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    Steelers star receiver Antonio Brown left the team's highly anticipated matchup against New England in the second quarter Sunday with a left calf injury. Brown left in obvious pain after getting his left leg tangled up with a pair of New England defenders. He was helped to the medical tent, then taken to a hospital for further examination. Brown, the NFL's leading receiver, had two catches for 24 yards before leaving the game. Pittsburgh rookie running back James Conner left with a sprained knee in the fourth quarter. The Patriots lost running back Rex Burkhead with a knee injury in the first half. He did not return as the Patriots rallied to beat the Steelers 27-24. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers lost one of his top wide receivers when Davante Adams left in the third quarter because of a concussion. Adams took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis on an interception return by Colin Jones. As Adams was running to make the tackle on Jones, Davis appeared to launch himself at Adams with a peel-back block, immediately sending the wide receiver to the ground and out of the game. Davis was flagged for a 15-yard penalty. Also, Packers linebacker Nick Perry suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter and did not return. Panthers wide receiver Russell Shepard left the game in the second half with a shoulder injury and did not return. 49ers wide receiver Aldrick Robinson suffered a concussion in the first quarter. He went to the locker room with head and wrist injuries after he was hit hard by Titans cornerback Adoree' Jackson along the Tennessee sideline. Robinson was stretching out trying to make a catch when he got slammed and went down for several minutes with 5:24 to go in the opening quarter. Titans cornerback Logan Ryan sustained an ankle injury in the second quarter against San Francisco. Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams, whose interception set up his team's field goal late in the first half, left in the third quarter against New Orleans with concussion symptoms. Saints tight end Michael Hoomanawanui left in the first half with concussion symptoms. Right guard Larry Warford went out with concussion symptoms late in the first half after he tried to make a tackle on Williams' interception. The Giants had safety Landon Collins and linebacker B.J. Goodson leave after aggravating ankle injuries. King suffered a concussion on his 57-yard TD catch which ended with a dive into the end zone. Eagles nickel cornerback Patrick Robinson left in the second half to be evaluated for a concussion. Eagles tight end Trey Burton, who caught a TD pass, was limited in the second half by cramps. Texans center Nick Martin (ankle) and right guard Jeff Allen (concussion) left in the second half against Jacksonville. Linebacker Benardrick McKinney injured a shoulder making a touchdown-saving tackle on a punt return. Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee injured his right ankle in the first quarter and was later ruled out. Cardinals wide receiver Brittan Golden broke his right arm on a punt return against Washington. Defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche left with a wrist injury. Linebacker Karlos Dansby suffered a calf injury. Redskins rookie linebacker Ryan Anderson suffered a sprained knee in punt coverage. Anderson came in dealing with an ankle injury. Bills cornerback E.J. Gaines was carted off in the fourth quarter with a knee injury. Dolphins cornerback T.J. McDonald left in the fourth quarter against Buffalo with a shoulder injury. The list of missing Bengals starters grew when left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi (shoulder) left in the first quarter against Minnesota. Right tackle Andre Smith limped off in the fourth quarter. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (knee) and DT Carl Davis (lower leg) will undergo MRIs on Monday, but he doesn't think either injury is serious. ___ For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • LeBron James joked that he changed out of his shoes — one black, one white, with 'equality' in gold capital letters — at halftime because he was playing poorly.'If that's a bad game,' teammate Kevin Love said, 'then sheesh!'James finished with 20 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers past the Washington Wizards 106-99 on Sunday night for their 18th victory in 19 games, and then said afterward his choice of footwear was related to the game being played about a mile from President Donald Trump's White House.'This is a beautiful country and we're never going to let one person dictate how beautiful and how powerful we are,' the four-time NBA MVP said.James had his fourth triple-double in the past five games despite being called for four fouls in the final quarter.Still, he offered a scathing self-critique.'I actually played pretty bad tonight. I wasn't as strong with the ball: I had six turnovers. Kind of lazy with the ball, at times,' James said. 'And my teammates did a great job bailing me out.'Love led Cleveland with 25 points and added nine rebounds. Jeff Green added 15 points, and Kyle Korver scored 11.'He just affects the game in so many ways and makes a lot of plays for other guys, too,' Love said about James. 