Celtics

Sanchez, Tebow can't save Jets in crushing defeat

901387.jpg

Sanchez, Tebow can't save Jets in crushing defeat

From Comcast SportsNetNASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The New York Jets' playoff hopes are gone, lost in a wave of turnovers by struggling Mark Sanchez.Chris Johnson went 94 yards for the longest touchdown run in the NFL since 2006, and the Tennessee Titans beat the Jets 14-10 on Monday night to eliminate New York from postseason contention."Obviously, it's a devastating loss, out of the playoffs, and it hurts beyond belief," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "I think the thing that really hurts the most is we've got no one to blame but ourselves."Jake Locker's first touchdown run of the season put Tennessee ahead to stay late in the third quarter, and the Titans intercepted four passes by Sanchez to snap a three-game skid."The bottom line is we hung in there, something we haven't been able to do the last two, three weeks of hold onto a lead or find a way to win in the fourth quarter, and this time we did," Titans coach Mike Munchak said. "It's good to win again. It's been a while."After bumbling around all night, the Jets somehow still had a chance to win when they took over at the Tennessee 25 with 47 seconds left following a 19-yard punt by Brett Kern. But Sanchez fumbled a low shotgun snap, running back Bilal Powell inadvertently kicked the ball away and the Titans recovered to seal it."I saw him bobbling the snap," Titans rookie linebacker Zach Brown said. "Then it just came out, and I just fell on it. I was thinking sack because it was play-action. I was thinking I'm going to get me a sack, but he fumbled the snap."It was a fitting end to an ugly game that left Ryan cursing to himself as he walked off the field. Sanchez finished with five turnovers -- one on each of his team's final three possessions. He has 24 this season and 50 total in the past two seasons combined."It doesn't feel good hurting your team like that," Sanchez said. "It's not a winning formula. It never feels good."Ryan wasn't ready to say who his quarterback will be Sunday when the Jets host San Diego."I've just got to prepare as the starter and see what happens," Sanchez said.Ryan also refused to say if he regretted not activating Greg McElroy, who came on in relief when Sanchez was benched Dec. 2 and led the Jets to a 7-6 win over Arizona. McElroy was inactive, with the Jets keeping six receivers on a banged-up unit."I just regret not winning this game," Ryan said. "I think that's the big thing."The Jets (6-8) needed to win their final three games and get help elsewhere to earn a playoff spot. Instead, the Titans sacked Sanchez three times and got a fourth on Tim Tebow. Jason McCourty and Michael Griffin each had two interceptions, keeping the Jets out of the playoffs for a second straight season after reaching consecutive AFC title games.Johnson, with the names of the victims of Friday's shootings in Connecticut written on his cleats, ran a franchise-record 94 yards for a TD in the second quarter. Johnson said he followed a block by center Kyle DeVan, the Titans' latest player at the position after replacement Kevin Matthews sprained his right ankle."Kind of heartbroken, so just something to try to give back and show tribute to those families knowing how much they hurt and a situation where on Monday Night Football everybody around the world is watching," Johnson said, explaining why he wrote the victims' names on his cleats.Locker's 13-yard quarterback keeper around left end put the Titans (5-9) ahead 14-10 with 20 seconds left in the third.The Jets had plenty of time and opportunity in the fourth to take the lead, but Sanchez kept giving the ball away.Griffin intercepted Sanchez with 7:09 left on a pass intended for Braylon Edwards. On the next drive, the Jets got help from a personal foul when Titans linebacker Will Witherspoon hit Sanchez in the head with his helmet on third-and-4. A couple of plays later, Sanchez threw into triple coverage for Jeff Cumberland, and Griffin picked off Sanchez again with 1:51 left at the Titans 2.Even with the ugly night, the Jets' defense gave New York one final chance after forcing Tennessee to punt.Kern had a 19-yarder under pressure, giving New York the ball at the Tennessee 25. But Sanchez mishandled a low snap from center Nick Mangold, and Brown recovered to finally clinch Tennessee's win.Sanchez was 13 of 28 for 131 yards and a touchdown. He finished with his most interceptions in a game since 2009.The Jets even turned to Tebow for a complete series in the second quarter. They picked up two first downs and reached their own 44, but the drive stalled from there after a sack, a delay-of-game penalty and an incompletion.Sanchez returned on the Jets' next series and promptly threw his first interception to McCourty.The Jets kept Tennessee from scoring a single point off all the turnovers. But the damage already was done.Sanchez put the Jets ahead 10-7 with a 17-yard TD pass to Cumberland with 3:19 left in the third quarter.The Titans led 7-3 at halftime after Johnson's long scamper in the second quarter. His touchdown run was the longest by any NFL player since Minnesota's Chester Taylor had a 95-yard TD in a 31-13 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 22, 2006.After Robert Malone's 53-yard punt backed the Titans up to their own 5-yard line, Johnson rushed for 1 yard on first down. On the next play, he found a seam up the middle and appeared untouched on his way to the end zone.It marked Johnson's sixth career touchdown run of at least 80 yards, giving him twice as many as anyone else in NFL history. Barry Sanders, Ahman Green, Hugh McElhenny and O.J. Simpson each had three touchdown runs of at least 80 yards.Johnson was otherwise held in check, finishing with 122 yards on 21 carries for his 32nd career 100-yard game.The Jets grabbed a 3-0 lead when Nick Folk's 22-yard field goal capped their first possession of the night. New York appeared to reach the end zone when Cumberland caught a 4-yard pass from Sanchez on third-and-goal, but the original ruling of a touchdown was overturned after replays showed the ball hit the ground.Before the game, a moment of silence was held for victims of the shootings Friday in Newtown, Conn. Twenty children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The gunman also killed his mother in her home before committing suicide.Johnson had the names of all the victims written on the two shoes he wore for the game. He also had the words "RIP SHES" and a cross written on each shoe. The Jets had an "SHES" decal on their helmets.Notes: The Titans' previous record for the longest run in franchise history was 91 yards, a mark shared by Johnson and Sid Blanks. Johnson had a 91-yard run against the Houston Texans in 2009. Blanks also did it against the Jets on Dec. 13, 1964. ... The Jets had won the last two and four of the past five meetings between the teams.

