Wizards

49ers lead Patriots 31-17 early in 4th quarter

201212161948712922931-p2.jpeg

49ers lead Patriots 31-17 early in 4th quarter

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Colin Kaepernick threw three touchdown passes and the San Francisco 49ers led the turnover-prone New England Patriots 31-17 early in the fourth quarter on a rainy Sunday night.

Six days after the Patriots' 42-14 win over the Houston Texans, who had the NFL's best record, they were on the other end in another game against one of the league's top teams.

Kaepernick, making his fifth start after replacing Alex Smith as San Francisco's starting quarterback, threw scoring passes of 24 yards to Randy Moss, 34 yards to Delanie Walker and 27 yards to Michael Crabtree.

The game was going so well for the 49ers that they even scored after Kaepernick fumbled on first-and-goal at the Patriots 3 after a 66-yard fumble return by Dashon Goldson. Frank Gore got the loose ball and ran 3 yards for the touchdown.

The Patriots turned the ball over again on the second play of the next series when Tom Brady threw his second interception of the game and just his seventh of the year. Aldon Smith got it, setting the 49ers up at the Patriots 27. Kaepernick hit Crabtree on the next play for a touchdown as the 49ers went ahead 31-3 with 10:21 left in the third quarter.

The Patriots had committed four turnovers to that point after entering the game with an NFL-low 10.

Danny Woodhead scored on a 6-yard run with just under six minutes left in the third, and New England closed to 31-17 when Brady scored on a 1-yard sneak on the first play of the final period.

The 49ers (9-3-1) would clinch a playoff berth with a victory. They lead the NFC West over the second-place Seattle Seahawks (9-5), who beat the Buffalo Bills 50-17 in Toronto earlier in the day.

The Patriots (10-3) have clinched the AFC East title and are going for home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs. They trail Houston (12-2) for best record in the AFC. The Texans clinched the AFC South on Sunday with a 29-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

The Patriots have won their last 20 December games at home since losing on Dec. 22, 2002.

New England entered the game ranked first in the NFL in points scored and yards gained but struggled against a 49ers defense that has allowed the fewest points and second fewest yards in the league.

The Patriots were held to a 32-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski in their lowest halftime output of the season. They had six points at intermission during a 20-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in the second game of the season.

Moss, who scored 23 touchdowns with the Patriots in 2007, filled in for starting wide receiver Mario Manningham, who missed his second game with a right shoulder injury. Moss got behind Alfonzo Dennard and made the touchdown catch in the left side of the end zone. The grab moved him into third place in NFL history with 15,219 yards receiving, passing Isaac Bruce's 15,208.

Kaepernick wasted no time moving the ball through the air. His first three plays all resulted in first downs - completions of 11 and 13 to Crabtree and 12 yards to Moss. Frank Gore then ran for 3 yards and, after an incompletion, Kaepernick hit Moss for the TD.

The 49ers outgained the Patriots 249 yards to 113 in the first half. New England struggled on its first five series with three punts, an interception and a lost fumble before Gostkowski cut the lead to 7-3 with 8:31 left in the second quarter.

The 49ers needed just three plays - plus a 35-yard defensive pass interference call - to respond. After the penalty gave them a first down at the Patriots 45, Gore ran twice for 8 and 3 yards before Kaepernick hit Walker in the right side of the end zone with Dennard covering,

San Francisco added a 20-yard field goal by David Akers on the last play of the half.

The game was slowed by officiating confusion that led to several lengthy conferences, including a delay of about 10 minutes while deciding whether 49ers punt returner Ted Ginn Jr., muffed a second-quarter kick. Officials ruled he didn't touch the ball and the 49ers got possession.

In the first quarter, Brady was hit twice by NFL sacks leader Smith while trying to pass, then was intercepted by Carlos Rogers when he overthrew Wes Welker. Rogers returned the interception 53 yards to the Patriots 5, where he was tackled by Brady.

But on the second play, Walker fumbled after a 1-yard catch and Aqib Talib recovered for the Patriots. They couldn't get a first down and punted.

After three plays, the 49ers set up to punt but faked as Goldson took the snap and ran 31 yards to the New England 28. Again, the 49ers failed to capitalize as Akers' 39-yard field goal went wide to the left with 2:14 left in the quarter.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

Predicting the 2018-19 NBA awards and the NBA Finals: LeBron James will win MVP

nba1819.png
USA Today Sports

Predicting the 2018-19 NBA awards and the NBA Finals: LeBron James will win MVP

With the 2018-19 NBA season kicking off this week, it seems like a good time to put my predictions out into the universe. 

I am fortunate to be a voter for both the All-Star teams and the NBA Awards, but I can assure you of this: much of this is impossible to forecast. I decided to only include the first team selections for All-NBA, All-Defense and All-Rookie because the less I predict, the less I get wrong.

With that said, here is how I expect the major awards, plus the NBA Finals, to shake out... 

MVP: LeBron James, Lakers

Going to L.A. to play with such a bizarre supporting cast was all by design so he could win his fifth MVP award, right? Okay, maybe not. But if LeBron carries that team to even a fifth seed the trophy should be his.

Defensive player of the year: Anthony Davis, Pelicans

This always goes to a big man and Davis finished second last year. He's probably going to have a monster season overall.

All-NBA first team: G Stephen Curry, G James Harden, F LeBron James, F Giannis Antetokounmpo, C Anthony Davis

All of these guys are going to make the All-NBA team, it's just a matter of which tier. The toughest one to leave off was Joel Embiid, but you can only pick five.

Rookie of the year: Deandre Ayton, Suns

Luka Doncic has become a popular pick here, but Ayton averaged 18.2 points and 10.0 rebounds per game in the preseason. If that is any precursor whatsoever, he's going to be tough to beat.

Sixth man award: Austin Rivers, Wizards

Rivers is a starting-caliber guard now back to playing off the bench. He should help John Wall and Bradley Beal a ton this year and we know he will get buckets. If he can maintain anything close to his scoring average from last season (15.1), he will be on the short-list for sure.

Most improved: Brandon Ingram, Lakers

Though L.A. has a lot of questions, Ingram seems most likely to benefit from James' ability to make those around him better. He should thrive in a secondary scoring role.

Coach of the year: Billy Donovan, Thunder

The Thunder won 48 games last season, but could improve a lot in Year 2 with Paul George. They have loads of talent and Dennis Schroder will fit nicely on their bench.

Executive of the year: Sam Presti, Thunder

You may be sensing a theme here. I see the Thunder becoming the clear-cut No. 3 team in the West and Presti will get plenty of praise for retaining George and getting something legitimate back for Carmelo Anthony.

All-rookie team: Luka Doncic (Mavs), Miles Bridges (Hornets), Marvin Bagley III (Kings), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Grizzlies), Deandre Ayton (Suns)

This is shaping up to be a really good class. Guys like Mo Bamba (great song), Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Wendell Carter Jr. will likely be in the mix as well. 

All-defensive team: G Chris Paul, G Klay Thompson, F Draymond Green, F Anthony Davis, C Joel Embiid

Thompson should finally get his due this year. He is clearly one of the best defenders at his position, but hasn't received the proper recognition for it.

NBA Finals: Warriors over Celtics, 4-2

Picking the champion of the 2018-19 season is too easy and no one should feel good about that. Sports are better when they aren't predictable. But who will finish second is where it gets interesting. I see the Celtics being that team and winning two games in the Finals, though it won't be a close series.

 

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs. Titans

Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs. Titans

The Baltimore Ravens' Week 6 dominate performance over the Tennessee Titans is gaining national attention. 

A historic game that displayed the offense and defense firing on all cylinders, it's hard to pinpoint who had the biggest impact. 

So in his latest edition of Football Morning in America, NBC Sports' Peter King awarded not one, but two Ravens with weekly honors.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Za'Darius Smith

Against the Titans, Smith led the Ravens defense with three sacks and five tackles in their historic 11-sack game. On of three Defensive Players of the Week, King explained why Smith's performance stood out.

In the most dominant defensive performance of this ultra-offensive season, the Ravens shut out Tennessee 21-0 and had 11 sacks. Another one of GM Ozzie Newsome’s draft gifts that keeps on giving, Smith (2015, round four, Kentucky) contributed three sacks of Marcus Mariota and five tackles in a virtuoso game. Net passing yards for Mariota: 51.

Smith, who's entering the final year of his rookie NFL contract, has shown over six games he deserves to get paid in the offseason. So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble. 

COACH OF THE WEEK: Don "Wink" Martindale

In his first season as defensive coordinator, Don "Wink" Martindale has seamlessly made the transition from linebackers coach to leading the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense (12.8). But what impressed King the most from the 21-0 shutout was how Martindale's squad got to Mariota from every direction. 

When a unit records more sacks (11) than completions allowed (10), the leader gets an award. Those are the rules. Martindale’s pass rushers got to Marcus Mariota every possible way—up the middle, around the edges, in the pocket, on bootlegs, you name it. The total set a new franchise record and was one short of the single-game NFL mark of 12. And it came with a familiar face watching: Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees used to hold the same position in Baltimore. Shout out to the Ravens social media team for renaming the account RavenSSSSSSSSSSS, one ‘S’ for each sack.

This Ravens defense, who has always been known for its dominance, is ranked first in points allowed (12.8), first in yards allowed (270.8), second in passing yards allowed (188.0) and third in rushing yards allowed (82.8) heading into Week 7. In addition, they have yet to surrender a second half touchdown all season. Trusting of the talent this roster holds, the respect "Wink" has for his players is equally reciprocated. 

"It was really emotional when they told us we had 11 sacks," linebacker Patrick Onwuasor said postgame. "We just went out there and we were like, ‘We have to get Coach Wink . We have to put the Gatorade on him.’ So, we tried to turn him around so he couldn’t see it coming, and we had to get him real good."

Martindale will now face the No. 1 scoring offense in the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. 

MORE RAVENS NEWS: