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Rams Pull Away from Bears

Josh Reynolds and Gerald Everett caught touchdown passes from Jared Goff, and the Rams won a matchup of dominant defenses, beating the Bears 24-10.

 

After his first sack, former Bears LB Leonard Floyd jumped up and went toward the Bears sideline, shouting and gesticulating at the team that let him go.

 

Goff passed for 219 yards and Malcolm Brown rushed for a score for the Rams, but their defense did the hardest work.

 

Taylor Rapp made an end-zone interception on a pass deflection by Troy Hill while the Rams held Chicago (5-2) to 182 yards in the first three quarters and built a 24-3 lead.

 

Eddie Jackson returned a fumble 8 yards for Chicago’s only touchdown with 7:30 to play, but Los Angeles’ defense stayed in control, yielding 279 total yards and three points. The Rams have won twice in three defense-dominated games between these longtime rivals over the past three seasons.

 

Nick Foles passed for 261 yards for the Bears, who dropped out of the NFC North lead and fell to 3-1 on the road with their latest discouraging offensive performance. Chicago managed just 49 yards rushing and has 175 yards on the ground in the past four games.

 

The Rams’ defense, now coordinated by former Bears outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley, sacked Foles four times and picked off two of his passes, including Jalen Ramsey’s first interception of the season near midfield to clinch the victory with 3:13 to play.

 

The Rams led 10-3 at halftime after holding the Bears to 126 yards. Reynolds made his 4-yard TD reception in the first quarter, but the Bears stopped two additional drives just outside field goal range to keep the deficit manageable.

 

The Rams went up 17-3 midway through the third quarter on a TD drive capped by Brown’s 1-yard run.

 

Chicago mounted its best drive immediately thereafter, but its 71-yard march ended when Hill deflected a pass intended for Darnell Mooney in the end zone and Rapp snagged it for an interception.

 

The Rams followed with a crisp 80-yard drive capped by a 12-yard TD catch-and-run by Everett, their big-play tight end.

 

Bears WR Allen Robinson was evaluated for a concussion after he left the game late in the fourth quarter. He led the Bears with 70 yards receiving.

 

C Cody Whitehair injured his calf in the second half.

 

The Bears host New Orleans on Sunday.

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NASCAR Playoff Cup Race at Texas Postponed Another Day

The NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Texas was pushed back yet another day without drivers completing any more laps Monday.

 

Eight hours after the race was scheduled to resume on a misty day with temperatures in the low 40s Fahrenheit (single digits Celsius), NASCAR postponed it and decided to try again Tuesday.

 

Similar weather conditions were in the forecast for Tuesday and into Wednesday.

 

There were several periods Monday when the track appeared to be drying, before more misty conditions would further soak the track. There was never a hard rain, but cool temperatures and the lack of any sunshine made it impossible to completely dry the asphalt.

 

Only 52 of the scheduled 334 laps were completed Sunday before mist and drizzle forced the race to stop. There was a delay of more than four hours then before the race was postponed a day.

 

Another 115 laps have to be completed to get to the halfway mark of 167 laps that would make Texas an official race.

 

There are still three spots up for grabs for the four-driver championship race in the season finale at Phoenix. The only other race between Texas and Phoenix is Sunday at Martinsville, the shortest and oldest Cup track.

 

Joey Logano opened the final three-race playoff round with a win at Kansas, where he held off Kevin Harvick for the final 40-plus laps to get a victory that took him from outside the top four to a guaranteed championship chance in the Nov. 8 finale.

 

Harvick, who has won the last three fall races at Texas and is a nine-time winner this season, brushed the wall while leading on Lap 29. With damage to his car’s right side, he was 36th and one lap down when the race stopped Sunday.

 

The only laps completed Monday on the 1 1/2-mile track were by the Air Titan and jet dryer trucks. The race cars remained parked in the garage, never rolling to pit road.

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Bears Take on Rams on MNF

The Chicago Bears don't get much respect for a 5-1 team. They can only win ugly, or so the conventional wisdom goes, and their luck is supposedly going to end when they meet an elite opponent.

 

The Los Angeles Rams (4-2) looked like an elite opponent until last week, when an unsightly loss to San Francisco led to a re-evaluation of just how good this team is as well.

 

One of these teams is likely to come out of the longtime NFC rivals' meeting Monday night at SoFi Stadium with a win that will give a huge boost to having credibility as a contender.

 

And if these clubs' recent history is any guide, their matchup will be decided by defense.

 

The Bears and Rams have both thrived defensively this season, and that's not new. They've met twice in the previous two seasons, with Chicago embarrassing the Super Bowl-bound Rams in a freezing 15-6 victory in late 2018 before Los Angeles responded with a 17-7 win last year.

 

Chicago and Los Angeles are two of the seven NFL teams yielding fewer than 20 points per game this season, while both teams' quarterbacks are in need of a rebound game after similarly disappointing performances in which both threw for 198 yards. Nick Foles went 23 of 39 with an interception in the Bears' win over Carolina, while Jared Goff was 19 of 38 with a pick against the Niners.

 

After Foles replaced Mitch Trubisky, the Bears haven’t had much better luck moving the ball with Foles starting the past three games than they did with Trubisky the first three. Foles has completed 62.5% of his passes for 878 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions since he took over.

