The Sports Report: Chargers clinch a playoff spot
Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. The Chargers clinched a playoff spot with a victory over the Colts on Monday, becoming the fifth AFC team to clinch a spot, joining Buffalo, Cincinnati, Jacksonville and Kansas City.
Four NFC teams have clinched spots: Philadelphia, Dallas, Minnesota and San Francisco. The four division winners plus three wild card teams make the playoffs in each conference.
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From Jeff Miller: Fifty weeks after losing out on the final play of the last regular-season game and following a year filled with angst and injuries, the Chargers are heading back to the playoffs.
They clinched the franchise’s first postseason berth since 2018 on Monday night with a 20-3 victory over Indianapolis.
“I’m just super excited,” linebacker Drue Tranquill said. “I’m really happy for this team, these guys, our owners, (general manager) Tom (Telesco), Coach (Brandon) Staley, everyone involved because it hasn’t been an easy two years.
“We know what happened last year in the Las Vegas game. We know what’s happened this year. But we have a special group of guys. I’m just really happy right now to be a part of all this.”
The Chargers won their third in a row and fourth in five games to improve to 9-6. They are sixth in the AFC and still have an opportunity to move into the conference’s top wild-card spot with two games remaining.
All of which put significant distance between now and Week 18 of the 2021 season. That’s when the Chargers were eliminated by the Raiders on a field goal on the final play of overtime.
“This is not our final goal,” Staley said. “We expected to be at this point. I’m really proud of how this season has gone and what we’ve been able to demonstrate by making it into the postseason. That’s probably what I’m most proud of - not just being in it but how we made it.”
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From Gary Klein: In late October, during Cam Akers’ exile from the Rams, the team tried to trade the then-embattled running back but found no takers.
Akers returned to the team after a two-plus weeks absence and has, of late, produced as he did before he suffered an Achilles injury that sidelined him for nearly the entire 2021 season.
Will the Rams attempt to shop the third-year pro after the season?
“Oh, no,” coach Sean McVay said Monday during a videoconference with reporters. “I think right now, with what he’s done continuing to build on that momentum, I think it’d be silly based on what a great job he’s done to think of it anything differently than him being a big part of what you want to be able to do moving forward. But you just take it a day at a time.
Paul George scored 32 points and the Clippers overcame a 14-point deficit in the final 3:34 of regulation to beat the Detroit Pistons 142-131 in overtime on Monday night.
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue pulled his starters when his team fell behind 126-112, but a lineup of Luke Kennard, Terance Mann, Amir Coffey, Nicolas Batum and Moses Brown finished the fourth quarter with a 16-2 run. Mann hit a tying jumper with five seconds left in regulation.
“You have to give those guys credit for staying ready,” Lue said. “They came out and played with some urgency. Amir and Moses hadn’t played in the game, so for them to come in and produce like the way they did was huge.“
The Clippers then outscored Detroit 14-3 in the extra period.
Ivica Zubac added 12 points and 15 rebounds for Los Angeles, which has beaten Detroit eight straight times. The Clippers had seven players score in double figures.
Bojan Bogdanovic led Detroit with 23 points, including the Pistons’ only field goal of the last eight minutes. Isaiah Stewart added 21 points for NBA-worst Detroit.
From Dan Woike: For the second time in three games, LeBron James used part of his time at the postgame podium to point out the obvious — the Lakers are small. In a league that values length, his team is nearly devoid — an easy problem to project once the roster was set heading into training camp.
It wasn’t an issue with Anthony Davis cleaning up messes like a Magic Eraser in the paint. Without the 6-foot-10 forward, it’s been a fatal flaw for a team that’s now reeling.
“Reality is, without AD, we lose a lot of length which we don’t have already,” James said Sunday in Dallas after a 124-115 loss, the team’s fourth in a row. “So we have to make up in ways that, without AD, is very difficult, very challenging.”
Since Davis’ injury, the Lakers have been the worst defensive team in the NBA, giving up 125.8 points per 100 possessions in the five games he’s missed.
From Helene Elliott: Taylor Fritz set two ambitious objectives for 2022: finish the year in the top 10 in the men’s tennis world rankings, and win a big event.
Done and done, with a couple of added flourishes.
Fritz, who grew up in Rancho Santa Fe and now lives in Miami, started the year at No. 23 but finished No. 9 and is the top-ranked American man. In March, he won his first Masters 1000 tournament — just below the four Grand Slams in significance — by ending a hobbled Rafael Nadal’s 20-match winning streak at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, even though an injured ankle nearly forced Fritz to withdraw before the final.
Fritz, 25, also made his deepest push in a Slam by reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, where he lost to Nadal in five sets. Fritz won titles on grass at Eastbourne, England, on hardcourts at Tokyo, and qualified for the Assn. of Tennis Professionals year-end event, reaching the semifinals. Most recently, he earned a Davis Cup win over Lorenzo Musetti in November, defeated former world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev in a strong field at the Diriyah Cup in an exhibition in Saudi Arabia earlier this month, and played another exhibition in Hong Kong.
From John Cherwa: There is something about opening day at Santa Anita that still excites Southern California. The traditional day after Christmas start drew a big crowd, big names and big expectations, at least for the moment.
There is no bigger name in horse racing than trainer Bob Baffert, who even makes news when he’s not running horses but breeding them. He punctuated his role at the top of the sport Monday with three graded stakes wins — and five total.
Taiba, trained by Baffert and ridden by Mike Smith, laid an arguable claim to the Eclipse Award for best 3-year-old male by winning the Grade 1 $300,000 Malibu Stakes. He is the only 3-year-old that has won three Grade 1s this year.
Baffert also won the Grade 2 $200,000 San Antonio Stakes with Country Grammer. Even though Baffert trains the 5-year-old, it was his jockey Frankie Dettori who received all the attention.
Considered the best jockey in Europe, Dettori has joined the Santa Anita jockey colony at least until April. Dettori even did his signature leap off the horse in the winner’s circle after Country Grammer’s victory. He recreated the jump two more times Monday.
The arbitrator shortening Trevor Bauer’s suspension and making him eligible to play this season has polarized Dodger fans. Some want him released immediately, some want the Dodgers to play him. What do you think?
Click here to vote in our poll and let us know. Results will be revealed in Friday’s newsletter.
THIS DATE IN SPORTS
1953 — The Detroit Lions edge the Cleveland Browns 17-16 for the NFL championship. Doak Walker’s extra point, following a 33-yard scoring pass, is the difference.
1959 — The Baltimore Colts beat the New York Giants 31-16 in the NFL championship. Three field goals by Pat Summerall give the Giants a 9-7 lead after three periods, but Baltimore’s defensive backfield makes three interceptions that result in scores.
1964 — The Cleveland Browns break out after a scoreless first half with 17 points in the third quarter and go on to beat the Baltimore Colts 27-0 for the NFL title.
1974 — Ohio State junior running back Archie Griffin wins the Heisman Trophy.
1987 — Steve Largent of the Seattle Seahawks becomes the NFL’s all-time reception leader in the Seahawks’ 41-20 loss to Kansas City. Largent’s six catches gives him 752, surpassing the 750 by San Diego’s Charlie Joiner. Gayle Sierens announcing the game for NBC becomes the first female play-by-play announcer in NFL history.
1999 — Joe Sakic scores his 1,000th career point on a second-period assist, helping the Colorado Avalanche to a 5-1 win over the St. Louis Blues.
2000 — Mario Lemieux makes a remarkable comeback after 3½ years of retirement, scoring a goal and assisting on two others — one on his first pass on his first shift, no less — as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-0.
2005 — Rudy Carpenter passes for 467 yards and four touchdowns as Arizona State holds off Rutgers for a wild 45-40 victory in the Insight Bowl. The teams combine for 1,210 yards, a record for any bowl game.
2008 — Pat White, the most prolific running quarterback in college football history, has the best passing game of his career to lead West Virginia to a 31-30 victory over North Carolina in the Meineke Bowl. The senior is voted MVP of a bowl for the third straight year and finishes 4-0 in postseason games, the first quarterback to do so.
2010 — Niklas Kronwall scores the game-winner with 1:18 remaining in overtime and Chris Osgood stops a season-high 46 shots in the Detroit Red Wings’ 4-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche to become the 10th goalie in NHL history to reach 400 wins.
2015 — Carolina’s bid for an undefeated season ends when Julio Jones’ dramatic 70-yard touchdown reception powered the Atlanta Falcons to a 20-13 victory over Cam Newton and the 14-1 Panthers.
2015 — Kansas City beat Cleveland 17-13 for its ninth consecutive victory and clinches a playoff spot when Pittsburgh loses to Baltimore. The Chiefs and 1986 Jets are the only teams in NFL history with a nine-game win streak and five-game losing streak in the same season.
2017 - Raheem Sterling scores to give Manchester City 1-0 win over Newcastle United at St. James’ Park; EPL record 18th consecutive win; streak ends with 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace 31/12
Compiled by the Associated Press
Steve Largent breaks the NFL record for receptions. Watch and listen here.
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