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Blue Jays travel to West Coast looking to capitalize on tailwind of momentum –



TORONTO — You probably don’t even remember that there was a time when the West Coast road trip was a real “thing” for teams in the east.

Or at least seemed that way.

Firing a manager? Do it on the coast and use the time difference to control headlines. Worried about the wheels falling off your division lead? Multiply that by a thousand once the chartered flight cleared the desert. Heck: I’ve worked at two newspapers where one of the biggest issues in taking a hatchet to the travel budge was the fear that you’d “miss out on something” by not going to the coast with the ball club.

This was before the internet and 24-hour sports channels – you know, way the hell back in the late ’80s when that trip to Cali was important for the well-being of your beat reporter. The beautiful thing was that once your newspaper went to print – again, before the internet – there was nothing you could do if the whole team went to hell. The team bus could crash. Didn’t matter. You weren’t going to get scooped; you didn’t even have to write it until the morning because it wouldn’t see the light of day until the next day’s fish-wrap was published.

Sunset Strip? Frolic Room? Viper Club? Here we come, straight through to breakfast followed by a trip to the beach and then a snooze. God, I loved West Coast trips.

Now, I’m not writing this to scare anybody ahead of Tuesday’s first game of the Blue Jays’ West Coast trip. Far from it.

I mean, stuff can change pretty quickly but the manner in which the Blue Jays won three of four games against the Boston Red Sox – to recap: a 12-4 win in which they had a nine-run fifth inning to come back from a 2-0 deficit with Nathan Eovaldi on the mound; a 1-0 walk-off win against Matt Barnes after being held to one hit in the first game of a double-header; and Sunday’s 9-8 comeback with five runs in the seventh and eighth innings. George Springer’s three-run home run, again off Barnes, felt like some kind of moment we’ll be re-visiting in the fall.

I don’t know if I’ve been around a team with as much of a tailwind as this one.

Making me feel even better was this snippet of information from’s Mike Petriello, a frequent contributor to Blue Jays Central: since July 1, Blue Jays relievers have had the fewest high-leverage plate appearances in the majors, which is nice when it’s the shakiest part of your team. Who knew when general manager Ross Atkins was talking about run prevention that he meant bullpen appearance prevention?

As for Springer? I don’t know if the Dog Days of August is a thing anymore – yeah, that’s kind of an old newspaper narrative, too – but it sure seemed to me this weekend as if Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., and Bo Bichette needed a little respite. Bichette was beaten up in the doubleheader; appearing to hurt his wrist diving for a grounder and fouling pitches off each shin. Vladdy had already been given a day off by manager Charlie Montoyo after playing every game since the pandemic began, but there was still a raggedness to some of his at-bats.

This isn’t a 60-game sprint like it was in 2020; this is 162 games, with all the extra travel and fouled-off pitches and pressure points. Enter Springer, American League Player of the Week for the past two weeks at precisely the time his team needed him.

Look, there is stuff we can’t worry about and can’t foresee. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox provided evidence this weekend with players such as Anthony Rizzo, Gary Sanchez and J.D. Martinez missing time on the COVID-19 injured list. Martinez missed both games of the doubleheader before being activated for Sunday’s game. Unlike the Red Sox, the Yankees – and, in the National League, the Milwaukee Brewers – have had players miss significant chunks of time due to COVID-19 issues.

Mercifully or, at least, luckily, the Blue Jays have as far as we know had just one player go on the COVID-19 IL for 10 days: Teoscar Hernandez, in mid-April. They had two players, Ryan Borucki and Lourdes Gurriel, Jr., go on the COVID-19 IL for a couple of days with vaccination side effects.

Some guys are out for 10 days. Some for one. Some for two. So as community service or thereabouts, I reached out to the commissioner’s office. Vice-president of Communications Michael Teevan walked me through it.

Generally, players are out for at least 10 days after testing positive,” Teevan said in an e-mail. “We’ve had a few cases where fully vaccinated and asymptomatic players who tested positive have been cleared by the Joint Committee to come back sooner than 10 days, based on negative tests, but that’s been unusual.

