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Steelers survive Titans rally after missed FG, move to 6-0

By The Associated Press
Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes to Diontae Johnson, and the Pittsburgh Steelers remained perfect by holding off Tennessee for a 27-24 victory Sunday in a game originally postponed when the Titans came down with the NFL’s first COVID-19 outbreak of the season.
In a matchup of the AFC’s two remaining undefeated teams, the Titans rallied from 17 down. They failed to complete the comeback when Stephen Gostkowski, who made a 51-yarder earlier, missed from 45 yards wide right with 14 seconds left. That sent the Steelers running around the field in celebration and the Titans (5-1) stunned.
The Steelers improved to 6-0 for their best start since 1978, when Pittsburgh won its first seven on the way to the Super Bowl. This was just the fifth time undefeated teams had met in Week 7 or later, and the winner of the previous four all made the Super Bowl.
Benny Snell Jr. added a 1-yard TD run and Ray-Ray McCloud set up a touchdown with a 57-yard punt return.
Pittsburgh outgained Tennessee 362-292 and held the NFL’s second-best scoring offense under 31 points for the first time since the opening week of the season.
But the Titans had won four of their first five by rallying in the final two minutes of regulation or overtime, and they scored 17 straight to pull within 27-24.
Ryan Tannehill hit A.J. Brown on a short pass that the receiver took to the end zone for a 73-yard TD. Jayon Brown picked off a batted pass, setting up Gostkowski’s field goal. Derrick Henry capped a 12-play drive with a 1-yard TD with 10:13 left.
The Titans had their final chance after Amani Hooker intercepted Roethlisberger in the back of the end zone with 2:35 left. It was Roethlisberger’s third of the game, which Tennessee turned into only a field goal.
LIONS 23, FALCONS 22
ATLANTA (AP) — Detroit let Atlanta score a touchdown. It worked — and the Falcons found another stunning way to lose.
Matthew Stafford connected with T.J. Hockenson on an 11-yard touchdown pass as time expired and Matt Prater booted a 48-yard extra point to give Detroit the improbable victory. The Lions (3-3) won their second in a row — their first winning streak since early in the 2019 season.
Trailing 16-14, the Falcons (1-6) were positioned to run down the clock and kick a chip-shot field goal for the win when they picked up a first down at the Lions 10 with just over a minute remaining.
Detroit had used up all its timeouts on the drive, so there was no further way to stop the clock. Knowing their only chance was to allow a quick TD, the Lions made no attempt to stop Todd Gurley after he took a handoff from Matt Ryan.
Gurley realized what the Lions were doing — but too late. He started to fall but landed on the goal line with 1:04 remaining.
The Falcons converted a 2-point conversion to make it 22-16, but the Lions still had a chance against a team that had already become the first in NFL history to lose two straight games when leading by at least 15 points in the fourth quarter.
Stafford drove his team 75 yards in eight plays. Detroit spiked the ball with 2 seconds to go, setting up the final play. Stafford was pressured in the pocket, rolled to his left and spotted Hockenson breaking free across the end zone.
BUCCANEERS 45, RAIDERS 20
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes to move past Drew Brees for the most in NFL history and ran for another to lead Tampa Bay past Las Vegas.
Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski in the second quarter and on a perfectly placed 33-yarder to Scotty Miller later in the first half. He then helped seal the game with the throw to Chris Godwin that put the Bucs (5-2) up 31-20 midway through the fourth quarter.
Brady added a fourth to rookie Tyler Johnson with 3:08 to play to give him 559 in his career, passing Brees for the most ever. Brees threw two earlier in the day for New Orleans.
The 4-yard pass to Godwin was part of a key stretch when it appeared the Raiders were in position for a comeback after cutting the deficit to 24-17 on Derek Carr’s second TD pass of the game.
The Raiders (3-3) were driving for the potential tying score before coming up 1 yard short of a first down on a third-and-4 pass to Darren Waller. Coach Jon Gruden opted for a field goal to make it 24-20.
Brady then engineered another TD drive and the Bucs put it away when Carr threw an interception on Las Vegas’ next play to set up Ronald Jones’ 1-yard run.
Brady finished 33 for 45 for 369 yards. Carr went 24 for 36 for 284 yards, two TDs and one interception.
BROWNS 37, BENGALS 34
CINCINNATI (AP) — Baker Mayfield overcame a terrible start to throw for five touchdowns, including a 24-yard go-ahead score to Donovan Peoples-Jones with 15 seconds left, and Cleveland outdueled Cincinnati.
Nursing sore ribs, Mayfield started 0 for 5 — including an interception on his first attempt of the game. He then completed 22 of his next 23 passes. The last was the leaping grab by People-Jones to win it for the Browns (5-2).
Cincinnati rookie Joe Burrow played another terrific game, but again it wasn’t enough. He hit 35 of 47 passes for a season-high 406 yards and three touchdowns, including a 3-yard scoring pass to Giovani Bernard on fourth-and-1 to give the Bengals a 34-31 lead with 1:06 left.
But the Bengals couldn’t stop Mayfield, who was roundly criticized after a poor performance in Cleveland’s loss to Pittsburgh last week, and Browns receivers who made some great catches as they worked down the field.
Mayfield was 22 for 28 for 297 yards. Rashard Higgins had six catches for 110 yards, and tight end Harrison Bryant had two touchdown catches.
Tyler Boyd had 11 catches for 101 yards and a touchdown for the Bengals (1-5-1).
SAINTS 27, PANTHERS 24
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees passed for 287 yards and two touchdowns without two top receivers and rushed for another score to lead New Orleans past Carolina.
The Panthers had driven across midfield in the final minutes when Marcus Davenport’s sack of Teddy Bridgewater led coach Matt Rhule to send out kicker Joey Slye for a 65-yard field goal on fourth-and-19. The kick fell just short of the crossbar and the Saints (4-2) ran out the final 1:55 to send the Panthers (3-4) to their second straight loss.
Brees completed 29 of 36 passes to eight targets despite not having receivers Michael Thomas (hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19) in the lineup. His decision-making and accuracy also helped New Orleans convert 12 of 14 third downs.
On their only two third-down failures, Wil Lutz came through with field goals of 41 and 43 yards.
Brees’ touchdown passes went for 4 yards to Jared Cook and 4 yards to Deonte Harris 2 seconds before halftime.
Alvin Kamara gained 148 yards from scrimmage, with 83 coming on 14 rushes.
That was just enough to overcome a strong showing by Bridgewater in his first game against the Saints since serving as Brees’ backup in New Orleans the past two seasons.
Bridgewater was 23 of 28 for 254 yards and two touchdowns, including a 74-yarder to DJ Moore, who also had a 7-yard catch-and run around the right end for a score.
CHIEFS 43, BRONCOS 16
DENVER (AP) — Kansas City didn’t need the usual heroics from Patrick Mahomes to rout Denver for its 10th straight win over its AFC West rival.
The Chiefs (6-1) found other ways to dominate Denver (2-4) on a snowy afternoon that began with a temperature of 14 degrees at kickoff.
Kansas City took a 24-9 halftime lead even though Mahomes completed just one pass in the second quarter, a 5-yarder, and had just 99 yards through the air in the first half.
