Tagged in: mvp

Bills advance to AFC championship with 17-3 win over Ravens

In what was supposed to be a showdown between Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, Taron Johnson literally stole the show.

If not for the wall separating the field from the stands in the back of the east end zone, the Bills cornerback might still be running after returning an interception 101 yards for a touchdown that propelled Buffalo to its first AFC championship game appearance in 27 years.

Johnson’s pick-6 of Jackson’s pass with 41 seconds left in the third quarter helped secure a 17-3 triumph over the Ravens in a divisional-round playoff game Saturday night.

“We’re excited. It’s not done yet, we’re not done yet,” Johnson exclaimed. “It’s just a blessing. Our defense stepped up to the challenge.” Johnson’s return matched the longest in NFL history and punctuated a stellar defensive outing in which Buffalo (15-3) limited the NFL’s top running offense to 150 yards on 32 carries.

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Jackson, last season’s NFL MVP, was sacked three times and did not return after sustaining a concussion following the final play of the third quarter, and two plays after Johnson scored. He finished 14 of 24 for 162 yards passing, while being limited to 42 yards rushing on nine carries.

Allen, an MVP candidate this year, finished 23 of 37 for 206 yards and a touchdown.

In a season in which the Bills relied mostly on their dynamic Allen-led offense to outscore opponents, the third-year quarterback was gratified to see Buffalo’s defense make a difference in a game the pass-happy attack was kept mostly in check.

The Bills advanced to the AFC championship game for the first time since 1994 on their way to making — and losing — their four consecutive Super Bowl appearance. Buffalo also extended a season in which it has broken numerous droughts by claiming its first AFC East division title in 25 years and, with last week’s victory over Indianapolis, winning its first postseason match since the same year.

The Bills, have won eight consecutives to match their best streak since 1990 and will play the winner of the AFC’s other divisional playoff between Cleveland and Kansas City on Sunday.

The fifth-seeded Ravens (12-6) had their season come to an end after leading the NFL in yards rushing for a second consecutive year. Baltimore clinched its third playoff berth in three years by winning its final five regular-season games. The winning streak came after a 1-4 skid capped by a 19-14 loss at Pittsburgh on Dec. 2 in a game rearranged three times due to COVID-19 issues.

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Howie Kendrick retires after 15 MLB seasons

Howie Kendrick announced his retirement Monday after 15 major league seasons.

In an Instagram post, Kendrick thanked each of the teams he played for in the majors, concluding with the Washington Nationals, the team he won a World Series title with in 2019.

“To the fans, without your support and love for the game, our stage and lights would not shine as brightly as they do. Know you will be missed as well. I will always love the game of baseball and will constantly reflect on the lifelong memories made. For now, it’s time to drop the mic and enter a new stage of my life,” he wrote.

In 2019, Kendrick was the MVP of the National League Championship Series and hit the go-ahead homer in Game 7 of the World Series to help the Nationals victory the franchise’s first title.

Kendrick, 37, hit .275 with two home runs and 14 RBIs during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season for the Nationals. The team declined his $6.5 million mutual option for 2021 after the season, and he received a $2.25 million buyout from Washington.

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The veteran infielder went on the injured list with a left hamstring injury on Sept. 9 and was shut down for the season.

In four seasons with the Nats, Kendrick hit .316 with 30 home runs and 113 RBIs.

Overall, Kendrick was a career .294 hitter with 127 home runs and 724 RBIs. In addition to the Nationals, Kendrick played two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, nine seasons with the Los Angeles Angels and 39 games with the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2017 season.

Kendrick, a Florida native, was initially drafted by the Angels with a 10th round pick in 2002. His steady production as the Angels’ regular second baseman for several seasons established him as a solidly underrated player. Kendrick’s later career saw him become a multi-position specialist and veteran bat for multiple teams.

Last season, Kendrick’s production slipped across the abbreviated 2020 season, but suffice it to say he’s securely a Nationals franchise legend for that home run above.

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Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh won’t say if Lamar Jackson will play vs. Dallas Cowboys

Starting quarterback and reigning NFL regular-season Most Valuable Player Lamar Jackson was one of a handful of Baltimore Ravens players who tested positive for COVID-19 amid the club’s worrisome coronavirus outbreak that caused its showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers to be postponed on three occasions.

Baltimore was without Jackson during Wednesday’s 19-14 defeat at Heinz Field, and head coach John Harbaugh refused to say if the signal-caller will be available for the upcoming contest versus the Dallas Cowboys that was rearranged to Tuesday night.

“I think I already answered that,” Harbaugh replied when asked about Jackson’s status during Thursday’s media availability, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN. “When the doctors clear them for practice, that’s when we’ll have them,” he added about the 17 Baltimore players now on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

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2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III filled in for Jackson versus Pittsburgh but suffered a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter that knocked him out of the game. Griffin rushed for a team-high 68 yards but completed just seven of 12 passes for 33 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.

Trace McSorley substituted Griffin and completed two of his six attempts, one of which was a 70-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Marquise Brown.

Harbaugh did say that punter Sam Koch won’t be needed as an emergency QB, which suggests two of the three players at the position will be ready to go by Tuesday evening.

The Ravens players had a day off and will return Friday for their first full practice since Nov. 20, a span of two weeks. The outbreak in Baltimore limited the team to a couple of walk-throughs. The Ravens had no positive tests Wednesday, which ended a stretch of 10 consecutive days with at least one player testing positive.

“We need to have some good practices and get our football sea legs under us so we can go out there and perform the way we want to,” Harbaugh said. The Ravens have lost three consecutive games to fall to 6-5.

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Tampa Bay Rays take game 2 to even the series one game apiece

Through all the struggles, all the moments when it looked like he should be dropped down in the lineup or out of it altogether, Brandon Lowe believed.

He had built himself into one of the American League’s best hitters, and no slump, not even one during the playoffs, could derail that. The Tampa Bay Rays kept believing in Lowe, too. And in Game 2 of the World Series, both were rewarded handsomely for their faith.

Lowe became the first player ever to hit two opposite-field home runs in one World Series match, and the Rays’ bullpen bent but didn’t break as they held on for a 6-4 triumph Wednesday night to even the series at one game apiece.

The 26-year-old Lowe, an All-Star two years ago as a rookie and a down-ballot MVP candidate this year, had endured a brutal postseason: 6-for-56 with 19 strikeouts and not one multi-hit game among the 15 the Rays had played. And yet Tampa Bay never wavered — he sat only one game and pinch hit in it — confident that Lowe would find his swing.

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Lowe, hitting in the No. 2 hole, punished a 95 mph fastball from rookie starter Tony Gonsolin out to left field, giving the Rays an early advantage. He piled on with a two-run shot off rookie Dustin May in the fifth inning, pushing the Rays’ advantage to 5-0.

In the meantime, Rays starter Blake Snell hadn’t permitted a hit, striking out two Dodgers in each of the first four innings.

Following the fourth, Snell bounded off the mound, shouting into the expanse of Globe Life Field, to no one and everyone among the crowd of 11,472. He looked like his Cy Young-winning self, his fastball, curve ball and slider confounding a group of Dodgers hitters who in Game 1 piled up eight runs through power, patience and proficiency wielding the bat.

Lowe’s multi-homer game was the 55th in World Series history, the seventh by a second baseman and the first by a Rays player. And it continued Tampa Bay’s trend of needing home runs to score. They set a record with 28 home runs this postseason, and entering the World Series, nearly 72% of their runs had come via the longball.

The return of the Lowe who helped lead the Rays to the AL East title was a welcome sign for a Tampa Bay team whose offensive struggles were of paramount concern — particularly with the prospect of falling down 0-2 to the Dodgers. Lowe had hit .269/.362/.554 with 14 home runs in 56 games during the regular season and ranked just behind Juan Soto and Ronald Acuña Jr. in wins above replacement.

Now, after a Thursday off-day, the teams return for Game 3 with the best pitching matchup of the series: Dodgers ace Walker Buehler versus Rays stalwart Charlie Morton.

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Los Angeles Lakers claims first NBA title in a decade

The Los Angeles Lakers have claimed their first NBA championship in a decade, defeating the Miami Heat 106-93 in Game 6 of the finals.

The title comes in the same year the team lost its icon, Kobe Bryant, who led the franchise to its last five championships.

For the first time since Bryant’s fifth and final title a decade ago, the Lakers are NBA champions. James had 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Lakers beat the Miami Heat 106-93 on Sunday night to gain the NBA Finals in six games.

Anthony Davis had 19 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who dealt with the enormous anguish that followed the death of the iconic Bryant in January and all the challenges that came with leaving home for three months to play at Walt Disney World in a bubble designed to keep inhabitants safe from the coronavirus.

It would be, James predicted, the toughest title to ever collect. They made the clincher look easy. James acquired his fourth title, doing it with a third different franchise — and versus the Heat franchise that showed him to to become a champion.

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Bam Adebayo had 25 points and 10 rebounds for Miami, which got 12 points from Jimmy Butler — the player who, in his first Heat season, got the team back to title contention. Rajon Rondo scored 19 points for the Lakers.

With that, the league’s bubble chapter, put together after a 4 1/2-month suspension of play that started March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic, is over.

So, too, is a season that saw the league and China get into political sparring, the death on Jan. 1 of commissioner emeritus David Stern — the man who did so much to make the league what it is — and then the shock on Jan. 26 that came with the news that Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other died in a helicopter crash.

The Lakers stated they were playing the rest of the season in his memory.

They delivered what Bryant did five times for L.A. — a ring, and the clincher was emphatic.

Game 6 was over by halftime, the Lakers taking a 64-36 lead into the break. The Heat never led and couldn’t shoot from anywhere: 35% from 2-point range in the half, 33% from 3-point range and even an uncharacteristic 42% from the line, not like any of it really mattered.

The Lakers were getting everything they wanted and then some, outscoring Miami 36-16 in the second quarter and doing all that with James making just one shot in the period.

Rajon Rondo, now a two-time champion and the first to win rings as a player in both Boston and Los Angeles — the franchises now tied with 17 titles apiece — was 6 for 6 in the half, the first time he’d done that since November 2007.

The Lakers’ lead was 46-32 with 5:00 left in the half, and they outscored Miami 18-4 from there until intermission.

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Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson misses practice because of knee injury

The Baltimore Ravens were missing their best player when they took to the practice field on Wednesday, but it apparently won’t be an issue for when the team kicks off versus the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday. 

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson did not practice on Wednesday due to a knee injury that is not considered severe. He was held out of practice for “precautionary reasons” while Robert Griffin III took snaps as the No. 1 quarterback. 

Jackson was pulled early from the Ravens’ Week 4 31-17 victory over the Washington Football Team, but that’s likely because it was not a close game.

The reigning NFL MVP seemed to be fine, as he completed 14 of 21 passes for 193 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and also rushed seven times for 53 yards. In the second quarter, he even reeled off a career-long 50-yard touchdown, which extended the lead to double digits. 

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Jackson and the Ravens appeared to have bounced back from the 34-20 loss they suffered to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3.

During that matchup, Jackson managed just 97 passing yards and one passing touchdown, as the Chiefs’ defense controlled the tempo of the game. 

According to Schefter, Jackson should be fine for the Ravens’ Week 5 divisional matchup with the Bengals, but it is interesting that he was not even a limited participant on Wednesday.

Jackson has missed just one game in his career, a Week 17 contest at the end of 2019 in which he did not play in order to rest and avoid potential injury ahead of Baltimore’s postseason. If Jackson were unavailable for the Ravens’ Week 5 game versus Cincinnati due to the knee issue, it would be his first game missed because of injury in his career.

Jackson won the 2019 MVP as part of the league’s best rushing offense in which he set the single-season rushing record for a quarterback with 1,206 yards and seven scores on the ground.

He’s completed 68.4% of his passes for 769 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception, and rushed 39 times for 235 yards and one score while leading the Ravens to a 3-1 start in 2020.

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Chiefs start title defense with 34-20 victory over Texans

Just about the only thing that looked familiar about the NFL’s long-awaited return Thursday night was the sight of Patrick Mahomes effortlessly leading the Kansas City Chiefs up and down the field.

The Super Bowl MVP threw for 211 yards and three touchdowns, Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran through the rain for 138 yards and another score, and the Chiefs started defense of their first championship in 50 years by defeating the Houston Texans 34-20 on Thursday night before a socially distanced crowd of about 17,000 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill each caught TD passes for the Chiefs. They have won 10 consecutive dating to last season. That run includes a come-from-behind 51-31 victory over the Texans in the divisional round of the playoffs.

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The Texans’ Deshaun Watson threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score, but he also was under relentless pressure and was intercepted once.

David Johnson provided the biggest bright spot for Houston, running for 77 yards and a score.

The world has changed dramatically in the seven months since the Chiefs hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in Miami.

Within six weeks, the term COVID-19 had become a part of everyday life, the disease killing more than 900,000 people around the globe. The death of George Floyd at the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer in May touched off the Black Lives Matter movement, which in turn has led to a summer of social unrest that has gripped the country.

Against that backdrop came an NFL opener unlike any other: masks worn by everyone from fans to the coaching staffs; a series of videos raising awareness of social justice initiatives and encouraging the public to vote; and ultimately both teams locking arms in a display of unity previous to the coin toss.

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Bucks avoid sweep despite losing Giannis to sprained ankle

The Milwaukee Bucks staved off elimination on Sunday, defeating the Miami Heat 118-115 in overtime despite losing superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo to a right ankle sprain in the second quarter.

After being fouled by Heat forward Andre Iguodala on a drive into the paint at the 10:18 mark of the second quarter of Game 4 of this Eastern Conference semifinal series, Antetokounmpo went down in a heap, yelling out in pain and clutching at his right ankle. He had to be helped off the court but later walked back on to split a pair of free throws.

Antetokounmpo then instantly checked out of the game and walked under his own power to Milwaukee’s locker room. He wouldn’t be seen again, as the Bucks ruled out their superstar forward at halftime, when they were clinging to a 50-48 lead.

“He’ll get treatment through the night, and we’ll just see how he does in the next 24 (to) 48 hours,” stated Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer after the game.

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In an inspired effort led by Khris Middleton, the Bucks managed to hold on after losing the reigning MVP to avoid a 4-0 sweep.

Middleton’s 21 points in the third quarter were the most by a Bucks player in any quarter of a playoff game since Tim Thomas’ 19 in 1996-97.

He ended with 36 points, 8 assists and 8 rebounds in 48 minutes — including a clutch 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds left in overtime against a Miami double-team.

As Bucks players entered the locker room, Antetokounmpo was there to congratulate them on the latest triumph, but it’s still uncertain if he’ll be able to return for Game 5 on Tuesday.

The Bucks are the first team to win in overtime when facing elimination since the Heat in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals versus the San Antonio Spurs.

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Browns sign ex-super bowl MVP Malcolm Smith

The Browns have found some linebacker depth to help ease the loss of Mack Wilson, who might still make it back this campaign.

They signed eight-year pro Malcolm Smith, a former Super Bowl MVP of Seahawks. In a 43-8 triumph over the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII after the 2013 season, Smith totaled 10 tackles, one fumble recovery, and an interception for a touchdown.

Not a bad haul for a seventh-round pick out of Southern California in 2011. Smith has appeared in 104 regular season games with the Seahawks (2011-14) Raiders (2015-16), 49ers (2017-18), Jaguars (2019) and Cowboys (2019).

He has 295 career tackles, 10 forced fumbles, six sacks, four interceptions and three fumble recoveries.  To make room for him on the roster, the Browns waived center Casey Dunn, who left Saturday’s practice with a foot injury.

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The Browns are still expecting that Wilson, who suffered a hyperextended knee Tuesday, can come back in a reasonable timeframe this season.

A source told cleveland.com that Mack ‘definitely has an opportunity to return this season and that he might not need season-ending knee surgery.

Wilson ‘definitely has a chance’ to return this season; Kevin Johnson could be back fairly early

Wilson passed the COVID-19 testing protocol and practiced with the team Sunday afternoon. It was switched to a non-padded practice when it was first canceled and then postponed.

Guys like Mack Wilson, Tae Davis, and Willie Harvey, who were day three draft picks or undrafted players, can learn some tips and tricks about going from being a barely making the roster type of guy to a long eight-year career.

Mostly a career backup, he won’t be a great starter for the team. The Browns linebacker room is still likely the biggest question mark on the roster, and will probably be addressed yet again next offseason.

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Chiefs Patrick Mahomes agree to 10 year contract extension

Patrick Mahomes, a year removed from his first league MVP award and just four months after leading the Chiefs to victory in Super Bowl LIV, is about to cash in on his early success. Mahomes, the first player in league history to win league and Super Bowl MVP honors before his 25th birthday, has come to terms on a 10-year deal with the Chiefs, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The contract is reportedly the richest deal in NFL history. Also, per Schefter, Mahomes’ 10-year extension is worth $450 million with a $140 million injury guarantee. CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reports Mahomes’ 10-year extension will be guided by a mechanism that ensures the quarterback’s annual salary never drops below certain cap thresholds — in other words it will always be above a certain percentage of the NFL’s salary cap.

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It is unusual to see a contract extension of this length  — and with those clauses and parameters — but it’s also rare to see a quarterback accomplish what Mahomes has this few years into his career. Back in January, CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora reported that the Chiefs were formulating to offer Mahomes a record-setting contract that would pay him at least $40 million a season.

The 10th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Mahomes was entering the final original year of his four-year, $16.4 million rookie contract.

The Chiefs did pick up his fifth-year option back in April.  Had Mahomes played under his fifth-year option in 2021, he would have made $24,837,000, according to CBS Sports’ Joel Corry. Mahomes is now slated to join the list of the NFL’s highest-paid quarterbacks.

In terms of annual salary, Russell Wilson currently holds the title as the league’s highest-paid quarterback, receiving an annual salary fo $35 million. The league’s other top-paid passers involve Ben Roethlisberger ($34 million), Aaron Rodgers ($33.5 million), Jared Goff ($33.5 million), Kirk Cousins ($33 million), Carson Wentz ($32 million), Dak Prescott ($31.4 million) and Matt Ryan ($30 million), according to Over the Cap. 

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