CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)Tom Brady threw for 232 yards and a touchdown, Antonio Brown made a grand return to the lineup after missing the last eight games and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Carolina Panthers 32-6 on Sunday to clinch their first NFC South title since 2007.
In his first game since Oct. 13, Brown saw a prominent role on offense with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin sidelined with injuries, catching 10 passes for 101 yards while being targeted 15 times by Brady.
Ronald Jones carried 20 times for 65 yards and a touchdown filling in for the injured Leonard Fournette, and Tampa Bay got big offensive contributions from unheralded players Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Cyril Grayson.
DALLAS (AP) – Dak Prescott threw four touchdown passes, DeMarcus Lawrence returned an interception for a score and the Dallas Cowboys routed Washington 56-14 on Sunday night.
The Cowboys had already clinched the NFC East title with a Las Vegas win over Denver about an hour before kickoff.
Dallas tied the franchise record for most points in a first half while taking a 42-7 lead. Washington was frustrated to the point that defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne scuffled on the sideline.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Patrick Mahomes threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns, Byron Pringle caught two of the TD passes, and the Chiefs beat the Steelers 36-10 on Sunday to clinch their sixth consecutive AFC West title.
The Chiefs improved to 11-4 and remained a game ahead of Tennessee for first place in the AFC with their eighth straight win. That would give them the conference’s lone first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
Already on the playoff bubble, the Steelers dropped to 7-7-1 and further behind the Bengals in the AFC North.
Ben Roethlisberger threw for 159 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw an interception and lost a fumble on a lousy day for the Steelers.
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) – Aaron Rodgers has overtaken Brett Favre to become the Green Bay Packers’ leader in career touchdown passes.
Rodgers threw his 443rd career touchdown pass with an 11-yard completion to Allen Lazard in the first quarter of the Packers’ game Saturday with the Cleveland Browns.
Favre threw 508 touchdown passes during his Hall of Fame career, but only 442 of them with Green Bay. Favre threw 22 touchdown passes with the New York Jets in 2008 and 44 with the Minnesota Vikings from 2009-10.
The NBA’s virus numbers continue to rise.
By Sunday evening, the number of players disclosed by teams as being in the protocols was up to 116. The real number, considering some teams had yet to update injury reports, was believed to be slightly higher.
It may continue to grow for the foreseeable future.
Expanded testing, agreed to earlier this month, went into place Sunday for players who have yet to receive their booster shots. The new testing plan is expected to remain in place until Jan. 8, after weeks of urging by the league and the National Basketball Players Association for players to get boosted.
CLEVELAND (AP) – Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff has received a multiyear contract extension for his role in the team’s dramatic turnaround.
Cleveland announced Bickerstaff’s signing on Saturday. Terms of the deal were not released.
ESPN reported Bickerstaff is under contract through the 2026-27 season.
After winning just 22 games last season, the Cavs are 19-13 and fifth in the Eastern Conference. They recently won six straight games, but were hit with a COVID-19 outbreak and had to place eight players in health protocols.
The NHL is emerging from an extended holiday break with taxi squads and other roster revisions, a move made to guard against more disruptions to the season amid more players and coaches going into COVID-19 protocol Sunday.
Each team will be allowed to have a taxi squad of up to six players and to make emergency recalls from the minors if COVID-19 absences would cause anyone to play without a full lineup. Taxi squads, which were used during the shortened 2021 season, are set to be in effect until at least the All-Star break in early February.
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed the new roster rules in an email to The Associated Press.
BOSTON (AP) – The Fenway Bowl and Military Bowl were canceled due to the pandemic on Sunday as coronavirus outbreaks at Virginia and Boston College forced them to call off their postseason plans.
The game scheduled for Wednesday at Fenway Park was to pit the Cavaliers against SMU. The Military Bowl scheduled for Monday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland, between Boston College and East Carolina was canceled because of positive COVID-19 tests at BC.
Also Sunday, Miami said it would not play in the Sun Bowl, which was scheduled for Friday against Washington State. The Hurricanes have been dealing with a virus outbreak for several days.
LONDON (AP) – Leeds and Wolverhampton have secured Premier League approval for further matches to be postponed due to coronavirus outbreaks in squads.
Leeds’ home game against Aston Villa on Tuesday has been called off, having already had Sunday’s match at Liverpool postponed.
Wolverhampton also won’t now play at Arsenal on Tuesday, with Wolverhampton having already been prevented from hosting Watford on Sunday due to a lack of Watford players.
The Premier League has now called off 15 matches because of coronavirus issues in 2 1/2 weeks, with players having to isolate after testing positive or if they are unvaccinated and a close contact of a COVID-19 case.
SYDNEY (AP) – Canada’s Denis Shapovalov has announced he has tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Sydney for the ATP Cup.
The 22-year-old is one of the first overseas players to arrive in Australia and is part of Canada’s team for the team-based tournament in Sydney from Jan. 1-9, ahead of the Australian Open at Melbourne starting on Jan. 17.
Shapovalov played last week at the World Tennis Championship exhibition event in Abu Dhabi, where he beat Rafael Nadal in the third-place playoff match. Nadal also tested positive for the coronavirus after playing at the tournament, as did Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic and Tunisian Ons Jabeur.
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (AP) – Martha Earnhardt, the matriarch of one of NASCAR’s best-known families, has died. She was 91.
Grandchildren Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kelley Earnhardt Miller said in a statement that she died Saturday night.
Martha Earnhardt was married to Ralph Earnhardt from 1947 until the NASCAR driver’s death. Her son, the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., was a seven-time NASCAR champion and father of of Dale Jr. and Kelley.
LONDON (AP) – Ray Illingworth, a former England cricket captain who went on to coach the team, has died. He was 89.
Illingworth, who led England to a 2-0 series victory in Australia in the 1970-71 Ashes, had been undergoing radiotherapy for esophageal cancer. Yorkshire, the English county Illingworth played for, announced his death on Saturday.
Illingworth played 61 test matches for England between 1958 and 1973, scoring 1,836 runs at an average of 23.24 and he claimed 122 wickets.
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