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Allen’s turnover troubles beginning to sink Buffalo Bills

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/buffalo-bills-minnesota-vikings-nfl-sports-8cd27f40c87aec8d35984476148c42b4

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — If his injured throwing elbow is fine, as Josh Allen insisted following his and the Bills’ latest second-half meltdown, then it might be fair to suggest the issue with the quarterback’s recent rash of turnovers rests more between his ears.

Allen’s competitiveness is undeniable. And yet his stubbornness in choosing to shoulder too much of the offense is beginning to hurt his team.

Buffalo (6-3) has lost two straight and tumbled out of first place in the AFC and sits third in its division following a 33-30 overtime loss to Minnesota on Sunday in which Allen’s three turnovers (two interceptions and a lost fumble in his own end zone) contributed heavily to the Vikings overcoming a 17-point third-quarter deficit.

There Allen was, with his head down, conducting his postgame news conference by once again acknowledging he must be smarter with the ball.

“Horrendous second half. I gotta be better,” Allen lamented.

If it sounds familiar, it is, because Allen issued similar sentiments following his two previous outings.

After throwing two interceptions in a 20-17 loss at the New York Jets a week earlier, Allen said: “It’s tough to win in this league when you’re playing a good team and your quarterback plays like (expletive).”

Two weeks ago, after throwing two second-half interceptions in a 27-17 win over Green Bay, Allen said: “Can’t put our team in a situation where the only way that team gets back in it is by turning the ball over — and two stupid ones that I really had no business throwing.”

Perhaps, an intervention of sorts might be in order for Allen who in one month has gone from leading the NFL in yards passing and touchdowns passing entering Buffalo’s bye week, to entering Monday leading the league with 10 interceptions — six coming in his past three outings.

Sure, blame can be placed elsewhere for Buffalo’s midseason slump.

The defense has allowed a combined 529 yards rushing in its past three outings. An injury-depleted secondary was unable to contain Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson, who had 10 catches for 193 yards and a touchdown.

Clock management is an issue, too. Up 27-23, the Bills ate up just 68 seconds of game time by attempting three passes (two of them incompletions) in giving the Vikings back the ball with 3:26 left in regulation.

And yet, much of the troubles go directly to Allen for attempting to do too much in forcing the ball when he shouldn’t be, and placing the burden on the defense to bail him out. The defense has actually held up in allowing just 47 points (six TDs, two field goals and a missed extra point) off Buffalo’s 18 giveaways.

Four of Allen’s past seven turnovers have come in the red zone.

His fumbled snap recovered by Minnesota’s Eric Kendricks for a touchdown came one play after Buffalo stopped Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins for no gain on fourth down at the half-yard line with 49 seconds left. And he closed overtime by slamming his helmet to the turf after being intercepted in the end zone on second down with Buffalo in position to at the very least come away with a tie.

Much of the Bills’ success the previous two seasons — consecutive AFC East titles and three playoff victories — can be attributed to Allen. It’s only fair, too, he shoulders the blame for what’s gone wrong of late.

Von Miller said there’s no reason to panic.

“It’s Week 10 and we’ve got seven games left. Hey, we’re not finished then,” the edge rusher said.

And yet, receiver Stefon Diggs cited one of Miller’s familiar mantras by raising a sliver of concern.

“Von always says don’t blink,” Diggs said. “And I feel like we might be blinking a little bit.”

WHAT’S WORKING

First-half scoring. The Bills have outscored their past three opponents before halftime by a combined 62-27.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Second-half scoring. The Bills have been outscored after halftime in their past three outings by a combined 43-12.

STOCK UP

S Jordan Poyer. If the veteran starter in the final year of his contract is making a point regarding his value to the defense by missing his second straight game with an elbow injury, he’s certainly succeeded. Buffalo is 1-3 when Poyer doesn’t play.

STOCK DOWN

Allen. In the second half and overtime of his past three outings, he’s combined to go 25 of 55 for 337 yards with five interceptions, one lost fumble and no TDs.

INJURIES

LB Tremaine Edmunds didn’t return after aggravating a groin injury. … WR Jake Kumerow (ankle) is considered week to week. … Coach Sean McDermott said Allen “came out of the game in a good spot,” in reference to the quarterback’s right elbow.

KEY NUMBER

4-3 — Buffalo’s record this season when tied or leading at the half.

NEXT STEPS

Two winnable games, perhaps, over a short week. After hosting the Cleveland Browns (3-6) on Sunday, Buffalo travels to play Detroit (3-6) on Thanksgiving Day.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Source: https://apnews.com/article/buffalo-bills-minnesota-vikings-nfl-sports-8cd27f40c87aec8d35984476148c42b4

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Report: NWSL to expand in Boston, Utah and California

The National Women’s Soccer League is close to expanding by three teams, which will be in Boston, Utah and the San Francisco area, according to a Friday report in the Wall Street Journal.

The women’s pro league previously indicated it would add at least two teams by 2024. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that the franchises in northern California and Utah are set to start play next year, with Boston to join at a later date.

The NWSL did not confirm the report in a statement Saturday to The Associated Press, saying: “We remain engaged in our expansion process and are excited about our prospects. When we have news to share, we will do so.”

The NWSL has 12 teams, after Angel City in Los Angeles and the San Diego Wave joined the league last year.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the Boston and Bay Area groups will pay about $50 million in franchise fees. The Utah team will pay a reduced fee because of a previous agreement struck when the Utah Royals folded in the 2020 season.

Before the NWSL draft earlier this month, league commissioner Jessica Berman said it would be “somewhere between days and months, more like weeks, when we’ll be in a position to share information” about an expansion.

