NCAA

Packers clinch NFC North with 21-13 win over Bears

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Packers clinch NFC North with 21-13 win over Bears

CHICAGO (AP) The Green Bay Packers have better things to do than trash talk with the Chicago Bears.

Like win the NFC North.

And a few other titles, perhaps.

The Packers delivered the ultimate comeback to the yapping Bears on Sunday, a 21-13 victory that gave Green Bay its second straight NFC North title and put a serious dent in Chicago's playoff hopes. Aaron Rodgers connected with James Jones on all three touchdowns, and Clay Matthews continued his dominance of Jay Cutler with two more sacks as the Packers won their sixth straight against their archrivals.

``Step one is done,'' Matthews said. ``We just have to continue this thing rolling all the way to the playoffs.''

The Packers are assured of a home playoff game and, at 10-4, are still in the running for the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

Not bad for a team that began the year 2-3.

``I think this team is playing the right way right now,'' Rodgers said. ``We have two games left in the regular season. We want to be peaking at the right time because those are the teams that make the deep runs.''

The Bears, meanwhile, are going to need help to get into the playoffs after dropping five of their last six games. It's a stunning slide for a team that began the year 7-1.

``We're down, but we're not out,'' Cutler said. ``We need to remind the guys that there are two games left, and there's a lot of football left. We've got to get back together. We've got to piece this thing back together - however we do it.''

Running their mouths off clearly isn't the way to go.

Packers vs. Bears is the NFL's oldest and fiercest rivalry, and the Bears cranked up the heat when Brandon Marshall and Lance Briggs ripped their neighbors to the north earlier in the week. Marshall was particularly passionate, saying he'd never disliked a team as much as he did the Packers and that Sunday's game was ``personal.''

Rather than get drawn into the fray, the Packers saved their response for the field.

``We don't try to trash talk,'' Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields said. ``When we get on the field we trash talk, but not in the paper. We let our actions show on the field.''

Marshall scored Chicago's only touchdown, but finished with 56 yards on six catches, his fewest totals in a month. Cutler had another dismal day against the Packers, throwing an interception that led to the game-winning touchdown. He's been picked off 17 times by the Packers, including 10 in his last five games.

The Bears managed only 67 yards the entire second half, and Alshon Jeffery was whistled for offensive pass interference three times - yes, three - in the final 16 minutes of the game.

``Everybody involved in this offense should be held accountable, even if that means jobs,'' said Marshall, who struggled to compose himself as he spoke before cutting short his postgame interview. ``It's been this way all year. There's no excuse. We still have two games left. There's still hope, but at the same time, we need to be held accountable.''

The Packers piled almost 400 yards on Briggs and his buddies, and turned a 7-0 deficit into a 14-7 lead over the last 4:19 of the second quarter thanks to a pair of Rodgers-to-Jones TDs sandwiched around a Casey Hayward pick.

``That was important. That was really important,'' Rodgers said of the 14-point swing. ``We couldn't them get up a couple scores and get into what they wanted to do, which it looked like they wanted to run (Matt) Forte a lot. Getting ahead of them kind of took them out of some of that stuff.''

The Packers made it 21 unanswered points on the first drive of the second half. In another third-and-long situation, Rodgers threw incomplete to Jermichael Finley - the guy Bears linebacker Lance Briggs had dubbed ``an idiot'' after the Packers' tight end said he thought Chicago would be better without injured Brian Urlacher.

But Green Bay got a second chance when Chris Conte was called for pass interference. After a delay of game penalty, Rodgers found Jones for a 6-yard score.

It was Jones' first three-touchdown game and the fourth multiple-TD game of his career.

The Bears had chances to get back into it. Green Bay's Mason Crosby missed two more field goals, and Charles Tillman forced a fumble by Ryan Grant that Nick Roach recovered. Chicago got a big break on the next play when Green Bay safety Morgan Burnett hauled Alshon Jeffery down right in front of the end zone - and right in front of an official. The pass interference penalty gave Chicago the ball at the Green Bay 1.

But the Bears could only get a 34-yard field goal by Olindo Mare out of it after the first of Jeffery's pass interference penalties.

``We're just getting started,'' coach Mike McCarthy said. ``We feel that way as a football team, not trying to be arrogant, (but) we feel there's a lot better football in front of us. It was an extremely important game for everybody involved today, but we fully expected to come in here and win this thing.''

NOTES: Matthews has eight sacks of Cutler in eight games. ... The Bears sacked Rodgers three times, with Peppers and Corey Wooton each being credited with 1 1/2. ... Despite two more misses by Crosby, his 11th and 12th this year, McCarthy said the Packers will not be looking for a new kicker. ``We're not changing kickers. Write that down right now,'' McCarthy said. ``He's our guy.''

Report: Former Terp Diamond Stone included in federal documents detailing NCAA violations

Report: Former Terp Diamond Stone included in federal documents detailing NCAA violations

A bombshell article published Friday morning by Pat Forde and Pete Thaamel of YAHOO Sports details potential NCAA violations involving more than 20 schools and 25 players.

Among some of the biggest names and programs in college basketball includes former Maryland Terrapin, Diamond Stone.

According to documents and bank records that are part of an FBI investigation, Stone received $14,303 while a freshman at Maryland, a clear violation of NCAA rules. 

Former NBA agent, Andy Miller and his former associate, Christian Dawkins of ASM Sports were dishing out the incentives. Included were cash advances, entertainment expenses and travel expenses for high school and college prospects.

Other player's included in the documents include Dennis Smith who played at North Carolina State, Isaiah Whitehead from Seton Hall, DeMatha star Markelle Fultz who played at Washington and Edrice Adebayo who went on to play at Kentucky. 

Player's and their families from Duke, Michigan State, USC, North Carolina, Texas and Alabama are also included.

Stone played for the Terps during the 2015-16 season before declaring for the NBA draft. He was selected 40th overall by the New Orleans Pelicans and traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. 

Stone did end up signing with a different agency.

While this is still under investigation, large consequences for the NCAA can be expected.

The NCAA released this statement following the news. 

These allegations, if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America. Simply put, people who engage in this kind of behavior have no place in college sports. They are an affront to all those who play by the rules. Following the Southern District of New York's indictments last year, the NCAA Board of Governors and I formed the independent Commission on College Basketball, chaired by Condoleezza Rice, to provide recommendations on how to clean up the sport. With these latest allegations, it's clear this work is more important now than ever. The Board and I are completely committed to making transformational changes to the game and ensuring all involved in college basketball do so with integrity. We also will continue to cooperate with the efforts of federal prosecutors to identify and punish the unscrupulous parties seeking to exploit the system through criminal acts.

RELATED: DIAMOND STONE ADMITS TO 'MISTAKES' DURING FRESHMAN YEAR AT MARYLAND

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!