 

The Bears aren’t getting much from their run game, either. Chicago has 126 yards rushing the past three games, compared to 414 the first three weeks, and the offensive line is down a starter with left guard James Daniels (pectoral) sidelined.

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Packers Roll Texans

Aaron Rodgers threw for 283 yards and four touchdowns to lead Green Bay to a 35-20 win in a game where the Houston Texans were thoroughly overmatched from the start.

 

Green Bay raced out to a 21-0 halftime lead and the Texans were not able to recover after.

 

Davante Adams had 13 receptions for a career-high 196 yards receiving with two touchdowns. Adams did whatever he wanted against Houston’s defense after top cornerback Bradley Roby left with a knee injury after Green Bay’s first possession.

 

Deshaun Watson threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns for his fourth straight game with at least 300 yards passing. But the Texans had trouble finishing drives early and had to punt on their first three possessions before missing a field goal on the fourth to get in the huge hole early.

 

The 25-year-old Watson is struggling to navigate this tough season after years of success at all levels. He won a state championship in high school before leading Clemson to a national title and helping the Texans to the playoffs in the past two seasons.

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Misty Rain Postpones NASCAR's Playoff Cup Race in Texas

NASCAR’s Cup playoff race in Texas was postponed Sunday night after 52 laps on a misty day that slowly deteriorated to drizzle while it never actually rained before the event was called off.

 

The delay was just over four hours, and the restart planned for Monday morning. But the forecast isn’t promising with a 90% chance of rain overnight and the forecast high temperature barely reaching 50 degrees.

 

The pandemic-reduced crowd watched Clint Bowyer emerge as the leader with Jimmie Johnson second in the last Texas race as full-time drivers for both veterans.

 

The cars kept running for eight laps after the weather caution first came out as jet dryers circled the track. The cars sat uncovered on pit road for about half and hour before the tarps came out and the drivers and crews headed for cover.

 

Martin Truex Jr. was moved to the back of the field because of an illegal spoiler, and crew chief James Small was ejected. But Truex, also fined $35,000 and docked 20 points in a blow to his championship outlook, was all the way up to fifth when the race was stopped.

 

Joey Logano is the only driver guaranteed a spot in the final four after winning the first of three qualifying races last week in Kansas. The last qualifier in the round of eight is next week at Martinsville before the championship finale in Phoenix.

 

Kevin Harvick, who has won the last three fall races in Texas and is a nine-time winner this season, is in the best shape among the other seven playoff contenders.

 

Harvick brushed the wall while leading on Lap 29 as the track conditions worsened and came away with some damage to his right side. But the No. 4 Ford was running when the 334-lap race was halted, one lap down in 36th.

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Indiana, Ohio State Move Up After Big Ten's First Week Back

Indiana jumped into The Associated Press college football poll at No. 17 on Sunday after pulling off the weekend’s most dramatic upset and Ohio State moved up to No. 3 following a dominant season debut.

 

Clemson remained a rock-solid No. 1 and Alabama was No. 2. The Tigers received 52 first-place votes and the Crimson Tide got the remaining 10.

 

Ohio State leaped two spots after easily dispatching Nebraska as the Big Ten Conference kicked off its pandemic-delayed and abbreviated season.

 

No. 4 Notre Dame and No. 5 Georgia each slipped a spot behind the Buckeyes.

 

Indiana pulled off a stunner in overtime to jump into the rankings, beating then-No. 8 Penn State to earn the program’s first victory against a team ranked in the AP top 10 since 1987. The Hoosiers snapped a 25-year absence from the poll last season but stayed there only one week.

 

Penn State slipped 10 spots to No. 18 after losing to the Hoosiers for just the second time in 24 meetings since joining the Big Ten.

 

When the Big Ten postponed its fall season, Ohio State and the rest of the conference’s teams became ineligible for inclusion in the rankings. Then the Big Ten decided to play in the fall after all and those teams became eligible again. But some voters decided they would wait until teams played before being considered for inclusion.

 

No. 24 Oklahoma is back after three weeks out. That is the longest run of polls that have not included the Sooners since 2009, when they were left out of the final six Top 25s.

 

Minnesota dropped out after getting thumped at home by Michigan.

 

 

 

The Coaches Poll voters had some reactions to the Big Ten action, moving Penn State down 10 spots to No. 17 and elevating Indiana from being unranked to No. 19. Michigan moved up three spots to inside the top 15 at No. 14 and Wisconsin also saw a three-spot improvement to No. 11 after its dominant win against Illinois on Friday night. Ohio State only moved up two spots after beating Nebraska, but in doing so jumped both Georgia and Notre Dame to take its place in the top three with Clemson and Alabama. 

 

Clemson remains No. 1 in the country in the Coaches Poll with 52 first-place votes while Alabama checks in at No. 2 with eight first place votes and Ohio State is No. 3 with two first place votes.

Notre Dame and Georgia round out the top five while Oklahoma State, Cincinnati, Texas A & M , Florida and BYU round out the top ten. 

 

Oregon and USC at No. 15 and No. 20, respectively, are the only Pac-12 teams in this week's poll. 

Virginia Tech, Minnesota and North Carolina State are out of this week's rankings while Oklahoma returns to this week's rankings checking in at No. 24. 

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Patrick Cantlay Wins Zozo Championship

Patrick Cantlay rallied from a four-shot deficit and surged into the lead with four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine Sunday in the Zozo Championship at Sherwood in Thousand Oaks, California. He closed with a 7-under 65 and held on for a one-shot victory over Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas.

 

He was looking to join what had been shaping up as a duel between Rahm and Thomas, the Nos. 2 and 3 players in the world. Instead, Cantlay surged past them with three straight birdies — a 3-wood to the fringe on the par-5 13th that set up a simple two-putt, a 7-iron to 18 feet on the next hole and the most exquisite shot of his final round on the par-3 15th.

 

With a three-quarter 7-iron to a front pin over a tiny rock-lined lagoon, the ball landed next to the hole and rolled out to 10 feet for his ninth birdie of the round, and only the fifth birdie at No. 15 on Sunday.

 

Rahm took the lead with a birdie on the par-5 11th, only to drop shots on each of the next two holes, including the par-5 13th. The Spaniard had a chance to force a playoff, but narrowly missed from 15 feet on the par-3 17th and from 20 feet on the final hole. He closed with a 68.

 

Thomas, who started the round with a one-shot lead, had to scramble for par on the last two par 5s, and hit into hazards on consecutive holes down the stretch. His tee shot to the 15th plugged into thick grass, and Thomas did remarkably well to hack out to 30 feet and make bogey.

 

Cantlay, in the group ahead of Thomas and Rahm, didn’t realize he had a three-shot lead and went after another birdie with a wedge to the par-5 16th, pulling it slightly into a tree and leading to his second bogey of the round.

 

Thomas drilled a drive and was in perfect position with a 4-iron. But he sent that out to the right, trying to avoid a shot left of the green, and it bounced off a tree and into the creek.

 

Rahm needed to finish second alone to return to No. 1 in the world. Dustin Johnson, a Sherwood member who missed this week recovering from a positive coronavirus test, remains No. 1.

 

Cantlay moved back into the top 10. He has no weakness in his game except for the victory tally. Cantlay had gone more than a year since his last victory, when he rallied from three behind at Muirfield Village to win the Memorial. His other win was in Las Vegas in 2017 when he came from four shots back and won in a playoff.

 

Cantlay finished at 23-under 265. No one else was within four shots of him.

 

The other show at Sherwood was on the opposite side of the course, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson playing together in the final round with no fans. There was nothing to see, anyway.

 

Woods closed with a 74 and still beat Mickelson by four shots. Mickelson, coming off a victory last week on the PGA Tour Champions, had five 6s on his card. Both finished out of the top 70 against a 78-man field.

 

It was the third victory of his career, and first in his home state of California. All three required making up deficits of three shots or more in the final round.

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Illinois Opens Season Against Wisconsin Tonight

Illinois believes its upset of Wisconsin last year showed how far the program has come. The oddsmakers are reminding the Illini how far they still have to go.

 

Even after beating a Wisconsin team that was favored by 30 ½ points last year, Illinois heads into Madison as a 19 ½-point underdog as the two West Division rivals prepare to open the pandemic-delayed Big Ten season Friday night.

 

Illinois took a big step forward last year in coach Lovie Smith’s fourth season by earning its first bowl bid since 2014, but the Illini are still searching for their first winning season since a 7-6 finish in 2011.

Wisconsin’s offense definitely isn’t the same as it was last year.

 

The Badgers lost two-time Doak Walker Award-winning running back and Indianapolis Colts rookie Jonathan Taylor as well as All-America center Tyler Biadasz and leading receiver Quintez Cephus from last year’s team. Redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz will make his first career start for Wisconsin after preseason foot surgery left returning starter Jack Coan out indefinitely.

 

Yet the Badgers still have enough talent in place to believe they can win the division for a fourth time in five seasons, whereas Illinois is still attempting to move its way up the standings.

 

Illinois stunned Wisconsin last year by showing the ball-hawking mentality that the Illini have adopted under Smith, a former NFL head coach and longtime NFL defensive assistant. Illinois had a Big Ten-leading 28 takeaways last season, including an interception against Wisconsin that led to James McCourt’s game-winning 39-yard field goal as time expired.

 

Illinois returns four starters on the offensive line. Kendrick Green, Doug Kramer, Vederian Lowe and Alex Palczewski have 125 combined starts.

 

Illinois will be counting on big contributions from plenty of transfers this season.

 

Some transfers to watch, with former schools in parentheses, include running back Chase Brown (Western Michigan), tight end Luke Ford (Georgia), wide receiver Brian Hightower (Miami), tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe (Southern California), defensive tackle Roderick Perry (South Carolina State) and defensive back Derrick Smith (Miami).

 

Game time tonight is 7 pm and can be seen on the Big Ten Network.

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Packers Look to Bounce Back in Houston

Houston QB Deshaun Watson and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers enter Sunday's matchup in very different positions with the Packers (4-1) coming off their first loss, and the Texans (1-5) still searching for a second win in a dismal season that has already led to coach Bill O’Brien's firing.

 

After a great start to the season, Rodgers had his worst performance of the year in last week’s 38-10 loss to Tampa Bay. He threw two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown, after not being picked off in the first four games. It was the first time he had more than one interception in a regular-season game since throwing three in December 2017 against Carolina.

 

While Rodgers is focused on putting one tough game behind him, Watson aims to build on perhaps his best game of the season. The 25-year-old Watson threw for 335 yards and a season-high four touchdowns last week for his third straight 300-yard passing game.

 

He led two fourth-quarter TD drives to give Houston the lead with less than two minutes to play before the porous defense allowed the Titans to rally for the 42-36 overtime victory.

 

The Packers rank third in the NFL by averaging 32.4 points a game and Houston has scored at least 30 points in its past two games after a slow start.

 

Green Bay hasn’t forced a turnover in either of its past two games and has just three takeaways all season to match Dallas and Las Vegas for last in the league. Dallas has played one more game than Green Bay or Las Vegas.

 

Houston has only four takeaways this season and just one interception after Bradley Roby picked off Ryan Tannehill last week. The Packers have a league-low two turnovers, after the interceptions by Rodgers last week.

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Bears Out to Prove 5-1 Start Isn't a Fluke

The Chicago Bears don't get much respect for a 5-1 team. They can only win ugly, or so the conventional wisdom goes, and their luck is supposedly going to end when they meet an elite opponent.

 

The Los Angeles Rams (4-2) looked like an elite opponent until last week, when an unsightly loss to San Francisco led to a re-evaluation of just how good this team is as well.

 

One of these teams is likely to come out of the longtime NFC rivals' meeting Monday night at SoFi Stadium with a win that will give a huge boost to having credibility as a contender.

 

And if these clubs' recent history is any guide, their matchup will be decided by defense.

 

The Bears and Rams have both thrived defensively this season, and that's not new. They've met twice in the previous two seasons, with Chicago embarrassing the Super Bowl-bound Rams in a freezing 15-6 victory in late 2018 before Los Angeles responded with a 17-7 win last year.

 

Chicago and Los Angeles are two of the seven NFL teams yielding fewer than 20 points per game this season, while both teams' quarterbacks are in need of a rebound game after similarly disappointing performances in which both threw for 198 yards. Nick Foles went 23 of 39 with an interception in the Bears' win over Carolina, while Jared Goff was 19 of 38 with a pick against the Niners.

 

After Foles replaced Mitch Trubisky, the Bears haven’t had much better luck moving the ball with Foles starting the past three games than they did with Trubisky the first three. Foles has completed 62.5% of his passes for 878 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions since he took over.

 

The Bears aren’t getting much from their run game, either. Chicago has 126 yards rushing the past three games, compared to 414 the first three weeks, and the offensive line is down a starter with left guard James Daniels (pectoral) sidelined.

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Sebastian Munoz Day 1 Leader at ZOZO Championship

Sebastian Munoz twice holed out for eagle from a combined distance of 219 yards. He also had eight birdies. Throw in a wild tee shot for double bogey, three bogeys and only five pars and it added to an 8-under 64 and a one-shot lead.

 

For the first time in his 1,277 rounds on the PGA Tour as a pro, Tiger Woods made bogey or worse on three par 5s in a single round. That led to a 4-over 76 — by two shots his worst score in 49 rounds at Sherwood Country Club — that left him 12 shots out of the lead and in no mood to talk.

 

Munoz, the Colombian who played his college golf at North Texas, finished off his bizarre round by saving par from a narrow section of the front bunker with a 15-foot putt on the 18th hole.

 

He was one shot ahead of Tyrrell Hatton, the hottest golfer this month, and Justin Thomas, who had a hot finish. Hatton won the European Tour flagship event at Wentworth, flew to Las Vegas for the CJ Cup and tied for third. Thomas shot 29 on the back nine at Sherwood. They each had a 65.

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NHL Cancels Winter Classic, NHL All-Star Game

The NHL won’t take it outside and open 2021 with the Winter Classic in Minnesota but still hopes to get the hockey season going around the start of the new year.

 

The league on Thursday canceled the Winter Classic scheduled for Jan. 1 at Target Field in Minneapolis and All-Star Weekend that was set for late January in Sunrise, Florida. It said those moves don’t change the league and players’ target date to begin on or around Jan. 1 in the hopes of each team playing a full 82-game season.

 

No guarantee of being able to host fans led to the cancellation of the two signature events. The league hopes to bring them back to those cities in future years.

 

The Minnesota Wild were supposed to host their first Winter Classic next season at the home of Major League Baseball’s Twins against the 2019 Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. That will have to wait until at least 2022.

 

Canceling All-Star festivities hosted by the Florida Panthers was anticipated, along with forgoing the five-day “bye” week each team had gotten in recent years on either side of that break. The schedule is expected to be condensed in order to get in as many games as possible and stage a full 16-team playoff without going too deep into the summer.

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Illinois Football Kicks Off Season Friday Night

Illinois football fans looking for solace in a lost high school football season will find comfort tomorrow night when the Illinois football team kicks off their makeshift season at Wisconsin.

 

Illini beat writer Bob Asmussen says a lot is made of the receiving core and returning the quaterback but he believes the strength of the team will start with the offensive line, who returns four of five starters from last year's bowl-eligible team.

 

 

Additionally, Asmussen points out the secondary is going to be very experienced this year and should be considered a strength of the team as well.

 

 

While the front seven will be held back from the lack of experience, Asmussen says the defensive line has guys ready to step up that have a lot of potential and believes the linebackers will be a strength as well.

 

 

Many point to the Illini offense as one of the best in recent memory. Asmussen says quarterback Brandon Peters will have no shortage of options to throw to this season. Included in that group is returning star Josh Imatorbhebhe and the debut of highly anticipated transfer Luke Ford from Georgia. 

 

 

Asmussen says the Illinois run game will hinge on the health of Mike Epstein, who has battled a rash of injuries in his time in Champaign. He believes Epstein is ready to go this season and is hearing he is as healthy as he's ever been plus will be benefited by the season starting over a month late.

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Clinton Football Coach Discusses Player Perspectives on COVID-Impacted Season

The Clinton Maroons football program has wrapped up their fall practice schedule as the COVID pandemic has pushed the season to the spring.

 

Head Coach Chris Ridgeway says he's seen a lot of different approaches from his players and their perspectives are all different. He explains a lot of kids are looking forward to the season following basketball while others are taking time to enjoy their senior year in a different way.

 

 

For the players in the program that will participate in basketball, their focus will shift to that season now and it begins in mid-November. The football team will be able to begin practicing again in mid-February.

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Pacers Tab Raptors Assistant as Head Coach

Indiana wanted its next coach to take the franchise in a new direction.

 

The Pacers were seeking someone who could communicate with today’s players, who was open to a new offensive philosophy and who could win some postseason games.

 

On Tuesday, president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard found his man in Toronto assistant Nate Bjorkgren.

 

He comes to Indiana after spending two seasons as an assistant on Nick Nurse’s staff in Toronto. There, Bjorkgren helped the Raptors capture their first NBA championship in 2018-19 and was part of a team that earned the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed each of the past two seasons.

 

He also won a G-League title while working for Nurse in 2010-11 with the Iowa Energy.

 

And though this will be Bjorkgren’s first head coaching job in the NBA, he went 126-74 in four seasons as a G-League head coach with the Dakota Wizards, Santa Cruz Warriors, Energy and Bakersfield Jam.

 

Despite making five straight playoff appearances, the Pacers haven’t won a series since defeating Washington 4-2 in the 2014 Eastern Conference semifinals. Since then, Indy is 8-20 in the playoffs and has endured three first-round sweeps the past four seasons — the franchise’s only four-game sweeps since joining the NBA in 1976.

 

Postseason losses aren’t the only potential obstacle facing Indiana.

 

Two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo returned in January after missing 12 months while rehabbing from a torn quad tendon in his right knee. Following the season’s stoppage and restart, Oladipo — worried about re-injuring his knee — announced he wouldn’t return to the court in Florida before changing his mind.

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Bears Sign Manti Teo

The Chicago Bears signed former Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Teo to their practice squad on Tuesday.

 

A 2012 Heisman Trophy finalist also known for his internet relationship with a person falsely posing as a woman stricken with leukemia, Teo has made 48 starts and 62 appearances over seven seasons with the then-San Diego Chargers (2013-16) and New Orleans Saints (2017-19). He has 307 tackles — 22 for loss — along with 13 pass breakups and two interceptions.

 

He takes the practice squad spot of kicker Kai Forbath, signed Tuesday to the Los Angeles Rams’ active roster.

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COVID Impacting Clinton Girls Cross Country Team's Regional Roster

Yesterday afternoon it was announced Clinton High School would be going to remote learning due to a small COVID outbreak and the number of students impacted due to contact tracing.

 

The impacts of that though are being felt beyond the classroom. The Clinton Maroons cross country team heads to Regionals this Saturday to take on Olympia. Co-head coach Rachel Anderson-Lyons indicates they will be without a couple of top runners, something they are not unfamiliar with.

 

 

According to Coach Anderson-Lyons, Clare Holland used that as motivation and credits her for training very hard on her own and keeping close tabs on her results. They will also be without a senior who will miss what could be the final race of his senior season.

 

 

Holland explains her experience practicing by herself was difficult but she says the hard work paid off for her.

 

 

The Maroons will head to Olympia for the Regional this Saturday. Because there is no state meet, Coach Anderson-Lyons indicates the IHSA tightened up the thresholds to advance to the sectional meet.

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Chase Briscoe To Drive Tony Stewart's Famed No. 14

Chase Briscoe earned job security for the first time in his career with a well-deserved promotion to the Cup Series to cap a season that has so far been storybook.

 

Briscoe on Tuesday was named the replacement for Clint Bowyer in the No. 14 Ford at Stewart-Haas Racing, the team co-owned by Briscoe’s childhood hero. Briscoe idolized fellow Indiana native Tony Stewart and dreamed of one day driving Stewart’s car.

 

Briscoe said in an interview with The Associated Press, quote - “People would ask me ‘What’s the goal?’ and I’d say ‘Man, the dream is to drive the 14. Never in a million years did I think that was possible. Getting to drive Tony’s car, and how much of a diehard Tony fan I was, it’s just crazy that I’m getting to drive that car.”

 

The 25-year-old native of Mitchell, Indiana, is a third-generation racer who watched his father compete against Stewart on Midwest dirt tracks. Now he’s a nine-race winner in the Xfinity Series, the championship points leader, and just the third driver of the No. 14 at SHR since it was created for Stewart in 2009.

 

Stewart hand-picked Bowyer to replace him in 2017, and when Bowyer accepted a television deal for next season, it freed the seat SHR desperately needed to avoid losing Briscoe.

 

Stewart said quote -“Chase has worked incredibly hard to make his mark in NASCAR and has earned this promotion.”

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'Doc' Emrick, Voice of Hockey, Retires

Mike 'Doc' Emrick called more than 3,700 games but is done adding game days to his calendar for the first time since 1970. The Hall of Fame broadcaster who made hockey sound like art as the voice of the NHL in the United States announced his retirement Monday to a chorus of tears and admiration from all corners of the sports world.

 

Thinking back over 50 years in hockey, Emrick can’t name one favorite memory or game, but one story sticks out.

 

Minutes after watching T.J. Oshie score four shootout goals to help the U.S. beat Russia at the Sochi Olympics, the camera panned to dejected fans and Emrick echoed 1980 gold medal-winning coach Herb Brooks with his call: “They paid their rubles to see the home team win. But not this game. Not tonight.”

 

The man affectionately known as “Doc” for his doctorate in communications spent the past 15 years as the voice of the NHL in the U.S. Emrick, 74, called 22 Stanley Cup Finals and six Olympics since working his way up from the minors in the 1970s and did the most recent NHL playoffs remotely from his home in Michigan with his wife, Joyce, and dogs nearby.

 

Emrick said quote - “As time passed, I became more comfortable with myself and the fact that I was flawed and there was no way I was ever going to do a perfect game and probably the mistake was to try to do it that way. I just enjoyed the fact that I was given a free seat, a good seat, and I got to work with some of the best athletes in the world and then twice a month I got something in the mail, and it was really good.”

 

Emrick worked the past 15 years as NBC Sports’ lead play-by-play voice. Called “hockey’s Vin Scully” by fellow broadcaster and likely successor Kenny Albert, Emrick was honored by the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008 and in 2011 was the first announcer inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

 

During the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, Emrick said he wanted to do his job from the first time he saw a hockey game. He got his first taste in Pittsburgh during the 1970-71 season as a freelance reporter for the Beaver County Times, earned a Ph.D. in broadcast communications from Bowling Green a few years later and progressed through the minors before reaching the NHL.

 

Emrick has spent the past four decades as a beloved part of the hockey community — a rapid-fire storyteller known to viewers for his countless verbs to describe the puck moving around a rink and to friends and colleagues for his warmth and personal attention to the sport and the people in it. He said he always obliges a conversation, photo or autograph request because, “I’ll miss it when it doesn’t happen.”

 

Longtime broadcast partner Ed Olczyk said quote - “We all thank you, Doc, for your passion, your love for the game, your appreciation and love for people. ... We’re all much better for having you in our lives.”

 

Life was always more valuable than hockey to Emrick, who skipped the 2002 Olympics because one of his dogs was sick. That’s why the shootout game in Sochi meant so much after a conversation with Oshie months later when he asked if it was the most significant thing to happen to him.

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Kyle Larson Reinstated By NASCAR For 2021 Season

Kyle Larson can return to NASCAR competition next season following a long suspension for using a racial slur while playing a video game.

 

He was suspended in April after he used the n-word while playing an online racing game in which viewers could follow along. He was dropped by his sponsors and fired by Chip Ganassi Racing.

 

Larson, who is half-Japanese, spent the last six months immersed in diversity programs that helped him gain an understanding of racial injustice. He did not apply for reinstatement until last week and the clearance came Monday.

 

Larson said quote - “The work I’ve done over the last six months has had a major impact on me. I will make the most of this opportunity and look forward to the future."

 

Larson also has spent the time away from NASCAR racing sprint cars, his passion, with a phenomenal success rate. He’s won 41 times so far this year and rebuilt a devout fanbase along the way.

 

The time at the dirt tracks made for a blissful summer for Larson and his family, which accompanied him nearly every weekend. His two children were victory lane fixtures and his wife ran his souvenir challenge.

 

Despite the enjoyable family time, Larson insisted he wanted to return to NASCAR.

 

He was considered the top free agent prospect before his firing, which ended eight seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing. Larson has long been considered a future star for NASCAR and presumably had his pick of cars for 2021.

 

Instead, he’s hoping sponsors will agree to back him for a return to NASCAR. Larson is thought to be getting an open seat at Hendrick Motorsports, although the car number and sponsor affiliations are not clear.

 

Among the hurdles Larson must clear is that Hendrick is tied to Chevrolet, one of the brands that cut ties with Larson in April. The current opening at Hendrick is also an entry that relied on heavy sponsorship from Chevy related partners and products.”

 

Larson has spent significant time with retired soccer star Tony Sanneh, whose foundation works on youth development and empowerment in the Minneapolis area. Larson also met with former Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee and visited her foundation in East St. Louis, and also spoke with Max Siegel, the CEO of USA Track & Field who also runs a NASCAR-sanctioned team that is part of the stock car series’ diversity program.

 

Larson continued work he’d already been doing with the Urban Youth Racing School in Philadelphia. The nonprofit helps minorities advance in motorsports and Jysir Fisher, one of its students, had celebrated with Larson in victory lane following a win in Delaware last October.

 

He put the work in unpublicized in an effort to prove his motives were sincere.

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Bears Knock Off Panthers

Nick Foles threw for one touchdown and ran for another, Chicago’s defense forced three turnovers and sacked Teddy Bridgewater four times and the Bears held on to beat the Carolina Panthers 23-16 on Sunday.

 

Once again, the Bears’ 27th-ranked offense was just good enough to win.

 

Foles finished with 198 yards passing and a touchdown and David Montgomery added 58 yards on the ground as the Bears (5-1) opened the season 3-0 on the road for the first time since 2006, when they reached the Super Bowl.

 

It wasn’t pretty, for sure, but Chicago improved to 2-1 with Foles as the starter. The 2018 Super Bowl MVP also rallied the Bears past the Falcons when Nagy benched Mitchell Trubisky in Week 3.

 

Chicago limited Carolina to 303 yards and the Panthers were 3 of 13 on third down conversions. Bridgewater was held to a season-low 216 yards passing and was intercepted twice. He was forced to scramble out of the pocket eight times while trying to avoid pressure.

 

On a fourth-and-2 from the Bears 36, D.J. Moore couldn’t haul in a one-handed catch on a pass that was slightly overthrown. Carolina’s defense came up with a stop, but safety DeAndre Houston-Carson intercepted Bridgewater on Carolina’s next possession to seal the win.

 

The Panthers’ struggles started from the opening kickoff, where they were flagged for an illegal block.

 

Mike Davis then lost a yard on the first carry, Bridgewater was sacked at the Carolina 1 and then intercepted by Tashaun Gipson on third down. That set up a 9-yard touchdown pass from Foles to rookie tight end Cole Kmet to give the Bears a 7-0 lead.

 

The Bears improved to 3-0 against the NFC South this season with wins against the Falcons, Bucs and Panthers. They look for the sweep on Nov. 1 when they host the Saints.

The Bears travel to face the Rams on Monday, Oct. 26.

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Brady, Bucs Rout Rodgers, Packers

Tom Brady outplayed Rodgers, however a young Bucs secondary was equally impressive in setting the tone for a 38-10 rout of the previously unbeaten Packers, who unraveled after taking a 10-0 lead and limiting Tampa Bay to just five offensive plays in the first quarter.

 

Aaron Rodgers threw two interceptions — Green Bay’s first turnovers of the season — within a three-pass span of the second quarter to turn the 10-point lead into a 14-10 deficit.

 

Cornerback Jamel Dean returned the first pick 32 yards for a touchdown. Safety Mike Edwards ran the other back 38 yards to the Packers 2 to set up another TD.

 

It was the 43-year-old Brady’s first signature victory since signing with the Bucs (4-2) after a historic 20-year run with the New England Patriots, which included nine NFL title game appearances and six championships.

 

He got his favorite target from his days with the Patriots into the mix, throwing a 12-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski for a 28-10 halftime lead. It was Gronkowski’s first TD since December 2018 and the 79th for the quarterback/tight end tandem — tied for fourth on the all-time list with Miami’s Dan Marino and Mark Clayton.

 

Brady also threw a 7-yard TD pass to rookie Tyler Johnson and Ronald Jones rushed for 113 yards and a pair of TDs for Tampa Bay, which didn’t turn the ball over, allow a sack or commit a single penalty after being flagged 11 times in a one-point loss to Chicago in its previous game.

 

Both of Rodgers’ interceptions — his first with multiple picks since throwing three in a loss to Carolina on Dec. 17, 2017 — came on throws intended for Davante Adams, who had a team-leading six catches for 61 yards in his return from a hamstring injury that sidelined him two games.

 

Rodgers finished 16 of 35 for 160 yards and no touchdowns after completing 70.5 percent of his passes and throwing for 13 TDs and no interceptions in Green Bay’s first four games.

 

Brady, meanwhile, was 17 of 27 for 166 yards and two TDs without an interception. Gronkowski led the Bucs with five receptions for 78 yards — his best game since ending a one-year retirement to join Brady in Tampa Bay.

 

The Bucs had two of their four sacks by halftime.

 

Packers LT David Bakhtiari left in the third quarter with a chest injury, leaving Green Bay to play the remainder of the game without its best offensive lineman. S Darnell Savage (quad) missed a portion of the second half. CB Kevin King (quadriceps) and RB Tyler Ervin (wrist) were inactive.

 

The Packers are at Houston next Sunday.

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Logano Takes Checkered Flag in Kansas

Using every bit of the track Sunday to hold off the winningest driver this season, Joey Logano took the checkered flag on a cold, blustery Sunday to secure a spot in the championship round of the playoffs. Kevin Harvick was followed across by Alex Bowman and Brad Keselowski as postseason contenders swept the top four spots in the opener of the round of eight.

 

Harvick, who already has won nine times this season, kept pulling up to Logano’s bumper after the final restart for a caution brought out by Tyler Reddick. But he simply couldn’t make a pass stick as Logano moved all over the track to block him while taking advantage of lapped traffic that kept Harvick from making a clear run.

 

Just none of them worked to get around Logano, who picked up his third win of the season and first since the COVID-19 pandemic, which reduced the capacity to about 10,000 fans for Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway.

 

Kyle Busch was fifth and Chase Elliott, who won the opening stage, wound up sixth after dealing with radio problems that at one point caused him to mistakenly pit. Elliott tried using a backup radio and even resorted to hand signs with his team on pit road to convey what he wanted done with the car.

 

Ryan Blaney, William Byron, playoff driver Martin Truex Jr. and Christopher Bell rounded out the top 10. Kansas native Clint Bowyer, who is retiring after the season and taking a spot in the Fox Sports commentary booth, was competitive early but wound up finishing 26th in what could be his final race at his home track.

 

Harvick’s second-place run was good for his own championship hopes. He now has a 41-point cushion over the cut line with two races left before the championship, while Denny Hamlin is 20 points above it after a mistake caused him to brush the wall and he wound up 15th. Keselowski is eight points above Elliott, the first driver below the cut line.

 

Bowman is 27 points below, Truex is 31 points behind and Kurt Busch is 73 points back after blowing his engine Sunday.

 

Truex’s team failed inspection twice before finally making it through, but that sent his No. 19 Toyota to the back of the field for the start. He quickly worked his way into the top 10, where he spent much of the rest of the afternoon.

 

Kurt Busch had to serve a penalty for speeding on pit road that hurt him in the opening stage. Then, midway through the final stage, he began to notice a problem in his car. His engine finally gave out with a belch of smoke heading into Turn 1 with 68 laps left, leaving him in a win-or-else situation at Texas and Martinsville.

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Kokrak Gets First PGA Tour Victory At Relocated AJ Cup

Holding his nerve to the end and delivering all the key shots, Jason Kokrak matched the low score of the week with an 8-under 64 to overcome a three-shot deficit at the start and win by two shots to finally be able to call himself a PGA Tour winner Sunday in the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek.

 

Playing for the 233rd time in his 10th season on the PGA Tour without ever having won, he didn’t need any reminders that anything would come easily.

 

He watched Xander Schauffele stuff a wedge to 5 feet for birdie and roll in a 45-foot birdie putt from the thick collar of the 13th green on the next hole to tie for the lead.

 

Kokrak never flinched.

 

The CJ Cup moved from South Korea this year to Shadow Creek because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kokrak is an ambassador for MGM Resorts, which owns the prestigious Tom Fazio design, and he has played the course some two dozen times.

 

Kokrak began to pull away with four straight birdies on the front nine, and birdie putts from 20 feet and 18 feet to start the back nine that stretched his lead to two shots.

 

Schauffele answered with three straight birdies, the last one a 45-footer that made it feel as though he was going to claim another PGA Tour victory by coming from behind.

 

It all turned on the par-5 16th, when both missed the fairway to the left. Schauffele saw a wood chip behind his ball that he didn’t want to touch in case it caused the ball to move. He advanced it some 85 yards into more rough.

 

Swinging with all his might, his third shot peeled off to the right into more rough well below the green, and he made his only bogey in his round of 66. Kokrak also was in the left rough, hacked out to the right rough and put his third shot in the bunker. But he splashed it out to just inside 4 feet and made par for a one-shot lead.

 

That proved to the deciding shot as Schauffele couldn’t catch up and closed with a 66.

 

Kokrak, a 35-year-old from Ohio, all but clinched it when he drilled his drive into the fairway on the par-5 18th, leaving only a short iron to 25 feet. He two-putted for his final birdie of a round he won’t soon forget.

 

Russell Henley, who began the final round with a three-shot lead, never got anything going early and fell behind when he bogeyed the par-5 seventh and Kokrak was on his early run of birdies.

 

Henley’s hopes ended on the reachable par-4 11th when he drove over the green into thick rough and, facing a downhill chip, left it in the rough short of the green and made bogey on the second-easiest scoring hole at Shadow Creek. That put him four shots behind, and a late push of birdies was never going to be enough.

He closed with a 70 and tied for third with Tyrrell Hatton, who was coming off a victory last w

eek in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Hatton closed with a 65.

 

Kokrak played bogey-free on a course where trouble was never too far away. Justin Thomas, within five shots of the lead, has two straight bogeys on the front nine and three more in a four-hole stretch on the back for a 74. Rory McIlroy was at least headed for a good finish until he had a pair of bogeys and two double bogeys over the last five holes for a 74.

 

Making it even tougher on Kokrak and Schauffele was Jason Day, the third in their group, withdrew with a neck injury on the second hole. That meant a twosome amidst a course filled with threesomes, and a lot of waiting. They still played at the highest level, with Kokrak delivering all the key putts.

 

Kokrak earned a spot in the Masters next month from reaching the Tour Championship a year ago in August. Now he can plan on two trips to Augusta National, qualifying for the 2021 tournament by winning.

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Mickelson Wins Second Tournament in Champion's Tour

Bombing drives like he will have to do against the younger set on the PGA Tour, Mickelson shot a 7-under 65 and became the third player — and second this year — to win his first two starts on the tour for players 50 and older. He slammed the door on Mike Weir with a back-nine surge Sunday in the Dominion Energy Charity Classic at The Country Club of Virginia.

 

He finished at 17-under 199, one off the event record set by Miguel Angel Jimenez last year.

 

Mickelson beat fellow left-hander and second-round leader Weir by three strokes. The fellow rookie closed with a 71 and said he would have contended had he putted better.

 

The winner in late August at Ozarks National in Missouri in his first start on the tour, Mickelson joined Bruce Fleischer and Jim Furyk as the only players to win in their first two senior events. Fleischer accomplished the feat in 1999 and Furyk did it this year with victories at The Ally Challenge and Pure Insurance Championship.

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