'He's just setting us up and getting us into our spots. That's what he does. He's our leader.'The last time these teams played, at Washington on Nov. 3, Cleveland won thanks to 57 points from James.That prompted Wizards coach Scott Brooks to joke before tipoff Sunday that holding the four-time league MVP to '56 would be pretty good tonight.' He also cracked, 'I have a lot of respect for Coach (Tyronn) Lue, but I think he's making a bad decision if he doesn't sit LeBron tonight. Back-to-back games, right? Our fans saw 57. They don't need to see any more.'This time, James was more of a facilitator.'His IQ is the highest I've ever been around,' Brooks said afterward. 'Just the way he sees the floor.'Bradley Beal led Washington with 27 points, and John Wall had 15 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in 32 minutes in his third game back after missing nine with an injured left knee.In a matchup of Eastern Conference division leaders, neither team led by more than seven until Wall turned the ball over, leading to a fast break for James, who was fouled at the other end and completed the three-point play for a 103-94 lead.That was part of a 23-16 edge for the Cavs in the fourth quarter, which began with the teams tied at 83.'Against a great team like that, you have to be sharp the whole game,' Wizards forward Mike Scott said. 'In the fourth, we weren't sharp on the offensive end, and they made plays.'TIP-INSCavaliers: G Dwyane Wade was rested on the second half of a back-to-back. ... The Cavs finished with 24 assists, ending their streak of three consecutive games with at least 30. ... Cleveland made 14 3-pointers, its 20th game in a row with at least 10. ... The Cavs scored at least 100 points for the 24th straight game.Wizards: F Otto Porter Jr. sat out with an injured right hip. ... His replacement in the starting lineup, Kelly Oubre Jr., had 11 points and eight rebounds. ... F Markieff Morris missed the start of the second half because he was getting an X-ray on his neck. 'Everything came back clean,' Brooks said.MOVING ON UPIf it seems as if James climbs up some career list each and every night, well, that's because he pretty much does. This time, he overtook Hakeem Olajuwon for ninth-most made field goals in NBA history and tied Nick Van Exel for 24th-most 3-pointers. ... Wall's 3 shortly before halftime moved him up to No. 5 on Washington's franchise scoring list. He began the night at No. 7, but surpassed Phil Chenier and Gus Johnson in the second quarter.UP NEXT:Cavaliers: At Milwaukee on Tuesday night. The Cavs have beaten the Bucks the last five times they've played.Wizards: Host New Orleans on Tuesday night.___Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich___More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
  • As his ecstatic teammates rushed Robbie Gould to celebrate the kicker's game-winning field goal, Jimmy Garoppolo slowly walked the other way despite his own spectacular first home start and pulling off a wild December win against a playoff contender.He shared a quick hug near the sideline with Marquise Goodwin, who had quite a day of his own after losing his father last week.Garoppolo led one final scoring drive in the closing seconds to cap a fantastic first full game at Levi's Stadium, Gould kicked a 45-yard field goal as time expired, and the San Francisco 49ers topped the Tennessee Titans 25-23 on Sunday.'We're a young team, we're learning how to win,' Garoppolo said. 'I think these close games will pay off in the long run, I think for next year and everything.'Garoppolo threw for a career-high 381 yards and a touchdown during a dominant day to give the 49ers (4-10) a three-game winning streak in a lost season — and three straight comeback victories. And Tom Brady's former understudy showed he could do it at home as well as on the road — and against a playoff contender, no less — outdueling Marcus Mariota down the stretch as the teams traded field goals.Gould kicked three of his six field goals over the final nine minutes: 50, 48 and 45 yards and has now gone 20 consecutive without a miss.He put the Niners out front on a 48-yarder with 3:08 remaining. Mariota then drove the Titans (8-6) to a lead as Ryan Succop kicked a 50-yard field goal with 1:07 to play.Then, Garoppolo and the San Francisco offense got one last shot.It took three tries this season, and first-year coach Kyle Shanahan finally found his reliable, playmaking quarterback after acquiring Garoppolo from New England at the October trade deadline.'He's been just as good as advertised, if not better,' Shanahan said.Garoppolo showed that in 67 seconds — the same amount of time he had left Sunday — when forced into late action in a loss to Seattle three weeks ago at Levi's Stadium, then in back-to-back road games before shining again.'I think the 49ers got a quarterback,' Titans safety Kevin Byard said. Goodwin, who already dealt with the death of his premature son last month, made 10 catches for 114 yards and Garoppolo completed 31 of 43 passes to go over 300 yards passing for the second straight game after last week's win at Houston.Mariota put Tennessee ahead on an 8-yard touchdown pass to Rishard Matthews early in the fourth as the Titans rallied back from an early 13-point deficit.The 49ers were in good position the ensuing possession before Garoppolo was sacked by Wesley Woodyard for a 10-yard loss. Then, Gould converted a 50-yarder.Tennessee came out of intermission a new team, totaling 22 offensive plays to San Francisco's five in the third quarter.Garoppolo became the first 49ers quarterback since the merger in 1970 to win each of his first three starts and just the second QB to do so in franchise history. Y.A. Tittle did so spanning the 1951-52 seasons.He threw a 5-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to tight end Garrett Celek — whose great play in recent weeks has earned the nickname of 'Celek Time.' Celek later had a 41-yard catch.'Yeah, Celek Time. That guy, he always finds a way,' Garoppolo said.Garoppolo didn't even have Trent Brown to block for him after the right tackle went on injured reserve with a right shoulder injury that will require surgery. Mariota threw a 4-yard TD pass to former 49er Delanie Walker late in the first half to keep the Titans close.Garoppolo was 5 of 6 passing on his opening possession as San Francisco mixed its play calls well to catch the stingy Titans defense off guard. Gould's 38-yarder capped the 12-play, 64-yard initial drive. Gould hit a 48-yarder late in the first and then kicked one from 28 yards just before halftime.The Titans dropped back-to-back road games against the NFC West after losing last week to the Cardinals and staying in Arizona for the week of practice. It could affect their playoff chances.Their first visit to Levi's Stadium — Tennessee last played the Niners on the road at Candlestick in November 2009 — began slowly, the team's second straight week playing a stadium for the initial time.Mariota, in the midst of one of the worst stretches of his three-year career, threw for 241 yards while completing 23 of 33 passes.DEFENSIVE FLOPTennessee's typically tough defense was a far cry from that dominant unit in the first half.Garoppolo threw for 189 yards and the Niners outgained the Titans 219-136 in the first half. The 49ers didn't punt until more than midway through the third quarter.Last week, the Titans allowed only four field goals, the second time this season they'd done so.INJURIESTitans: CB Logan Ryan sustained an ankle injury in the second quarter.49ers: WR Aldrick Robinson suffered a concussion in the first quarter. He went to the locker room with head and wrist injuries after he was hit hard by Titans cornerback Adoree' Jackson along the Tennessee sideline. Robinson was stretching out trying to make a catch when he got slammed and went down for several minutes with 5:24 to go in the opening quarter.UP NEXTTitans: Host Rams next Sunday and home the final two weeks.49ers: Host Jaguars next Sunday.___For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • LeBron James made a statement during an NBA game with his shoes — one black, one white, with the word 'equality' in capital gold letters on the back of each.Then, after the game, James made a statement about President Donald Trump, saying: 'This is a beautiful country and we're never going to let one person dictate how beautiful and how powerful we are.'The four-time NBA MVP was asked about his choice of footwear for the first half of his Cleveland Cavaliers' 106-99 victory over the Washington Wizards on Sunday night at an arena about a mile from the White House.'Obviously, we know where we are right now,' James began. 'And we know who's at the helm here.'He continued, speaking about the importance of 'having equal rights and being able to stand for something and speak for something and keeping the conversation going.'James then referred to his past discussions of Trump, saying: 'Obviously, I've been ... very outspoken and well-spoken about the situation that's going on at the helm here. ... Equality is all about understanding our rights, understanding what we stand for and how powerful we are as men and as women, black or white or Hispanic. It doesn't matter your race.'Earlier this year, James called Trump 'a bum' on Twitter and also said at Cleveland's preseason media day: 'He doesn't understand how many kids, no matter the race, look up to the president of the United State for guidance, for leadership, for words of encouragement. He doesn't understand that, and that's what makes me more sick than anything.'Then, for Cleveland's first regular-season game, James donned a pair of black sneakers with the 'equality' message. But this was the first time James chose to wear one white and one black shoe.At halftime Sunday, he changed into other sneakers. James finished the game with 20 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds.'I didn't play well in the first half, and I'm very superstitious, so I took 'em off,' James explained, before joking: 'I didn't play well in the second half, either, so if there was a third half, I would have took those off.'___Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich___More AP NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
  • The New England Patriots have built a dynasty on second chances. Miss an opportunity to bury the Super Bowl champions and they will find a way to find a way, usually behind a mix of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, and defensive playmaking at just the right time.It's a lesson the Pittsburgh Steelers have learned through the years, one they were determined to finally learn from this time around. Instead, more of the same.Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted in the end zone with 5 seconds remaining, securing New England's 27-24 comeback victory Sunday built on more Brady and Gronkowski magic.Another AFC East title, a record ninth in a row.Another shot at home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.This one came with an assist from the NFL rule book that will add 'surviving the ground' to the league's ever-expanding and ever-perplexing lexicon.Plus, the risky decision by the Steelers quarterback not to spike the ball and set up a tying field goal, which could reverberate well into January.'It was a tight game,' said Brady, who fed Gronkowski repeatedly to set up Dion Lewis' go-ahead 8-yard touchdown with 56 seconds remaining. 