DENVER — Donning gray caps that declared them AFC East champions for the first time since 1995, the Buffalo Bills acted like this was old hat.
“We’re going to enjoy it on the flight back home, but we know the job ain’t done yet,” defensive end Jerry Hughes said after the Bills’ 48-19 dismantling of the Denver Broncos officially ended New England’s 11-year reign atop the division.
“We still have a lot more to accomplish,” added Hughes, who contributed to the Bills’ biggest blowout of 2020 with a 21-yard fumble return for a touchdown just 17 seconds after Josh Allen’s second TD run.
Sporting blue T-shirts that read “Won but not done,” the Bills (11-3) acted like the Patriots did all those years when they dominated the division and AFC East titles were mere stepping stones.
“It’s great that we’re able to do it the first time in 25 years,” Allen said. “To be the team and to be the quarterback on the team that does it, obviously feels really good. At the same time, that’s not our end goal. We set out to do this in order to get the chance to do what we really want to do, and that’s to win a Super Bowl championship.”
No disrespect to those celebrating, of course.
“I know our fans and Bills Mafia is probably going crazy right now,” Allen added. “But there’s still a lot on the table.”
Buffalo coach Sean McDermott said he received a congratulatory email from Marv Levy, the last Bills coach to win the AFC East.
But he, too, was looking beyond winning a division title.
“We have more work to do,” McDermott said.
Allen, who wasn’t even born the last time the Bills won the division in 1995, ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more against the team that bypassed him in the 2018 NFL draft despite his starring at windy Wyoming, just 2 1/2 hours north of Denver.
Asked if the snub by Broncos general manager John Elway, who chose linebacker Bradley Chubb instead, made this milestone moment any more meaningful, Allen responded, “I’m where I’m supposed to be.”
While the Bills have turned things around in Allen’s three seasons, the Broncos (5-9) continue to founder. This loss secured their fourth consecutive losing season, something that hadn’t happened in Denver since the franchise’s futile early days in the 1960s and early ’70s.
They also became the first team ever to go five years without making the playoffs following a Super Bowl title.
Allen threw for 359 yards, hitting Stefon Diggs 11 times for 147 yards before he suffered a foot injury in the fourth quarter, and Cole Beasley eight times for 112 yards.
Allen also tied Jack Kemp’s record of 25 career touchdown runs with his second TD scamper, a 1-yard keeper to the right that was set up by Andre Roberts’ 55-yard return of Taylor Russilino’s short second-half kickoff.
After Allen’s 1-yard TD run to start the second half, cornerback Tre’Davious White strip-sacked Drew Lock on Denver’s first offensive play. Defensive end Jerry Hughes scooped up the ball at the 21 and weaved his way through several Broncos to make it 35-13.
Allen dismantled Denver’s makeshift secondary that had lost five cornerbacks in two weeks, picking on De’Vante Bausby all afternoon while completing 28 of 40 passes. Rookie cornerback Michael Ojemudia held his own but was ejected in the third quarter for slapping Bills rookie receiver Gabriel Davis.
Allen threw touchdown passes to Dawson Knox and Jake Kumerow, who became the 13th Bills player to catch a TD pass, tying an NFL record held by seven other teams.
Lock hit tight end Noah Fant with a 6-yard touchdown toss with 5 seconds left in the first half, but Russolino missed the extra point. He also missed the 51-yard field goal attempt way to the right on Denver’s opening drive.
“I thought offensively we had a pretty good first half there,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. “If we make the field goal and extra point for 17 points, you’re looking at a tight game.”
The Broncos turned to Russolino, whose vagabond career included stops in the XFL, the Canadian Football League and even the Chinese arena league after Brandon McManus went on the COVID-19 reserve list.
In addition to his short second-half kickoff to the Buffalo 4 that Roberts returned to Broncos territory, Russolino missed a 51-yard field goal and two extra points on a windy day that didn’t adversely affect Bills kicker Tyler Bass, who made both field goal attempts and all six extra points.
“All four of those were disappointing,” Fangio said, “because he had a really good day in practice the other day when he was practicing and I was encouraged by him. There was some wind out there, but it didn’t bother their kicker. Yeah, I thought he was going to kick better than he did.”
Bills: Along with Diggs, PR Andre Roberts injured his lower back in the third quarter, and OL Daryl Williams left with a groin injury. A person with direct knowledge of the injury told The Associated Press that Diggs’ foot was fine. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because McDermott provided no injury updates after the game, when he said he was “just praying that everyone turns out to be healthy.”
Broncos OLB Bradley Chubb (ankle) and RB Royce Freeman (hip) were hurt in the second half.
Bills: visit the New England Patriots for a Monday night game on Dec. 28.
Broncos: visit the Los Angeles Chargers, who they rallied from a 21-point deficit to beat on Nov. 1 with a touchdown as time ran out.
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow contributed.
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Diamond Resorts A Great Start To 2021 – LPGA
That’s what I’m talking about. The star power at the season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions presented by Insurance Office of America was simply off the charts – and so was the golf. Twenty-five LPGA Tour winners were joined by 53 celebrities and even the name “Sorenstam” popped up on a leaderboard for the first time in a dozen years.
But ultimately, it was the quality of play that stole the show at the Four Seasons Golf & Sports Club Orlando. For the second consecutive year, it took extra holes to decide a winner – although this time the action didn’t spill over until Monday as it did in 2020 when Gaby Lopez needed seven playoff holes to better first Inbee Park and then Nasa Hataoka.
This time, Jessica Korda rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on the first hole of bonus golf to edge Danielle Kang for her sixth LPGA Tour victory after a Sunday shootout that was simply sensational. It was the fourth time Korda won her season debut and it sets hopes high for the season ahead – both for Korda and the LPGA Tour.
“Amazing,” Korda said, glancing down at the trophy. “It was obviously a huge grind. Danielle was playing so solid, and then Nelly started to make a bunch of birdies. I was like, Oh, my gosh. What’s happening? I knew that I was going to have to go low today.”
The final round began with the spotlight on the glam group of Kang, Korda and her sister Nelly and it stayed there all day. Kang began Sunday with a two-stroke lead over Jessica with Nelly a seemingly insurmountable six strokes behind. But then things got interesting.
Kang, who tied the LPGA Tour 54-hole record of 192, closed with a 68 while Jessica Korda finished with a 66 as they ended regulation tied at 24-under-par 260. Nelly Korda made a brilliant charge with a bogey-free 64 to finish two strokes back.
After going 84 holes without a bogey dating back to last season, Kang finally slipped up with a three-putt on No. 15. Meanwhile, both Kordas were making a run, Nelly reeling off six birdies in seven holes beginning on No. 7 and Jessica making four in seven holes beginning on No. 6.
As they stepped to the drivable par-4 16th hole, Kang was 23 under par, Jessica 22 under and Nelly 21 under. When Kang drove into the right trees, it appeared to be anyone’s ball game – at least anyone named Kang or Korda.
A birdie by Jessica and pars by Kang and Nelly sent the trio to the par-5 17th hole with Danielle and Jessica tied for the lead and Nelly two strokes behind. All three birdied No. 17 and parred No. 18, pushing the outcome to a playoff, which Jessica made sure would not need an extra day.
“It was just a crazy, crazy day,” Korda said. “Crazy two days. Shooting 60 yesterday, getting myself back into contention after bogeying three holes in a row to finish my second round. Crazy week.”
The weekend fireworks at Diamond Resorts were a fitting finish to a powerful week that kicked off 2021, a year in which the Tour visits Olympic Club, Atlanta Athletic Club, Carnoustie Golf Links and Inverness Club in a 34-event, $75 million bounce-back from the pandemic pause of 2020. If Diamond Resorts was the rousing overture, let the show begin.
Saturday alone was a day for the history books. Kang shot 63 to maintain the two-stroke lead she had going into the weekend but lost three strokes to Jessica Korda’s 60, a score beaten only once in the 71-year history of the LPGA, that by Annika Sorenstam, who played in the celebrity field.
“Days like today don’t come often, so you really cherish them when they do,” said Korda, whose previous best round was a 62 in the 2018 Honda LPGA Thailand, which she also won.
The 60 was just the fifth in LPGA Tour history and first since Paula Creamer in 2008. The only 59 in Tour history was by Sorenstam in 2001. Larry Fitzgerald, the sure-handed receiver for the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL, played with Korda during her magical round and had a ringside seat to witness greatness.
“The shot she hit on 18 was unbelievable,” Fitzgerald said about the birdie that capped Korda’s 60. “She played the contour of the greens, she hit it exactly where she wanted, and left herself below the hole. It was mastery at its finest. She had complete command of her ball today.”
In all, 10 major champions were in the field at Diamond Resorts and they were joined by Hall of Famers from other sports, Grammy-winning musicians, stage performers and media personalities. The celebrity division, played under the Stableford format, was won by U.S. Davis Cup tennis captain Mardy Fish, with 158 points.
Chad Pfiefer, who lost his left leg above the knee in an IED explosion in Iraq and is a past winner of the National Amputee Championship, was second with 147 points. Sorenstam, playing the event for the first time, was ninth with 134 points.
The show put on Sunday by a couple of Kordas and Kang at Diamond Resorts set the bar extremely high for the new season. There’s only one thing to do now: Start gathering names to play in next year’s Tournament of Champions.
Saskatchewan-raised WHL player Kyrell Sopotyk paralyzed in snowboarding accident – CBC.ca
A Saskatchewan-raised hockey player has been paralyzed by a snowboarding accident.
Kamloops Blazers forward Kyrell Sopotyk, 19, was injured in a snowboarding accident over the weekend, according to the Western Hockey League (WHL).
Sopotyk is from Aberdeen, Saskatchewan. He was drafted to B.C.’s Blazers in 2016.
“Everyone associated with the Western Hockey League is deeply saddened by the devastating news,” the WHL said in a statement.
“The WHL and our member clubs extend our thoughts and prayers to Kyrell, the entire Sopotyk family, Kyrell’s teammates with the Kamloops Blazers, and all his friends during this challenging time.”
A GoFundMe campaign set up on Sunday to raise money for Sopotyk’s needs, including possible renovations to his home and health-care costs, has surpassed its goal of $50,000. As of Monday morning, it had raised more than $76,000.
“I think any parent that has to go to the hospital after an accident knows what they would be experiencing right now. It’s a shock. And I think as a parent, you go through those emotions of … ‘Why my child’?” said Kathleen Zary, organizer of the GoFundMe campaign.
“Kyrell is an amazing soul. The family’s amazing … I can’t imagine what they’re going through right now.”
Zary said the success of the GoFundMe campaign is not surprising.
“They’re very well-loved family in [Saskatchewan] and in Kamloops as well. And I know if the roles were reversed, the Sopotyk family would do the same for anybody. They’re one of those families that you meet and you just are instantly drawn to them because there’s just so lovely and caring to everybody.”
The cause and type of injury has not been made public at this time.
Milanovich resigns as Edmonton's head coach – CFL.ca
EDMONTON — The Edmonton Football Team is now without a head coach.
Scott Milanovich has resigned to pursue NFL opportunities, the team announced on Monday.
Milanovich was hired as the club’s 22nd head coach on Dec 12, 2019. Prior to his appointment, he was the quarterbacks coach for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars from 2017-2019 with a brief stint as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2018.
“Scott informed me this morning that he was resigning as the head coach of the Edmonton Football Team to accept a position in the NFL,” GM/VP of football operations Brock Sunderland said. “It’s disappointing that he was never able to coach a game for our organization due to the pandemic. We wish Scott and his family all the best in his future endeavors.”
The team also stated in the announcement that the search for the club’s next head coach will begin immediately.
Milanovich began his CFL coaching career in 2003, when he joined the Calgary Stampeders as a QB coach. After spending some time in Europe, he returned to Canada in 2007, this time as a QB coach in Montreal.
He moved quickly up the coaching ranks while with the Alouettes. Ahead of the 2008 campaign, he was promoted to the team’s offensive coordinator on top of fulfilling his other duties. In 2009, he also picked up an assistant head coach title.
He’d stay with the Als until the conclusion of the 2011 season, when he was named the head coach of the Toronto Argonauts. In his first season as a head coach, Milanovich led the Argos to a 9-9 record, finishing second in the East Division. They’d make it to they 100th Grey Cup and beat the Calgary Stampeders to take home the title.
Alongside his first championship in the CFL, Milanovich also earned 2012 Coach of the Year honours.
He’d spend another four seasons at the helm in Toronto. Over that span, the team made the playoffs twice and missed out on another two occasions.
Following the 2016 season, Milanovich would step down as the head coach of the Argos and joined the Jacksonville Jaguars as their QB coach, a position he held until he joined Edmonton in 2019.
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