a 26-yarder. San Diego’s Nick Novak had a 46-yard field goal attempt blocked by Derek Wolfe. Thomas had six catches for 123 yards and Anderson ran 29 times for 85 yards. Rahim Moore intercepted Rivers in the end zone and returned it to the 14 with 1:53 left.

  • Jets finally get a road win Dec 14, 2014 7:11 PM
    NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Rex Ryan and his New York Jets got their first road win this season. The Tennessee Titans couldn’t protect a lead yet again. Chris Ivory scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 3:09 left, and the Jets beat the Titans 16-11 on Sunday in a game marked by a brawl between teams playing only for pride with the loser hoping for better draft position. The Jets (3-11) also won the first NFL game to end with a 16-11 score while snapping a three-game skid. Geno Smith threw for 179 yards and a TD. He also was apparently hit by Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, starting a brawl in the third quarter. Casey was flagged, but not ejected. The Titans (2-12) now have lost eight straight and 11 of 12 in their worst skid since 1994 when home was in Houston. They got the ball twice late, and reached the Jets 9 after three laterals on the final play came up short. The Jets trailed 11-10 when Chris Johnson, playing against the team that cut him in April, ran 37 yards out of the wildcat to the Titans 4. Ivory capped the drive running wide left for the TD. The Jets went for the 2-point conversion, but Jeremy Kerley couldn’t hold onto Smith’s pass keeping it a 16-11 lead. The Titans got to the Jets 22 with 2 minutes left before turning it over on downs with a sack by Quinton Coples and three incompletions. They got it back with 21 seconds and were near midfield for the final play. Charlie Whitehurst, playing with Jake Locker out with an injured left shoulder, threw to Dexter McCluster, who lateraled to Nate Washington. The receiver threw back to Whitehurst, who lateraled to Delanie Walker — who was tackled by Dawan Landry to seal the Jets’ win. This game nearly got out of hand in the third quarter as referee John Parry was reviewing an 81-yard pass to Eric Decker. After Casey appeared to hit Smith, the teams started pushing and shoving with Casey also hitting Jets right tackle Breno Giacomini twice. Casey’s helmet knocked off in the melee before officials broke it up. The review turned Decker’s TD to a 48-yard completion, and Casey stayed in the game despite being flagged for a personal foul. Smith finished the drive with a 9-yard TD pass to John Conner on fourth-and-1. Casey later added a sack, and the defensive tackle also pressured Smith in the end zone for a forward pass that gave the Titans a safety and a 5-0 lead in the second quarter. Ryan Succop kicked three field goals for Tennessee, the last a 51-yarder with 2:02 left in the third quarter for an 11-10 lead. Locker was starting with rookie Zach Mettenberger out with his own sprained shoulder. He was hurt when hit by Coples late in the first half, sending him straight to the locker room holding his arm against his body. Coples also helped knock Locker out of the game the last time these teams met last season.

  • Seahawks knock Niners out of playoff race Dec 14, 2014 7:11 PM
    The NFC playoffs could be routed through the Pacific Northwest again. Not a happy prospect for the rest of the conference. The Seahawks first had to knock their most-heated rival out of contention. Marshawn Lynch rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown, Russell Wilson threw a touchdown pass to rookie Paul Richardson, and Seattle kept up its chase for a division title and No. 1 seed with a 17-7 win over San Francisco on Sunday. After a sluggish, sloppy first half filled with penalties and missed assignments, Seattle (10-4) awoke in the final 30 minutes behind the running of Lynch and a defense that shut out the 49ers, holding them to 67 yards. Colin Kaepernick was sacked six times and the 49ers didn’t run a play past the Seattle 38 in the second half. Lynch scored on a 4-yard run late in the third quarter and the Seahawks took advantage of a short field on their next drive, capped by Wilson’s strike to Richardson. The loss and Detroit’s win eliminated San Francisco (7-7) from making the postseason. It’s the first time in Jim Harbaugh’s four seasons the 49ers won’t be playing in January, and will only heighten questions about Harbaugh’s future with the club. Seattle got the help its needed earlier Sunday when Buffalo beat Green Bay. If the Seahawks win their final two games — at Arizona and home vs. St. Louis — they could end up with the No. 1 seed in the NFC for the second straight season. Wilson was 12 of 24 for 168 yards and rushed for another 27 yards. Kaepernick was 11 of 19 for 141 yards, but was constantly under pressure playing behind an offensive line missing two starters. Center Marcus Martin and right tackle Anthony Davis were both inactive with injuries. In a season filled with key injuries, the 49ers lost two more players late in the first half and another in the third quarter. Star running back Frank Gore, who scored on a 10-yard run in the second quarter, left with a concussion. Middle linebacker Chris Borland, the NFC defensive rookie of the month in November, hurt his ankle on the final play of the first half. He attempted to return, but was mostly a spectator and replaced by Nick Moody. Gore’s backup, Carlos Hyde, was bent backward and appeared to injure his right leg late in the third quarter. He never returned. The absence of Borland was significant. Seattle rushed for 90 yards in the third quarter alone after having just 47 in the first half. Lynch had runs of 13 and 15 yards on his touchdown drive that was capped by strolling the final yard into the end zone. San Francisco went three-and-out on the next possession, including Hyde’s injury on first down. Seattle took possession at the 49ers 44 and Wilson immediately went for 19 yards on a designed keeper. The drive was kept alive by a third-down roughing-the-passer call against Moody. Two plays later, Richardson caught the first TD of his career on a 10-yard strike from Wilson and a 10-point Seahawks lead. The first half was nearly perfect for San Francisco. The 49ers had 178 total yards after having 164 for the entire game in the first meeting. After having just six plays of 10 yards or more in the previous loss to the Seahawks — none longer than 16 yards — San Francisco had nine plays of 10 or more yards in the half. Less than two minutes into the second quarter, the 49ers already had 79 yards rushing after being held to 64 in the first game. Seattle had a chance to get points in the closing seconds of the first half, but Wilson was intercepted by Eric Reid. The return was costly for both teams as Borland was injured at the end of the play, while Seattle lost left tackle Russell Okung to a chest injury after getting blocked.

  • Dunleavy’s 22 points lead Bulls over Heat Dec 14, 2014 7:50 PM
    Mike Dunleavy scored 22 points and the Chicago Bulls overcame a sloppy start Sunday to beat the offensively inept Miami Heat, 93-75. Heat leading scorer Chris Bosh (calf strain) missed a game for the first time this season, which left them without enough punch or size to challenge Chicago. Miami shot a season-low 35 percent, including 4 for 22 from 3-point range. Dunleavy was shut out in the first half but scored 19 points on eight shots in the third quarter, when Chicago outscored Miami 33-16. Dunleavy finished 4 for 5 from 3-point range, while the Bulls shot 9 of 18 beyond the arc and 47 overall. Jimmy Butler had 17 points for the Central Division-leading Bulls. They improved to 11-3 on the road —best in the Eastern Conference. Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng led Miami with 17 points apiece. The Heat’s point total matched their season low. The teams slogged through an ugly first half in their first matchup this season. The Bulls committed 13 turnovers but led 39-32 because Miami shot only 29 percent. Chicago scored only three points in a 7 1/2-minute span after Derrick Rose went to the bench with two early fouls. The dry spell included turnovers on seven consecutive possessions midway through the first half as Miami built a six point lead. Aaron Brooks scored eight consecutive points in three possessions to give the Bulls a 22-20 lead, and they were ahead to stay. They started the second half by outscoring Miami 12-2 to increase their lead to double digits. ——— TIP-INS Heat: Bosh sat out with a slight calf strain that began to bother him more before the game, according to coach Erik Spoelstra. Forward Josh McRoberts missed his third game in a row because of a right knee bruise. Chris Andersen played 18 minutes after missing the previous nine games with a sprained right ankle. Bulls: Rookie forward Doug McDermott is expected to be sidelined another four to six weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery Saturday on a right knee injury that has sidelined him all month. Joakim Noah missed his third straight game because of a sprained right ankle.

  • Saad’s goal lifts Blackhawks over Flames Dec 14, 2014 10:01 PM
    Brandon Saad scored with 7:03 left in the third period, and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Calgary Flames 2-1 on Sunday night for their 12th victory in the last 14 games. After motoring past Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano, Saad took a centering pass from Jonathan Toews and lifted a shot past Jonas Hiller’s glove. Toews also set up Patrick Sharp’s power-play goal as the surging Blackhawks dealt the Flames their fifth straight loss. Chicago had won eight in a row before Saturday night’s 3-2 loss at the New York Islanders. Jiri Hudler had his team-leading 12th goal for Calgary, which has scored just eight times during its slide. Sharp’s goal was his first since returning Tuesday from a knee injury that sidelined him for 14 games. Sharp, who led Chicago with 34 goals last season, has four this year — all on the power play. Chicago’s Antti Raanta made 23 saves while subbing for Corey Crawford, who is out with a foot injury. Rookie Scott Darling had started the Blackhawks’ last four games. Hiller finished with 26 saves. Before the game, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he expected Crawford to return next weekend. Raanta and Darling have filled in quite nicely since Crawford was hurt while leaving a concert two weeks ago. Neither team had many chances in the scoreless first period. Hiller made a sprawling pad save on Andrew Shaw’s rebound attempt 6:15 in. Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau danced down the Chicago slot with a series of nifty moves with 7:59 left, but was stopped by Raanta. Hudler opened the scoring at 4:27 of the second when he trailed in late on a rush and was left open. Hudler took Gaudreau’s cross-ice feed and whistled it past Raanta’s glove. Sharp’s goal at 8:43 — just nine seconds into a power play — came off a fast passing series with Kane and Toews. From below the goal line, Toews dished across the slot to Sharp, who sprinted into the left circle and ripped in a high one-timer. The Blackhawks came on in the up-tempo third period, dominating for chunks of time and outshooting the Flames 10-5. Hiller had to be sharp to keep it close, including making several tough saves on Kris Versteeg.

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