NFL playoffs: Cowboys beat Bucs, divisional round awaits
A scintillating wild-card weekend in the NFL playoffs ended with a snoozer. The Dallas Cowboys cruised to a 31-14 win over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night. The Cowboys’ first road playoff win in 30 years was largely devoid of drama after a weekend full of tight games and incredible comebacks. Now it’s on to the divisional round, which begins Saturday. In the AFC, the Chiefs will host the Jaguars while the Bills host the Bengals. In the NFC, the Cowboys travel to the 49ers while the Giants hit the road against the Eagles.
Bucs: Gage hospitalized with neck injury, to have more tests
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers say wide receiver Russell Gage had movement in his extremities after suffering a neck injury and concussion in the team’s wild-card playoff game against Dallas. Gage will continue to undergo more tests in the hospital after spending the night there. He was injured Monday night in the fourth quarter when he stumbled on a route, went to the ground, couldn’t make the catch and took a hard shot to the neck from Donovan Wilson. Gage appeared to try to get up but couldn’t and slammed his hand into the ground in frustration. He was taken off the field by stretcher.
After playoff dud, Brady faces choice of whether to continue
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — If Tom Brady retires in the offseason, he’ll walk away following one of the worst playoff games of his career. The seven-time Super Bowl champion had a tough night against Micah Parsons and the Dallas Cowboys, tossing his first red-zone interception with the Buccaneers in a 31-14 loss that ended Tampa Bay’s up-and-down season Monday night. Brady won’t be returning home to the Bay Area for a rematch against Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC divisional round. He may be going home for good, however. The 45-year-old, five-time Super Bowl MVP already retired once after last season only to return 40 days later. He said he’ll take more time to make his decision this time around.
Cowboys’ Brett Maher misses 4 extra points, converts 5th try
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher missed four straight extra points in his team’s NFC wild-card game against Tampa Bay, becoming the first player in NFL history to miss that many in a game. Maher’s misses were the only thing going wrong for the Cowboys, who led the Buccaneers 24-0 after his 0-fer. Maher finally kicked one through the uprights on his fifth try, giving Dallas a 31-6 lead in the fourth quarter. The NFL said Maher was the first kicker to miss four extra points in a game since the statistic was first tracked for individual players in 1932.
Staley to return as Chargers coach; Lombardi fired as OC
COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Brandon Staley will be back for a third season as the Los Angeles Chargers head coach. The same can not be said for some of his offensive staff. The team on Tuesday announced that offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and quarterbacks coach Shane Day have been fired after two years. Criticism about Lombardi’s play-calling increased throughout the season. The Chargers were ranked ninth in total offense, but 20th in scrimmage yards per play along with the third-worst rushing attack in the league.
Novak Djokovic gets warm Australian Open welcome, then wins
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic has returned to the Australian Open with a straight-set victory in the first round over Roberto Carballes Baena. Djokovic did not play at Melbourne Park in 2022 because his visa was revoked and he was deported from the country for not having been vaccinated against COVID-19. He is still not vaccinated but the coronavirus restrictions have been eased. Djokovic is seeking a 10th title at the Australian Open and 22nd Grand Slam trophy overall. That would tie rival Rafael Nadal for the most by a man in the history of tennis. The 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 win over the 75th-ranked Carballes Baena marked Djokovic’s 22nd win in a row at Melbourne Park.
Australian Open offers reminders that sports reflect society
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Tennis, in particular, and sports, in general, can’t help but reflect society. And that means athletes, spectators and the folks who run leagues and events must contend with and perhaps confront whatever the prevailing global touchpoints are at any given time. A pandemic. A war. Mental health. #MeToo. Gun violence. And so on. The Australian Open, the Grand Slam tournament that began this week in Melbourne, is offering reminders of that. Novak Djokovic was greeted warmly in his return to the event after missing it a year ago because he isn’t vaccinated against COVID-19. On Tuesday, the tournament barred flags representing Russia or Belarus because of the invasion of Ukraine.
AP source: Browns hire Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator
CLEVELAND (AP) — A person familiar with the decision says the Cleveland Browns have hired former Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz as their defensive coordinator. Schwartz spent the past two seasons as a defensive adviser for Tennessee. Cleveland’s search for a coordinator began last week when coach Kevin Stefanski fired Joe Woods after three seasons. The 56-year-old Schwartz began his NFL career as a scout with Cleveland in the 1990s. He will take over the Browns’ defense once he signs his contract, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because that hasn’t happened yet. Schwartz previously worked as a coordinator with the Titans, Bills and Eagles. He won a Super Bowl running Philadelphia’s defense in 2017.
Analysis: Thrilling NFL weekend defined by curious decisions
Wild-card weekend was defined by curious calls, some more costly than others. The biggest was Baltimore backup quarterback Tyler Huntley deciding to go over the top and reach the ball across the goal line when the QB sneak was designed for him to burrow through the wall of defenders. The costly decision backfired when the ball was knocked loose and Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard grabbed the ball out of the air and rumbled 98 yards for the decisive touchdown in Cincinnati’s 24-17 victory. Huntley was hardly alone as all six games featured big-time decisions.
Analysis: In Paris, Quin Snyder briefly gets back to work
PARIS (AP) — Quin Snyder spent two days on a basketball court in Paris and was back in his element. The former coach of the Utah Jazz hadn’t done any real basketball work since stepping down last June. But he took advantage of a chance to return to the floor, albeit briefly, as director of the Basketball Africa League Combine in Paris this week. It’s part of a big week of basketball in Paris, with the NBA there this week in advance of a game between Chicago and Detroit on Thursday night.