Tagged in: playoff

Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Rams to open 2022 season; Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football

The NFL will open its new season where the last one kicked off — in Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium, as the Super Bowl-champion Los Angeles Rams host the Buffalo Bills on Thursday, Sept. 8, the teams revealed.

The Bills-Rams matchup features elite quarterback play between Matthew Stafford and Josh Allen, who has guided the Bills to back-to-back playoff appearances. This game highlights a challenging calendar for the Rams, whose opponents have the league’s highest winning percentage from last year (56.7%). NBC will broadcast the game.

The Monday Night Football opener offers a spicy storyline

Russell Wilson making his Denver Broncos debut against his old team, the Seattle Seahawks, in Lumen Field.

Wilson guided the Seahawks to two Super Bowl appearances and nine winning seasons over 10 years. Seattle traded Wilson to Denver in March for multiple draft picks and veteran players.

Other key Week 1 matchups include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, a rematch of last season’s Thursday night opener; the Los Angeles Chargers hosting the Las Vegas Raiders, reigniting a dramatic 2021 regular season finale with playoff implications; the Cincinnati Bengals at the Pittsburgh Steelers, a clash of fierce AFC North rivals; and the Kansas City Chiefs making the trip west to play the Arizona Cardinals, two high-powered offenses in the desert.

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The Buccaneers will face serious firepower in the first month of the campaign, with a Sept. 25 home opener versus the Green Bay Packers and a clash with the Chiefs the following week.

Other Week 1 matchups include the Jacksonville Jaguars, with new coach Doug Pederson, at the Washington Commanders, with new quarterback Carson Wentz. Pederson coached Wentz in Philadelphia and won a Super Bowl with the Eagles, although Nick Foles was behind center with Wentz injured.

Several key division matchups, meanwhile, are also on tap for Sept. 11: the New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans, New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins, and the Packers at Minnesota Vikings.

Also, it will be the Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears, Eagles at Detroit Lions, Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets, and New York Giants at Tennessee Titans.

NFL teams started releasing information on their home openers a few hours before the 8 p.m. league-wide schedule reveal.

Teams have known their opponents since the end of last season, but the NFL builds drama around the schedule release, announcing the order, kickoff times and broadcast networks for all 272 games on one night each May.

This will be the second NFL season that follows a 17-game schedule, as agreed upon by the NFL and players union during recent labor negotiations.

The regular season runs through Jan. 8, with the Super Bowl set for kickoff Feb. 12.

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Ja Morant, with blurred vision, matches playoff career-high 47 points as Memphis Grizzlies even series with Golden State Warriors

All Ja Morant needed was one good eye to match his playoff career-high of 47 points and even the Memphis Grizzlies’ series with the Golden State Warriors.

Playing with blurred vision in his left eye after being poked in the third quarter, Morant scored the Grizzlies’ final 15 points to lift them to a 106-101 win in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal series at FedEx Forum.

Morant concluded with a spectacular 47 points, 8 assists and 8 rebounds to help Memphis avoid falling behind 0-2 in this best-of-seven series.

He joined LeBron James and Kobe Bryant as the only players with multiple 45-point games in the playoffs before turning 23 years old, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.

And he did so after leaving the game at the end of the third quarter complaining, “I can’t see.”

“I still can’t [see],” Morant said when asked about his vision. “I can see on the middle. I can’t see on the outside. I got punched trying to get the rebound.” Morant added: “I got another good eye over here — 20-20 vision right here. Thank God for my right eye.”

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The Grizzlies trailed 97-93 with 3:50 remaining when Morant was in the midst of his fourth-quarter takeover. With starter Dillon Brooks ejected in the opening minutes due to a flagrant 2 foul on Gary Payton II, and Jaren Jackson Jr. having fouled out with 3:59 left, Morant scored on a second consecutive driving layup.

He then buried a 26-foot 3 and a 7-foot floater. Morant also drew a foul on Draymond Green as the two were chasing after a rebound that Green grabbed, but officials called a foul when he bumped into Morant with 49.8 seconds left. Morant made two free throws and then sank another driving floater to push the Grizzlies up 104-101 with 30.7 seconds left.

“I feel like I’ve just watched him transform into a true closer,” power forward Xavier Tillman said.

Morant sealed the game from the free throw line to even it up.

“Definitely big time,” Morant said of where this game ranks for him. “I felt like this was a must-win game for us. For me, I was frustrated with myself missing that layup in Game 1.”

Morant, whose career high is 52 points, was frustrated after missing a driving scoop layup over Klay Thompson and a trailing Payton at the end of Game 1’s 117-116 loss to Golden State.

Morant stated Warriors star Stephen Curry told him and Jackson after that loss that “it is going to be a battle. We are going to have some fun.”

As streamers fell from the ceiling after the buzzer on Tuesday night, Morant walked by Curry. He had returned the favor and told Curry, “We are going to have some fun.”

“I was able to return that message tonight,” Morant said. ” … I am having a lot of fun.”

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Jayson Tatum’s layup at buzzer gives Boston Celtics win over Brooklyn Nets in Game 1 of first-round playoff series

Jayson Tatum has been adamant he didn’t view the Boston Celtics’ matchup with the Brooklyn Nets as a chance to prove anything opposite two of the league’s elite scorers.

His finish in Game 1 said otherwise.

Tatum made a layup at the buzzer on a pass from Marcus Smart to give Boston a dramatic 115-114 victory on Sunday in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series.

“When he took that dribble, we just kind of made eye contact,” Tatum said of Smart. “He made a great pass. It doesn’t get any better than that. A buzzer-beater in a playoff game at home.”

Tatum scored 31 points, the last two on the first buzzer-beater of his career. It was Boston’s first in the postseason since Paul Pierce’s in 2010 against the Miami Heat.

Tatum’s bucket came during a poised Boston possession in the frantic final seconds. After Kevin Durant missed on the other end, the Celtics rebounded and raced up the court, electing not to call a timeout.

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Jaylen Brown dribbled toward the middle and swung the ball out to Smart. He then fired it into a cutting Tatum, who spun around and dropped in his layup just before time expired.

“I’ve always been told you have more time than you realize you have,” Smart said. “I was about to throw it to Al [Horford] off the dribble, and I saw JT cut at the last minute.”

All five Celtics touched the ball on the possession.

“I think that’s kind of a microcosm for our season, guys moving the ball being unselfish,” Boston coach Ime Udoka stated.

Dating back to last postseason, Tatum has four consecutive 30-point games in the playoffs, matching Larry Bird in 1987 for the longest such streak in Celtics history.

Brown added 23 points. Horford had 20 points and 15 rebounds. And Smart finished with 20 points, including four 3-pointers.

Kyrie Irving put up 39 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter. But the Celtics forced the ball out of his hands the last time Brooklyn had it, and Durant missed a jumper with a one-point lead that set up the Celtics’ final possession.

Durant added 23 points but shot just 9-of-24.

“They did a good job of forcing me away, then helping in the paint,” Durant said. “I just got to be more fundamental in my moves. I feel like some shots went in and out for me.”

Boston charged out of halftime with a 23-8 run to open a 82-69 lead, sparked by Smart’s deadeye shooting from beyond the arc.

The Celtics also seemed to tweak their approach to guarding Durant in the half court, fronting him and sending help over the top to limit his driving ability.

Durant and Irving still found ways to score, but they had to exert increased energy to get off their attempts.

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Nets’ Andre Drummond says final two regular-season outings are ‘must-win games’ for Brooklyn

As the Brooklyn Nets prepare for their final two regular-season games of the season, they do so in control of their own playoff destiny.

If the Nets — currently seeded eighth in the Eastern Conference with a 42-38 record — win their final two matches, they will lock up the seventh seed and would host the East’s first play-in game next Tuesday night.

Veteran center Andre Drummond left no doubt where his team’s mindset is heading into Friday’s game versus the Cleveland Cavaliers — the team that sits one slot ahead of the Nets.

“I think they’re must-win games for us,” Drummond said after Friday’s shootaround. “I think we know what’s ahead of us and we know what’s going to happen if we do win these two games. I think our sense of urgency is a little bit higher than what it was before, and I think we’re prepared to take that next step.”

The Nets, who have dealt with a range of injuries, a teamwide COVID-19 outbreak in December and Kyrie Irving’s part-time status from January to March because of his decision not to get the COVID vaccine, remain confident that they can still catch the rhythm they need to make a long run in the postseason.

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“If we’re playing well heading into the play-in game, then those two games take care of itself and we should win ’em,” guard Seth Curry said. “But if we’re not playing well, then we’re probably not going to get out of the play-in game anyways.

“So it’s just a matter of [playing] our style of play, having confidence and being in a good rhythm playing our best basketball.”

Both Drummond and Curry have been solid since being dealt, along with Ben Simmons and two future first round picks, to the Nets in a trade-deadline deal that sent James Harden and Paul Millsap to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Despite the fact that Simmons still hasn’t played for the Nets because of a back injury — and a playoff return remains a very unclear possibility — Brooklyn remains steadfast in the belief that they can still win a title this year.

“I think it’s everybody’s mindset in the beginning of the year, is to try and win a championship,” Drummond said. “I think with this team we have a special group of guys here — anything is possible, it’s the NBA at the end of the day. Anything can happen.

“We just got to hang our hat, put our best foot forward … so we do have that mindset that we can win. I think everybody has that same mindset. For us, we’re just trying to stay within ourself and make things happen.”

For Curry, that means continuing to play through pain in his left ankle.

After missing the past two games, Curry scored 15 points and hit three 3-pointers in Wednesday’s 110-98 win over the New York Knicks. “It’s pretty much the same, man,” Curry said of his ankle injury.

“Just trying to manage it — and got through it and played through some pain. So it’s just an everyday managing thing, trying to get through end of the season into the playoffs, giving the team what I can. I feel like if Tiger can shoot 1 under at Augusta yesterday, I can play through a little bit of pain for the rest of the season.”

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Rookie Green has 32 as Rockets down Lakers in OT, 139-130

Rookie Jalen Green scored a career-high 32 points, including 10 in overtime, and the Houston Rockets outlasted the slumping Los Angeles Lakers for a 139-130 victory Wednesday night.

The Rockets, who have the worst record in the Western Conference, withstood a triple-double from LeBron James and 30 points from Russell Westbrook to get just their second win in 15 games.

The loss is the ninth straight on the road for the Lakers, who have dropped six of their last seven games and are running out of time to get things together before the playoffs start.

Green, the second overall pick in the draft, opened overtime with a layup before adding a 3-pointer and then swishing a hook shot soon after that to make it 127-120. Eric Gordon added a 3-pointer to push the lead to 10 before the Lakers finally scored in the extra period on a basket by Westbrook with 2 1/2 minutes to go.

But the Rockets used a 6-3 run with 3s from Kenyon Martin Jr. and Green around a 3 from James to extend the lead to 136-125 with a minute left in OT and seal the victory.

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James had 23 points, 14 rebounds and a season-high 12 assists for his fifth triple-double of the season. But his career-long streak of consecutive games with 25 points ended at 23 games on a night he was 9 of 26 overall and made just 1 of 9 3-pointers.

It was his first game since scoring a season-high 56 points Saturday night after he sat out Monday at San Antonio with a sore left knee.

Rookie Alperen Sengun set career-highs with 21 points and 15 rebounds to help the Rockets to the win.

A jump shot by Westbrook tied it at 120-all with a minute to go but he missed a shot a few seconds later to give Houston the ball back.

Green missed a layup under heavy pressure from James to give the Lakers another shot to take the lead.

James missed an off-balance shot in the lane with 17 seconds left but officials ruled that Houston knocked the ball out of bounds while vying for the rebound. The Rockets challenged the call, but it was upheld.

James drove into the lane and dished to Carmelo Anthony in the corner for the final shot of regulation, but his 3-point attempt was off to send it to OT.

A 5-2 spurt by the Rockets later in the fourth tied it up, but James drove into the lane and finished with a monster, one-handed dunk to put the Lakers up 113-111 with 5 ½ minutes to go.

Los Angeles trailed by 1 with about three minutes left when James made 1 of 2 free throws to make it 118-116.

Green scored four quick points to give the Rockets a 120-118 lead with about two minutes left. He made two free throws and then grabbed a rebound on the other end and finished with a jumper to put Houston on top.

Houston led by 3 late in the third quarter but the Lakers scored the last four points of the period to take a 98-97 lead into the fourth.

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Bucs beat Panthers 41-17, earn No. 2 playoff seeding in NFC

Once the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took care of their own business, the defending Super Bowl champions permitted themselves to become scoreboard watchers.

Sunday’s 41-17 rout of the Carolina Panthers set a franchise record for regular-season victories, and the win — coupled with the Rams losing to the 49ers in overtime — also gave the Bucs (13-4) the No. 2 playoff seed in the NFC.

Tampa Bay will host Philadelphia in the wild-card round next week. Earning the No. 2 seed ensures a second home game in two weeks if the Bucs beat the Eagles.

Tom Brady’s not looking ahead, though.

“It just felt good to win today. Whatever happened with other teams, you can’t ever control any of those things. Even for the next game. … you’re worrying about two games from now. I’m not worried about two games from now, I’m worried about one game from now, which is the Eagles,” Brady said.

“I don’t care if the Rams would’ve won … that’s alright, we’ve still got the Eagles and that’s going to be the biggest game of our season,” Brady added.

“If we win, whoever we play, wherever we play, we’re still going, and that’s what we want to do.” Brady topped 5,000 yards passing for the second time in his career, joining Drew Brees as the only players in NFL history with multiple 5,000-yard seasons.

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“We had to do what we had to do,” said tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had seven receptions for 137 yards.

“That’s what really matters,” Gronkowski added. “We did what we had to do, and the rest took care of itself.”

Brady completed 29 of 37 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns before taking the last half of the fourth quarter off, finishing with a career-best 5,316 yards passing and a Bucs single-season record 43 TD passes for the defending Super Bowl champions.

Mike Evans caught two of Brady’s TD passes, giving him a club-record 14 scoring receptions this year.

He also became the first player in NFL history to start a career with eight consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards receiving.

Tampa Bay broke the club record for victories in a regular season set in 2002, when the Bucs went on to win the Super Bowl for the first time.

Carolina (5-12) finished on a seven-game losing streak that leaves coach Matt Rhule’s future in question. The Panthers are 10-23 in two seasons under the former Temple and Baylor coach, who signed a seven-year contract to move to the NFL in 2020.

The Panthers wasted a chance to go up by double digits, turning the ball over on downs at the Tampa Bay 1 before the Brady turned the game around with an eight-play, 92-yard touchdown drive in the final minute of the first half.

Completions of 37 yards to Evans, 19 yards to Gronkowski and 24 yards to Breshad Perriman helped Brady move into position to give his team a 10-7 halftime lead with a 1-yard TD pass to Le’Veon Bell.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s 2-yard TD run early in the third quarter built the lead to 17-7. Evans caught TD passes of 3 and 20 yards, and receiver Scotty Miller scored on a 33-yard run in the fourth quarter for the Bucs.

Darnold completed 29 of 42 passes for 219 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for the Panthers, who fell to 0-4 against Tampa Bay under Rhule and have been outscored 150-63 by their NFC South rival in those matches.

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Los Angeles Rams overcome Matthew Stafford’s three picks to secure playoff berth with victory

The Los Angeles Rams are returning to the playoffs for the fourth time in Sean McVay’s five seasons as coach after clinching a berth Sunday with a 30-23 triumph over the Minnesota Vikings inside a lively U.S. Bank Stadium.

“It’s one step,” McVay said after the game. “To be able to get into the playoffs, it’s something you never take for granted.”

With the triumph, the Rams improve to 11-4 and move into first place in the NFC West over the 10-5 Arizona Cardinals with two matches remaining in the regular season.

The Rams travel next Sunday to Baltimore to face the Ravens (8-7) and close out the schedule at home against the division-rival San Francisco 49ers (8-7), who have defeated the Rams in the teams’ past five meetings.

“We’ve obviously guaranteed ourselves a spot,” said quarterback Matthew Stafford, who will be making his first playoff appearance since 2016. “Would love to make that spot as good as we can make it from here on out and control where we sit in the seedings, and I think it’s important to go into it playing good football.”

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After a difficult November that saw the Super Bowl-hopeful Rams trend in the wrong direction during a three-game losing streak, they rebounded to sweep their four-game December schedule despite a trying set of circumstances.

Ahead of a Week 14 Monday Night Football showdown versus the then-division-leading Cardinals, the Rams started moving players, including in the hours ahead of kickoff, onto the reserve/COVID-19 list.

At one point over the past two weeks, the Rams had 29 players unavailable, which caused the NFL to reschedule a Week 15 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks from last Sunday to Tuesday, which also resulted in a quick turnaround to face the Vikings (7-8).

When it appeared that the Rams were on track toward some normalcy, rainstorms that moved through Southern California forced alterations to practice plans, and in a final twist, starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 when it otherwise appeared that all starters would be available against the Vikings.

Behind an offensive line that had to adjust without Whitworth and lost center Brian Allen in the second quarter to a knee injury, running back Sony Michel produced his second 100-rushing yard performance of the season as he ran for 131 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, and Kupp continued his NFL Offensive Player of the Year-worthy season with his 11th straight game of producing more than 90 receiving yards. Kupp caught 10 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown.

The defense held the Vikings to 2-for-12 on third down, as quarterback Kirk Cousins went 27-for-38 with a touchdown and interception, which was snagged off a tipped pass in the end zone by backup linebacker Travin Howard on the same series he entered the game due to an ankle injury suffered by starter Ernest Jones.

“The defense was outstanding,” McVay said. “T-Howard’s pick was big. They made [the Vikings] earn everything.”

On special teams, returner Brandon Powell provided a needed spark in the second half after Stafford threw interceptions on back-to-back series. Powell returned a 40-yard punt 61 yards for a touchdown, marking only the second punt return for a touchdown in the NFL this season and the first for the Rams since 2015.

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Cousins throws for 2 touchdowns as Vikings beat Bears 17-9

The Minnesota Vikings have little margin for error and plenty of room to improve as they try to secure a playoff spot.

Not that Kirk Cousins needed a reminder. Or, for that matter, coach Mike Zimmer.

Cousins threw two touchdown passes, and Minnesota defeated the struggling and short-handed Chicago Bears 17-9 on Monday night.

The Vikings (7-7), part of a tight pack of teams vying for one of the NFC’s seven playoff spots, were in line for their most lopsided victory before Justin Fields threw a touchdown pass to Jesper Horsted on the game’s final play.

That score aside, Minnesota withstood several scoring threats by Chicago down the stretch coming off a win over Pittsburgh in which the Vikings nearly blew a 29-0 lead.

“I think we have work,” Cousins said. “I think there is a lot to improve upon. We’re playing three really good opponents up ahead. We’re probably going to need everyone, so there is not a lot of room for error and we have to tighten the screws here and play our best football down the stretch.”

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The Vikings’ final three matches are at home versus the Los Angeles Rams and at NFC North champion Green Bay before they host Chicago in the finale. The result in this one was hardly a surprise given the state of the Bears (4-10).

Chicago lost for the eighth time in nine games, and with 14 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, that seemed inevitable. Receiver Allen Robinson was on it, as was the starting secondary.

The health issues also hit the coaching staff, with all three coordinators testing positive for the coronavirus during the week.

Defensive coordinator Sean Desai was cleared to return hours before kickoff. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was not cleared, so Nagy called plays. And special teams coordinator Chris Tabor was out.

Cousins, who struggled last week, didn’t exactly dominate in this one. He was 12 of 24 for 87 yards with an interception and got sacked four times. The two-time Pro Bowler also connected with Justin Jefferson for a 12-yard touchdown in the first quarter and threw a 7-yarder to Ihmir Smith-Marsette in the third.

Dalvin Cook ran for 89 yards, after going for 205 versus Pittsburgh in a sooner-than-expected return from a dislocated shoulder.

D.J. Wonnum had a career-high three sacks and the Vikings recovered three fumbles on the way to their second straight win after back-to-back losses.

“It’s not just playing better, it’s getting better,” Zimmer said. “It’s getting better in the run defense, getting better in the pass coverage, it’s getting better in protection. It’s getting better in running the ball. It’s all those things. We’re trying to get better so we can get to that spot where we’ve got to get to.”

For the Bears and their fans, it was another frustrating outing.

Fields threw for 285 yards and ran for 35 in his second game back after missing two with broken ribs. The rookie completed 26 of 39 passes playing behind a line missing both starting tackles, with right tackle Larry Borom on the COVID list and left tackle Jason Peters out with an ankle injury.

Robert Quinn and Akiem Hicks each had two sacks. Quinn has 16 this year, leaving him just shy of Hall of Famer Richard Dent’s franchise record of 17 1/2 in 1984. But Chicago committed nine penalties for 91 yards in a sloppy performance that had fans again booing at times and making their feelings about coach Matt Nagy known, chanting “Fire Nagy!”

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Steelers try to keep playoff hopes alive as Titans visit

Ben Roethlisberger still considers the Pittsburgh Steelers have what it takes to be a playoff team.

Time is running out, however, to prove it.

“We’ve got to make a run,” Roethlisberger said.

At this point, one step in the right direction would be considered progress.

The Steelers (6-6-1) have been spinning their wheels for more than a month heading into a visit by AFC South-leading Tennessee (9-4) on Sunday, mired in a five-game funk in which they’ve won just once and been bullied in a way they haven’t been bullied in decades.

A defense that concluded third in the league last season is now in danger of finishing in the bottom 10 for the first time in 30 years.

While Roethlisberger and the rookie-laden offense have had their fair share of issues, it’s what’s happening on the other side of the ball that’s been far more alarming.

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Three times in the last month the Steelers have found themselves trailing by at least 17 points.

Twice they put together rallies to make it respectable, but respectable margins don’t count in the win column — though it’s telling of how wide open the underwhelming AFC North is that Pittsburgh finds itself in the mix as Christmas looms despite just two victories since Halloween.

“You can’t spend a lot of time looking at big-picture perspective,” Tomlin said.

Maybe because the smaller picture is so daunting. The Titans are in a position to win their second consecutive division title even without star running back Derrick Henry, who hasn’t played since October due to a foot injury. Tennessee has found a way despite having 50 different players start at least one game. Only New Orleans has had more.

Tennessee’s success is a testament to its depth and the steadying presence of coach Mike Vrabel. “Things haven’t been perfect for us up until this point, but we have ourselves in a good situation,” Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill said.

“Coach Vrabel has talked about this last two weeks and that is that we are just getting started. Have a lot of football out in front of us and we want to play our best football here down the stretch.”

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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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