Tagged in: clinch

Green Bay Packers clinch No. 1 seed with one week to spare

Matt LaFleur has this regular-season thing all figured out.

Three years with LaFleur as the Green Bay Packers’ coach, three times they’ve had a first-round bye in the playoffs — including the No. 1 seed each of the past two campaigns.

But he has never done this before: His team wrapped it up with a match still left in the regular season.

Before the Packers (13-3) even stepped on Lambeau Field on Sunday night, they knew that a victory would make next week’s regular-season finale at Detroit meaningless in terms of their playoff position.

They had the Arizona Cardinals, who beat the Dallas Cowboys earlier in the day, to thank for that.

They took care of the rest themselves with a 37-10 triumph over the Kirk Cousins-less Minnesota Vikings. Before LaFleur & Co. start to think about that, they’ll have to decide how to handle Week 18 versus the Lions. The past two years, they needed the final weekend of the season to secure their playoff seed.

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Now, LaFleur faces the age-old NFL debate: Play the starters in the finale to keep them sharp or give them the weekend off to preserve their health. After the Packers watch wild-card weekend, their first playoff game will be either Jan. 22 or 23 in the divisional round.

Aaron Rodgers’ fractured pinkie toe on his left foot no doubt will factor into LaFleur’s decision.

The toe didn’t seem to bother Rodgers on Sunday night even in the bitter cold. It was 11 degrees at kickoff and got colder as the night went on.

“This is a first game that my toe got through the game without any issues,” Rodgers said. “No pregame painkiller shot. I’m feeling good. I’m happy about it.

There was definitely a time a few weeks ago when I started to project out and think if we can get the 1-seed, it could be two-plus weeks of rest. I’m going to play next week, and I expect Davante to play and our guys to play. So, we’re looking forward to finishing off the season on a high note and then getting the bye.”

Rodgers, who stated this week that he likes it “the colder, the better,” threw for 211 yards in the first half, 118 of them to Davante Adams. It was Rodgers’ highest first-half total since Week 4 of last season and Adams’ highest in a first half since Week 4 of 2019.

The Packers’ halftime lead of 20-3 should have been even bigger but for three failed red zone trips (two field goals and a turnover on downs).

They even ran the ball well, with their second-highest first-half total (88 yards) of the season, thanks in large part to Aaron Jones’ runs of 27 and 28 yards — the first time in his career he has had multiple 25-plus-yard carries in the same game.

Rodgers concluded 29-of-38 for 288 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. It was his sixth straight game with multiple touchdowns and no interceptions, tying Don Meredith for the second-longest streak in NFL history. And Adams ended with 11 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown.

He’s 21 yards away from Jordy Nelson’s single-season record and half-jokingly offered that as a reason to play next week.

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Green Bay Packers clinch third straight division title as Aaron Rodgers ties Brett Favre’s TD record

All Matt LaFleur does is win division titles. In his three years as the Green Bay Packers coach, they’ve won the NFC North three times.

All Aaron Rodgers does is throw touchdown passes. In his 14th season as the Packers’ starter, he tied Brett Favre’s franchise record of 442 touchdown passes.

And just about everybody in green and gold left M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday with what they wanted — a 31-30 triumph over the Lamar Jackson-less Baltimore Ravens.

The victory was secured after the Ravens failed to convert on a 2-point conversion that would have given them a 1-point lead with 45 seconds left.

The Packers (11-3) clinched the division title, giving them an automatic playoff berth, and stayed on track for the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs with three games to go.

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“You have to savor these a little bit,” Rodgers said. “These are special. It’s just the first step in our goals, but a lot of times the coach speak — I’m not saying that Matt did this — but a lot of times there might be coach speak that takes over and says, ‘Hey, you know this is just one goal and we have bigger goals and stuff,’ but I think it’s important to keep that perspective on how special accomplishing this is three years in a row and so just to enjoy it, to savor it, savor these moments. These are special moments.”

Rodgers also matched the man he replaced as Packers quarterback in 2008 on Sunday.

Greg Jennings caught Rodgers’ first touchdown 14 years ago in Dallas, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling caught No. 442 as Rodgers tied Favre.

Rodgers did it in 45 fewer games as he set the mark in his 210th game (203rd as a starter), while Favre needed 255 games (and 253 starts) over 16 seasons. Rodgers is in his 17th season but did not become a starter until his fourth year.

Rodgers has also thrown 193 less interceptions in his career than Favre threw as a member of the Packers.

Rodgers entered the match needing three touchdown passes to tie the record and four to break it. He threw his first of the game, No. 440 of his career, on a 3-yard out to Davante Adams to tie the game at 14-14 in the second quarter. It was also his 65th career touchdown to Adams, which tied Rodgers and Adams with Rodgers and Jordy Nelson for the most touchdowns by a quarterback-receiver duo in Packers history.

The second one, No. 441, came on the opening drive of the second quarter when he bought time and looped a 9-yarder to Aaron Jones for a 21-14 lead.

The third one, the record-tying No. 442, was an 11-yarder to Valdes-Scantling with 12:54 left in the fourth quarter for a 28-17 lead.

Rodgers nearly had a fourth touchdown pass for the outright record, but he and Allen Lazard just missed on what would have been an 11-yarder midway through the fourth quarter.

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Milwaukee Brewers clinch 4th straight playoff berth with win over Chicago Cubs

Manny Pina homered twice, Eduardo Escobar and Jace Peterson also connected, and the Brewers clinched their fourth consecutive postseason berth with a 6-4 win over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday night.

The Brewers won for the seventh time in nine games to ensure themselves at least a wild card after San Diego and Cincinnati lost earlier in the day.

Milwaukee’s magic number to lock up the National League Central title is three over St. Louis.

“There will be a little bit of celebrating tonight,” said Brewers starter and NL Cy Young Award contender Corbin Burnes. “But the main celebration is going to be when we clinch the division.”

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Burnes was shaky by his standards in his first start since throwing eight innings in a combined no-hitter a week ago. He permitted three runs and six hits over six innings, striking out 11.

The right-hander gave up Ian Happ’s 23rd homer with a man on in the fifth.

It was the first homer allowed by Burnes since Aug. 6, when San Francisco’s Brandon Belt took him deep.

“You’re not going to be perfect every night, so sometimes that zero in the sixth is still a huge part of a game that helps you win a ball game,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “That’s what he did tonight.”

Pina, Milwaukee’s backup catcher, scored the first run of the night when he sent Justin Steele’s first pitch of the second inning to center. Escobar followed with a solo shot to lead off the third, snapping a 1-1 tie.

Burnes left the game with a 3-2 lead thanks to a solo home run by Peterson to lead off the sixth, but the Cubs tied it an inning later when Willson Contreras, who was robbed of a home run by Lorenzo Cain in the second, tagged Brad Boxberger for a two-out solo shot that made it a 4-4 game.

Pina struck again from the leadoff spot in the eighth, sending an 0-2 slider from Scott Effross (2-1) down the left-field line. Kolten Wong added an insurance run later in the inning, driving in Pablo Reyes on an infield single.

“I wasn’t sure if it was fair or foul,” Pina said. “So I was using my body to say, ‘Stay in! Stay in!’ That was a good swing, good contact.”Devin Williams (8-2) pitched a scoreless eighth, and Josh Hader stranded a pair of runners in the ninth for his 33rd save.

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The Milwaukee Bucks To First NBA Championship In 50 Years

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 50 points on Tuesday night to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to their first NBA Championship in 50 years.

Only six other players have scored 50 points or more in the NBA Finals. Only one other player has done it to clinch the title: Bob Petit had 50 in 1958 to win it all for the (then) St. Louis Hawks.

Led by two-time league MVP Antetokounmpo, the Bucks dominated the early part of the game, rocking the Phoenix Suns back on their heels from the outset. But Suns’ floor general Chris Paul took them on a run that had Phoenix back in the lead by halftime.

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Antetokounmpo took over in the 3rd, going for 20 points in the period, a single-quarter feat of force no other player has achieved in the Finals since Michael Jordan did it 28 years ago.

Antetokounmpo ended the game with 50 points, 13 rebounds, 5 blocks and — possibly most remarkable for him — made 17 of his 19 free throws.

The final score was 104-98. Bucks in 6.

It was a sweet victory for Milwaukee, who got to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in front of their home crowd, tens of thousands of whom crowded outside Fiserv Forum to witness the win together on big screens.

The Bucks’ last — and only other championship — came in 1971, when they were led by another all-time great big man named Lou Alcindor, who later became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. After three more seasons Abdul-Jabbar went to the Lakers.

Antetokounmpo could have done the same thing once he was with the Bucks for three years. He could have left small market Milwaukee for the lights of L.A. or New York, but he stayed a Buck and signed a new contract in 2016.

In 2020, he redoubled his commitment and signed a $228 million contract, declaring in a Twitter post, “This is my home, this is my city.”

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Kansas City Chiefs clinch No. 1 seed in AFC as Travis Kelce sets records

Earning the No. 1 seed in the AFC hasn’t resulted in Super Bowl success for the Kansas City Chiefs in the past, but they hope it puts them on the path to a championship this time around.

The Chiefs clinched the AFC’s top seed Sunday by defeating the Atlanta Falcons 17-14 at Arrowhead Stadium. The 14-1 Chiefs, who have won 10 consecutive games, will receive the AFC’s only first-round playoff bye and will play their divisional-round game at Arrowhead.

“It’s one of your goals when you go into the season,” said quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson with 1:55 left to rally the Chiefs to a surprisingly difficult win over the 4-11 Falcons. “If you look at the history of that bye week, usually it’s a good thing for teams trying to make a championship run.”

In the victory, Travis Kelce became the first tight end to have two 100-catch seasons. Kelce caught seven passes, giving him 105. Kelce also set the single-season yardage record for a tight end. He had 98 yards, giving him 1,467. The San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle held the previous record with 1,377 yards, set in 2018.

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“To get a week of preparation, a week of really locking in and getting the body right that late in the season is so key, and it’s much needed if you want to make that playoff push,” Kelce said. “That’s what you work your tail off for all season. I’m just proud to be a part of this team and be able to do it again this year.”

The AFC’s No. 1 seed hasn’t represented the conference in the Super Bowl in either of the past two campaigns.

The Chiefs have been the AFC’s top playoff seed three times but failed to reach the Super Bowl in any of those seasons. In 1995 and 1997, they lost their divisional-round playoff game at home. In 2018, they lost the AFC Championship Game at home in overtime to the New England Patriots.

The Chiefs were the No. 2 seed last year on their way to a Super Bowl LIV championship. The Chiefs concluded the regular season next Sunday versus the Los Angeles Chargers at Arrowhead. Since the game will be meaningless with regard to the standings and their playoff seed, they are likely to rest some of their top players, including Mahomes and Kelce.

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Los Angeles Dodgers clinch NL’s top seed, 8th straight division title

Wrapping up an NL West title has become routine for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but in a year in which no one was sure three months ago if there would be a baseball season, manager Dave Roberts wanted his team to savor the moment.

The Dodgers clinched the NL’s top postseason seed and eighth consecutive division title with a 7-2 triumph over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday. They are the third team to win at least eight consecutive division titles, joining the Atlanta Braves (14 straight from 1991 to 2005) and New York Yankees (nine straight from 1998 to 2006).

“To fast-forward a couple months and be crowned NL West champs is a credit to everyone. It should never be taken for granted,” Roberts said.

“Truth be told, a lot of guys didn’t know we could clinch. We were responsible, but I let it know that it has to be appreciated.”

The Dodgers, who own the best record in the majors at 39-16, were the first team in baseball to clinch a playoff berth on Sept. 16. They will open postseason play on Sept. 30 by hosting every match in a best-of-three series versus the No. 8 seed.

Los Angeles came into the day with a magic number of two and got help with the Angels’ 4-2 triumph over the San Diego Padres. Instead of a wild celebration on the mound after Jake McGee struck out Sean Murphy for the final out, players briskly walked out of the dugout to celebrate with teammates.

Everyone grabbed a division clinching shirt and cap before heading to the mound for a group photo.

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The clubhouse celebration was also muted.

Champagne was involved, but it was players toasting one another with a glass instead of being showered in it.

“We talked about it — instead of dumping stuff on people. It’s a moment you need to celebrate, and we did,” said Corey Seager, who had three hits and one of Los Angeles’ four home runs Tuesday. “It stinks not being able to do champagne and beer showers because some of the younger guys haven’t been able to experience that.”

Max Muncy, Chris Taylor and A.J. Pollock also went deep for Los Angeles, which leads the majors with 104 home runs.

“This whole year has been weird. There’s no other way to describe it,” Muncy said. “It’s sad not to be celebrate as usual, but we know there is a lot more at stake.”

Dustin May went five innings and permitted two runs on three hits. The 22-year-old righty set a team record by not allowing more than three earned runs in any of his first 13 career starts, which includes 10 this season.

Seager tied it 1-1 in the first with an RBI single and led off the fifth with a drive to center off T.J. McFarland to extend L.A.’s lead to 6-2.

Muncy gave the Dodgers a 3-2 lead in the third inning with a two-run homer. Taylor and Pollock extended it with solo shots in the fourth off Oakland starter Frankie Montas.

Cody Bellinger added two hits for the Dodgers, including an RBI single with the bases loaded in the seventh.

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner was scratched from the lineup less than an hour before first pitch because of left hamstring discomfort. He came off the injured list on Sept. 15 and has not played in the field since Aug. 28.

Joc Pederson was in the lineup at DH after missing five games while on the family emergency medical list. Roberts said before the game that he wasn’t sure if Pederson will stay with the team for the entire postseason.

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