“Vaccinated players don’t miss time from having to quarantine as a close contact. Unvaccinated players do miss time – seven days – from having been a close contact.

“The COVID IL is not reserved for players who test positive. The COVID IL can be used while contact tracing is happening or for players who are being evaluated while symptomatic. So if a player tells a trainer that he has symptoms, the club can put him on the COVID IL until they have clarity on his status.”

And there you go. Clip and save, as we used to say.

Most of us realize the idea behind any vaccine is that while it doesn’t prevent you from contacting a virus or passing it on, it does mitigate the effects of the illness. Promised through collective bargaining is that teams whose on-field personnel have a vaccination rate of 85 per cent or more can enjoy relaxed protocols in the clubhouse, dugout and elsewhere. That’s one carrot that applies to the team as a whole.

Individually, the carrot for players who need to be coaxed by something more than simply keeping themselves and others safe, is that vaccinated players have more avenues off the IL than non-vaxxed players.

Translation: teams with fewer vaccinated players have and likely will find themselves at a competitive advantage. Either way, the virus gonna virus and as one industry source told me this weekend the susceptibility to breakthrough COVID of players who have had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is something they’re keeping an eye on. Not having J.D. Martinez for two games in August is one thing; Not having him for the final two games of the regular season? Or Games 1 and 2 of the Division Series? Quite another.

So there is a lot to play for in these next seven weeks – a lot for everybody. Stuff we know; stuff we don’t know. Since baseball players have had easier access to vaccinations than the rest of us – they were bringing it to them in March, for god’s sake – it would stand to reason that those players who aren’t yet vaccinated won’t be vaccinated.

If COVID cases grow, the guess here is we’ll see discussion about resurrecting a post-season bubble, which nobody wants, especially the Blue Jays, who’ve quickly acclimated themselves to home with a growing sense that maybe/possibly something special is cooking. God-speed, fellas. May that remain a tailwind and not a headwind.

Jeff Blair hosts Baseball Central with Kevin Barker from 5-7 p.m. ET on Sportsnet 590/The Fan

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Cardinals win thriller after Vikings miss last-second field goal – TSN



GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona’s Jordan Hicks didn’t dare turn around as Minnesota’s potential game-winning field goal floated toward the uprights. Instead, he watched the videoboard for a moment and then locked eyes with Ezekial Turner, who had been knocked to the turf, his expression slowly turning to disbelief.

The Cardinals were 2-0. After being really good in a season-opening win last week, they enjoyed a little good fortune in Week 2.

Kyler Murray threw for 400 yards and three touchdowns, and the Cardinals beat the Vikings 34-33 on Sunday after Greg Joseph missed a 37-yard field goal wide right in the final seconds.

“I’d rather be lucky than good sometimes,” Cardinals tight end Maxx Williams said. “We got the ‘W’ with that missed field goal and I’m gonna celebrate it. It’s hard to be 2-0 in this league, it’s hard to win games in this league.

“It doesn’t matter how it happens.”

It was a fitting end to a seesaw game that saw the lead change hands eight times. The dizzying offensive pace — Arizona had a 24-23 halftime lead — slowed considerably in the final minutes, and there were no touchdowns in the final quarter.

Murray also ran for a touchdown and threw two costly interceptions, including one that was returned for a score. But there were a lot more good moments than bad.

“The game is really slowing down for him,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “He’s doing stuff that he did at the collegiate level where he’s very confident in legs and moving around, extending plays.”

The Cardinals looked as if they were about to lose before Joseph’s last-second miss. He made two 52-yard field goals earlier in the game, giving no indication he’d have trouble pushing the Vikings to a win.

It’s another dispiriting setback for the Vikings (0-2), who lost in overtime at Cincinnati last weekend. Kirk Cousins threw for 244 yards and three touchdowns while Dalvin Cook ran for 131 yards on 22 carries.

