Tagged in: wild card

Cardinals, Rams meet Sunday for 4th time in calendar year

There aren’t many secrets between the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams, teams that will face each other Sunday for the fourth time in the past calendar year.

There’s also no secret the Rams have had a huge advantage of late.

The defending Super Bowl champions have won 10 of 11 games in the series dating to 2017, including a dominant 34-11 playoff triumph in the NFC wild-card round.

“They’ve obviously had our number here for a long time and that’s not lost upon us, but we’re just trying to improve,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “The last two weeks, we have started so slow, and we had 12 penalties last week. There’s a lot that we have to focus on.

“We know they’re a talented team and defending champs, so it’s really been about us improving this week.” The Cardinals (1-1) are in a good mood after last week’s stunning come-from-behind win. Arizona trailed Las Vegas 20-0 at halftime, but rallied for a 29-23 victory when Byron Murphy Jr. returned Hunter Renfrow’s fumble 59 yards for a touchdown with 3:51 left in overtime.

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The Rams (1-1) bounced back from a rough loss to Buffalo in Week 1 by defeating Atlanta 31-27 last week.

“I think they know us. We know them,” Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford said of the rivalry. “Every year is a little bit different, players are different, schemes a little bit different, how those players fit into that scheme, all of it. But they’re a really talented football team.”

The Cardinals did beat the Rams once last season, 37-20 in Inglewood.

Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray said facing the Rams — including seven-time All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald — is something he enjoys, no matter how difficult it can be.

“I’ve learned to embrace and love the opportunity to be able to play against (Donald) just because he’s not going to be here forever and playing the game forever,” Murray said.

“To be able to step on the field with him is an honor and to be able to go to battle against him. Like I said, he’s one of the best ever do it, so that’s how I see it.”

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49ers hang on late for 23-17 wild-card victory over Cowboys

Deebo Samuel and the San Francisco 49ers have started another playoff run after hanging on in a frantic wild-card finish versus Dallas.

Dak Prescott and the Cowboys will have to keep waiting for that elusive deep trip in the postseason.

San Francisco’s versatile receiver ran 26 yards for a touchdown the play after an interception by Prescott, and the 49ers held on for a 23-17 triumph over the Cowboys on Sunday.

The Cowboys had a final opportunity with 32 seconds remaining and were at the San Francisco 41 with 14 seconds to go when Prescott took off up the middle intending to slide and spike the ball for a final play.

But Dallas didn’t get the snap off from the 24 until after the clock hit 0:00. After a brief delay, referee Alex Kemp announced the game was over.

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The 49ers overcame an interception by Jimmy Garoppolo when they led by 13 in the fourth quarter.

Prescott ran for a touchdown to get within a score, and had a chance to drive Dallas to a go-ahead score. But the 49ers got a stop at midfield when Prescott’s desperation fourth-down pass was just out of the receiver Cedrick Wilson’s reach.

After a 14th penalty from the NFL’s most-penalized team in the regular season that helped San Francisco run out most of the clock — and the frantic final seconds as Dallas tried for the victory — the 49ers (11-7) clinched their first playoff victory at the Cowboys in a storied postseason rivalry.

Now they head to Green Bay for a divisional game, looking for another trip to the NFC championship match.

The wait for Dallas (12-6) to get that far in the playoffs will reach at least 27 years after another first-game flameout in the postseason for Prescott, the second in three trips over six seasons for the star quarterback. It was his first playoff game since signing a $40-million-a-year contract in the offseason.

The 49ers were in control in the fourth quarter, but not leaning on the running game they figured could carry them to a win when Garoppolo threw an interception to Anthony Brown that set up Prescott’s 7-yard scoring run.

Garoppolo’s mistake wasn’t long after Prescott was picked off at the Dallas 26 by K’Waun Williams and Samuel ran untouched on a cutback up the middle to the end zone on the next play for a 23-7 lead.

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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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Boston Red Sox’s J.D. Martinez getting treatment on ankle; Gio Urshela good to go for New York Yankees

Boston Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez remains a question for the team’s American League Wild Card Game versus the visiting New York Yankees on Tuesday night at Fenway Park as he continues to recover from a sprained left ankle.

Martinez suffered the injury in the fifth inning when he tripped over the second-base bag while jogging out to right field in Boston’s regular-season finale Sunday versus the host Washington Nationals. He was pulled from the game — a 7-5 Red Sox victory — an inning later.

Speaking Monday at Fenway, Red Sox manager Alex Cora stated Martinez continues to receive treatment on the ankle and that the team will make a roster decision Tuesday morning.

“He’s getting treatment,” Cora told reporters. “We’ll probably have to make a decision tomorrow morning roster-wise, of course, and let’s see how he reacts to treatment and everything that they are doing to him in there. We don’t know yet.”

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Cora also said outfielder Jarren Duran will likely make the wild-card roster, giving Boston a potential speed option on the basepaths, as will Nick Pivetta, who threw an inning of scoreless relief against the Nationals on Sunday. 

Chris Sale, who started that game in D.C., is unlikely to be on the roster, per Cora.

“He actually threw today. He felt good. He stopped by the office and [I was] like, ‘No, we’re not doing that,'” Cora said. “Hopefully he has a chance to start again here in October.”

The Yankees, meanwhile, expect Gio Urshela to be in the lineup Tuesday. Urshela bruised his right thigh and suffered some cuts when he made a diving catch in the Tampa Bay dugout in the teams’ regular-season finale Sunday, a massive play that helped New York en route to a walk-off 1-0 win that clinched its wild-card spot.

“I think we got incredibly fortunate in that situation,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters. “As you know, it really scared me watching him launch into there from my angle. He might be a little stiff or whatever. But I don’t think it’ll have much impact.”

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole (16-8) faces Nathan Eovaldi (11-9) at Fenway. The Yankees-Red Sox winner will move on to face the AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays starting Thursday in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy returning to calling plays on offense

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy has ended any expectation over who will call the team’s offensive plays in 2021.

The former NFL Coach of the Year confirmed on Friday that he will handle playcalling duties after temporarily ceding the responsibility to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor for a time last season.

“I’m going to be the one calling the plays this year, and so I know that you’ll probably be asking that, so we can just let you know that from the front end,” Nagy said on a Zoom call.

Last year, the Bears struggled to find any rhythm on offense until a late-season three-game winning streak lifted Chicago to a wild-card playoff berth.

The Bears concluded the 2020 season ranked near the bottom in most offensive statistical categories.

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However, Nagy expressed enthusiasm over Chicago’s acquisition of veteran quarterback Andy Dalton, who is the team’s new starter after former second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky signed with Buffalo in free agency.

Veteran Nick Foles is penciled in as Chicago’s No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart.

“Some things will be a little bit different (on offense),” Nagy stated.

“There’s going to be some things that Andy likes that Mitch and Nick hated, and vice versa. But we’re going to work together to figure out what that is. So you know, as a personnel department, as Ryan Pace as the GM, myself as the head coach and a coaching staff, when we collectively came together and said, hey, when you go through free agency and you look at everybody that’s available, it was really a consensus for us to get Andy in here and move forward as the starting quarterback.”

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