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NFL scoring down to lowest level since 2010 at halfway point

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Halfway through the 2022 season it appears NFL defenses have finally started catching up.

After a five-year run of hot-shot quarterbacks lighting up scoreboards and leaving defenses with few answers, the pendulum has turned away from the offense for a change.

With star quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson showing signs of decline as they age, a new crop led by five first-round draft picks in 2021 has been slow to develop. And defenses geared toward limiting big plays in the passing game have put offensive production in a significant decline at the halfway mark.

The 21.8 points per game average through nine weeks is the lowest at this stage of the season since 2010, when teams averaged 21.7 points per game. Scoring is down a staggering 3.5 points per game from this point two years ago when offenses peaked in partly empty stadiums due to the pandemic, and 1.6 points per game from last season.

While rushing production is at its highest mark since 1987 thanks to defenses willing to cede yards on the ground, passing has been harder than it’s been in years, with the NFL passer rating of 89.2 the lowest through nine weeks since 2017 and the 6.12 yards per drop back the lowest since 2006.

The decline in passing production has led to 33 games already when the winning team scored 20 or fewer points, tied for the most through nine weeks since 2007. There have also been only nine games this season when the losing team scored at least 30, down from 21 at this point in 2020.

The lack of offense has helped keep games close, with the NFL having a record 72 games decided by seven points or fewer — the most ever through nine weeks. The average point differential per game of 9.4 points is the lowest through nine weeks in the Super Bowl era.


The passing slowdown hasn’t made it to Miami, where new receiver Tyreek Hill is thriving under first-year coach Mike McDaniel and is on a record-setting pace.

Hill has 1,104 yards receiving, the most for a player through nine games since Charley Hennigan had 1,122 for the Houston Oilers of the old AFL in 1961. The last NFL player with more was Raymond Berry with 1,147 for the Colts in 1960.

Hill could become the NFL’s first 2,000-yard receiver. He is on pace for 2,085 yards receiving — 121 more than Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson’s record 1,964 in 2012. While Hill could benefit from a 17th game, his 16-game pace is just 1 yard off Johnson’s record.

Dolphins teammate Jaylen Waddle has 812 yards receiving, and their 1,916 yards combined are the most for a duo in the Super Bowl era.


It’s been rare in the eight-division format starting in 2002 for an entire division to be full of winners or losers.

Through nine weeks this season, the NFL has one of each.

All four teams in the AFC East have a winning record through nine weeks, marking the fifth time that’s happened since 2002. It happened in both the AFC North and AFC West last season, as well as the 2014 AFC North and 2008 NFC East.

The NFC East has three winners, with Washington bringing up the rear at 4-5. But the .727 combined win percentage for the division is the highest through nine weeks since 2002.

The NFC South is at the other end of the spectrum, with no teams with winning records. The only other times that happened through nine weeks since 2002 were in the 2020 NFC East and 2015 AFC South.


The Eagles became the 29th team in the Super Bowl era to win their first eight games of the season as they try to join the 1972 Dolphins as the only squads with a perfect season.

Miami was one of eight of those 8-0 teams to win the Super Bowl, with New Orleans the last to do it in the 2009 season. The other champions were Dallas (1977), Chicago (1985), the Giants (1990), Washington (1991), Denver (1998) and Indianapolis (2006).

Seven other 8-0 teams went to the Super Bowl and lost. The 49ers were the last to do that in 2019, along with the only undefeated regular-season team since ’72 in the 2007 Patriots.

While all 28 made the playoffs, 10 of those teams didn’t win a single game in the postseason, with the 2020 Steelers the last to go out in their playoff opener.


There have been 27 games this season when a team has overcome a deficit of at least 10 points to win or tie a game — the third-most through nine weeks in NFL history behind the 31 in 1987 and 29 in 2020.

No team has been worse at protecting big leads than the Las Vegas Raiders.

For the third time this season they lost a game they led by at least 17 points as they blew a 20-0 lead to Arizona in Week 2, a 17-0 advantage over Kansas City in Week 5 and a 17-0 lead over Jacksonville on Sunday.

Las Vegas joined the 2020 Chargers and 2003 Falcons as the only teams to lose three games in a season after leading by at least 17.

The Raiders have lost as many games after leading by at least 17 points in eight games with Josh McDaniels as coach as they did in the 628 regular-season and playoff games before he arrived. They had a 106-3 record (.972) when leading by at least 17 points since 1984 but are 1-3 this season under McDaniels.


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Tokyo Olympic official, 3 others held in bid-rigging probe

TOKYO (AP) — A senior official with the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee and three company executives were arrested Wednesday in an ongoing bid-rigging scandal related to the Games.

Yasuo Mori, the Olympic official, was arrested along with Koji Henmi, who headed the sports division at Japanese advertising giant Dentsu. Two other business executives were also arrested on charges of violating anti-monopoly laws, the Tokyo District Prosecutors said in a statement.

Prosecutors have also been investigating a separate bribery scandal centered around former Dentsu executive Haruyuki Takahashi, who was a member of the organizing committee.

The bid-rigging probe in general involves the choice of venues for Olympic test events as well as for the actual Games. It is a joint operation of the Japan Fair Trade Commission, which looks at violations of anti-monopoly laws.

Prosecutors said the officials secretly agreed on the bids in 2018.

Some of the contracts had only one bidder, according to Japanese media reports. Prosecutors say the bid-rigging scandal arrests have just begun and could embroil more companies.

Upon conviction of violation of anti-monopoly laws, individuals can be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

The sprawling corruption allegations surrounding Tokyo have caused the bid by the northern Japanese city of Sapporo for the 2030 Winter Games to be placed “on hold.” Sapporo was considered the favorite before the scandal.

Salt Lake City is the only other known bidder that might consider taking 2030. Salt Lake officials have said they favor a bid for 2034.

The Tokyo Games were postponed for a year and held in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The official price tag is $13 billion, though a government audit suggests it might be twice that much.

Takahashi and officials at several other companies were earlier arrested in the bribery scandal. Plans for those trials are beginning. Takahashi was released on bail after being held for several months.

Among the companies embroiled in the scandal involving Takahashi are Aoki Holdings, a clothing company that dressed Japan’s Olympic team; Sun Arrow, which produced the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic mascots named Miraitowa and Someity; and Kadokawa Group, the publisher of the Games program and guidebooks.


Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter


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Jessica Pegula reveals her mother Kim Pegula’s health crisis

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Pro tennis player Jessica Pegula has revealed that her mother, Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres co-owner and president Kim Pegula, went into cardiac arrest in June and is still recovering while dealing with significant language and memory issues.

In an essay that The Players’ Tribune published Tuesday, Jessica Pegula detailed for the first time the medical crisis that abruptly removed her mother from the public eye and suggested that her mother may not resume the same level of involvement in the family’s sports franchises.

Kim Pegula, she wrote, went into cardiac arrest while sleeping and received lifesaving CPR from another daughter until paramedics arrived and restored her heartbeat. The family previously said only that Kim Pegula was receiving medical care for “some unexpected health issues” that arose shortly after she celebrated her 53rd birthday.

“My mom is working hard in her recovery, she is improving, but where she ends up is still unknown,” Jessica Pegula, 28, wrote.

She said she decided to write about her mother’s ordeal after Bills player Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field during a Jan. 2 game in Cincinnati in what Pegula described as “some bizarre, messed-up, full circle moment.”

“My stomach sunk because it felt like the exact same thing all over again. I was sitting on the bench for a tennis event in Sydney, Australia. I wanted to throw up,” wrote Jessica Pegula, who is No. 4 in the WTA’s singles rankings. “I was supposed to go on for mixed doubles in 15 minutes and I remember telling one of my teammates, `I am a little freaked out right now, this is too close to home, and I feel like I am going to have a panic attack.’”

As Hamlin began his recovery, Jessica Pegula joined in an outpouring of support from fans and the NFL and wore a white screen-printed patch with Hamlin’s uniform number while playing at the Australian Open. “It didn’t feel like it was just for him, it felt like it was for my mom as well,” she said.

Jessica Pegula had been home in Florida months earlier when she got a call from her sister, Kelly, around midnight on their mother’s birthday and learned that their mother was being rushed to the hospital.

“My mom was asleep when my dad woke up to her going into cardiac arrest and she was unresponsive for quite a while,” she wrote. Kelly Pegula, who was staying with their parents, performed CPR — just three months after telling her family that she planned to become certified in the procedure for a job.

“I remember her telling us what she was doing in our family group chat,” Jessica Pegula wrote, “and my mom even responded, `Nice Kells! Now if we have a heart attack you can revive us.’”

Today, Kim Pegula “can read, write, and understand pretty well, but she has trouble finding the words to respond,” Jessica Pegula wrote. “It is hard to deal with and it takes a lot of patience to communicate with her, but I thank God every day that we can still communicate with her at all. The doctors continue to be blown away by her recovery, considering where she started, and her determination is the driving force of that.”

As the first woman to serve as president of an NHL and NFL team at the same time, Kim Pegula “lived it and loved it, and it was felt by everyone she met,” Jessica Pegula wrote. “Now we come to the realization that all of that is most likely gone. That she won’t be able to be that person anymore.”

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Mat Ishbia to AP: Suns ‘will be one of best places to work’

Mat Ishbia said his first major project as owner of the Phoenix Suns will be to listen to employees and figure out what problems they’ve faced.

After that, he’ll start fixing.

The tenure of embattled Robert Sarver as owner of the NBA’s Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury officially ended Tuesday, when Ishbia — the chairman, president and chief executive of United Wholesale Mortgage, plus a member of Michigan State’s NCAA championship team in 2000 — took over. He will be governor, while his brother, Justin Ishbia, will be alternate governor.

Justin Ishbia will be the team’s second-largest shareholder, behind his brother. They acquired more than 50% of the franchise, which includes all of what was Sarver’s stake as well as some holdings of minority partners, and the sale valued the Suns and Mercury at $4 billion.

“I’m going to spend a lot of time listening and learning, then make the adjustments to make this not only one of the best organizations in the NBA but also one of the best places to work,” Mat Ishbia told The Associated Press. “That’s a huge part of my success here in Michigan and it will be a big part of our success now in Phoenix. I don’t have enough information to know what exactly it’s been like, but I will dig in and roll up my sleeves and figure it out over the next three, four, five months-plus.”

The 43-year-old Ishbia was announced as the owner-in-waiting of the Suns on Dec. 20, and the last hurdle before the purchase became official was cleared Monday night when it was revealed that the NBA’s board of governors approved him as the next owner.

The transaction was completed Tuesday. Ishbia will hold a news conference in Phoenix on Wednesday.

Sarver was suspended for one year by the NBA in mid-September after an investigation found he engaged in workplace misconduct that included racist speech and hostile behavior toward employees. About a week after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced the suspension and $10 million fine — the most allowed by league rule – Sarver said he would start the process of finding a buyer.

Ishbia’s name had been linked to other potential sales of pro sports teams in the past, including the NFL’s Washington Commanders. And the self-described basketball nut jumped quickly to acquire the Suns and Mercury.

“This is what I wanted the whole time,” Ishbia said. “My name got linked to a lot of things. That doesn’t mean it was actually necessarily right. The Phoenix Suns, in my opinion, is one of the elite franchises in one of the elite cities in America. To have a chance to be one of the owners of the Suns and Phoenix Mercury is a dream come true.”

Ishbia’s company, UWM, employs about 7,000 people. It had over $226.5 billion in mortgage originations in 2021, which the company says is a record for wholesale volume.

“We’re all about culture,” Ishbia said. “We’re all about people. We’re all about the word ‘team.’ It’s almost like a match made in heaven — the city, the location, the NBA, my love of basketball. And I can come in, take some of the really good things they’re doing but maybe make some changes from a culture perspective.”

There is one immediate order of business: The NBA trade deadline is Thursday.

The Suns — who went to the NBA Finals in 2021, losing a 2-0 lead and falling to Milwaukee in six games, had the best regular-season record in the league last season — are in a muddled Western Conference playoff race this season.

Ishbia said he and team president of basketball operations James Jones, who is also the general manager, have talked and will keep talking while Jones gauges the market to see what moves, if any, are right for the Suns.

“We’ve got to make sure we put ourselves in a great position,” Ishbia said. “I think we have an amazing team and I think we’re in a great position right now. Will I be involved? Yes. Are we highly active? Yes. But at the same time, I think we have a championship-contending team without doing anything over the next two days.”

Ishbia played for Tom Izzo at Michigan State, and he got into the 2000 title game against Florida at the end. He knew he was out of bounds when he picked up a loose ball in the final moments, but no referee blew the whistle. Sensing opportunity, Ishbia tried a reverse layup at the buzzer; it missed, but he celebrated anyway.

He senses another opportunity now.

“For me, this is a lifelong dream,” he said.


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