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Vikings get critical Allen turnovers, stun Bills 33-30 in OT

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/buffalo-bills-minnesota-vikings-nfl-sports-855d600a2a61d368ad79a2d2fb485f12

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Count out the Vikings all you want. Patrick Peterson, Justin Jefferson and company keep finding ways to rally for victories in the most remarkable and improbable of ways.

Sunday’s 33-30 overtime win over the previously AFC-leading Buffalo Bills might have been the most stunning so far.

Peterson intercepted Josh Allen with 1:12 left in overtime to finally end a sloppy, yet thrilling back-and-forth game between two of the NFL’s best teams, in which Minnesota rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit.

“Look at us now. Look at us now. That’s all I could say,” Peterson said, referring to critics who pointed out the NFC North-leading Vikings’ easy schedule.

“We’re not trying to prove them wrong. We just want to continue to prove ourselves right each and every time we step on the field,” added Peterson, who had two interceptions. “I believe the largest margin was 13, 14, 17? So if we’re not a good football team, how could you come back from that deficit? Look at us now.”

The Vikings took advantage of three turnovers by Allen in the fourth quarter and overtime, pulling ahead late in regulation when he mishandled a snap and fumbled in the end zone.

Greg Joseph put the Vikings ahead to stay by hitting a 33-yard field goal with 3:42 left in overtime. The game didn’t end until Allen, facing second and 10 at Minnesota’s 20, forced a pass over the middle intended for Gabe Davis, only to have Peterson intercept it a few yards into the end zone. Peterson ran out and slid to the turf.

The Vikings also got a heroic performance by Jefferson — who had 10 catches for 193 yards and an incredible, game-saving one-handed grab — and overcame an officiating gaffe.

NFL senior vice president of officiating Walt Anderson said the Bills’ hurry-up offense gave replay officials no time to review Davis’ 20-yard catch on Buffalo’s final drive of regulation, which ended with Tyler Bass tying the game with a 29-yard field goal with 2 seconds left. Replays revealed Davis didn’t maintain control and the ball touched the ground on the sideline on what was ruled a catch at the Vikings 40 with 17 seconds remaining, Anderson said.

With its only loss to the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota matched its best record through nine games since 2009 and extended its win streak to seven games — the Vikings’ best since an eight-game run 2017.

Minnesota rallied to win when trailing with 2 1/2 minutes or less remaining in regulation for the fifth time this season.

The Bills (6-3) have lost two straight and no longer lead the conference, or even their division. They now trail Miami by a half-game in the AFC East.

And Allen’s turnover problems are suddenly the biggest question surrounding the Bills’ talented QB. He was questionable to play on Sunday because of an injured throwing elbow. Allen said the injury had nothing to do with the turnovers.

“Losing sucks. It sucks this way even more. Horrendous second half,” Allen said. “It comes down to my shoulders and my shoulders only. Making the right decisions, making the right throws. This one’s going to suck, watching it.”

Allen’s first interception on fourth-and-goal from Minnesota’s 2 led directly to C.J. Ham scoring on a 3-yard run to cut Buffalo’s lead to 27-23 with 4:34 remaining. Buffalo’s defense then appeared to have the game won by stopping Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins for no gain on fourth-and-goal from the half-yard line with 49 seconds remaining.

On the very next play, Allen muffed the snap from center Mitch Morse, and Minnesota linebacker Erik Hendricks dived into the end zone to recover it for a touchdown.

His third and final turnover came with Buffalo facing second-and-10 from Minnesota’s 20 — in position for a tying field goal. Allen forced a pass over the middle intended for Davis.

“I’m going to remember this one forever,” Vikings first-year coach Kevin O’Connell said. “We just had to continue to trade those blows, body blows, haymakers, and just try to be ready for the next snap, as long as they let us continue to play today.”

Cousins threw for 357 yards, and Jefferson had a monster game.

He had a 22-yard touchdown catch on the Vikings’ first possession. But the most amazing of his many highlights was a 32-yard grab on fourth-and-18 on Minnesota’s final drive of regulation. Jefferson reached back to get one hand on the ball and rip it out of the grasp of Bills defender Cam Lewis.

“It felt like it was unreal. Like a movie,” Jefferson said. “The big games, the big moments, when people are looking for you to make a play, that’s what I like the most.”

Selected with the 2020 first-round pick the Vikings acquired in a trade that sent receiver Stefon Diggs to the Bills, Jefferson became the NFL’s first player to top 100 yards receiving 20 times in his first three seasons, breaking a tie with Odell Beckham Jr. and former Minnesota great Randy Moss.

Dalvin Cook sparked the Vikings’ comeback by scoring on an 81-yard run to cut Buffalo’s lead to 27-17 with 1:34 left in the third quarter. Cook finished with 119 yards rushing on 14 carries.

Devin Singletary rushed for two first-quarter TDs as the Bills appeared to take control by building a 24-10 halftime lead.

Failing to protect the ball has been a season-long issue for Allen. He has turnovers in eight of nine outings, with 10 interceptions — two more than he had all last season. He’s also lost three fumbles, matching his total last year.

Allen finished 29 of 43 for 330 yards passing and an 11-yard touchdown pass to Davis.

INJURIES

Vikings: CB Akayleb Evans, starting in place of Cameron Dantzler, who was placed on injured reserve, did not return after sustaining a concussion in the first half. … LT Christian Darrisaw was escorted up the tunnel to be evaluated for a concussion in the fourth quarter.

Bills: LB Tremaine Edmunds did not return after a groin injury in the first half. … WR Jake Kumerow hurt an ankle, ending his day.

UP NEXT

Vikings: Host Dallas next Sunday.

Bills: Host Cleveland next Sunday.

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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-855d600a2a61d368ad79a2d2fb485f12

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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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