“What I can say is that I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities we have in front of us,” she added.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Former MVP Candace Parker to sign with champion Aces

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former two-time MVP Candace Parker announced on social media Saturday that she would sign with the defending champion Las Vegas Aces.

Parker spent the past two seasons playing for her hometown Sky, leading Chicago to the WNBA championship in 2021. She also won the 2016 title playing for the Los Angeles Sparks.

She posted on Instagram that Chicago would always be her home, but “my family’s home is on the west coast.

“To play for a championship close to home is the perfect situation for us. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey this summer in Las Vegas.”

The free-agent signing period begins Wednesday, and the Aces can’t comment until then.

Parker, a 6-foot-4 forward/center, adds to an already loaded lineup that includes reigning MVP A’ja Wilson, who also won the league’s top award in 2020. Wilson also was last season’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Chelsea Gray was MVP of the WNBA Finals and Kelsey Plum MVP of the All-Star Game. Wilson, Plum and Jackie Young were All-Star starters.

Parker and Gray were teammates on Los Angeles’ 2016 title team.

The Aces traded one of their key pieces, two-time Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby, to the Sparks on Jan. 21, creating speculation Las Vegas was creating salary cap room to sign a big-name player.

Parker, the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year and the 2016 Finals MVP, certainly fits that bill. Even at 36 last season, she averaged 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the Sky.

“Candace has done so much for our franchise in her time here,” Chicago coach and general manager James Wade said in a statement. “I understand her reasons for wanting to be closer with her immediate family. We wish her nothing but the best. She will always be a part of the Sky family. We will celebrate her time here as she deserves.”

Losing her is a big blow to the Sky, who made the semifinals in last season’s playoffs before losing in five games to the Connecticut Sun. Kahleah Copper is the only starter under contract for next season, so the Sky could head into a rebuild.

“I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to win a championship in my hometown and parade down the same streets I watched the Bulls parade down as a young girl first falling in love with the game of basketball,” Parker posted.

Parker joins the Aces at a time the Women’s National Basketball Players Association said it wanted that organization investigated regarding allegations that Hamby made after being traded. She posted on Instagram she was “lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against” because she is pregnant with her second child.

The Aces still have not commented on Hamby’s allegations.

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Estrada, Hofstra end No. 18 Charleston’s 20-game win streak

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — This season, Hofstra has been a one-man show. This time, Aaron Estrada had some help as the Pride ended the nation’s longest winning streak.

Estrada scored 25 points, but just two in the second half, while Darlinestone Dubar added 18 as Hofstra had four players in double figures to knock off No. 18 College of Charleston 85-81 on Saturday — ending the Cougars’ 20-game win streak.

“That’s a really big for our program,” Hofstra coach Speedy Claxton said. “To beat a nationally ranked team on their home court when they’ve got it rolling like they do speaks volumes about our kids.”

Claxton saw a team effort to take down the hottest team in the country.

“It wasn’t just Aaron,” Claxton said. “He had a great first half, but we had other guys step up and make baskets or get rebounds when we really needed them.”

The loss ended Charleston’s spotless run that began after losing to then-top-ranked North Carolina on Nov. 11.

Hofstra, the CAA’s leader in field-goal shooting, used that to move past Charleston in the second half as it made 18 of 32 attempts. The Pride led 76-69 with 6:10 to play before the Cougars cut it to two points on Ryan Larson’s foul shots with 2:02 to play.

But Charleston managed just two free throws after that and missed all four 3-pointers they tried.

This is the second straight season the Pride have beaten a Top 25 team. A year ago, Hofstra defeated then No. 24 Arkansas 89-81. The Pride’s only other victory against a Top 25 team came against Southern Illinois in 1976.

Hofstra (15-8, 8-2 Colonial Athletic Association) beat the Cougars (21-2, 9-1) at their own game — 3-point shooting. The Pride were 11 of 22 from 3-point range and overall shot 56 percent from the floor in the second half.

Estrada, who had 23 points in the opening half, shredded the Cougars defense at will. Estrada was 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

“Estrada is a great player, hit a bunch of tough shots, especially in the first half,” Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said. “Hofstra is a very, very talented team. It’s not just Estrada. They were better than us tonight.”

Then Estrada took over. The CAA’s leading scorer at 21.1 points a game scored 16 of the next 24 points for the Pride, including four 3-pointers.

Ante Brzovic’s dunk at the buzzer gave the Cougars a 46-44 advantage at halftime.

Tyler Thomas had 17 points and eight rebounds for Hofstra.

Brzovic finished with 18 points to lead the Cougars.

BIG PICTURE

Hofstra: The Pride are on a roll in 2023. winning seven of their past eight games, including three in a row.

College of Charleston: The Cougars chances of receiving an NCAA Tournament at-large bid took a major blow with the loss to the Pride. Despite having the nation’s longest win streak for three months, Charleston will most likely have to win the CAA Tournament in March to advance to the NCAAs.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

The Cougars’ 20-game win streak wasn’t the only streak to end on Saturday. College of Charleston played 14 of its first 23 games at TD Arena to start the season and were a perfect 13-0 at home before facing the Pride. Charleston’s 13-game home win streak included three wins in the Charleston Classic. The Cougars became the first mid-major program to win the ESPN event, beating Virginia Tech 77-75 in the championship game. Charleston will finish the season playing four of their final eight games on the road.

POLL POSITION

Charleston’s first loss in nearly three months might drop the Cougars from the national rankings. They have been part of the last four rankings, entering at No. 23 before reaching No. 18 this past week.

UP NEXT

Hofstra returns home to play Towson on Thursday night.

College of Charleston starts a two-game road trip at Drexel on Thursday night.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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