Chiefs beat Saints, Jets finally get first win
UNDATED (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs earned their ninth straight win to maintain control of the top seed in the AFC playoffs. And the New York Jets have avoided the distinction of becoming the third team in NFL history to finish 0-16.
Patrick Mahomes (mah-HOHMZ’) threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns in the Chiefs’ 32-29 victory at New Orleans. Mahomes’ scoring passes went for 5 yards each to Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman as Kansas City improved to an NFL-leading 13-1.
The Chiefs also spoiled the return of Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who missed five straight games with broken ribs and a punctured lung. Brees passed for 234 yards and three TDs, but he completed less than half of his passes and was intercepted for just the fourth time this season.
The 10-4 Saints missed a chance to clinch the NFC South for a second straight week and now are longshots to capture the NFC’s top seed.
On the other side of the NFL spectrum, Sam Darnold passed for 207 yards and the Jets finally earned the first victory of their miserable season by holding on for a 23-20 road win against the Rams. Frank Gore rushed for an early touchdown and made a decisive third-down reception with 2:05 left for New York. Jets’ defense stopped the Rams on downs at midfield with 3:54 to play before Darnold hit Gore with a short pass over the middle to convert a third down that allowed the Jets to run out the clock. Robert Woods and Tyler Higbee caught TD passes for the 9-5 Rams in the most humiliating loss of coach Sean McVay’s largely successful four seasons in charge.
The Jets’ victory puts the Jaguars in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL draft.
Elsewhere in Week 15 of the NFL schedule:
— Philip Rivers threw a late touchdown pass before the Colts’ defense recovered a fumble in the end zone with 19 seconds left to seal a 27-20 win over the Texans. Zach Pascal caught a pass in the flat, turned up the field and stretched his arms across the goal line while hitting the pylon to give Indy a 27-20 lead with 1:47 to go. Houston got to the Indianapolis 7 on the next series before Darius Leonard punched the ball out of the hands of a Texans receiver to end the threat. Rivers was 22 of 28 with 228 yards and two scores, and Jonathan Taylor had 16 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown.
— The Titans remain in a virtual tie with the Colts atop the AFC South at 10-4 after Ryan Tannehill threw for three TDs and ran for two more in a 46-25 thrashing of the Lions. Derrick Henry ran for 147 yards and a score to help Tennessee move closer to clinching its third playoff berth in four seasons. Tannehill finished with 273 yards passing and now has a career-high 31 TD passes this season. Tennessee became the fifth team in NFL history with five straight games of at least 420 total yards and 30 points.
— Baker Mayfield led two 95-yard touchdown drives and the Browns moved closer to ending their 17-year playoff drought with a 20-6 victory over the Giants. Mayfield finished 27 of 32 for 297 yards and scoring passes to Jarvis Landry and Austin Hooper. Nick Chubb had a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that put it out of reach. The Giants played without quarterback Daniel Jones and stayed one game off the NFC East lead.
— Lamar Jackson threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score to carry the Ravens to their third straight win, a 40-7 shellacking of the Jaguars. Rookie J.K. Dobbins ran for 64 yards and a score for the 9-5 Ravens, and 32-year-old receiver Dez Bryant celebrated his first touchdown since 2017 late in the first half. Baltimore built a 26-0 halftime lead and handed Jacksonville its 13th consecutive loss. Gardner Minshew completed 22 of 29 passes for 226 yards and two scores, but he was sacked five times and lost a fumble.
— Tom Brady and the Buccaneers erased a 17-point deficit by scoring on five straight drives in the second half to beat the Falcons, 31-27. Atlanta led 17-0 at halftime and was up 24-7 before Brady rallied Tampa Bay. The 9-5 Bucs finally went ahead on Brady’s 46-yard scoring strike to Antonio Brown with 6:19 remaining. The Buccaneers’ QB was 31 of 45 for 390 yards and two TDs.
