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Marcus Jones’ late punt return lifts Patriots over Jets 10-3

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/new-england-patriots-york-jets-nfl-sports-nick-folk-5942535b09693aa00225c827c7b05a2f

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The NFL went 10 weeks and hundreds of kicks without a player returning a punt for a touchdown. Marcus Jones made the first of the season one to remember.

The New England rookie returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown with 5 seconds remaining and the Patriots outlasted the stunned New York Jets 10-3 on Sunday.

Jones’ score was the lone TD of the game and broke a stalemate on a day when both offenses struggled to move the ball.

With only 26 seconds showing on the clock when the Jets lined up to kick, Jones thought Braden Mann might punt it out of bounds. Once he got it in his hands and made a few players miss, everything changed.

“Then I seen the punter and I was like, ‘If I make him miss, I should be able to go the distance.’”

He was right.

Jones’ TD was the second-latest game-winning score on a punt return in regulation since 1970, behind only DeSean Jackson’s 65-yarder for Philadelphia with no time remaining against the Giants in 2010.

It was the third straight win for the Patriots (6-4) and their 14th straight over New York. They also denied the Jets (6-4) a chance to move into first place in the AFC East this late in the season for the first time since 2010. Instead, New York dropped to last place.

“I’m in disbelief,” Jets cornerback D.J. Reed said. “It’s a tough loss.”

The Jets haven’t won in Foxborough since the 2010 playoffs when they knocked out the Patriots in the divisional round.

The Patriots moved the ball well at times, with Mac Jones completing 23 of 27 passes for 246 yards. But they were only 4 of 15 on third down and had only one field goal — with Nick Folk missing two attempts — despite getting inside the Jets 30 three times.

New York sacked Jones six times, but managed only 103 yards on offense and six first downs. Zach Wilson was just 9 of 22 for 77 yards, and Mann punted 10 times. In the second half, the Jets had just 2 yards on seven possessions.

Jets coach Robert Saleh said he thought their defense was “outstanding.” He likened the offense’s second-half effort to dog feces. But he said it wasn’t just on the second-year quarterback.

“We couldn’t run the ball. either, so there’s a lot of things that we got to look at to see if we can find some efficiency in the offense,” Saleh said. “It just wasn’t good enough.”

Back-to-back plays involving New York wide receiver Denzel Mims and New England cornerback Jonathan Jones kept the Jets alive late in the fourth.

First, Jones dived in front of Mims and dropped a near interception. Then, Jones was called for defensive holding on Mims, negating what would have been a sack by Mack Wilson.

But New York couldn’t move the ball with their new set of downs and were forced to punt.

“Complete domination. That’s kind of what what we wanted to do,” Patriots defensive lineman Deatrich Wise, Jr. said. “We wanted to stop the run and affect the pass. And I thought we did that.”

SMALL COMPANY

This was the first game in at least the last 40 seasons in which the first TD scored was a defensive or special teams TD in the final minute of the game.

SACK MAN

Patriots linebacker Matt Judon combined with Mack Wilson for a sack early in the third quarter and dropped Zach Wilson for a 9-yard sack on the first play of the fourth quarter to set a career high of 13 1/2 this season.

Only one player in Patriots franchise history has had more sacks in a season: Hall of Famer Andre Tippett, who had 18 1/2 in 1984 and 16 1/2 in 1985.

EARLY ACTION

Field goals by both teams provided all the scoring until the winning punt return.

The Patriots drove to the Jets 6 before settling for a 24-yarder by Folk.

Zach Wilson completed a 34-yard pass to Mims to set the Jets up on the Patriots 25. It stalled there, leading to a 45-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein.

The Patriots had a chance to add points late in the second quarter when they drove to the Jets 7. But a holding penalty on Yodny Cajuste, followed by a sack on Mac Jones pushed the ball back to the 26. The series ended with Folk’s miss from 44.

INJURIES

Jets: LB Quincy Williams limped off with an ankle injury in the first quarter after combing on a tackle. He returned in the second quarter. … CB Michael Carter II left with a chest injury in the fourth quarter, but returned late. … CB Brandin Echols was able to walk off on his own power after being shaken up on a play in the fourth.

Patriots: C David Andrews left late in the first quarter with a thigh injury and didn’t return. He was replaced by James Ferentz. … LT Isaiah Wynn also left in the first and was ruled out with a foot injury. He was replaced by Trent Brown.

UP NEXT

Jets: Host the Chicago Bears next Sunday.

Patriots: At the Minnesota Vikings on Thanksgiving.