'We just made one more play than they did.'Same as it ever was.The Patriots (11-3) can make sure they don't have to leave Foxborough in January if they finish up the regular season with wins over Buffalo and the New York Jets. Brady finished with 298 yards passing with two touchdowns and an interception. Gronkowski, fresh off a one-game suspension, finished with nine receptions for 168 yards, including three on the winning drive.That drive, by the way, started with Pittsburgh safety Sean Davis letting a tipped pass slip off his fingertips. Instead of a game-sealing interception, the Steelers gave New England another shot. Brady responded by finding Gronkowski for gains of 26, 26 and 17 yards.'I think they were trying to challenge us and he made a lot of good plays,' Brady said. 'Other guys make a lot of good plays, too, but when he's open, he gets it.'It briefly looked like it wouldn't be enough.The Steelers (11-3) played most of the game without star wide receiver Antonio Brown, who left in the second quarter with a left calf injury. Still, the AFC North champions gamely hung in and appeared to take the lead when Roethlisberger connected with tight end Jesse James for a 10-yard touchdown with 28 seconds to go.The play was overturned on review, with official Tony Corrente explaining that because the ball shifted as James twisted his way into the end zone , it did not 'survive the ground' and therefore wasn't a catch.'He lost complete control of the football,' Corrente told a pool reporter.That decision that left James stunned.'I guess I don't know a lot of things about football,' James said. 'I can't call it, obviously. They think they made the right call. I'm sure we'll see it over the next couple days.'Probably far longer than that.Roethlisberger hit Darrius Heyward-Bey for a short gain on the next snap, but Heyward-Bey was tackled in bounds. With the clock running and no timeouts, Roethlisberger hurried to the line. Rather than spike it to set up a short kick, Roethlisberger tried to win it.Instead, he lost it.His pass to Eli Rogers was batted into the air, and New England safety Duron Harmon came down with it. The Patriots had their fifth straight victory in a series that would feel more like a rivalry if the outcome wasn't always the same.'We're not going to look back and second-guess anything or anybody,' Roethlisberger said. 'We lost a game and I threw a pick in the end zone at the end of the game to lose it.'Roethlisberger completed 22 of 30 passes for 281 yards with two touchdowns and the pick. Le'Veon Bell ran for 117 yards and added another 48 receiving. Still, it did little to take away the sting of a near miss.'I'm not into moral victories right now,' Roethlisberger said. 'We just lost a game. It doesn't sit well. But the season is not over.'SHAZIER STOPS BY Pittsburgh received an early emotional jolt when cameras cut to injured linebacker Ryan Shazier sitting in a private box less than two weeks removed from spinal stabilization surgery. The crowd at rainy Heinz Field roared as Shazier, who appeared to be seated, waved a Terrible Towe l. The 25-year-old is recovering from spinal stabilization surgery on Dec. 6, two days after leaving a Monday night victory over Cincinnati on a stretcher following a routine hit on Bengals wide receiver Josh Malone.'We had no idea he was going to be here,' Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree said. 'We were excited. It was good to see him smiling and cheering.'INJURIESThe Patriots lost running back Rex Burkhead with a knee injury in the first half. Burkhead did not return. Pittsburgh rookie running back James Conner exited with a sprained knee in the fourth quarter.UP NEXTNew England: Host the Bills on Christmas Eve. The Patriots handled the Bills 23-3 earlier this month in Buffalo.Pittsburgh: Visits Houston on Christmas Day.___For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • Nick Foles replaced the injured Carson Wentz, and nothing really changed for the Philadelphia Eagles.They got four touchdown passes from their quarterback, like they did a week ago, and won again to secure a first-round playoff bye.Another ho-hum day for the best team in the NFC and NFC East champions.Foles hit four different receivers on touchdown passes ranging from 3 to 13 yards in his first start, and the Eagles (12-2) rallied from an early 14-point deficit to defeat the surprising New York Giants 34-29 on Sunday.'I thought he played well,' Eagles coach Doug Pederson said of Foles. 'There are some things he would like to do over. Every game is going be that way. I thought he handled himself extremely well, a lot of poise. He did a nice job.'There was speculation the Eagles would rely on their running game this week against the Giants (2-12) to give Foles time to adjust to the offense. Pederson ruled that out.'With him coming out and saying he's not changing anything, it says a lot about his confidence in me and his confidence in the players in the offense,' said Foles, who completed 24 of 38 passes for 237 yards and no interceptions.Foles clearly is no Wentz. He is more a pocket passer, and there were times in the game when Wentz clearly would have been scrambling for a first down. Foles carried twice for zero yards.The Eagles made a late stand on first-and-goal in the final minute in edging the Giants for the second time this season, spoiling a three-touchdown, season-high 434-yard passing game by Eli Manning.'We know what he's capable of and that showed today,' Giants interim coach Steve Spagnuolo said after Manning's ninth 400-yard game.Manning, who threw for 366 yards earlier this year against the Eagles, said the Giants had a good game plan.'We got the ball out quickly, playing fast with some tempo stuff,' said the 36-year-old who finished 37 of 57. 'I think that confused them a little bit.'Foles hit Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, Trey Burton and Nelson Agholor on scoring passes ranging from 3 to 13 yards in filling in for Wentz, who tore an ACL last week and was lost for the season after a brilliant year.The Eagles also got two field goals from Jake Elliott and three blocked kicks from their special teams, foiling an extra point, a punt and field goal. The block on the punt set up a touchdown.Philadelphia will play its final two regular-season game at home and then wait for the conference semifinal.'It's obviously something great,' Foles said of the bye. 'I was fortunate to be a part of it last year in Kansas City. We still have a lot of work to do this season. The big thing is you let your body recover.'Manning hit Tavarres King on two touchdowns and Sterling Shepard on one. Orleans Darkwa scored on a short run and Aldrick Rosas kicked a 28-yard field goal.Manning drove the Giants from their 25 with 3:56 to play to the Eagles 9 with about a minute to go. A 2-yard loss on a pass to Shepard, an incompletion in the end zone and 5-yard run by Shane Vereen got New York to the Philadelphia 6 with 48 seconds to play. Right tackle Bobby Hart had a procedure penalty on fourth down, putting the ball at the 11.Manning then threw a pass to Evan Engram at the back of the end zone that was high and incomplete. The Giants complained bitterly after the play that Eagles safety Corey Graham held the rookie tight end's left arm and should have been called for pass interference.'I definitely thought it was defensive pass interference,' Engram said. 'Fourth down. It was really obvious, but no call.'The Giants led 23-21 at the half and the Eagles took the lead for good in the third quarter on a 28-yard field goal by Elliott and a 10-yard TD catch by Agholor .Leading 20-6, mistakes by Manning and special teams got the Eagles back in the game in a less than three-minute span in the second quarter.A 37-yard interception return by Ronald Darby to the Giants 18 set up Foles' second touchdown pass, a 10-yarder to Ertz, cutting New York's lead to 20-14. Kamu Grugier-Hill blocked Brad Wing's punt on the Giants' next series. Foles found a wide-open Burton on a 13-yard pass to give the Eagles a 21-20 lead.Rosas had a go-ahead 28-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in the half for a 23-21 lead.BLOCKSThe last time a team had a hat trick of blocked kicks was the Buffalo Bills against New England on Nov. 24, 1991.UP NEXTEagles: host Oakland on Dec. 25.Giants: at Arizona on Sunday.___For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and — http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • Mark Ingram gave the Saints much more than the first-down run they needed to wind down the clock on the Jets.His determined burst across the line of scrimmage thrust him into New York's defensive backfield with too much speed and vigor for anyone to catch him — a fitting finish to one of his better days in a memorable season.Ingram ran for two touchdowns and gained 151 yards from scrimmage , capped by his late 50-yard TD run, and New Orleans overcame three turnovers to defeat the reeling Jets 31-19 on Sunday.'Getting the ball into his hands is obviously what we want to do,' Saints center Max Unger said of Ingram, who has eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing for a second straight season. 'We've got to get him going because when he has a chance to make plays like that — you can see it — he's explosive.'Ingram's 54-yard gain on a screen, which set up a field goal, was the longer of his two 50-yard plays.'He's making people miss. He's creating,' said fellow running back Alvin Kamara, who added a 10-yard touchdown catch.The Saints (10-4) needed to beat the Jets (5-9) to maintain a tenuous hold on first place in the NFC South. New Orleans leads Carolina (10-4) on head-to-head results. Atlanta (8-5) can pull one game behind by beating Tampa Bay on Monday night.The Jets, who were eliminated from the playoffs, kept it close until Saints receiver Michael Thomas' fourth-quarter touchdown on a 4-yard slant made it 24-13.Bryce Petty made his first start at quarterback for New York this season, completing 19 of 39 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted twice — once by Craig Robertson on a tipped pass and once by Marshon Lattimore on a long, inconsequential throw as the game ended.'As far as understanding the game plan and knowing what you see out there, I felt really confident,' Petty said. 'The more times I get out there, the better I'm going to get.'Jets coach Todd Bowles offered a more tepid assessment, but said the third-year QB remains the starter.'He just didn't make any plays,' Bowles said. 'Plays that we needed him to make to win the game, he didn't make. He will get better at that.'Petty's 2-yard touchdown pass to former Louisiana-Lafayette running back Elijah McGuire cut New Orleans' lead to 24-19 with 1:51 left. But the Jets' onside kick failed.Drew Brees completed 26 of 36 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns, but also was intercepted deep in New Orleans territory to set up a Jets field goal at the end of the first half.MATURE MIKEThomas made nine catches for 93 yards, giving him 94 receptions this season and making him just the second NFL player with at least 90 receptions in each of his first two seasons — the other being the New York Giants' Odell Beckham.Thomas made first-down grabs of 17, 20 and 9 yards to sustain the drive that ended with his 4-yard TD.'They need you to be the man and they need you to make plays,' Thomas said. 'That's what I signed up for and that's I like to do. When the ball is the air, I want to make a play.'FAST STARTNew Orleans scored 17 points on its first three drives. Ingram had four catches for 80 yards on the first two series and scored the game's first touchdown on a 1-yard run that made it 10-0.Bilal Powell briefly pulled New York to 10-7 with his 2-yard run before New Orleans quickly answered with Kamara's TD.STAGNANT STINTThe Saints went seven straight possessions without scoring between the Kamara and Thomas TDs. In addition to third-down failures, New Orleans turned the ball over three times — once on Brees' interception and twice inside the Jets 20 on receiver Brandon Coleman's fumbles.MISSING IN ACTIONBowles had little to say about his decision to leave healthy defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson back in New York .'We're dealing with that as an internal matter,' Bowles said. 'We'll let you know later.'INJURIESJets defensive lineman Leonard Williams, whose interception set up the Jets' field goal late in the first half, left in the third quarter with concussion symptoms.Saints tight end Michael Hoomanawanui left in the first half with concussion symptoms. Right guard Larry Warford went out with concussion symptoms late in the first half after he tried to make a tackle on Williams' interception.UP NEXTJets: Host the Chargers in a game with playoff implications for San Diego.Saints: Host the Falcons in what could be a pivotal contest in the NFC South race.___Follow Brett Martel at www.twitter.com/brettmartel___For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • Cam Newton proved the Carolina Panthers can win in multiple ways.After dominating opposing teams on the ground with three straight 200-yard rushing games at home, the Panthers turned to their 28th-ranked passing game on Sunday and took a big step toward reaching the postseason.Newton threw for 242 yards and four touchdowns, and the Panthers spoiled Aaron Rodgers' return from a broken collarbone with a 31-24 win over the Green Bay Packers.Damiere Byrd had two touchdown catches, and Christian McCaffrey had 136 yards from scrimmage, including a 7-yard touchdown reception and the Panthers won their fourth straight at home. Greg Olsen had his most productive game since returning from a broken foot, catching nine passes for 116 yards and a TD as the Panthers (10-4) kept pace with the first-place New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.'It's something we pride ourselves on being a complete offense, being able to run the ball when we can and pass when we can,' McCaffrey said. 'Guys showed up and made plays today.'That included Carolina's defense, which forced four turnovers, including a strip by cornerback James Bradberry on Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison with 1:28 to seal the win and prevent the Packers from possibly playing in their third straight overtime game.'I need to do a better job of squeezing and securing it and there wouldn't be an argument,' Allison said.Rodgers, making his first appearance since Oct. 15, threw for 290 yards with three touchdowns but was intercepted three times as the Packers' playoff hopes took a potentially critical blow.At 7-7, the Packers are on the cusp of not making the playoffs for the first time since 2008.'I'm disappointed in my performance today,' Rodgers said. 'Obviously, I didn't play well.'Bradberry also had an interception of Rodgers, and said he plans to put the football in a trophy case.'Going against him and getting able to get as many turnovers and we did puts a stamp on this defense,' Bradberry said of the Panthers, who have forced seven turnovers and had nine sacks in the past two weeks.The Panthers trailed 14-10 at halftime, but Newton threw TD passes to Olsen and Byrd in the third quarter to give them a 24-14 lead.Byrd's first touchdown, a 9-yard grab in the back of the end zone , came with some controversy. The play was initially ruled an incompletion, but coach Ron Rivera challenged the play and officials overturned the call ruling that Byrd's buttocks landed inbounds.'Initially I wasn't sure if they were going to count just one cheek or both cheeks,' Byrd said with a laugh. 'I think I got lucky on that one.'I guess it pays to have little cheeks,' Newton said of the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Byrd.Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he didn't have a problem with the decision, calling it a good catch.Olsen was seen screaming at the Carolina sideline before the review, urging Rivera not to challenge the play because he was certain Byrd was out of bounds.'I was like, 'Greg, you are being obnoxious right now,'' Newton said with a laugh. 'He's saying, 'No, he did not catch it! Coach, don't waste a timeout!' I was like, 'Greg, whose team are you on?''Olsen said sheepishly: 'I was 150,000 percent wrong.'ADAMS CONCUSSION: It didn't help that Rodgers lost his most productive receiver in the third quarter with a concussion.Davante Adams took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis on an interception return by Colin Jones. As Adams was running to make the tackle on Jones, Davis appeared to launch himself at Adams with a peel-back block, immediately sending the wide receiver to the ground and out of the game.Davis was flagged for a 15-yard penalty.Aaron Rodgers called it 'unnecessary hit' and called Davis a 'repeat offender.'Davis could face a fine or suspension from the league.'I'm sure the league will deal with him accordingly to that,' Rodgers said.Davis immediately realized what he had done, cupping his head in hands as he sat on the Panthers bench. Adams had five catches for 57 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers. Davis was not available for comment after the game.COMING IN BUNCHES: After going 12 games without an interception, Panthers starting cornerbacks Bradberry and Daryl Worley both have interceptions in back-to-back games. Worley got Rodgers in the first half on a deep route along the left sideline, while Bradberry got one on an underthrown deep ball.INJURIES:Packers: Linebacker Nick Perry left the game with an ankle injury in the third quarter and did not return.Panthers: Wide receiver Russell Shepard left the game in the second half with a shoulder injury and did not return.UP NEXTPackers: Host the Vikings on Saturday night.Panthers: Host the Buccaneers on Sunday.___For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan waited until the final few minutes to start celebrating.Had he uncorked the champagne when the game was essentially over, Khan would have been drinking by halftime.Blake Bortles threw three touchdowns passes , including two to seldom-used backup Jaydon Mickens, and the Jaguars clinched a playoff spot with a 45-7 drubbing of AFC South rival Houston on Sunday. Jacksonville's seventh victory in its last eight games locked up the franchise's first postseason berth since 2007.'It's a story of perseverance,' Khan said .Once the NFL's poster child for futility and a punchline for potential relocation, the Jaguars (10-4) are now one of the league's top turnarounds.The injury-riddled Texans (4-10) have dropped four in a row and seven of eight.'They can smell the playoffs,' Houston receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. 'You can tell that by the way they played. That's what you play for: playoff football. You play this game to win the ultimate goal. When you don't get there, what you did is not good.'Bortles finished with a season-high 326 yards and the best QB rating (143.8) of his career. He did it without receivers Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee.With Robinson (knee) on injured reserve, Hurns (ankle) inactive and Lee (ankle) in the locker room, Mickens and rookie Keelan Cole stepped up. Mickens caught four passes for 61 yards and two scores . Cole had seven receptions for a career-high 186 yards and a TD.Mickens disclosed earlier this week that he slept in his car outside the facility at night to save money, not knowing how long he would remain in town.Now, he and teammates will be getting playoff checks.'It's kind of cool that we solidified our spot,' Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. 'Now we can get over the giddiness of it. ... It's cool to be where we are, but we're not done yet.'That's a huge change for Jacksonville, which was an NFL-worst 22-74 over the previous six years and widely considered more of a laughingstock than a postseason contender.Khan fired coach Gus Bradley one year ago Sunday, following a close loss at Houston. Khan hired Tom Coughlin to oversee football decisions and made interim Doug Marrone the head coach. Coughlin and Marrone added several key players and changed the culture with a grueling offseason and training camp.The Jags got off to an up-and-down start, but have hit their stride down the stretch.Bortles has been better than expected of late, with seven touchdown passes and no turnovers the last three games.'Blake's killing it,' Jackson said. 'I'm just glad he's been able to turn it around. I'm glad he's doing what we knew he could do, and I'm glad he's proving to himself that he can do it. He chose one hell of a year to pick it up.'With Bortles picking apart Houston's secondary, the Jaguars didn't even need running back Leonard Fournette. The rookie was inactive because of a sore right quadriceps muscle.Jacksonville's defense, which has been the glue all season, was dominant again. The unit held Houston to 186 yards.The Jags led 31-0 at the break, their largest halftime lead in team history.'It was very satisfying,' defensive tackle Calais Campbell said.EMBARRASSING LOSSThe Texans looked lost in every aspect. They did little on offense outside Hopkins' 25-yard TD catch against Jalen Ramsey and did even less to slow down Jacksonville.T.J. Yates, making his first start since 2015, was mostly ineffective in place of Tom Savage (concussion). Yates completed 12 of 31 passes for 128 yards, with the TD and an interception.'It's embarrassing, and you never want to get beat like that,' said linebacker/defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who also called Bortles 'trash' in the locker room. 'It's embarrassing for the whole organization.'QUESTIONABLE CALLThe Texans could have run out the clock trailing 24-0 late in the first half, but with 53 seconds remaining and three timeouts, coach Bill O'Brien decided to try to get something going. Yates threw an interception, and the Jaguars scored three plays later.'I just felt we had to try and make a move,' O'Brien said. 'The issue is you can't run it. You have to throw it. We did, and it didn't work out.'INJURIESTexans: Center Nick Martin (ankle) and right guard Jeff Allen (concussion) left in the second half. Linebacker Benardrick McKinney injured a shoulder making a touchdown-saving tackle on a punt return.Jaguars: Lee injured his right ankle in the first quarter and was later ruled out. Ramsey (groin), defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (hamstring) and safety Peyton Thompson (foot) left the game but later returned.UP NEXTTexans: Host Pittsburgh next Monday in the team's home finale.Jaguars: Play at San Francisco on Sunday.___For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • The Minnesota Vikings and their loud crowd overwhelmed the Cincinnati Bengals from start to finish, when they put on NFC North champions hats to celebrate the first major milestone of this season with the hope of several more to come.From coaches to players to fans, everyone in purple was able to enjoy a postseason tuneup. Eric Kendricks had an interception return for a touchdown , Case Keenum passed for 236 yards and two scores, and the Vikings clinched the division title with a 34-7 victory over the depleted and disinterested Bengals on Sunday.'To guarantee a home playoff game there? I can't imagine. I have a feeling it's going to be even more amped up,' Keenum said.Running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon combined for 37 touches and 242 yards from scrimmage for the Vikings (11-3), who were given quite the reprieve on the schedule after their eight-game winning streak ended at Carolina in the last of three consecutive road trips.'It feels good,' wide receiver Adam Thielen said, 'but it was a little bit restrained because there's still work to do.'The Vikings were never challenged by a Bengals team missing more than half of its starting defense to injuries and met with a morning report by ESPN that head coach Marvin Lewis will not return next season . Lewis said afterward that's not true, but the Bengals have all kinds of issues to address after losing their last two games by a combined 67-14.'It's the most disappointed I've been in the last couple of years,' said wide receiver A.J. Green, who accounted for two of Cincinnati's three first downs while starting quarterback Andy Dalton was in the game until midway through the fourth quarter. 'It's been a tough season.'The game went so smoothly for the Vikings that Teddy Bridgewater even made his grand entrance , his first live action in 16 months since a massive knee injury. Bridgewater's first pass was intercepted, a high throw that bounced off McKinnon's hands and into the arms of strong safety Shawn Williams deep in Vikings territory. That set up a short touchdown run by Giovani Bernard to keep the Bengals from being shut out for a second time this year.'It was great just being out there,' Bridgewater said. 'I have a ton of people to thank for getting me to this point.' Terence Newman also picked off former teammate Andy Dalton , who went just 11 for 22 for 113 yards before the Bengals (5-9) turned to backup A.J. McCarron after the interception by Williams.Keenum completed 20 of 23 passes, including seven easy tosses to McKinnon for 114 yards in the first 100-yard receiving game for a Vikings running back since Onterrio Smith in 2004. With the Bengals already missing both starting cornerbacks and all three regular linebackers, they lost standout free safety George Iloka in the first quarter to a shoulder injury. That left Williams as the only starter in the back seven.About the only bright spot for the Bengals was five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who sacked Keenum twice in the first quarter. The Bengals didn't cross midfield with the ball until less than 3 minutes were left in the third quarter, thanks to a Vikings defense that was as revved up as ever.'The Super Bowl is in their home stadium,' Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap said. 'They've got everything they want in front of them.'END ZONE FUNMurray scored on a short run to cap the opening drive by the Viking, and Keenum found Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph for touchdown passes in the second and fourth quarters. Rudolph celebrated with a tribute to a better day for the 50-year-old Bengals franchise with his version of the 'Ickey Shuffle' that running back Ickey Woods for the 1988 AFC champions.'I felt bad doing it at that point in the game, but as a kid that grew up in Cincinnati, I had to do it,' said Rudolph, who was originally listed as doubtful to play because of an injured ankle.TORMENTING THE MENTORVikings coach Mike Zimmer won his first regular-season meeting against his old boss, Lewis, who lost to a former assistant for the first time in eight matchups. Zimmer was the defensive coordinator for the Bengals from 2008-13. The Bengals have never won in six all-time visits to Minnesota. The Vikings were division champions in five of those seasons: 1970, 1989, 1998, 2009 and 2017.INJURY REPORTBengals: The list of missing starters grew immediately when LT Cedric Ogbuehi (shoulder) left in the first quarter. RT Andre Smith limped off in the fourth quarter.Vikings: RT Mike Remmers (back) returned from a five-game absence, but LT Riley Reiff (ankle) missed his first game of the season. CB Mackensie Alexander (ribs) was out. WR Jarius Wright hurt his foot in the fourth quarter and did not return.UP NEXTBengals: Play their final home game against Detroit, with the Lions (8-6) still carrying an outside chance at a wild-card spot.Vikings: Travel to Green Bay to face the Packers (7-7) on Saturday night, with their sights set on securing a first-round bye for the playoffs.___For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL