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49ers wins NFC West

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SEATTLE — Richard Sherman once again wore the hat of a division champion as he walked out of the locker room in Seattle.

Except this time there was a San Francisco logo beneath the words “NFC West champions.”

“It’s a great feeling. It’s a great feeling to get the one seed, to be NFC West champions,” Sherman said. “That’s your goal coming into the year. That’s the first goal you have to accomplish so that you can get a home game in the playoffs. We’ve worked hard. It was a tough season, there were a lot of teams playing really well down the stretch. But I’m thankful. I’ve believed in our team, our team believes in each other and that’s what makes it special.”

The road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will go through San Francisco for the first time since 1997 — by a matter of inches — after the 49ers beat the Seattle Seahawks 26-21 on Sunday night to clinch the NFC West title. San Francisco has home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs after winning its first division title since 2012.

And it was another chapter in a growing list of classic, memorable games between the division rivals, with San Francisco earning its first win in Seattle since 2011.

But it took a costly delay-of-game penalty by the Seahawks, a tough tackle by San Francisco rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw and a tense replay review before the 49ers could start to party.

“It’s pretty incredible, especially from the start of the season and the hearsay and everything of our team and what we were going to do, and to come out here and get the one seed, it’s a pretty nice feeling,” quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said.

It was nearly Seattle celebrating what would have been an unlikely comeback victory on a night when Seahawks fans showed up hoping for a division title and eager to celebrate the return of running back Marshawn Lynch.

Seattle took possession at its own 27 with 2:27 left down by five. Russell Wilson drove the Seahawks deep into San Francisco territory and on fourth-and-10, Wilson hit John Ursua for 11 yards to the 1. Wilson spiked the ball, but Seattle was called for delay of game on second down with confusion about whether Lynch should enter the game. Backed up to the 6, Wilson was incomplete on two straight passes — including a third-down pass for Jacob Hollister on which Seattle begged unsuccessfully for pass interference against Fred Warner.

NFL senior VP of officiating Al Riveron said the play was looked at in New York but based on the replay there wasn’t enough evidence to stop the game for a further look.

“I felt him grabbing me but you don’t get every call. I didn’t get that call,” Hollister said.

On fourth-and-goal, Hollister caught a pass underneath but was immediately knocked down by Greenlaw with less than 10 seconds remaining. Replay confirmed Hollister hit the ground before the ball reached the goal line, and San Francisco’s celebration was on.

“I just knew that I had my foot on the goal line. I knew that they had to get into the end zone in order to win the game,” Greenlaw said. “So I just made sure that my feet were on the goal line and just played lateral to downhill and just, made a tackle that my coaches and teammates would be proud of. Just happy with how the game ended and happy to be able to make the play.”

The 49ers (13-3) are the top seed in the NFC playoffs for the first time in 22 years and will face the conference’s lowest remaining seed at home on Saturday, Jan. 11. San Francisco was dominant in the first half and made enough big plays in the second to hold off Seattle’s rally from a 13-0 halftime deficit.

Garoppolo directed the entire performance, throwing for 285 yards. He hit his first nine passes, finished 18 of 22 and didn’t commit a turnover. Raheem Mostert continued his late-season surge by running for a pair of second-half touchdowns.

Seattle’s crowd had the stadium shaking after Lynch scored on a 1-yard TD plunge with 9:55 left to pull the Seahawks to 19-14. Skittles rained down on the field and the Seahawks had all the momentum.

“It felt good. But at the end of the day we play to win,” Lynch said.

Those same fans were silenced in barely four minutes. San Francisco marched downfield with more big plays as Garoppolo hit George Kittle and Deebo Samuel. Mostert capped the drive with his second touchdown — a 13-yard run — and a 26-14 lead with 5:51 remaining.

Seattle scored with 3:36 left on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to DK Metcalf, but Wilson didn’t have one last magical moment.

Wilson was 25 of 30 for 233 yards. Lynch had 12 carries for 34 yards in his first game since October of last season.

“That was a wild one. We had several different opportunities,” Wilson said. “We came a half-inch short, unfortunately.”

Samuel was a nightmare for the Seahawks, scoring on a 30-yard reverse in the first half and finishing with five catches for 102 yards. Kittle, who didn’t play in the first meeting between the teams in November, had seven catches for 86 yards. Even fullback Kyle Juszczyk had a huge play with a 49-yard catch immediately after Seattle pulled to 13-7 early in the second half.

“You can’t leave the door open, which we did,” Kittle said. “Thankfully we were able to answer every time they did and our defence was able to hold onto them and finish the game.”

INJURIES

Seattle wide receiver Jaron Brown sustained a knee injury in the first quarter and was out for the game. Brown got hit low on the first series and never returned. Seattle was already thin at wide receiver with Malik Turner out due to a concussion.

Mychal Kendricks left in the third quarter with a right knee injury after losing Juszczyk on a 49-yard reception. Kendricks had been dealing with a hamstring injury for several weeks.

FIRST AND LAST

San Francisco owns a rare bit of NFL history. The 49ers played the first game of the 2010s and the last game of the decade as well.

San Francisco played on Jan. 3, 2010 — Week 17 of that season — and its game against St. Louis was the first to kick off that day.

The Sunday night game in Seattle was the final NFL game to be played in the 2010s.

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Senators score 5 times in 3rd period to down free-falling Oilers – CBC Sports

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Scoring five third-period goals may not be the usual game plan, but it was the perfect path to a win for the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.

Josh Norris scored a pair of goals and the Senators erased a 3-1 third-period deficit in a 6-4 come-from-behind victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

Adam Gaudette, Alex Formenton, Artem Zub and Zach Sanford also scored for the Senators (11-18-2), who have won two straight and won their first game this season when trailing after the second period.

“It’s not really how we drew it up, but that’s how hockey goes sometimes,” Norris said. “I think it was a lot of fun and the guys enjoyed it. We have to clean some things up, but that’s hockey and it’s how the way the game goes sometimes. We kind of thrived on that and it was great to get the win.”

Gaudette, who also had an assist, said the comeback was a blast.

“It was a lot of fun. Personally it’s been a while since I’ve had that much fun playing hockey,” he said. “It’s been a tough year and a half or so, so it really feels good to contribute and to help this team win.”

WATCH l Senators rally with 3rd period explosion to defeat Oilers: 

Senators rally with 3rd period explosion to defeat Oilers

22 hours ago

Duration 1:25

Ottawa scores five goals in the third period for a 6-4 victory over Edmonton who suffers their 6th straight loss. 1:25

Chris Tierney had two assists, while Senators starter Matt Murray stopped 33-of-37 shots.

Zack Kassian, Kailer Yamamoto, Brendan Perlini and Darnell Nurse replied for the Oilers (18-15-2), who are still in a free-fall. They have dropped six straight and are 2-10-2 in their last 14 games.

“That is one we let slip away,” Kassian said. “Everybody is pretty upset. We were pretty frustrated with that one. That’s a tough way to lose. You are up 3-1 going into the third and you lay a stinker. We are a pretty frustrated group. I think the writing is on the wall.”

Edmonton goalie Stuart Skinner made 20 saves in defeat.

The Oilers were once again guilty of allowing the first goal of the game. Ottawa scored a power-play marker midway through the first as Norris was left alone in front to send a shot past Skinner. The Oilers have conceded the game’s first goal 22 times in their last 26 games.

Edmonton knotted the game with a power-play goal of its own with just 48 seconds remaining in the opening period as Leon Draisaitl won a board battle and fed it in front to Kassian, who wired a shot past Murray.

The Oilers made it 2-1 with eight minutes left in the middle frame as Yamamoto fought off Erik Brannstrom and slid a backhand shot under Murray while off balance.

The Oilers added to the their lead with two and a half minutes to play in the second as Perlini added some extra weight to a Duncan Keith shot for his third of the season.

Ottawa got one back early in the third on a two-on-one as Gaudette beat Skinner with a high backhander.

WATCH l What do Connor McDavid’s comments tell us about hockey culture?:  

What do Connor McDavid’s comments tell us about hockey culture? | The Breakdown

3 days ago

Duration 7:20

CBC Sports’ Jacqueline Doorey is joined by Shireen Ahmed to get her reactions to McDavid’s comments about the Oilers potentially signing Evander Kane and what they say about hockey culture. 7:20

The Senators tied it up five minutes into the third period as Skinner coughed up a puck behind the net, eventually leading to a rebound goal by Formenton.

Ottawa’s unlikely comeback saw them regain the lead midway through the third when Zub picked the top corner with a long shot.

However, the Oilers were able to draw even two minutes later as Nurse jumped up to score on a wrist shot.

The Senators came roaring back with another power-play goal as Norris scored his team-leading 16th goal of the season.

Sanford put the game away with Ottawa’s fifth third-period goal, scoring on a long seeing-eye empty netter.

The Senators return home to face the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, while the Oilers are off until Thursday when they host the Florida Panthers.

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Novak Djokovic arrives in Dubai after deportation from Australia – Sportsnet.ca

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Novak Djokovic arrived early Monday in Dubai after his deportation from Australia over its required COVID-19 vaccination ended the No. 1-ranked men’s tennis player’s hopes of defending his Australian Open title.

The Emirates plane carrying Djokovic touched down after a 13 1/2-hour flight from Melbourne, where he had argued in court he should be allowed to stay in the country and compete in the tournament under a medical exemption due to a coronavirus infection last month.

Dubai International Airport was quiet early Monday morning as flights from the Australia and Asia began to arrive. Passengers wearing mandatory face masks collected their bags and walked out of the cavernous terminal. The first Muslim call to prayers before the sunrise echoed over the terminal.

It wasn’t immediately clear where Djokovic planned to travel next. The Dubai Duty Free tennis tournament, which Djokovic won in 2020, doesn’t start until Feb. 14.

Dubai, the commercial capital of the United Arab Emirates, doesn’t require travelers to be vaccinated, though they must show a negative PCR test to board a flight.

Djokovic had won nine Australian Open titles, including three in a row, and a total of 20 Grand Slam singles trophies, tied with rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most in the history of men’s tennis. Federer is not playing while recovering from injury, and Nadal is the only former Australian Open men’s champion in the tournament that began Monday.

Djokovic’s visa was initially canceled on Jan. 6 by a border official who decided he didn’t qualify for a medical exemption from Australia’s rules for unvaccinated visitors. He was exempted from the tournament’s vaccine rules because he had been infected with the virus within the previous six months.

He won an appeal to stay for the tournament, but Australia’s immigration minister later revoked his visa. Three Federal Court judges decided unanimously Sunday to affirm the immigration minister’s right to cancel Djokovic’s visa.

Vaccination amid the pandemic was a requirement for anyone at the Australian Open, whether players, their coaches or anyone at the tournament site. More than 95% of all Top 100 men and women in their tours’ respective rankings are vaccinated. At least two men — American Tennys Sandgren and Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert — skipped the first major tournament of the year due to the vaccine requirement.

Djokovic’s attempt to get the medical exemption for not being vaccinated sparked anger in Australia, where strict lockdowns in cities and curbs on international travel have been employed to try to control the spread of the coronavirus since the pandemic began.

20:54ET 16-01-22

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Australia leaves door open for Djokovic to play at next year’s Open

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has left the door open for Novak Djokovic to compete at next year’s Australian Open despite the tennis superstar facing an automatic three-year ban from entering the country.

The world number one player left Australia late on Sunday after the Federal Court upheld a government decision to cancel his visa, capping days of drama over the country’s COVID-19 entry rules and his unvaccinated status.

Under immigration law, Djokovic cannot be granted another visa for three years unless Australia’s immigration minister accepts there are compelling or compassionate reasons.

“I’m not going to precondition any of that or say anything that would not enable the minister to make the various calls he has to make,” Morrison told 2GB radio on Monday as Djokovic was en route to Dubai.

“It does go over a three-year period, but there is the opportunity for (a person) to return in the right circumstances, and that will be considered at the time.”

The unanimous ruling by a three-judge Federal Court bench dealt a final blow to Djokovic’s hopes of chasing a record 21st Grand Slam win at the Australian Open, which starts on Monday, dismaying his family and supporters.

In a rollercoaster ride, the world’s top men’s player was first detained by immigration authorities on Jan. 6, ordered released by a court on Jan. 10 and then detained again on Saturday pending Sunday’s court hearing.

Djokovic, 34, said he was extremely disappointed by the ruling but he respected the court’s decision.

“I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and the tournament I love,” Djokovic said in a statement before flying out of Melbourne.

The player was filmed by Reuters wearing a mask and taking selfies with fans at the arrival gate in Dubai as he waited for his entourage to get off the plane. The group then headed through a security channel for transfer passengers.

The saga caused a row between Canberra and Belgrade, with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic calling the court decision “scandalous”.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Monday that she and Morrison had been in touch with Brnabic during the legal process last week.

“I am absolutely confident that the very positive relationship, bilateral relationship between Australia and Serbia will continue on the strong footing that it currently enjoys,” Payne told reporters.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke had said Djokovic could be a threat to public order because his presence would encourage anti-vaccination sentiment amidst Australia’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

The Federal Court judges noted their ruling was based on the lawfulness and legality of the minister’s decision, but did not address “the merits or wisdom” of the decision. They have yet to release the full reasoning behind their decision.

POLITICAL TOUCHSTONE

The Serbian tennis player’s visa troubles fuelled global debate over the rights of people who decline to get vaccinated as governments take measures to protect people from the two-year pandemic.

Djokovic had been granted a visa to enter Australia, with a COVID-19 infection on Dec. 16 providing the basis for a medical exemption from Australia’s requirements that all visitors be vaccinated. The exemption was organised via Tennis Australia and the Victoria state government.

That exemption prompted widespread anger in Australia, which has undergone some of the world’s toughest COVID-19 lockdowns and where more than 90% of adults are vaccinated.

The controversy became a political touchstone for Morrison as he prepares for an election due by May, amid wrangling over responsibility between his centre-right federal coalition government and the centre-left Victoria state government.

Morrison on Monday defended his handling of the situation and differentiated Djokovic’s case from vaccine sceptics within his own government.

“If you’re someone coming from overseas, and there are conditions for you to enter this country, then you have to comply with them,” he said. “This is about someone who sought to come to Australia and not comply with the entry rules at our border.”

The men’s tennis governing body ATP said the decision “marks the end of a deeply regrettable series of events”, adding it respected the decision, a comment echoed by Tennis Australia.

On the tennis circuit, fellow players have become impatient for the media circus to end.

“The situation has not been good all round for anyone. It feels everything here happened extremely last minute and that’s why it became such a mess,” said former world number one Andy Murray.

 

(Reporting By Jane Wardell; editing by Diane Craft and Michael Perry)

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