Other Sports

Giants need to stop Aaron Rodgers to beat Packers

201211181457538446863-p2.jpeg

Giants need to stop Aaron Rodgers to beat Packers

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Justin Tuck knows there is a way to neutralize Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Thinking about rattling him is probably not the way to go for the slumping New York Giants.

``I don't know,'' Tuck said of Sunday's game between the two most recent Super Bowl champions. ``We haven't rattled him yet. We've had success against him, slowed him down in his progressions because of some different looks. As far as being rattled? No, I haven't seen that yet.

``I hope I'm wrong. I hope we get an opportunity to rattle him on Sunday.''

For a primer on how, exactly, to unnerve the NFL's top-rated passer, Tuck might want to go back to last year's playoff game in Green Bay, where Osi Umenyiora and Michael Boley split four sacks and applied enough pressure on Rodgers to induce him to throw a game-sealing interception to safety Deon Grant.

That 37-20 Giants win was a far different affair than the teams' regular-season matchup, in which Rodgers threw for four touchdowns to go along with 369 yards passing in a 38-35 victory. Included in that one was a two-minute drill in which he maneuvered through the Giants' defense to position Mason Crosby for a game-winning, 31-yard field goal as time expired.

He looked then like he could not be shaken. In fact, he has taken on that same persona in both his regular season wins against the Giants, averaging 386.5 yards passing. He's thrown for eight touchdowns in those games.

The Giants' goal, then, is to interrupt that run of dominance by duplicating their playoff performance. To wit: hit him, cover his receivers, and make him throw the ball early.

But that could be easier said than done. After a slow start, Rodgers has led the Packers (7-3) on a 6-1 roll, including a five-game winning streak. He's thrown 24 touchdown passes and four interceptions over that span.

He has thrown multiple touchdown passes in four of those seven games, looking cool and calm the whole time, even as he scrambles for yardage and extend plays to allow standout receivers Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley to maneuver into open spaces.

If the Giants learned anything about handling Rodgers in 2011, it came from that playoff game.

``I don't think we did anything too different,'' safety Antrel Rolle said. ``We had a couple of personnel changes. We disrupted and took away his primary targets. And the defensive line and linebackers did a good job getting after him.

``I'm not saying not everyone did their job in that first game, but it comes down to whoever is hot on that particular day. It's a matter of last man standing.''

The easiest way to become that man would be to put Rodgers on the seat of his pants, as Umenyiora and Boley did last season. That, the Giants hope, would make him a bit antsy.

``Any quarterback can be rattled,'' safety Kenny Phillips, who could end his six-game absence because of a sprained right knee Sunday. ``It starts up front.''

Having Phillips back could allow the Giants to go back to the three-safety combination that was so successful against the Packers in the playoffs. Grant is no longer with the team, but Stevie Brown has proved a valuable replacement for him. With Rolle and Brown starting, and Phillips coming in as the deep safety, the Giants would have an extra option in the secondary that could increase the pass rush pressure on Rodgers.

That doesn't translate to rattling for Tuck. But it would be the next best thing.

``Rattle? He's played in a lot of big-time games. He's gotten hit a lot, and we want to hit him hard,'' Tuck said. ``That Seattle game (a 14-12 loss in Week 3), they hit him left and right every play, but that second half he came out and he was still as good as he always was.''

The Giants are looking to end a two-game losing streak.

``We just have to handle our game plan and approach it as a playoff atmosphere,'' Rolle said.

US in the World Cup quarterfinals after 2-1 win over Spain

usatsi_12949438.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

US in the World Cup quarterfinals after 2-1 win over Spain

REIMS, France -- Megan Rapinoe converted a pair of penalty kicks and the United States set up a much-anticipated quarterfinal meeting with host France at the Women's World Cup with a 2-1 victory over Spain on Monday.

Rapinoe's first came in the seventh minute to the cheers of the U.S. supporters melting in temperatures that reached nearly 90 degrees at the Stade Auguste-Delaune. They were quieted a short time later when Jennifer Hermoso tied it up for Spain with the first goal the Americans had allowed in France.

Video review was used to confirm a foul on Rose Lavelle that gave the pink-haired captain the game-winner in the 75th minute, spoiling Spain's spirited effort in its first knockout-round appearance at a World Cup.

"That’s World Cup-level grit right there," Rapinoe said on the Fox Sports broadcast. "You can’t replicate it. You can’t teach it. We told each other during the game we needed to go up a level. They (the matches) only get harder and more intense from here. Everybody’s playing for their lives."

The defending champions head to Paris to face France on Friday night. The French defeated Brazil 2-1 in extra time Sunday night, with Amandine Henry scoring the game-winner in the 107th minute.

Italy wins bid to host 2026 Winter Olympics

usatsi_10654897.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Italy wins bid to host 2026 Winter Olympics

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Italy will host the 2026 Olympics in Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo, taking the Winter Games to the Alpine country for the second time in 20 years.

International Olympic Committee members voted for the long-favored Milan-Cortina bid over Stockholm-Are from Sweden that also included a bobsled track in Latvia.

Milan-Cortina's jubilant delegation broke into chants of "Italia! Italia!" when the result was announced.

Italy last hosted in Turin in 2006, and the Alpine ski resort Cortina previously hosted the Winter Games in 1956.

Sweden's spirited late campaign effort was in vain, including the mayor of Stockholm appealing to voters from the stage by singing a lyric from Abba song `Dancing Queen'.

A sign of simmering Swedish frustration came minutes later when IOC board member Gunilla Lindberg pushed the limit of Olympic diplomacy ending her team's 30-minute presentation.

Lindberg challenged her colleagues to reward a new kind of creative, cost-effective bid the IOC has said it wanted -- "Or is it just talk?"

Instead, IOC members picked Italy despite a debt-hit economy which faces increasing European Union scrutiny.

"We submit with full confidence to your judgment," Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told voters.

Both candidates would likely have failed to get this far in previous Olympic bidding contests.

The IOC has relaxed previously strict rules that demanded financial guarantees and government support earlier in the process.

It was an attempt to revive Winter Games bidding with just two candidates on the ballot paper for the second straight time, since Russia spent $51 billion on venues and infrastructure for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Now, the IOC seeks to avoid costly new venues -- and potential white elephants -- while encouraging regions and multi-nation bids to share the load. Hence, Sweden teamed with Latvia, across the Baltic Sea, rather than build its ice sliding sports venue.

"We have budget problems in Italy but I think that this is something that everyone has," Italy Undersecretary of State Giancarlo Giorgetti said at an earlier news conference, citing the wealth of the Lombardy and Veneto provinces underwriting the games costs.

"They are two of the richest provinces in Europe," Giorgetti said. "They certainly have the capacity, they have the readiness, they have the finances in order to be able to support the event."

The IOC will contribute at least $925 million toward Italy's games operating costs of up to $1.7 billion. Building athlete villages in Milan and Stockholm shaped as the main capital investment and most uncertain ventures in the projects.

Last week, the IOC flagged Stockholm's village as a risk, and asked for more details of guarantees underwriting the project.

"A letter of intent is as important to us as any contract," Volvo chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said in the formal presentation, in what seemed a rebuke to the Olympic body.

The day-long meetings began with each bid in closed-door sessions with IOC members. The Swedish bid was challenged to prove its support from a Stockholm city authority coalition formed last October and a national government only five months ago.

Sweden Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said he assured voters "it's in the Swedish model, it's in our DNA" to deliver a stable Winter Games.

Still, a big plus for the Italian bid -- uniting Milan, the Alpine ski resort of Cortina d'Ampezzo, and several towns in between -- was the IOC's own polling. It found support from local residents around 85% compared to 60% in Sweden.

The 2026 contest meets the IOC President Thomas Bach's long-stated wish to return to traditional heartlands for winter sports after major construction projects from 2014-2022 in Russia, South Korea, and China.

The signature Swedish feature using the ice sliding sports track in Sigulda, Latvia, that meets the IOC's demand to use established sports venues.

The IOC has praised both candidates for projecting sports budgets "on average 20% lower" than spending on the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics and 2022 Beijing Olympics.

During the traditionally slick and emotional pleas to be awarded the games, Stockholm mayor Anna Konig Jerlmyr reminded voters of Sweden's most famous music act.

"Abba is everywhere," she said, before singing the lyric: "You can dance, you can dance, having the time of your life."

With more gravitas, Nobel Foundation executive director Lars Heikenstein spoke of Olympic values being an inspiration. Olympic leaders have long coveted a Nobel Peace Prize for the organization.

Sweden's heir to the throne, Crown Princess Victoria, joined a 100-plus delegation at the Swisstech convention center though did not take part on stage.

Italy's bid was livened by two Olympic champions, downhill skier Sofia Goggia and snowboarder Michela Moioli, doing a dab gesture and talking of their hopes to compete on home snow in almost seven years' time.

Sweden's wait for a first Winter Games goes on.

------

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP--Sports