Analysis: Bills, Bengals look shaky in wins, set up rematch
The Bengals-Bills rematch coming next week almost didn’t happen. Both teams squeaked past undermanned opponents on Sunday, beating backup quarterbacks to advance to the AFC divisional round. First, the Bills blew a 17-0 lead against Miami and had to rally for a 37-34 win over the Dolphins. Then, the Bengals were 1 yard from trailing the Ravens in the fourth quarter before Sam Hubbard returned a fumble 98 yards for the decisive score, and Cincinnati barely held on for a 24-17 victory. This time, the Bengals will visit Buffalo. They met in Cincinnati on Jan. 2 when the game was stopped after Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed in the first quarter and needed to be resuscitated on the field. Hamlin is home following a remarkable recovery.
NFL playoffs: No lead safe, drama abounds in wild weekend
The Buffalo Bills blew a 17-point advantage before recovering to win. That narrow escape came less than 24 hours after the Jacksonville Jaguars overcame a 27-point deficit and pulled off one of the most stunning comeback victories in playoff history on Saturday. No lead is safe and the drama abounds so far in the NFL playoffs. A loaded Sunday schedule saw the Bills hang on for a 34-31 win over the Miami Dolphins, the New York Giants upset the Minnesota Vikings 31-24 and the Cincinnati Bengals hang on to beat the Baltimore Ravens 24-17. One more game in the round remains: Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night.
Brady plays down his perfect record against favored Cowboys
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tom Brady isn’t fazed by being a home underdog in the NFL playoffs for the first time in his career. After all, no one has enjoyed more postseason success than the seven-time Super Bowl champion, who begins his quest for a record eighth ring when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Dallas Cowboys in a NFC wild-card matchup Monday night. Brady owns a slew of playoff records, including most games played, wins, passing yards and touchdown passes. The 45-year-old quarterback has one more thing going for him — the Cowboys have never beaten him. Not that Brady believes career accomplishments or being 7-0 against America’s Team will have any bearing on Monday night.
Hubbard’s 98-yard fumble return lifts Bengals over Ravens
CINCINNATI (AP) — Sam Hubbard returned Tyler Huntley’s fumble 98 yards for a tiebreaking touchdown in the fourth quarter, helping Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Baltimore Ravens 24-17 in an AFC wild-card game. Facing third-and-goal at the 1 with about 12 minutes left, Huntley tried to go over the top of the line for the go-ahead score. But he was stood up by Germaine Pratt and stripped by fellow linebacker Logan Wilson. The ball went right to Hubbard at the 2, and the defensive end took off down the field for the longest fumble return for a touchdown in NFL postseason history.
Giants outlast Vikings 31-24 for 1st playoff win in 11 years
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Daniel Jones passed for 301 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 78 yards in his first career playoff game for the New York Giants in a 31-24 victory over Minnesota in the wild-card round. The Vikings took their first loss in a one-score game of the season. Saquon Barkley rushed for two scores including the tiebreaker midway through the fourth quarter. The Giants defense finished off the franchise’s first playoff win since the Super Bowl 11 years ago. The Giants advanced to play at No. 1 seed and division rival Philadelphia.
Bills hang on for 34-31 wild-card win over Dolphins
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Josh Allen shrugged off a three-turnover outing by throwing two touchdown passes 3:11 apart in the third quarter, and the Buffalo Bills rallied for a 34-31 win over the injury-depleted Miami Dolphins in an AFC wild-card matchup. Cole Beasley scored the go-ahead touchdown with a 6-yard catch, and Gabe Davis extended the lead to 34-24 with a 23-yard TD reception in a game where Buffalo squandered an early 17-0 lead. The Bills will host the Cincinnati Bengals next Sunday. Three weeks earlier, the Bills’ game at Cincinnati was suspended and ultimately canceled after Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin’s heart stopped on the field. Hamlin is recovering.
Nadal struggles at times during 4-set win at Australian Open
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal has started the defense of his Australian Open title with a bit of a struggle along the way to a four-set victory over a cramping Jack Draper. Nadal was not in peak form but did manage to beat Draper 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 in a match that took more than 3 1/2 hours in Rod Laver Arena. It was the first match win for Nadal in 2023. He had lost six of his preceding seven contests dating to the end of last season. The biggest development on Day 1 might very well have been the withdrawal of Nick Kyrgios. Americans Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff and Danielle Collins all reached the second round in the women’s bracket with victories earlier Monday.
WNBA great Maya Moore retires from basketball officially
Maya Moore has decided to retire officially from playing basketball. The Minnesota Lynx great stepped away from the WNBA in 2019 to help her now-husband Jonathan Irons win his release from prison by getting his 50-year sentence overturned in 2020. Irons married Moore soon after getting released and the couple had their first child in July. She announced her decision to retire on GMA’s “Good Morning America.” The 33-year-old Moore won four WNBA championships with the Minnesota Lynx, two Olympic gold medals with USA Basketball and two NCAA titles with UConn. She’ll be eligible for the Naismith Hall of Fame next year since she stopped playing four years ago.
Alabama basketball player, 2nd man charged with murder
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama basketball player Darius Miles and another man have been charged with capital murder after a fatal shooting near campus. Tuscaloosa Police Capt. Jack Kennedy said the shooting occurred early Sunday morning in The Strip off University Boulevard near campus. He said 23-year-old Jamea Harris of the Birmingham area was shot and killed. The 21-year-old Miles and 20-year-old Michael Lynn Davis of Charles County, Maryland, were both charged with capital murder. The university says Miles has been removed from the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide. He was a reserve forward.
UGa football player killed in wreck after title celebration
Georgia offensive lineman Devin Willock and a recruiting staff member have been killed in a car wreck hours after the Bulldogs celebrated their second straight national championship. The school announced their deaths and said two other members of the football program were injured in the crash. They were not immediately identified but the school said both were in stable condition. The 20-year-old Willock was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the vehicle, 24-year-old Chandler LeCroy, was transported to a hospital where she died from her injuries. She worked as a recruiting analyst for the Bulldogs.