Mahomes finally extended his NFL-leading streak to 17 consecutive games with a touchdown throw when he hit Tyreek Hill from 10 yards with 11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. That made it 37-9.
Mahomes’ TD throw to Hill followed the Chiefs’ fourth takeaway, an interception by Tyrann Mathieu when rookie KJ Hamler let Drew Lock’s pass bounce off him and right into the arms of the Chiefs’ star safety.
Mahomes finished a methodical 15 of 23 for 200 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions and four sacks.
In the first half, the Chiefs scored touchdowns on Byron Pringle’s 102-yard kickoff return and Daniel Sorensen’s 50-yard interception return to go with Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s 11-yard run in which he broke five tackles.
49ERS 33, PATRIOTS 6
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Jeff Wilson Jr. rushed for a career-high three touchdowns and 112 yards before leaving with an ankle injury and San Francisco dominated New England.
Jimmy Garoppolo finished 20 of 25 for 277 yards with two interceptions in his first game against his former team. San Francisco (4-3) has followed back-to-back losses with two wins and is 3-0 on the road.
The Patriots’ 27-point loss was their largest at home under Bill Belichick. They had gone 286 games without a three-game losing streak, the longest span between three-game slides in NFL history. New England fell to 2-4 for the first since Belichick’s first season in 2000, when the Patriots went 5-11.
New England was outgained 467-241 in total yards.
San Francisco’s Brandon Aiyuk had six catches for 115 yards and Deebo Samuel had five catches for 65 yards before leaving the game with a hamstring injury.
Cam Newton struggled throughout for the Patriots, completing 9 of 15 passes for 98 yards and three interceptions before being replaced by Jarrett Stidham in the fourth quarter. Stidham was 6 of 10 for 64 yards and an interception.
San Francisco dominated the first half, taking a 23-3 lead, holding the ball for 22:30, and racking up a 301-59 advantage in total yards. The Patriots also managed just four first downs to the 49ers’ 18.
CHARGERS 39, JAGUARS 29
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Justin Herbert got his first NFL win, throwing for 347 yards and three touchdowns as well as running for a score as Los Angeles beat Jacksonville to snap a four-game skid.
Herbert, the sixth overall pick in April’s draft, completed 27 of 43 passes. He also rushed for 66 yards, a single-game high for a Chargers QB.
Herbert joined Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow as the only rookie quarterbacks in NFL history with 300 yards, at least three passing TDs, and one rushing in a game. Burrow did that earlier Sunday in the Bengals’ 37-34 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
More important for Herbert was that first win, despite Los Angeles blowing another large lead.
Jacksonville (1-6) tied an NFL record by allowing 30 or more points in six consecutive games.
The Chargers (2-4) jumped to a 16-0 second-quarter lead but squandered a double-digit advantage for the fourth time in five games. Jacksonville scored 21 straight points to go up by five early in the third quarter.
Jacksonville was ahead 29-22 late in the third quarter when Los Angeles regained control. Herbert connected with Jalen Guyton for a 70-yard touchdown up the right sideline to tie it. The Jaguars fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Herbert scrambled around right end from 5 yards to put the Chargers in front 36-29.
PACKERS 35, TEXANS 20
HOUSTON (AP) — Aaron Rodgers threw for 283 yards and four touchdowns Green Bay rebounded from its first loss, beating Houston.
Rodgers played a near-flawless game and tied his season high for TD passes. The performance came after he threw two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown, with no TDs in a 38-10 loss to Tampa Bay last week.
Despite being without leading rusher Aaron Jones and left tackle David Bakhtiari, Green Bay (5-1) had no trouble handling the woeful Texans (1-6). The Packers built a 21-0 lead by halftime.
Green Bay’s strong day on offense was aided by a career-high 196 yards receiving by Davante Adams, who had touchdown receptions of 3 and 45 yards.
Green Bay made it 35-13 when Jamaal Williams scored on a 1-yard run with about four minutes to go.
Deshaun Watson threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Will Fuller with about 90 seconds left before the Texans recovered an onside kick. But David Johnson fumbled after a reception on the next play and the Packers ran out the clock.
Watson threw for 309 yards with two touchdowns and former Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb had 95 yards receiving.
WASHINGTON 25, COWBOYS 3
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Washington’s defense finally clamped down on a struggling opponent, piling up six sacks, an interception and a forced fumble that became a safety in a 25-3 blowout of Dallas on Sunday that snapped a five-game skid.
Montez Sweat had two sacks for Washington (2-5), Cole Holcomb had one to go along with a red zone interception and Landon Collins knocked the ball out of Andy Dalton’s hands for an early safety before leaving with an ankle injury. Dalton was under siege all day behind a patchwork offensive line before being knocked out of the game in the third quarter on a shoulder-to-head hit from Jon Bostic, who was ejected.
Dalton was 9 of 19 for 75 yards before being injured and walking off under his own power to undergo concussion evaluation.
Washington allowed 142 total yards to win a game by double digits for the first time since November 2018.
Dallas (2-5) lost back-to-back games after Washington held Ezekiel Elliott to 45 yards rushing on 12 carries and rookie receiver CeeDee Lamb dropped a handful of passes thrown his way.
A dominant defensive performance combined with rookie Antonio Gibson’s first 100-yard rushing game and a touchdown and a well-managed game by Kyle Allen were enough to put Washington back in the thick of the race in the dreadful NFC East.
Allen was 15 of 25 for 194 yards with TD passes to Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas in his third consecutive start since taking over as starting quarterback.
BILLS 18, JETS 10
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Josh Allen and the Bills were held out of the end zone for the first time this season, but Tyler Bass tied a franchise record with six field goals and Buffalo ended a two-game skid by beating winless New York.
It was the third game in 13 days for the Bills (5-2), who lost to Tennessee and Kansas City before their ugly win against the league-worst Jets (0-7).
The Bills fell behind 10-0 early and looked sluggish for most of the game, and the victory marked their first without getting a touchdown since they beat Washington 17-16 in 2007 on five field goals by Rian Lindell and a safety.
It was also the first time the Jets lost without giving up a touchdown since a 9-6 loss to the Rams in 2016.
Bass kicked a 40-yarder with 1:56 left after also making kicks of 53, 48, 46, 37 and 29 yards. He also missed from 45 and 37 yards, but made enough to tie Steve Christie’s team mark set against New York in 1996.
New York had a chance late after Micah Hyde was called for an unnecessary hit on Breshad Perriman, who appeared unconscious for a few moments. But Sam Darnold was intercepted by Jerry Hughes on a tipped pass to seal it.
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National Sports Ohio Sports

Hard-luck Bengals keep letting close games slip away

By MITCH STACY AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI (AP) — Rookie quarterback Joe Burrow keeps putting up big numbers, and the Cincinnati Bengals keep letting the games slip away at the end.
The Bengals lost another close one on Sunday to the Cleveland Browns because again they couldn’t protect a lead and finish. It was another crusher for Cincinnati (1-5-1).
After Burrow threw a 3-yard scoring pass to Giovani Bernard on fourth-and-1 to give the Bengals a 34-31 lead with 1:06 left, the defense couldn’t slow down Baker Mayfield. The Cleveland quarterback completed four straight passes on the last drive, finishing with a 24-yard scoring toss to Donovan Peoples-Jones with 15 seconds on the clock.
“It hurt a lot, and I hate the situation, because I know we did everything we could do,” said Cincinnati receiver Tyler Boyd, who had 11 catches for 101 yards and touchdown.
“We scored every single possession the second half,” he added. “We did what we had to do. The defense I thought played a good game. All we needed was one stop. What I continue to preach, it’s the National Football League and it’s always going to come down to one possession and either you score or get a stop.”
Last Sunday the Bengals led 21-0 in the second quarter but allowed Philip Rivers and the Colts to rally and lost 37-21. In Week 3, Cincinnati had to settle for a tie with the Philadelphia Eagles after giving up a late touchdown. And three of the other four losses were by a combined 12 points.
Including last season, they are 1-12-1 in games decided by eight or less.
The Bengals talk about how they’re going to do better and turn the season around, but it’s getting late for second-year coach Zac Taylor. The injury-plagued defense has been on the spot all season.
“It’s obviously an emotional locker room for the right reasons,” Taylor said after Sunday’s loss. “We’re gonna stick together and get through this. There’s much better days ahead.”
It’s not going to get easier any time soon. The Bengals host the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans next week, then have to go play the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
Burrow has been a bright spot for Cincinnati and provided some hope for the future. The 2020 first overall draft pick hit 35 of 47 passes for a season-high 406 yards and three touchdowns Sunday. It was his fifth game with 300 or more yards passing this season.
“We were dicing them up the whole game,” Boyd said. “They couldn’t stop us regardless of what we were doing. Everything we were calling was working. We took a hard loss and the offense played unbelievable, and I believe that in the defense as well, we just have to figure out a way to get one final stop or one more score.”
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National Sports

Ronaldo in doubt for Messi’s visit to Juventus

By The Associated Press
Some talking points ahead of the second round of games in the Champions League:
NO RONALDO VS. MESSI?
The highly anticipated matchup of Cristiano Ronaldo against Lionel Messi likely won’t happen because Ronaldo has the coronavirus. Juventus has not reported many details of Ronaldo’s status but the forward has not played since appearing for Portugal earlier this month and isn’t expected to be named to the Bianconeri’s squad for Wednesday’s visit by Barcelona in Group G. Ronaldo tested positive while on international duty and has been quarantined at his home in Turin. Alvaro Morata replaced Ronaldo against Dynamo Kyiv last week and scored twice in a 2-0 win.
CHELSEA’S FAB FOUR
Could this be the week Chelsea manager Frank Lampard finally unleashes his very own “Fab Four”? In the wake of the club’s $300 million spending spree, there was lots of excitement at the start of the season about the prospect of Chelsea deploying a four-man front line comprising Christian Pulisic, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech behind lone striker Timo Werner. A mixture of injuries and rotation meant this has yet to happen, but the option is there for Lampard in Chelsea’s match at Krasnodar on Wednesday. Both Chelsea and Krasnodar are seeking a first win after drawing their opening Group E matches against Sevilla and Rennes, respectively. Manchester City would simply like to get a striker on the field against Marseille in Group C on Tuesday, but it is unlikely. Sergio Aguero, just back from a long-term knee injury, sustained a muscle problem against West Ham in the Premier League on Saturday and joins fellow striker Gabriel Jesus on the sidelines again.
NEYMAR’S LEAN SPELL
For all his evident talent, Neymar is having a worrying lean spell in Europe’s elite competition. The star forward has not scored in his last four Champions League games, having squandered chances galore during the Final Eight in Lisbon and in last week’s 2-1 home defeat to Manchester United in Group H. That loss has PSG under some early pressure, and Neymar’s performance was widely criticized. It was back to the Neymar of old, as he constantly gave the ball away trying to dribble past too many players or rolled on the ground claiming fouls. The match at Turkish side İstanbul Basaksehir on Wednesday is likely to be a physical encounter and Neymar, who has already been sent off this season, will have to keep his cool. PSG coach Thomas Tuchel must also juggle with injuries, with winger Julian Draxler the latest to be sidelined.
BOUNCING BACK
Zinedine Zidane wants Real Madrid to play with the same intensity the team showed in its win over Barcelona in the “clasico” on Saturday. Madrid visits Borussia Mönchengladbach in Group B on Tuesday and is seeking to bounce back from a surprise opening home loss to Shakhtar Donetsk. Eden Hazard was added to the Madrid squad and could make his season debut after nursing a muscle injury. Atlético Madrid and Luis Suárez are also looking to rebound. Diego Simeone’s side was thrashed 4-0 by defending champion Bayern Munich and next hosts Salzburg in Group A on Tuesday.
BLAZING BAYERN
Bayern’s biggest challenges seem to be how to maintain its outstanding form and meet its own burgeoning expectations. Bayern started its Champions League defense with a 4-0 rout of Atlético Madrid, extending its winning run in the competition to 13 games. Hansi Flick’s team has scored at least four goals in its last three games in the Bundesliga. Atlético at least managed to stop Robert Lewandowski from scoring, but he answered Saturday with a hat trick against Eintracht Frankfurt to take his Bundesliga tally to 10 goals in five games. Even if he doesn’t score, others can fill in, such as Leroy Sané who marked his return from injury with an outstanding goal against Frankfurt. Forward Serge Gnabry was released from quarantine on Sunday after testing negative again. Lokomotiv Moscow hosts Bayern in Group A on Tuesday. The teams last met in the UEFA Cup in 1985, when Bayern won 5-0.
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National Sports West Virginia Sports

Steelers dominate early, hold off Titans for 27-24 win

By TERESA M. WALKER AP Pro Football Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers stand alone as the AFC’s last undefeated team thanks to a dominant start and a bit of late luck.
Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes to Diontae Johnson, and the Steelers remained perfect by holding off Tennessee for a 27-24 victory Sunday in a game postponed three weeks after the Titans came down with the NFL’s first COVID-19 outbreak of the season.
In a matchup of the conference’s two remaining unbeaten teams, the Titans rallied by scoring 17 straight after being smothered in the first half.
They failed to complete the comeback when Stephen Gostkowski, who made a 51-yarder earlier, missed wide right from 45 yards with 14 seconds left, sending the Steelers running around the field in celebration and stunning the Titans (5-1). Even Roethlisberger appeared shocked the four-time Pro Bowl kicker missed.
“Oh, man. I mean, I was surprised he missed it,” Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said. “Our idea was to go into overtime. A good kicker. It’s tough. It’s good for us.”
The Steelers improved to 6-0 for their best start since 1978, when Pittsburgh won its first seven on the way to the Super Bowl. This was just the fifth time undefeated teams had met in Week 7 or later, and the winner of the previous four all made the Super Bowl.
“We feel we have a really good football team,” Roethlisberger said. “We feel we can be really special … That’s going to be a short-lived happiness because we know what’s coming next.”
What comes next? A matchup with the rival Ravens.
“We are perfect from a record standpoint, and so we respect that,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. “We realize that we’ve got AFC North ball on next week on the road. We’re going to a group that has seven days’ advantage on us, so there’s a lot for us to be urgent about.”
Benny Snell Jr. added a 1-yard TD run, and Ray-Ray McCloud set up a touchdown with a 57-yard punt return. Pittsburgh scored at least 26 points for a sixth straight game to tie a stretch in 2015 for the longest in franchise history.
The Steelers were without cornerback Mike Hilton, one of their best blitzers, not that the NFL’s No. 2 defense in both yards and points allowed missed him much. Pittsburgh outgained Tennessee 362-292 and held the NFL’s second-best scoring offense under 31 points for the first time since the opening week of the season.
But the Titans had won four of their first five by rallying in the final two minutes of regulation or overtime, and they appeared ready to add another.
Ryan Tannehill hit A.J. Brown on a short pass that the receiver took to the end zone for a 73-yard TD in the third quarter. Jayon Brown picked off a batted pass, setting up Gostkowski. Then Derrick Henry capped a 12-play drive with a 1-yard TD with 10:13 left to set up the late drama.
The Titans had the chance for another late win after Amani Hooker intercepted Roethlisberger’s pass to Smith-Schuster in the back of the end zone with 2:35 left. It was Roethlisberger’s third of the game, which Tennessee turned into only a field goal.
Gostkowski had won the first three games this season for Tennessee with late field goals.
“It was a gut punch to see that kick go wide right,” Tannehill said. “Had a ton of confidence going out there that Stephen was going to nail that kick. Unfortunately, obviously, it was a little bit wide.”
Gostkowski said the kick was headed down the middle until it faded right late.
“Just very disappointed to let the team down like that,” Gostkowski said. “I was confident going out there but didn’t get it done.”
Pittsburgh dominated early with a 161-1 edge in total offense before the Titans’ second offensive possession. The Steelers led 24-7 at halftime.
Roethlisberger and the Steelers scored a touchdown on their opening drive for the first time in 23 games, going 75 yards over 16 plays. Roethlisberger had his 1-yard TD pass to James Conner wiped out by penalty so he hit Johnson for an 11-yard TD and a 7-0 lead.
Snell Jr. capped the Steelers’ second drive for a 14-0 lead.
INJURIES
Steelers defensive end Chris Wormley was hurt early in the fourth. Johnson went to the sideline after a key third-down catch late in the game with what he called a bruised ankle. He missed last week’s game with a back injury.
Titans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney hurt his left knee early in the third quarter but returned. Titans cornerback Kristian Fulton hurt a knee late in the first half.
SACK STREAK
Pittsburgh came in with an NFL-high 24 sacks and had two more, extending its streak to 63 straight games with at least one sack. That’s the longest active streak in the league and second-longest in NFL history — Tampa Bay went 69 straight games with at least one sack from Oct. 10, 1999, to Nov. 9, 2003. But they did snap a streak of six straight games with at least three or more sacks that dated to the 2019 season finale and had tied for longest in franchise history.
THIRD-DOWN WOES
The Titans came in with the NFL’s worst defense on third down, and they allowed Pittsburgh to convert their first seven. The Steelers finished 13 of 18 for a 72% conversion rate.
UP NEXT
Steelers: Visit Baltimore in a game rescheduled because of the Titans’ outbreak with the Ravens coming off their bye.
Titans: Visit Cincinnati in their first road game since Sept. 27.
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National Sports

Garoppolo shines in return to NE; Niners crush Patriots 33-6

By KYLE HIGHTOWER AP Sports Writer
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Jimmy Garoppolo was once considered to be the man in waiting to take over at quarterback in New England for Tom Brady.
Now he’s the guy who helped hand the Patriots their worst home loss under Bill Belichick.
Jeff Wilson Jr. rushed for a career-high three touchdowns and 112 yards before leaving with an ankle injury and the San Francisco 49ers crushed New England 33-6 on Sunday.
Garoppolo finished 20 of 25 for 277 yards with two interceptions in his first game against his former team. San Francisco (4-3) has followed back-to-back losses with consecutive wins and is 3-0 on the road.
“It was an exciting night. Lot of emotions. Couldn’t imagine it going any better than this,” Garoppolo said.
The Patriots’ 27-point loss was their largest at home under Belichick. They had gone 286 games without a three-game losing streak, the longest span between three-game slides in NFL history. New England fell to 2-4 for the first since Belichick’s first season in 2000, when the Patriots went 5-11.
New England was outgained 467-241 in total yards.
“We were clearly out-coached, outplayed. Just out-everything,” Belichick said. “We’re still a long way from where we need to be. That’s obvious.”
San Francisco’s Brandon Aiyuk had six catches for 115 yards and Deebo Samuel had five catches for 65 yards before leaving the game with a hamstring injury.
“When we got them down, we got to keep them down, don’t want to give them any chance to breathe. I thought we did that tonight,” Garoppolo said. “Started from the first snap and carried its way throughout the whole game.”
Cam Newton struggled for the Patriots, completing 9 of 15 passes for 98 yards and three interceptions before being replaced by Jarrett Stidham in the fourth quarter. Stidham was 6 of 10 for 64 yards and an interception.
Belichick said his plan is to keep Newton as the starter.
“Yeah, absolutely,” he said.
Newton was out of sync from the outset, making poor reads and poorer throws. Garoppolo, meanwhile, was successful in spreading out New England’s defense with a steady diet of passes behind the line of scrimmage and jet sweeps to get the ball into the hands of Wilson, Samuel and tight end George Kittle.
San Francisco dominated the first half, taking a 23-3 lead, holding the ball for 22:30 and racking up a 301-59 advantage in total yards. The Patriots managed four first downs to the 49ers’ 18.
The Niners took just over five minutes and nine plays to march 75 yards and take a 7-0 lead on 3-yard run by Wilson. It was the first time the Patriots have allowed a touchdown on an opponent’s opening drive at home since Week 4 of 2016 against Buffalo.
Following a Patriots punt, San Francisco was pinned inside its 15. Long completions by Garoppolo helped erase some early penalty losses before he missed high on a pass for Kittle and was intercepted by Devin McCourty.
San Francisco’s defense limited the damage, yielding a 40-yard field goal by Nick Folk.
That wasn’t the case for the Patriots later in the second quarter.
Trailing 10-3, Newton made a bad play worse when he tried to dump off the ball on the run to receiver Jakobi Meyers. It was picked off by linebacker Fred Warner. Five plays later, the 49ers capitalized on a 4-yard touchdown run by Kyle Juszczyk.
The lead grew to 23-3 with just under a minute to go before halftime on a 16-yard run by Wilson.
“D just played impressive the whole day. I thought special teams and offense did, too. It was an extremely physical game,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It was fun to watch.”
INJURIES
49ers: WR Richie James left with an ankle injury. … Wilson had just crossed into the end zone following his third TD when his leg twisted as he was tackled. He stayed down on the field before walking off under his own power. Shanahan said the tentative diagnosis is a high ankle sprain. “Not sounding great right now,” he said.
Patriots: WR N’Keal Harry left with a head injury and did not return. … LG Joe Thuney departed with an ankle injury. … RT Justin Herron also left with an ankle injury.
NEWTON’S MILESTONE
With an 11-yard pass to Jakobi Meyers in the third quarter, Newton became the 48th NFL quarterback to reach the 30,000-yard plateau.
He also became the first NFL player to pass for 30,000 yards and rush for 5,000 yards in his career.
UP NEXT
The 49ers head to Seattle next Sunday. The Patriots visit Buffalo.
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National Sports

Kershaw, LA stars shine, Dodgers top Rays 8-3 in WS opener

By RONALD BLUM AP Baseball Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Clayton Kershaw, Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts — the Los Angeles Dodgers stars all shined.
Nothing out of the ordinary there, even if the setting was surreal.
Baseball’s best team during the pandemic-shortened season showed off its many talents in the first World Series game played at a neutral site, beating the Tampa Bay Rays 8-3 Tuesday night.
With the seats mostly empty, Kershaw dominated for six innings, Bellinger and Betts homered and the Dodgers chased a wild Tyler Glasnow in the fifth inning and coasted home in the opener.
A crowd limited by the coronavirus to 11,388 at Globe Life Field, the new $1.2 billion home of the Texas Rangers, marked the smallest for baseball’s top event in 111 years.
Los Angeles hopes to go home with a title that has eluded the Dodgers since 1988 but tried to guard against focusing ahead.
“It’s hard not to think about winning. It’s hard not to think about what that might be like,” Kershaw said. “Constantly keep putting that in your brain: tomorrow, win tomorrow, win tomorrow, win tomorrow. And then you do that three more times, and you can think about it all you want.”
A regular season star with an erratic postseason history, Kershaw looked like the ace who so often stars on midsummer evenings with the San Gabriel Mountains behind him at Dodger Stadium. With these games shifted, the 32-year-old left-hander wound up pitching not far from his offseason home in Dallas.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner allowed one run and two hits, struck out eight and walked one. He induced 19 swings and misses among his 78 pitches — more than his three previous Series starts combined.
“You can appreciate and totally see why he’s heading to the Hall of Fame one day whenever he’s done,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
Kershaw threw nine balls in the first, when he stranded a pair of runners, then threw just nine more over the next three innings.
“He had a game plan to try to really quiet down things from there and he executed,” said Kevin Kiermaier, who ended Kershaw’s streak of 13 retired in a row with a fifth-inning homer on a hanging slider that cut the Rays’ deficit to 2-1.
Kershaw, a five-time ERA champ, improved to 2-2 in the World Series and 12-12 in postseason play, a shadow of his 175-76 regular season record. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts did not pitch him after Game 4 of the NL Championship Series last Thursday.
“I think we were going to stay away from him in Game 7 just for this particular reason,” Roberts said.
Game 2 is Wednesday night. The Dodgers, who posted the best record in the majors during the shortened season and showed off all their stars in Game 1, plan to throw a collection of pitchers started by Tony Gonsolin against Rays ace Blake Snell.
Eight of the last 10 teams to win Game 1 went on the title, all except the 2016 Indians and 2017 Dodgers.
Bellinger, the 2019 NL MVP who began the opener with a career .114 batting average in 12 World Series games, had put the Dodgers ahead in the fourth with a two-run homer off Glasnow, having no trouble driving a 98 mph pitch into the Dodgers bullpen in right-center.
Bellinger, whose seventh-inning homer put the Dodgers ahead in Game 7 of the NL Championship on Sunday, shuffled his feet, tapping gently as he crossed the plate and celebrated by toe tapping teammates while dancing back to the dugout, a sign he remembered popping his right shoulder during raucous revelry two nights earlier.
He capped his evening by leaping at the 6-foot center field wall in the ninth, robbing Austin Meadows of a possible home run.
“I said it today before the game: If I hit one I’m not touching anybody’s arm,” Bellinger said. “I’m going straight foot, and it was pretty funny.”
Betts, brilliant throughout October but slumping at the plate, added his first postseason homer for the Dodgers, an opposite-field solo shot to right in the sixth off Josh Fleming.
Betts had two hits, scored two runs and stole two bases in the four-run fifth, when Corey Seager swiped one as Los Angeles became the first team to steal three bases in a Series inning since the 1912 New York Giants in Game 5 against Boston.
“That’s a weak spot of my game, holding runners,” Glasnow said. “Has to be something I focus on more in the future. ”
Betts became the first to hit a home run, steal two bases and score twice in a Series game.
“Stolen bases are a thing for me. That’s how I create runs and create havoc on the basepaths,” he said.
Los Angeles is in the Series for the third time in four years but seeking its first title since the Kirk Gibson- and Orel Hershiser-led team of 32 years ago. Coming off an unusual LCS of games on seven straight days, the Dodgers planned an all-bullpen outing for the next game.
Tampa Bay was held to six hits. Its only previous Series was a five-game loss to Philadelphia in 2008.
Glasnow was chased after 4 1/3 innings with an ominous pitching line that included three hits, six runs, six walks and eight strikeouts. He threw a career-high 112 pitches and became the first to walk six or more in a series game since Edwin Jackson of St. Louis in Game 4 of 2011. Glasnow went to three-ball counts on 12 of 23 batters.
Los Angeles expanded its lead to 4-1 in the fifth, when Cash left Glasnow in to face left-handed-hitting Max Muncy with runners at the corners. Muncy hit a one-hopper to first baseman Yandy Díaz with the infield in, and Betts beat a strong but slightly offline throw with a headfirst slide past catcher Mike Zunino.
Will Smith finished Glasnow with an RBI single, and Chris Taylor and pinch-hitter Kiké Hernández followed with run-scoring singles off Ryan Yarbrough for a 6-1 lead.
Justin Turner and Muncy doubled on consecutive pitches in the sixth.
Pinch-hitter Mike Brosseau and Kiermaier singled in runs in the seventh against Víctor González, who snagged Zunino’s line drive and doubled Brosseau off second base for an inning-ending double play.
After a regular season played without fans, MLB resumed selling tickets with a limited amount for the NLCS at Globe Life and kept that up by allowing about 28% of capacity to be filled at the 40,518-seat ballpark, where the roof was open. The crowd was widely dispersed throughout and was the smallest for the Series since 10,535 attended Game 6 between the Pirates and Tigers at Detroit’s Bennett Park in 1909, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
An overwhelming majority of fans wore Dodger blue.
“They’re everywhere. They always come out,” Kershaw said. “And so for as much as a game as we would have liked it to have been at Dodger Stadium and the 56,000 chanting, after everything that’s gone on this season, to have 10-, 11,000 people in the stands and a good bit of them being Dodger fans is pretty cool.”
WHIFFING
Kershaw raised his career postseason total to 201 strikeouts, passing John Smoltz (199) for second behind Justin Verlander’s 205.
UP NEXT
Snell lost Game 6 against Houston on Friday, throwing 42 pitches over two innings. The Dodgers said they were headed to an empty-the-bullpen game rather than use Walker Buehler on three days’ rest.
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Pandemic World Series draws smallest crowd in over century

By RONALD BLUM AP Baseball Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Julie and Lance Smith walked through the mostly empty concourse of Globe Life Field.
Tampa Bay infielder Joey Wendle is married to one of their cousins, and they weren’t going to miss his World Series debut.
“It’s so weird,” said Julie Smith, 38, from Gadsden, Alabama.
“It’s kind of nice in a way, too,” Lance, 39, said before they headed to their seats in the first deck behind home plate.
They wore masks, but many fans ignored the requirement for facial coverings except while eating or drinking at their ticketed seats.
A crowd of 11,388 attended the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 8-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Tuesday night’s World Series opener, spread in groups of up to four, mostly in alternate rows and none directly behind each other among the forest green seats.
That was the smallest Series crowd since 10,535 attended Game 6 in 1909 between the Tigers and Pittsburgh at Detroit’s Bennett Park, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Major League Baseball planned to make about 28% available of the 40,518 capacity at the retractable-roof stadium of the Texas Rangers. The new $1.2 billion venue opened this year and replaced Globe Life Park, the team’s open-air home from 1994 through 2019. During batting practice, through the new stadium’s glass walls, the sun glistened off the red brick of the old stadium across the street beyond left field, a field now used for high school football.
Behind home plate, the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium gleamed like a spaceship.
World Series games are usually festive, packed early with fans celebrating the dual accomplishments of their team making it to baseball’s ultimate stage and of their snagging hard-to-find tickets, usually displayed in plastic hanging from lanyard draped around their necks.
But this World Series had a surreal, at times somber feel caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. The small crowd was supplemented with fan audio from stadium speakers.
No fans were allowed into any of the 898 regular-season games this season, which were played in mostly empty ballparks due to governmental health restrictions.
Players’ families were allowed starting for the 18 first-round playoff games, the 15 Division Series games and the AL Championship Series between Tampa Bay and Houston in San Diego, with fans added for the Dodgers’ matchup against Atlanta in the NL Championship Series in Arlington, an average of 10,835 for the seven games. Roughly the same amount of tickets were sold for each World Series game.
Behind third base, a group of fans in Dodgers gear watched after flying in.
Brian Casey, a 29-year-old from Glendale, California, booked a plane ticket ahead of Sunday night’s win over the Braves, knowing he had 24 hours to cancel without penalty, then made a decision after the Dodgers rallied for a 4-3 win. He was in attendance when they last won the World Series in 1988 as a kid and was at Dodger Stadium when they played Boston in 2018. He watched Tuesday with Ryan Radenbaugh, 37, from Burbank.
“We just went to buy souvenirs and it was all Rangers stuff,” Radenbaugh said.
Noah Garden, MLB’s chief revenue officer, said the pandemic made it difficult to get gear shipped in the short time after teams won pennants last weekend.
MLB made the decision to play with the roof open. It was closed until the Dodgers started to warm up about 3 1/2 hours ahead of first pitch, then slid open as the public address system played Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarasuthra,” known to many as the opening music from Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
The usual pregame introductions of teams were dispensed with. When the a cappella group Pentatonix sang a recorded version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” played on the 58×150-foot video board in right field and the 40-x111-foot board in the left-field corner, about 18 Dodgers were in front of the first base dugout and on the right field line, and roughly a dozen Rays were by the third base dugout and on the left-field line.
A live flyover of four jets followed, and ceremonial first pitches were thrown by medical personnel who assisted during the pandemic: Brittney Burns, a nurse practitioner from San Antonio; Erika Combs, an oncology and kidney transplant nurse at a Dallas hospital; and Jamie Edens and Ryan Ward, nurses from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who are a married couple.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who was on hand, yelled “Play Ball!” into a microphone and retired Dodgers announcer Vin Scully delivered by video recording: “It’s time for Dodger baseball!” just before Clayton Kershaw walked to the mound.
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NFL teams going for 2 at record-setting rate

By JOSH DUBOW AP Pro Football Writer
Never before have NFL teams gone for 2-point conversions as often as they have this season, even if the decision sometimes has backfired.
The 58 attempts through six weeks are the most at this juncture of the season since the NFL adopted the 2-point conversion in 1994.
Going for 2 was a big part of the story line from this past weekend.
Houston interim coach Romeo Crennel made the unconventional move to go for 2 after scoring a touchdown to take a 36-29 lead over Tennessee on Sunday.
Deshaun Watson’s pass fell incomplete and the Titans drove for the tying score in the closing seconds, forcing overtime with an extra point rather than being forced to go for 2. Tennessee won the game with a touchdown on the opening drive of overtime.
Washington coach Ron Rivera also made the decision to go for 2 after scoring a TD with 43 seconds left, cutting the Giants lead to 20-19. Kyle Allen’s pass fell incomplete and Washington lost.
While those failures were noteworthy, teams have had decent success so far this season, converting half of the chances, slightly higher than the 47% conversion rate from the previous 20 seasons.
DEFENSIVE STAND: Defense stepped up across the league this past week with the 47.4 combined points scored per game the lowest of any week this season. The total is four points below the average from the first five weeks and a possible sign that defenses are finally starting to catch up to offenses after a record-setting scoring start to the season.
HAPLESS JETS: The Jets are the sixth team in the Super Bowl era to start the season 0-6 with every loss by more than eight points. They joined Jacksonville (2013), Cincinnati (2000), Indianapolis (1991), Houston (1984) and Buffalo (1971).
The Jets are averaging just 12.5 ppg this season while the league average is at 25.5. The last team to score less than half the league average for a whole season was the 2000 Browns, who averaged 10.1 ppg when league was at 20.7
TD RECORDS: Tom Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski on a TD pass for the first time since the two teamed up in Tampa Bay. It was the 91st career TD between the duo, including the postseason. The only duos with more are Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison with 114 and Steve Young and Jerry Rice with 92.
The TD was the 555th of Brady’s career in the regular season, one behind New Orleans’ Drew Brees for the most in NFL history.
UNDEFEATED SHOWDOWN: When Tennessee (5-0) hosts Pittsburgh (5-0) it will mark the sixth time in the Super Bowl era that two undefeated teams played in Week 7 or later. In the previous five showdowns, the winner went on to the Super Bowl with New England (2004) and Denver (2015) winning the title. The Patriots won two of those games in 2007 and Minnesota won in 1973 before losing the Super Bowl.
COMEBACK KIDS: The Colts were the latest team to overcome a big deficit, rallying from 21 points down to beat the Bengals 31-27 on Sunday. They were the first team since Kansas City in the 2016 opener vs. the Chargers to win a game they trailed by at least 21 points. In all, at least one team each week has rallied from at least 16 points down to win a game this season. There have been 19 games in which a team overcame a double-digit deficit to win, tied with 2011 for the most ever after six weeks.
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Flores: Decision to replace Fitzpatrick with Tua was tough

By STEVEN WINE AP Sports Writer
MIAMI (AP) — Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores says he regrets that his players found out about the team’s switch to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa through social media rather than from him.
And Flores says the decision to bench popular veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick was difficult.
“Fitz has done a great job,” Flores said Wednesday. “He has been productive. His leadership has been great. But we felt like for the team now, moving forward, this is a move we need to make.”
Tagovailoa, the fifth pick in the April draft, will make his first NFL start on Nov. 1 against the Los Angeles Rams after the Dolphins’ bye this week.
News of the change leaked Tuesday.
“The one thing in this situation that’s unfortunate is that I didn’t get a chance to address the team before this was out in the media,” Flores said. “It’s not the way I or we want to do business. Unfortunately, it’s kind of the way of the world right now.
“I’m not happy about that at all. I’ll address that to the team, and really apologize to them that they had to find out through social media. I don’t think that’s fair to them.”
The timing of Tagovailoa’s promotion was surprising because the Dolphins (3-3) have won their past two games by a combined score of 67-17.
The 37-year-old Fitzpatrick, who is in his second season with his eighth NFL team, has been characteristically inconsistent. He is fifth in the the league in completion percentage but third in interceptions with seven.
He is also beloved by teammates and coaches.
“Fitz has been great for the last year and a half,” Flores said. “I don’t know if there has been anybody more instrumental in trying to instill the culture that we’re looking for. He has made an impact on Tua and a lot of other players on this team. I have a great respect for him, and that made this decision very tough.”
Even so, it was a decision anticipated since the day Miami drafted Tagovailoa as a potential franchise quarterback.
The rookie played during mop-up time last week, his first action since suffering a serious hip injury last November that ended his Alabama career. The cancellation of offseason drills and exhibition games because of the coronavirus slowed his NFL development, and two weeks ago, Flores said Tagovailoa wasn’t ready to start.
Now he is.
“He has gotten more comfortable,” Flores said. “Accuracy, decision-making, all those things have been good in practice. Practice is very different from games, but we’re comfortable and confident he’ll be able to be competitive.”
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No. 1 Clemson has new faces on defense and still dominating

By PETE IACOBELLI AP Sports Writer
Clemson once again has a dominating defense that delivers crunching hits and game-changing interceptions that has helped the Tigers ascend to the top of college football.
That seems to be an annual summary of Clemson, it’s just the names that change from year to year.
Despite losing six starters on defense from its national championship game last January, the Tigers (5-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) are once more among the leaders in fewest yards allowed in their latest title run.
Tigers safety Nolan Turner, a sometimes starter before cracking the lineup this season, believes part of the success stems from players working to make their mark.
“The guys we bring in and just the commitment of the players,” the senior said. “Just waiting for their turn to make something happen.”
Clemson is third nationally in yards given up at 264.4 per game. The Tigers will put that to the test against Syracuse (1-4, 1-3) on Saturday.
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, in his ninth season, has literally seen star players come and go. Two years back, it was a front four worth of NFL first rounders led by end Clelin Ferrell (No. 4 overall) and tackles Christian Wilkins (No. 13) and Dexter Lawrence (No. 17).
This past spring, the departures were led by do-it-all linebacker Isaiah Simmons, taken No. 8 overall by Arizona along with cornerback A.J. Terrell, chosen 16th by Atlanta.
Yet, Clemson is fifth in fewest points allowed at 12 a game, less than it had a season ago.
For Venables, it’s a combination of third- and fourth-year players making the most of their opportunities like leading tackler in linebacker Baylon Spector and youngsters like freshman sack leader Myles Murphy finding a near seamless entrance into the starting lineup.
“It doesn’t ever feel easy,” he said. “It feels hard.”
Venables has overseen Clemson’s defensive rise that’s dovetailed with the Tigers’ dominance in college football. The Tigers have won five straight Atlantic Coast Conference championships and national titles after the 2016 and 2018 seasons.
Clemson is again on track once more to win the league and return to College Football Playoff for the sixth consecutive season.
Venables said the Tigers are nowhere near a finished product this season.
“We’re still without question a work in progress in figuring those things out, what we can do, what we can’t do, what we can develop into,” Venables said. “There are so many new faces on that two-and-three deep” lineup.
All, though, are making plays.
Murphy and Bryan Bresee are freshman five-stars who’ve started and excelled on the line this season when expected starters along the line in Justin Foster and Xavier Thomas dealt with complications from COVID-19 before and during the season.
The secondary, which lost leaders and big hitters in safeties K’von Wallace and Tanner Muse from a year ago has blossomed into what Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said is the best he’s had in 12 seasons.
Andrew Booth Jr., who’d been known for riding home with the team managers from Louisville last year for punching an opponent, has played lockdown corner and had an amazing one-handed interception against Virginia to blunt a Cavs’ comeback.
Another young corner, Sheridan Jones, had the game-changing pick a to end Miami’s momentum in Clemson’s 41-17 win in a top-10 matchup.
“We’re a developmental program,” Swinney said. “We develop guys who want to play.”
Spector is the latest example of that. He played 384 snaps combined his freshmen and sophomore seasons, largely when games were out of hand and the starters were on the bench. But with several holes to fill at linebacker this season, Spector was there ready to take advantage.
Spector, at 6-2, 230 pounds, has a team-best 31 tackles and his 2.5 sacks are second. He and teammate, returning starter James Skalski, have been dubbed the “Bruise Brothers.”
“That’s what it’s about,” Spector said.
Venables said Clemson’s building blocks on defense come from being right in recruiting more often than not in both talent and desire. The true work comes when they reach campus.
“There’s a lot of teams that have talented players,” he said. “You’ve got to coach them and develop them and put them, systematically, in scheme to be successful.”
Few are doing it on defense as well as Venables and the Tigers.
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