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Packers move up to No. 2 seed with win, 49ers loss


Packers move up to No. 2 seed with win, 49ers loss

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Getting a week off sounds great to the Green Bay Packers.

It's looking even better now, too.

The Packers moved up to the No. 2 seed in the NFC on Sunday with their 55-7 thrashing of the Tennessee Titans and Seattle's victory over San Francisco. Beat the Minnesota Vikings next weekend, and the Packers (11-4) can spend the first week of the playoffs parked on the couch.

``Everything happens for a reason. We have 11 wins because of what we've put into it and we're going to take whatever opportunity is in front of us,'' Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. ``We're going to play to win next week.''

The Vikings can consider themselves warned.

Aaron Rodgers threw for three touchdowns and ran for another against the Titans, Ryan Grant scored twice and the Packers made Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker look like a tackling dummy with seven sacks. It was the most points scored by the Packers since they put up the same number against Tampa Bay on Oct. 2, 1983, and their largest margin of victory since a 52-3 win over New Orleans on Oct. 9, 2005.

The 55 points were the most allowed by the Titans (5-10) since they were shut out 59-0 by the New England Patriots on Oct. 18, 2009. Tennessee was in danger of being blanked again until Kenny Britt's 2-yard reception with 1:39 left in the game.

``They're a good football team,'' Titans safety Jordan Babineaux said. ``They're a playoff team for a reason.''

And there's a reason all of the Titans should be concerned about their job security.

After finishing 9-7 and missing the playoffs on a tiebreaker last year, Tennessee has faded to the back of the AFC. This was the Titans' sixth loss in eight games, and the second time this season they've given up 51 points or more. Yes, the Titans have been ravaged by injuries - they started their fifth offensive line combination Sunday and were without leading receiver Kendall Wright - but they were simply outclassed by the Packers.

``It got uglier than it needed to,'' Titans coach Mike Munchak said. ``We needed to make a stand somewhere and we didn't. I would never have thought this possible because I felt we had been playing better. But today we did not. Obviously we took a step back as a team when you lose by that number. It's only one loss, but it's embarrassing to lose by that score.''

In addition to his seven sacks, Locker was picked off twice and finished 13 of 30 for 140 yards for a quarterback rating of 41.0. Tennessee managed to cross midfield just three times the entire game. After holding their last five opponents to an average of 17.6 points, the Titans had no answer for Rodgers and the Packers. Green Bay scored on nine of its first 12 drives - one of those misses was the end of the first half - and was six of seven in the red zone.

``It was important for us to go out and dominate the opponents late in the year,'' McCarthy said. ``We have momentum going for us, particularly what we've done over the last nine weeks, ten weeks, so we wanted to take the next step as a football team and I felt we were able to accomplish that today.''

Now the Packers can turn their attention to the Vikings. And locking up that No. 2 seed.

Green Bay won the Super Bowl two years as a wild card. Last year, the Packers got that first week off as the No. 1 seed and were promptly bounced out in the divisional round.

But there's a different mentality to this group, which has been hardened by a rough start and a locker room that's looked more like an infirmary what with all its injuries.

Charles Woodson (collarbone) missed his eighth straight game Sunday and Jordy Nelson (hamstring) his third, and the Packers were down to two running backs - neither of whom was on the active roster at the beginning of December - because of injuries to Alex Green and James Starks. The offensive line is being held together with bandages and tape, and injuries to ends C.J. Wilson and Jerel Worthy have left the defensive line thin, too.

``Me, personally, I'd love to have the bye,'' said Clay Matthews, who missed four games with a hamstring injury. ``This team is more mentally tough than last year and that we understand what we need to accomplish and we can't just skate into the playoffs, which we did last year. We're taking this victory, but even more so, we're getting closer.''

NOTES: Randall Cobb broke Ahman Green's single-season franchise record for net yardage. With 101 yards Sunday, Cobb has 2,342 for the year, 92 more than Green in 2003. ... With 100 yards on seven catches, James Jones has at least one 100-yard game in each of his six seasons. His 722 yards also tops his previous season best. ... A.J. Hawk's two sacks tied his career best. ... Seven of the Titans' 10 losses have been by 14 points or more. ... Fifteen different Packers have had a full sack this season, matching the franchise high.

Gonzaga fends off DeMatha in WCAC championship rematch

Chad Ricardo

Gonzaga fends off DeMatha in WCAC championship rematch

In Saturday's match-up of the 2018 WCAC championship, Gonzaga came out ahead again - this time beating DeMatha 28-26.

Gonzaga broke up DeMatha's attempt at a 2-point conversion in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game.

Caleb Williams finished with four touchdowns for the Eagles. In 2018, the Eagles beat DeMatha on a legendary Hail Mary pass from Williams to receiver John Marshall.




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Houston Astros beat New York Yankees in 6 games to win AL pennant, will play Washington Nationals in World Series

Houston Astros beat New York Yankees in 6 games to win AL pennant, will play Washington Nationals in World Series

HOUSTON (AP) -- Jose Altuve homered off Aroldis Chapman with two outs in the ninth inning and the Houston Astros outlasted the New York Yankees 6-4 Saturday night to advance to the World Series for the second time in three years.

In a bullpen game with a back-and-forth finish, DJ LeMahieu hit a tying, two-run shot off Astros closer Roberto Osuna in the top of the ninth. Altuve answered with a two-run drive to left-center, setting off a wild celebration at Minute Maid Park and earning himself AL Championship Series MVP.

"Beautiful game," Altuve said. 

Astros ace Gerrit Cole was waiting to pitch a potential Game 7 on Sunday. Instead, the postseason star -- undefeated since May 22 -- could be lined up for Game 1 at home against the NL champion Washington Nationals on Tuesday night. 

Yuli Gurriel hit a three-run homer in the first inning, and flashy outfield defense helped Houston's relievers defeat the Yankees and their vaunted bullpen. 

It almost fell apart in the ninth. Gio Urshela singled off Osuna leading off for his third hit of the game, and LeMahieu put a ball into the first row of seats in right field -- inches over the glove of leaping George Springer -- to tie it at 4. 

Altuve, a 5-foot-6 sparkplug touted as Houston's heart and soul, didn't let this one get away.

"I get asked to describe Jose Altuve all the time," manager AJ Hinch said. "I think MVP is what he is." 

The teams combined to use 14 pitchers in a game that lasted 4 hours, 9 minutes. 

Houston's bullpen got a lift from flashy outfield defense. Right fielder Josh Reddick dived for Brett Gardner's liner for the second out of the sixth. An inning later, left fielder Michael Brantley laid out for Aaron Hicks' shallow floater and doubled off Aaron Judge at first. 

Gurriel, a holdover from Houston's 2017 championship team, was 1 for 20 to start the ALCS before his drive in the first inning. The shot into the Crawford Boxes was his first connection this postseason. 

It's the third time Houston has eliminated New York in the past five postseasons. The Astros won the 2015 wild-card game in the Bronx and beat the Yankees in seven games in the 2017 ALCS before winning their first title. 

Washington is seeking its first championship in the 51-season history of the Montreal Expos/Nationals franchise. The original Washington Senators won their only championship for the nation's capital in 1924 and last reached the World Series in 1933 before becoming the Minnesota Twins for the 1961 season.

Gary Sanchez had an RBI single in the second and Urshela homered in the fourth. 

Alex Bregman gave the Astros an insurance run with an RBI on a forceout in the sixth inning. 

Brantley's double play elicited one of the loudest ovations of the night -- before Altuve's blast -- from the sellout crowd of 43,357 which included Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and Craig Biggio and Rockets stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook, who watched from the front row in personalized orange Astros jerseys.

New York lost its fourth straight ALCS after falling in 2010, 2012 and 2017. The Yankees will go without a World Series appearance in a calendar decade for the first time since the 1910s.

Altuve doubled off opener Chad Green with one out in the first inning and Bregman drew a walk with two outs. After a short visit to the mound, Gurriel knocked the next pitch into the seats in left field for a 3-0 lead. The runs were Houston's first with two outs in the series. 

Houston had been 4 for 40 with runners in scoring position before that big swing. 

Brad Peacock, who threw eight pitches in a scoreless eighth inning Friday night, became the fourth pitcher ever to finish a postseason game and then start the next day, and the first since 1924. 

He needed seven pitches to retire the side in the first before running into trouble with two outs in the second. Josh James ended the inning by striking out Gardner. 

Ryan Pressly had another gutsy escape, too. He hurt his right knee again fielding a bases-loaded grounder by Didi Gregorius but limped over to tag him for the final out of the third. Pressly, who grimaced as he went toward the dugout after one pitch, had arthroscopic surgery on the same knee on Aug. 22 and returned Sept. 20. Pressly also got two strikeouts with the bases loaded in Game 4.