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Burrow throws 4 TD passes, Bengals rally past Steelers 37-30

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/cincinnati-bengals-joe-mixon-burrow-pittsburgh-steelers-nfl-d2d43d4d06e835f7a44a3632b71cca4c

PITTSBURGH (AP) — So much for the Cincinnati Bengals struggling to score without Ja’Marr Chase. Or Joe Mixon for that matter.

The defending AFC champions can hurt opponents in all kinds of ways no matter who’s in the lineup. Joe Burrow laid the proof bare in a 37-30 victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Yes, that was Samaje Perine setting a franchise record by catching three touchdown passes, the most in a single game by a Cincinnati running back. Yes, that was practice squad call-up Trent Irwin hauling in the first score of his four-year career with a 1-yard grab in the back of the end zone to give the Bengals the lead for good midway through the third quarter.

Two-plus months removed from an upset home loss to the Steelers in Week 1 in which he was pummeled relentlessly, Burrow responded by going 24 of 39 for 355 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions.

“He’s always comfortable,” Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said. “The whole world could be falling down around him (and it doesn’t faze him) … he’s a special player.”

One who is hardly doing it alone. The Bengals (6-4) have won four of five following a 2-3 start, topping 30 points in all four wins, the last two despite Chase sitting out while recovering from a hip injury.

“It just shows what we’ve got,” said Cincinnati receiver Tee Higgins, who caught nine passes for 148 yards. “We’ve got firepower.”

The Bengals piled up 408 yards of total offense and put together touchdown drives of 79, 92 and 93 yards to beat the Steelers (3-7) for the fourth time in five meetings.

“I think we’re playing as good as anybody,” said Burrow, who passed 10,000 career yards passing in 36 games, tying him with Hall of Famer Kurt Warner for the third-fastest player in league history to reach that plateau. “We’re hitting our stride offensively.”

Mixon, coming off a five-touchdown performance in a blowout win over Carolina two weeks ago, managed just 20 yards rushing before entering the NFL’s concussion protocol. No matter. Perine stepped in and turned flips from Burrow into touchdowns of 29, 11 and 6 yards, the final one with Steelers defensive back Levi Wallace on Perine’s back that gave the Bengals a 34-23 lead with 4:30 to go.

“I’m the checkdown (guy) and fortunate to have some space when (Burrow) checks down to make something happen,” Perine said. “Other than that, I’m just the next guy up.”

Pittsburgh (3-7) saw its chance of repeating its Week 1 upset it pulled off in Cincinnati in September vanish in the second half as a 20-17 lead slipped away. Rookie Kenny Pickett passed for 265 yards and a touchdown and Najee Harris ran for 90 yards and two scores, but the NFL’s second-lowest scoring offense sputtered after halftime.

“Our defense did a great job to give us a chance to win the game and we didn’t come through in the second half,” Pickett said. “That’s on us. we have to get it fixed and have two strong halves in order to beat a team like that.”

The Steelers managed just 52 total yards on their first six drives of the second half and turned a pair of short fields into only three points. That was all the space Burrow needed to likely end any slim outside chance Pittsburgh had in being a factor in the AFC North race down the stretch.

“It’s not good,” Harris said. “But we just have to be here and stack bricks. … It was a tough one. We really wanted this one.”

WATT HAPPENS

The Steelers failed to disrupt Burrow as effectively as they did in Week 1, when they sacked him seven times and forced five Bengals turnovers. Pittsburgh took down Burrow just twice, though linebacker T.J. Watt provided another highlight-reel play when he simultaneously fought off a block from Bengals tackle La’el Collins and snatched Burrow’s pass in mid-air for his sixth career interception and second this season against Burrow.

“I would love to say that there’s something I can do about that, but there’s nothing I can do about that,” Burrow said.

TURNING POINT

The Steelers started a drive at the Cincinnati 47 trailing by four early in the fourth quarter. A 13-yard run by Harris gave Pittsburgh a first down before things went sideways. A holding call and an illegal man downfield penalty forced the Steelers back 15 yards. Two incompletions and a draw play to Harris led to a punt.

Cincinnati took over at its own 7 and needed just eight plays to reach the end zone, with Burrow completing four of his passes on the drive, including a 32-yard catch-and-run by Irwin, playing in his 12th career game.

“We had the ball at midfield (and) we don’t produce points),” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. “Pinned them back and they go the length of the field. That’s a significant swing.”

CHRISMAN DEBUTS

The Kevin Huber era in Cincinnati may be over. The longtime punter — whose 216 games played is a franchise record — sat in favor of Drue Chrisman. Chrisman averaged 50 yards on three punts.

INJURIES

Steelers: WR Miles Boykin (oblique) and backup RB Jaylen Warren (hamstring) left in the first half. C Mason Cole (foot) did not start the second half and was replaced by J.C. Hassenauer.

UP NEXT

Bengals: Travel to AFC South-leading Tennessee (7-3) next Sunday.

Steelers: Visit Indianapolis (4-6-1) next Monday night.

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

Source: https://apnews.com/article/cincinnati-bengals-joe-mixon-burrow-pittsburgh-steelers-nfl-d2d43d4d06e835f7a44a3632b71cca4c

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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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