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

Source: https://apnews.com/article/new-england-patriots-york-jets-nfl-sports-nick-folk-5942535b09693aa00225c827c7b05a2f

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49ers head into offseason with more questions at quarterback

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers head into another offseason with major questions at quarterback after a season filled with injuries to the most important position ended without any of them physically able to throw the the ball downfield.

Trey Lance, who began the season as starter, is getting close to being fully cleared following two operations on his broken right ankle.

Brock Purdy, who went from third-string rookie to the starter that helped lead the Niners into the NFC title game before getting hurt himself, is figuring out how to treat his injured throwing elbow.

Jimmy Garoppolo, the starter in between those two before breaking his foot, is set to become an unrestricted free agent in six weeks.

And rumors are sure to swirl about whether the best answer for coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch will be adding a veteran like Tom Brady to help a franchise that has gone to the NFC title game or further in three of the last four seasons get over the hump and win its first Super Bowl in nearly three decades.

The first big question at the position will be about Purdy’s health after he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on the first drive of a 31-7 loss in the NFC title game to Philadelphia on Sunday.

Purdy was forced back into the game in the second half when Josh Johnson left with a concussion but was unable to throw the ball more than a few yards because of the injury.

“The minute I started throwing literally like I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t throw,” he said. “So obviously the adrenaline and stuff I think helps in terms of allowing me to go back in the game and hand the ball off — even that was pretty painful. But just overall it sucked that I wasn’t able to throw.”

An MRI revealed the tear and Purdy said he will undergo more tests and speak to more doctors to figure out whether recovery, repair or full reconstruction is the best option.

The injury is much more common in baseball pitchers, who often undergo reconstructive “Tommy John surgery” that sidelines them up to a year. But Purdy is hoping to avoid that; a simpler repair would keep him out for six months but allow him to return to practice around the start of training camp in July.

“The way a quarterback throws compared to a pitcher, two different things. It’s similar but more violent as a baseball player,” Purdy said. “So they’re saying the recovery process could be a little bit faster as a quarterback. I’ve looked at guys who have gone through this kind of thing. I’m just trying to find what’s right. Everyone’s situation is different and I’m trying to find out which one is right for myself.”

Purdy showed a lot in his first season in the NFL, going from the last pick of the draft to starter in the conference title game. He won all seven of his starts before the loss on Sunday and threw for 1,374 yards with 13 touchdowns and only four interceptions in the regular season.

That performance could make him the favorite to begin next season as starter if he’s healthy.

“For me to claim or say anything in terms of what’s going to happen moving forward, that’s out of my control,” he said. “I’m going to do what I can to get back healthy and be ready to compete come fall.”

Lance was supposed to be in that role after San Francisco traded three first-round picks to draft him third overall in 2021. But he started only two games as a rookie when Garoppolo got hurt and then went down with a season-ending injury early in Week 2 this season.

Lance needed a second operation in late December but said he expects to be fully cleared in a few weeks and to be 100% for the start of the offseason program.

But after he started only five games combined in the last three years in college and the NFL, there are questions about whether Lance can be the long-term answer for San Francisco.

“I’m excited to go out and show what I can do,” he said. “Same situation that it’s been for me the last two years and really my whole life. Nothing has really changed and I still have the same mindset. … I just worry about what these guys think in this locker room, what the coaches think, what people in this organization think. Anything outside of that is totally out of my control. So I don’t let that have any effect on me.”

NOTES: All-Pro DE Nick Bosa said he wants to sign a long-term contract to stay in San Francisco but will be patient and leave that up to his agent.

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

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Banchero headlines field for All-Star Rising Stars event

Paolo Banchero’s rookie season will include a trip to NBA All-Star weekend.

The Orlando Magic forward and No. 1 pick in last year’s draft was announced Tuesday as a participant in this year’s Rising Stars Game, to be held in Salt Lake City on Feb. 17, two nights before the All-Star Game.

Banchero — who leads all rookies with a 20.7 points-per-game average — may still be selected as an All-Star reserve. Those players will be revealed Thursday.

“Anytime you can get a chance to be a part of All-Star weekend, you can’t say no,” Banchero said. “Especially me, being a rookie, first year, never experienced it before, it’s always been the dream to just be a part of that whether it was Rising Stars or as a reserve. I’m definitely excited to get there and just see what it’s like.”

Banchero is on pace to be the first rookie to average 20 points per game since Luka Doncic in 2018-19. He also is fourth among rookies in rebounds per game entering Tuesday and third among them in steals per game.

Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said the All-Star experience — whether just for Rising Stars or not — will have an impact on Banchero.

“Just being around other young players that have found themselves in that position, it does so much because it’s your peers,” Mosley said. “You’re around a group of young men who are the elite of the league in that class. I think it says something to the work that you’ve put in, the work that he’s put in. It’s going to do wonders for how he continues to believe in himself, what we’re doing as a team and his continued growth.”

