Raiders Walk Off to Playoffs; Niners Clinch With Comeback OT Win
The Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers could've kneeled their way to the playoffs, but instead, they battled through the entirety of overtime on Sunday night. Daniel Carlson's game-winning 47-yard field goal as expired sent the Raiders past the Chargers, 35-32, giving the Raiders the fifth seed in the AFC. The postseason berth is their fisrt since 2016 and just their second since appearing in the Super Bowl in 2002. The thrilling game Sunday was nothing new to the Raiders, who set an NFL record with six walk-off wins this season, including on Sunday for their fourth straight victory. The Chargers rallied with 15 points over the final 4:28 of regulation to force overtime, but it turned in to whoever had the ball last would win. And that turned out to be the Raiders, who will take their 10 wins in to a Wild Card showdown with the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday. And the San Francisco 49ers rallied their way in to the playoffs on Sunday evening, coming back from a 17-point deficit to take down the Los Angeles Rams, 27-24, on the road. Robbie Gould had the go-ahead 24-yard field goal in overtime, while Ambry Thomas had the clinching interception of Matthew Stafford to send the Niners to the postseason with their 10th win of the year. Jauan Jennings' 14-yard touchdown reception with 26 seconds left forced overtime, and San Francisco sneaks in to the playoffs for the second time in eight years. The win was their sixth consecutive victory over the Rams, and they end the season on a 7-2 run to earn the sixth seed. They will visit the NFC East Champion Dallas Cowboys next week.
Other key scores around clinching Sunday saw the Arizona Cardinals fall to the Seattle Seahawks, 38-30, giving the NFC West to the Rams. The Cardinals and Rams will meet in Los Angeles on Wild Card Weekend. The Sunday night game not ending in a tie shockingly clinched the Pittsburgh Steelers a playoff spot after a 16-13 overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens. That was made possible when the Jacksonville Jaguars took down the Indianapolis Colts, 26-11, to prevent them from taking a playoff spot. The Tennessee Titans clinched the top seed in the AFC by holding off the Houston Texans, 28-25. And the AFC East went to the Buffalo Bills for a second straight year thanks to their 27-10 win over the New York Jets, while the New England Patriots fell to the Miami Dolphins, 33-24.
Broncos Fire Head Coach Vic Fangio
The Denver Broncos are once again on the search for a new head coach as we head in to this off-season, as they fired head coach Vic Fangio early Sunday morning. The move comes less than 24 hours after the team blew a lead at home in Saturday's season finale, which resulted in a 28-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, their 13th straight defeat against their AFC West rivals. The team finished 7-10 for the 2021 season, missing the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year, which is leading to a coaching change for a second time in four years. The team also moved on from offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and special teams coordinator Tom McMahon after the season finale. Fangio took over for Vance Joseph after the 2018 season and the 63-year-old lasted three of the four years on his contract. His defense was ranked in the top 10 in almost every category, but the inconsistency at quarterback since Peyton Manning's retirement continues to haunt the franchise. Fangio went 19-30 during his time with Denver, but he did have a shot at the playoffs this season, sitting at 7-6 with four games remaining, but they have still not played a playoff game since Super Bowl 50 and haven't finished over .500 since going 9-7 in 2016.
Jets Release DE Shaq Lawson
The New York Jets have officially parted ways with former first-round draft pick Shaq Lawson, releasing the defensive end this weekend to save money against the 2022 salary cap. The 27-year-old was a healthy scratch for the final two games of the regular season, as he was set to count for $9 million against the salary cap next season. The former Houston Texan was acquired by the Jets last summer after they lost defensive end Carl Lawson to a season-ending Achilles injury. He was drafted in 2016 by the Buffalo Bills and ended up playing in 14 games this season, staring seven of them, and compiling 23 tackles and one sack. The team also cut veteran safety Sharrod Neasman, who played in 11 games this year and had 14 tackles with one interception.
Warriors Top Cavs in Klay's Return; Mavericks Slow Down Bulls
The Golden State Warriors welcomed back the other half of the Splash Bros on Sunday night in a 96-82 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Klay Thompson played in his first game since the 2019 NBA Finals and scored 17 points on 7-of-18 shooting, including 3-of-8 from three-point range. Thompson added three rebounds, an assist, and a steal in 20 minutes of playing time. Steph Curry led the way with 29 points, five rebounds, and five assists, while Jordan Poole added 14 points as the Warriors snapped their skid at two games. The win also moves them in to a tie with the Phoenix Suns atop the NBA standings at 30-9. And the Chicago Bulls' win streak met the wall called Luka Doncic on the road Sunday night, as the Dallas Mavericks got the best of the Eastern Conference's best team with a 113-99 victory. Doncic posted a triple-double with 22 points, 14 rebounds, and 14 assists, his third of the season, as they ended the Bulls' winning streak at nine consecutive games. The triple-double was also the 39th of his career, while Josh Green and Maxi Kleber both posted season-highs with 18 points apiece. The Mavs had six players finish in double figures, including Jalen Brunson with 17, Dorian Finney-Smith with 12, and Dwight Powell with 10. This win improves Dallas to 22-18 overall thanks to a season-high six-game winning streak, and they are winning those games by an average of 15.7 points while holding opponents to 93.0 points per game.
Other key scores saw the Memphis Grizzlies extend their win streak to nine in a row with a 127-119 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Amir Coffey post a career-best 21 points in the Los Angeles Clippers' 106-93 win over the Atlanta Hawks. Kyle Kuzma had a big day with 27 points and 22 rebounds as the Washington Wizards held off the Orlando Magic, 102-100. And Cam Thomas' late basket sent the Brooklyn Nets past the San Antonio Spurs, 121-119 in overtime.
Grizzlies' Dillon Brooks Out 3-5 Weeks
The Memphis Grizzlies are the hottest team in basketball right now, but they are facing a bit of adversity in the form of injuries. One major one as of Sunday, as forward Dillon Brooks is expected to miss three to five weeks with a sprained left ankle. The injury occurred during their win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday when he stepped on the opposing players' foot. Brooks is the team's leading scorer at 18.4 points per game, but the 25-year-old is now expected to be sidelined through mid-February. He as the 45th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft out of Oregon and has since posted 14.4 points per game. The Grizzlies improved to 28-14 on Sunday night with their ninth straight win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Pistons Acquire Bol Bol From Nuggets
The Detroit Pistons got a ton of size in a trade on Sunday afternoon, acquiring the 7-foot-2 Bol Bol from the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Rodney McGruder and a 2022 second-round draft pick, via the Brooklyn Nets. The 22-year-old Bol will get more consistent play with the Pistons over the final 44 games as he heads in to restricted free agency this summer. The former Oregon Duck dropped to 44th overall in the 2019 NBA Draft after being looked at as a top-10 pick, heading in to his final college season and over 14 games this season, he has averaged just 5.8 minutes per game.
Ohio State, Wisconsin Earn Big Ten Victories
Two Big Ten teams came away with victories on Sunday night, including the 13th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes holding off the Northwestern Wildcats at home, 95-87. E.J. Liddell had a career-high 34 points in the win, including 17 points in the first five minutes of the game. In that span, he knocked down a career-best five three-pointers, as the Buckeyes shot 67% from the floor and have now won four of their first five conference games. The win avenges their 67-51 loss to Indiana last Thursday, as they scored 51 points in the first half alone in this one. The home team led by double digits for most of the night, but Northwestern got the deficit down to six with 37 seconds left before falling short. And the 23rd-ranked Wisconsin Badgers edged the Maryland Terrapins, 70-69, on the road. Tyler Wahl had a career-high 21 points, while Johnny Davis added 19 points, as the Badgers blew a 21-point lead, but hung on late. Steven Crowl's three-pointer with 4:03 remaining gave the road team the lead for good, as Maryland dropped to 0-4 in conference play. That is their worst start in league play since losing its first four ACC games in the 1992-1993 season. The Badgers on the other hand are 4-1 to start Big Ten Play and 13-2 overall thanks to a five-game winning streak.
Blues Rally Late to Top Stars; Ducks Edge Red Wings in Shootout
The St. Louis Blues used two power play goals late in the game to stun the Dallas Stars at home on Sunday afternoon, 2-1. Jordan Kyrou and Ryan O'Reilly both scored on the power play in the final minute of regulation, including Kyrou getting the game-winner with 29 seconds left on the 6-on-4 advantage. The game marked the first time in franchise history that the Blues scored twice in the final minute to win a game, and they are the 11th team in league history to do so. They also extended their home point streak to 12 games, going 11-0-1 during that span, as Jordan Binnington was strong enough with 26 saves in the win. And the Anaheim Ducks to a back and forth affair from the Detroit Red Wings late Sunday night, winning the shootout for a 4-3 victory. Rookie Trevor Zegras had the game-winner in the shootout after recording a goal and an assist during regulation. Lukas Dostal made 33 saves while winning his NHL debut, while Troy Terry added his 22nd goal as the Ducks won for just the second time in six games since the holiday break. This was a game that was reschedule from this past Thursday night due to COVID-19 problems.