— The Seahawks have clinched a playoff spot with a 20-15 win over Washington. Russell Wilson threw for just 121 yards, including a 10-yard TD hookup with Jacob Hollister. Wilson also ran for 52 yards on six carries for the 10-4 Seahawks, who led 20-3 in the second half and dropped Washington to 6-8. Carlos Hyde had the game’s big play, a 50-yard scoring run that was Seattle’s longest rushing play of the season.
— The Patriots’ string of 11 straight postseason appearances is over following a 22-12 loss to the Dolphins. Undrafted rookie Salvon Ahmed and veteran Matt Breida combined for 208 yards rushing after Miami entered the game ranked last in the NFL in yards per carry. Ahmed became the first 100-yard rusher for the team since 2018, finishing with 122 as the Dolphins improved to 9-5. Breida added 86 yards and the Dolphins totaled a season-high 250 against the Patriots.
— Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins bolstered the Cardinals’ playoff chances in a 33-26 win against the Eagles. Murray threw for a career-high 406 yards, and DeAndre Hopkins had 169 yards receiving and a stellar touchdown catch for the 8-6 Cardinals. Murray completed 27 of 36 passes, with three touchdowns and one interception for Arizona, which squandered a 16-0 lead before winning its second straight since a three-game slide. Jalen Hurts completed 24 of 44 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns in his second career start, but he couldn’t prevent Philadelphia from falling to 4-9-1.
— The Bears gave their sagging playoff hopes a boost as David Montgomery rushed for a career-high 146 yards and two touchdowns in their 33-27 victory against the Vikings. The 7-7 Bears didn’t punt after their first possession and hung on to win at Minnesota for the third straight year. Dalvin Cook rushed for 132 yards and a score for the 6-8 Vikings, whose playoff chances all-but vanished.
— Tony Pollard filled in for the injured Ezekiel Elliott and ran for two touchdowns to send the Cowboys past the 49ers, 41-33. Four of the seven Dallas scores were set up by turnovers from the 5-9 49ers, who guaranteed themselves becoming the second Super Bowl runner-up in the past 13 seasons to finish with a losing record the next year. Andy Dalton threw for two touchdowns, and Greg Zuerlein (ZUR’-lyn) kicked a tiebreaking field goal early in the fourth quarter after the second interception by Nick Mullens. Dallas is just a game off the NFC East lead despite a 5-9 record.
Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Notre Dame get green light
UNDATED (AP) — Notre Dame’s loss to Clemson in Saturday’s ACC title game didn’t prevent the Irish from landing a spot in the College Football Playoff semifinals.
Notre Dame was picked over Texas A&M for the final berth and will take on Alabama near Dallas on Jan. 1. The other game will have Clemson taking on Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.
The Fighting Irish are the first team to lose a conference title game and make the selection committee’s final four. The ACC is the second conference to have two teams in the playoff, thanks to an invitation to allow Notre Dame to compete during the pandemic-altered season.
In other bowl matchups of note:
— The fifth-ranked Aggies have to settle for a meeting with No. 13 North Carolina in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 2.
— Big 12 champ Oklahoma will battle SEC runner-up Florida in the Dec. 30 Cotton Bowl.
— No. 12 Iowa State scheduled to face Pac-12 champ Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2.
— American Athletic Conference winner and sixth-ranked Cincinnati will meet Georgia in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Florida’s Pitts turns pro less than 12 hours after SEC title game
UNDATED (AP) — Florida standout tight end Kyle Pitts is turning pro and skipping the Gators’ bowl game.
Pitts made his announcement on social media less than 12 hours after the 11th-ranked Gators lost to No. 1 Alabama 52-46 in the SEC championship game. The 6-foot-6 junior from Philadelphia caught 43 passes for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in 7 1/2 games this season.
In other college football news:
— Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan has entered the transfer portal after an injury-riddled season in which he didn’t play. Coan made 18 starts from 2018-19 and helped the Badgers reach the Rose Bowl in 2019. He injured his right foot in preseason practice and underwent surgery.