Celtics' cup has runneth over so far this season

cp-1-spark-celtics-thanksgiving.jpg

Celtics' cup has runneth over so far this season

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics are no different than the rest of us. They have a lot to be thankful for.
 
There’s the usual good health, family and friends. But they have a few more things to be thankful for, as well.
 
So as you take a brief time-out today from the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, here’s a look at five things the Celtics are thankful for this season.


 
KYRIE IRVING
 
The Celtics have had some solid players in recent years, but the addition of Kyrie Irving was a game-changer. He provides Boston with an unmistakable superstar who has a proven track record of success on all levels -- he's won an NBA championship and an Olympic Gold medal, and is also a four-time All-Star. Did I mention he’s just 25 years old?


 
AL HORFORD
 
His numbers will never adequately measure the impact Horford has had on the Celtics. The big plus with Horford was him simply agreeing to be a Celtic. For years this franchise has been built on the success of developing draft picks or trading for talented players. But rarely have they had the financial flexibility or, to be frank, the kind of appeal to free agents to go out and acquire a proven All-Star like Al Horford. His arrival has enhanced an already-established winning culture, one that has become a player on the free agency market ever since.


 
DANNY AINGE
 
Other than Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti, it’s hard to imagine another front office executive having as good an offseason as Ainge. He rolled the dice to go down two spots in last June’s NBA draft, and wound up with arguably the most NBA-ready player (Jayson Tatum) among those selected in last June’s NBA draft. (Remember, the likely rookie-of-the-year Ben Simmons did not play last year after Philadelphia drafted him with the top overall pick in 2016.) The free-agent pickups of Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis and Shane Larkin have all had moments where they carried the team to victory. Even second-round picks like Semi Ojeleye and two-way players like Jabari Bird have contributed to wins this season. Fans may not like some of Ainge’s decisions in the moment but he deserves a lot of credit for the team we see today, one that has played at a level few envisioned they'd reach this quickly.


 
BRAD STEVENS
 
And to think, the Big Three (Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford) Boston was planning to build around this season has played less than five minutes together. Stevens has been pushing all the right buttons, putting guys in unexpected positions to succeed with a cast that’s long on talent and well, well short on experience. Boston’s first win of the season came at Philadelphia, a game in which the Celtics played six different rookies. It’s not unusual for teams to use first-year players frequently, but for a team that was built to contend for a championship? That’s highly unusual. The biggest thing is despite the lack of experience on the floor, Stevens hasn’t allowed them to use that as a reason to fail. Instead, Stevens has had them lean heavily on film study and the wisdom of veterans, as well as empowered them to have a “next-man-up” mindset with one goal regardless of what they are tasked with doing: Get it done. No excuses.


 
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
 
Boston has spent most of this season atop the NBA standings, fueled in large part by a 15-game winning streak -- the longest of the Brad Stevens era and the fifth-longest ever by a Celtics team. But within that winning streak, there have been some noticeable areas of concern (i.e., bench scoring) that have made games more challenging. And that's what makes these Celtics so scary to the rest of the league. If they’re beating teams consistently now, how much better will they be when the offense catches up or, at a minimum, gains some ground on what has been an impressive stretch of play defensively? That’s why as good as this first full month of the season has been, there's reason to believe they’ll only get better. The Celtiheircs have seen  share of adversity. They've played without their All-Stars. They have fought back from double-digit deficits to emerge victorious. This is a young squad, but battle-tested already. Because of all that, they have a certain level of confidence that regardless of the situation, regardless of the score, they feel they will find a pathway to success. And that, Celtics Nation, is something to be thankful for.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE


 

Blakely's takeaways: Moving on without the streak

Blakely's takeaways: Moving on without the streak

The streak is over! The streak is over!

We now return the Boston Celtics to their regularly scheduled pursuit of success without the growing pressure that comes with a historically relevant winning streak.

The 104-98 loss at Miami on Wednesday night brought an end to what had been one of the more unlikely winning streaks we’ve seen in the NBA for quite some time.

Boston reeled off 16 straight wins, many of which were the come-from-a-double-digit-deficit variety. In the end, the Celtics’ winning streak ranks as the fourth-longest in this storied franchise’s history.

“I told you, we’re not as good as the 16-game win streak,” Stevens said following the loss. “But we do have a lot of resolve.”

That resolve will surely be challenged with the Celtics taking Thanksgiving off, only to return and play three games in the next four nights beginning with Orlando on Friday, followed by a road game at Indiana on Saturday and a home date against the Detroit Pistons on Monday.

Here are five takeaways from the Boston Celtics’ 16-game winning streak.

KYRIE FOR MVP?

When the Boston Celtics traded for Kyrie Irving during the offseason, there was a sense that his presence would be a plus in some capacity, at some point. But few envisioned Irving would not only have a relatively seamless fit with the Celtics, but deliver in such a way that would catapult them to the top of the NBA standings and in doing so, establish him as one of the early front-runners for the league’s MVP award. This season, Irving is averaging a team-best 22.5 points and 5.2 assists while shooting 47 percent from the field but most important, the Celtics (16-3) have the best record in the NBA.

WANTED: BENCH SCORER

If you are a fan of good defenders, you probably love the Boston Celtics’ second unit. Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart are both ball-hawking defenders who can make some miserable times for opponents when they are on top of their game. Daniel Theis provides great energy on the glass and defensively. But the second unit needs a jolt offensively. Because as good as they can defend collectively, the Celtics have to have at least one starter on the floor most of the time because the bench doesn’t have an adequate collector of buckets that they can rely on consistently. Marcus Morris looks like an ideal choice for that role, but the left knee soreness that kept him out for eight games seems to be flaring up from time to time. Whether they address this with a trade or possibly with a player bought out, the lack of a second-unit scorer is very much an issue for this team.

BROWN EMERGES AS TWO-WAY TALENT

The plan was for Jaylen Brown to be an elite, shut-down defender this season. He has shown himself to be a good defender this season, but what has really made him stand out is the growth in his game offensively. The second-year wing has scored 20-plus points in three of Boston’s last four games. Doing that along with continuing to play good defense has him looking like one of the NBA’s promising young two-way talents.

TATUM’S GROWTH A SILVER LINING IN HAYWARD INJURY

You never want to see the Boston Celtics or any team for that matter, lose a player for the season let alone one who meant as much as Gordon Hayward to the Celtics. But if there is a silver lining in his ankle injury which is expected to keep him out all season, it is the opportunity it created for Jayson Tatum. The 19-year-old has been arguably the best player from last June’s draft class, playing major minutes with a major role for the team with the best record in the NBA. The opportunity to play around 30 minutes a game would not have been there for Tatum if Hayward didn’t get hurt. The challenge for Tatum going forward is to stay consistent, because now that teams have seen him for almost a quarter of the season, you can expect they will make some adjustments in how they defend him as well as try to attack him when he’s defending.

WE TALKIN’ ABOUT PRACTICE

During Boston’s 16 game winning streak, the Celtics played the last eight games in 16 nights. That’s a game every other night for more than two weeks. In that time, there’s little to no time for practice which has been a factor in Boston not being quite as sharp in the last few games, as they were at the start of the streak. After Thanksgiving, Boston plays three games in four nights with a pair of days off to follow before they return to action. There’s a very good chance that the Celtics will use one of those two days to practice, something this team desperately needs to clean up some of the minor mistakes that were big problems in their loss to the Heat on Wednesday.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE