Cowboys-49ers rivalry set for record-tying 9th playoff game
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — For Kyle Shanahan, the chance to coach the San Francisco 49ers against the Dallas Cowboys in a playoff game is a throwback to when that rivalry was the biggest in football. Shanahan’s formative years were spent watching his father, Mike, as offensive coordinator in San Francisco battling the Cowboys in three straight NFC title games. After the rivalry went dormant for more than a quarter-century as the proud franchises rarely enjoyed success at the same time, it is having a rebirth with San Francisco set to take on Dallas for the second straight postseason when they meet Sunday in the divisional round.
Bills, Bengals focus on playing with Hamlin home, recovering
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — The Bills and Bengals can refocus on their next matchup now that Buffalo’s safety Damar Hamlin has shown remarkable signs in his recovery some three weeks after collapsing on the field in Cincinnati. Hamlin went into cardiac arrest and needed to be resuscitated in the first quarter of Buffalo’s since-canceled game against Cincinnati on Jan. 2. The teams meet in Buffalo on Sunday in the AFC divisional round of the playoffs. Bills coach Sean McDermott says his team has been uplifted by the sight of Hamlin starting to make regular visits to the team’s facility this week.
No Brady or Rodgers, no problem for NFL in divisional round
For the first time in 13 years, neither Tom Brady nor Aaron Rodgers reached the divisional round of the playoffs. No problem. The NFL still has plenty of exciting football this weekend featuring Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Dak Prescott and many other stars. The action kicks off Saturday with the Jacksonville Jaguars visiting the Kansas City Chiefs. Jaguars coach Doug Pederson faces his mentor, Chiefs coach Andy Reid. Pederson played for Reid and coached under him in Philadelphia and Kansas City. He also beat him to a Lombardi Trophy. The No. 1 seed Chiefs are coming off a bye and aiming for their fifth straight trip to the AFC championship game.
Jenson Brooksby tops No. 2 Ruud in Australia; Djokovic wins
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Jenson Brooksby has eliminated No. 2 seed Casper Ruud in four sets in the second round of the Australian Open. This upset comes a day after Mackenzie McDonald beat defending champion and No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal. So a pair of 20-something Californians have knocked out the top two players in the men’s bracket at Melbourne Park. The main beneficiary might be nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic. He won his second-round match Thursday night. Ruud was the runner-up at the French Open to Nadal last June and at the U.S. Open to Carlos Alcaraz last September. American men Michael Mmoh, Ben Shelton, J.J. Wolf and Tommy Paul also advanced. But the highest seeded man from the U.S., No. 8 Taylor Fritz, lost.
Mackenzie McDonald, who beat Nadal, eyes more in Australia
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — It was a long road back to elite-level tennis for Mackenzie McDonald. His victory over defending champion Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open showed just how much things have changed for the 27-year-old Californian who was a college star at UCLA. McDonald tore a hamstring tendon playing doubles at the 2019 French Open and was not able to walk for several weeks. He returned to Roland Garros a year later and faced Nadal there. McDonald was excited about that matchup and lost easily. He went into the rematch this week with more belief and now has a chance to equal his best Grand Slam showing by reaching the fourth round at Melbourne Park.
Djokovic bothered by leg, heckler during Australian Open win
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic has put aside problems with his left hamstring and a persistent heckler to beat 191st-ranked French qualifier Enzo Couacaud 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-0 in the second round of the Australian Open. Djokovic is seeking a 10th trophy at Melbourne Park and a 22nd Grand Slam title overall. He took the court knowing that No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal and No. 2 seed Casper Ruud already were out of the tournament.
Mahomes aims to lead Chiefs to 5th straight AFC title game
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes has never failed to reach the AFC championship game in four years as an NFL starting quarterback. To make it five straight, Mahomes will have to lead the Kansas City Chiefs past the Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional round on Saturday. The All-Pro quarterback is coming off perhaps the finest season of his career, breaking his own franchise record for yards passing while leading the league in touchdown throws. And he’s fueled by a frustrating overtime loss to the Bengals the last time he stepped on the field in the postseason in last year’s AFC title game.
Young, Hawks beat Doncic, Mavs 130-122 for 4th straight win
DALLAS (AP) — Dejounte Murray scored 30 points, Trae Young had 18 points and 12 assists in another matchup with Luka Doncic and the Atlanta Hawks beat the Dallas Mavericks 130-122. John Collins added 19 points as the Hawks won a season-best fourth consecutive game to get over .500 for the first time since Dec. 27. Doncic scored 30 points but fell to 4-3 in head-to-head meetings with Young. They were traded for each other as top-five picks on draft night in 2018.
Chris Ford, champ as player, coach with Celtics, dies at 74
Chris Ford, a member of the Boston Celtics 1981 championship team, a longtime NBA coach and the player credited with scoring the league’s first 3-point basket, has died at the age of 74. His family announced his death in a statement issued by the Celtics. No official cause was given, but the statement said Ford died Tuesday. The Press of Atlantic City reported he died in Philadelphia after suffering a heart attack earlier this month. Ford was voted the team’s MVP in his first season with Boston. He retired following the 1981-82 season and was an assistant coach for the Celtics for seven seasons from 1983 to 1990, helping coach former teammates Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish to two titles in 1984 and 1986.
In Paris, Bulls and Pistons enjoy sights, culture and opera
PARIS (AP) — The Detroit Pistons are playing a game in Paris on Thursday night. But two nights before the game, the Pistons were the spectators and the City of Lights played for them. The Pistons had a team party at the Paris Opera House to highlight their trip to France’s capital for a game against the Chicago Bulls. It’s been a midseason immersion into French cuisine, wine and culture for both teams. Everybody saw the Eiffel Tower, everybody saw the Champs-Élysées, but both teams decided they couldn’t come to Paris and not make every effort to enjoy the opportunity.