Also picked for the game from this year’s rookie class: Detroit’s Jalen Duren and Jaden Ivey, Atlanta’s A.J. Griffin, Utah’s Walker Kessler, Indiana’s Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard, Sacramento’s Keegan Murray, Houston’s Jabari Smith Jr., San Antonio’s Jeremy Sochan and Oklahoma City’s Jalen Williams.

The second-year players selected were New Orleans’ Jose Alvarado and Trey Murphy III, Toronto’s Scottie Barnes, Oklahoma City’s Josh Giddey, Houston’s Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun, New York’s Quentin Grimes, Denver’s Bones Hyland, Cleveland’s Evan Mobley and Orlando’s Franz Wagner.

There also will be a team of G League players in the Rising Stars event, composed of Sidy Cissoko, Mojave King, Scoot Henderson, Kenneth Lofton Jr., Mac McClung, Leonard Miller and Scotty Pippen Jr.

The 21 NBA players will be drafted into three seven-player teams. Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Deron Williams will serve as coaches for those teams, while Jason Terry will coach the G League team.

All four teams will play a semifinal game with a target score of 40, and the two winners will then play the championship game with a target score of 25.

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

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Griner’s return, free agency raises charter flight concerns

Brittney Griner’s return to the WNBA this summer after being traded in a dramatic prisoner swap in December with Russia has collided with free agency, creating potential travel complications for the league out of safety concerns for her.

If Griner, who is a free agent but has said she’ll return to Phoenix, needs special travel accommodations — such as chartered flights — the league will have to come up with a plan for the 6-foot-9 star. Griner’s safety when traveling will be a top priority for the team and the league.

“We are very cognizant of BG’s unique situation,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told The Associated Press. “We’ve been planning and we’ve been thinking it through with security experts. BG’s side, our side. We’ll find the right time to comment on it when she signs with a team.”

That could come Wednesday, when free agents can officially sign.

While the Griner situation is unique, other marquee players raised the issue of charter flights, which teams have deemed too costly.

The current collective bargaining agreement requires that all teams fly commercial and doesn’t allow teams to charter flights. Any change in that would have to be approved by both the union and the league.

“No one wants to make this work more than me,” Engelbert said. “That’s why we’re working so hard to transform the economic business model. We’ve had positive changes over the last couple years, but we’re not going to jeopardize the financial viability of the league. We are on the cusp of something big here.”

HOW MUCH WOULD IT COST THE WNBA TO CHARTER FLIGHTS?

Engelbert says it would cost the league about $25 million each season for each of its 12 teams to charter flights to every game. That number has increased about $5 million from previous estimates by the commissioner due the new 40-game WNBA schedule this season, fuel costs and other factors.

The estimated cost per franchise to charter flights would be approximately $2 million. Air travel expenses currently for each team is about $150,000, according to two people familiar with the costs. The people spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly address the issue.

“We did it last year for the Finals and we have experience on how much it costs for routes we need to fly,” Engelbert said. “We are monitoring and updating our analysis. We are going to try and get an economic model to fund this as soon as we can.”

WHAT HAPPENS IF A TEAM CHARTERS FLIGHTS?

If teams violate the current CBA they could be fined.

The New York Liberty were fined a WNBA record $500,000 in 2021 for chartering flights to away games during the second half of that season.

HAS THE WNBA CONSIDERED SUBSIDIZING FLIGHTS?

Coveted free agent Breanna Stewart, who has narrowed her choices to a few teams including New York, started a social media campaign to try to help get chartered flights for the league. She tweeted, “I would love to be part of a deal that helps subsidize charter travel for the entire WNBA. I would contribute my NIL, posts + production hrs to ensure we all travel in a way that prioritizes player health + safety, which ultimately results in a better product. Who’s with me?”

Many current and former WNBA and NBA players offered their support. Though any change to travel restrictions would have to be voted on by the union and the league.

“We would need a commitment to it in perpetuity,” Engelbert said. “That’s 250-300 million dollars. Look at the gate and media deal and sponsorship dollars. We’re not close to being able to afford $250 million over the next decade.”

DO WOMEN’S COLLEGE TEAMS CHARTER FLIGHTS?

WNBA players are used to flying charter flights. That’s how they traveled in college.

Title IX legislation requires universities to have equal opportunities for their men’s and women’s athletic programs. The NCAA flies both the men’s and women’s teams on charter flights for the tournament if they are more than 400 miles from the site of their game.

That legislation doesn’t apply to the pros so NBA teams chartering between cities has no effect on what WNBA teams do.

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