— Minnesota is the latest Football Bowl Subdivision team to opt out of bowl game consideration. Coach P.J. Fleck announced Sunday that the decision was made collectively by athletic department leadership, coaches and players. The Gophers lost 20-17 in overtime at Wisconsin yesterday to finish the season at 3-4.
Gobert signs extension with Jazz
UNDATED (AP) — The Utah Jazz and All-Star center Rudy Gobert (goh-BEHR’) have agreed on a contract extension.
A person familiar with negotiations told The Associated Press the package could be worth as much as $205 million over five seasons.
The move was announced two days after Ryan Smith was confirmed by the NBA’s board of governors to become the owner of the Jazz. Utah has committed perhaps as much as $400 million to Gobert and Donovan Mitchell over a span of five seasons.
T25 MEN’S BASKETBALL
Northwestern finally beats Michigan State
UNDATED (AP) — Fourth-ranked Michigan State can expect to slide in the AP men’s basketball poll on Monday after losing to Northwestern for the first time in almost nine years.
Boo Buie scored a career-high 30 points and the Wildcats ended a 12-game losing streak to the Spartans by beating them, 79-65. Pete Nance added 15 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in Northwestern’s biggest win since its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2017.
Aaron Henry scored 11 points for Michigan State, which shot just 39% from the field.
In other top-25 men’s basketball action:
— Quentin Grimes had 27 points and 10 rebounds in No. 6 Houston’s 88-55 pounding of Alcorn State. Reggie Chaney added 18 points and six rebounds for Houston, which played without second-leading scorer Marcus Sasser and preseason American Athletic Conference player of the year Caleb Mills.
— Christian Bishop scored 19 points and No. 9 Creighton used a 9-0 run in the extra frame to secure a 76-74 win over Connecticut. Mitch Ballock added 13 points for the Bluejays, who also received 10 points and 13 boards from Denzel Mahoney.
— Freshman Greg Brown scored 24 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to help eleventh-ranked Texas pull out a 77-74 victory against Oklahoma State. Brown made four free throws during the final 37 seconds as the 7-1 Longhorns survived a late Oklahoma State rally that included two 3-pointers by Bryce Williams in the final 11 seconds.
— Ron Harper Jr. scored 28 points and 19th-rated Rutgers overcame a double-digit first-half deficit to beat No. 13 Illinois, 91-88. Jacob Young finished with 24 points to help the Scarlet Knights withstand Ayo Dosunmu’s (EYE’-oh doh-SOO’-mooz) 22 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists.
NHL, players finalize agreement for 56-game season
UNDATED (AP) — The NHL has finalized plans for a 56-game season that will begin on Jan. 13.
The regular season is slated to end May 8 before a 16-team postseason that will run another two months.
Teams will be split into North, South, East and West divisions, with the North group consisting of the seven Canadian teams. All games will be intradivision matchups to minimize travel and the potential for the coronavirus to disrupt the season.
As far as the divisions, Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington and the New York Islanders and Rangers are in the East; Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Nashville and Tampa Bay are in the Central; and Arizona, Anaheim, Colorado, Los Angeles, Minnesota, St. Louis, San Jose and Vegas are in the West.
Ko wins LPGA’s season-ending CME Group title in a flourish
NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — Jin Young Ko has captured the LPGA Tour’s yearlong money title despite missing most of the season.
The world’s No. 1 player pocketed $1.1 million by winning the CME Group Tour Championship by five strokes over Hannah Green and Sei Young Kim. Ko closed with a 6-under 66 in the final event of the season.
Team Thomas wins
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Justin Thomas and his father teamed to win the PNC Championship.
Team Thomas birdied the opening seven holes and the father delivered a 5-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole. They closed with a 15-under 57 in the scramble format and a one-shot victory over Vijay Singh (VEE’-jay sing) and son Qass.
Tiger Woods and his 11-year-old son, Charlie, finished five strokes back.