Minnesota’s Nick Vigil returned an interception 39 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the third quarter, jumping in front of a pass Murray intended for Rondale Moore. It gave the Vikings a 30-24 lead.

Murray shook off the mistake and led the Cardinals on an eight-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 9-yard touchdown pass to veteran A.J. Green. It was Green’s first touchdown for the Cardinals and gave them a 31-30 lead.

The teams traded field goals in the fourth, with Matt Prater‘s 27-yard kick giving Arizona a 34-33 lead with 4:25 left.

It looked as if another field goal would decide the game, but Joseph’s kick drifted right as the Cardinals celebrated. Joseph made a clutch 53-yard field goal last week to push the game to overtime.

It didn’t work out this time.

“I felt good about that kick,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “I knew he had missed the extra point earlier but he has been kicking good, we are indoors, perfect surface. I am thinking this should be an easy one here.”

Arizona led 24-23 at the break after Prater booted a franchise-record 62-yard field goal as time expired in an action-packed first half.

“I thought the end of the half was a huge swing,” Kingsbury said. “Matt hits a 62-yarder that gives us that momentum and we were able to hang on at the end. It was good. Week 1 we didn’t face adversity. We faced a bunch today and still found a way to get it done.”

Murray scampered out of the pocket late in the second quarter, spinning away from two defenders before finding a wide-open Moore for a 77-yard touchdown pass, giving the Cardinals their first lead at 21-20.

The Vikings’ secondary moved toward the line of scrimmage when Murray started scrambling and didn’t see Moore, who had settled behind the defense and didn’t have a defender within several yards. Moore — a rookie who was a second-round draft pick out of Purdue — finished with 114 yards receiving.

Minnesota responded with a quick drive downfield that was capped by Joseph’s 52-yard field goal.

The Vikings scored on just the second play of the game when Cousins found a wide-open K.J. Osborn for a 64-yard touchdown. There appeared to be a miscommunication in the Cardinals secondary on the play: Cornerback Byron Murphy stayed with Osborn for a few moments before stopping, and there wasn’t any help from the safeties deep.

DeAndre Hopkins caught a touchdown pass for the Cardinals. Osborn led the Vikings with 91 yards receiving.


Prater’s 62-yard field goal just before halftime nearly matched his NFL record of 64 yards that he set in 2013 while with the Denver Broncos.

The 37-year-old, two-time Pro Bowl kicker was acquired in the offseason as an upgrade for Zane Gonzales, who made some big kicks in 2020 but was also inconsistent.

Prater’s kick on Sunday had plenty of distance in the indoor setting, spitting the uprights with some room to spare.


Patrick Peterson returned to the desert after signing with the Vikings during the offseason. The three-time All-Pro played his first 10 seasons with the Cardinals and had 28 interceptions.

Peterson had a fairly quiet game, finishing with two tackles.


Vikings: Minnesota was without a handful of defensive contributors, including linebacker Anthony Barr (knee) and defensive end Everson Griffen (concussion).

Cardinals: Cornerback Marco Wilson (ankle) and right tackle Kelvin Beachum (ribs) both left the game with injuries.


The Vikings play at home for the first time this season when they host the Seattle Seahawks.

The Cardinals travel to face the Jacksonville Jaguars. Three of Arizona’s first four games this season are on the road.


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Lamar Jackson finally leads Ravens over Chiefs 36-35 – TSN



BALTIMORE (AP) — With a vault and a jump pass, and all the confidence from his coach and teammates he could ask for, Lamar Jackson finally beat Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City.

Using his legs to rush for 107 yards and scoring twice, including flipping into the end zone for the winning score, Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Chiefs 36-35 Sunday night.

Jackson was 0-3 against the Chiefs, and he needed all of his multiple skills to break through to hand Mahomes his first loss in September after 11 victories. The matchup of NFL MVPs — Mahomes in 2018, Jackson the next year — was a wild affair from the start.

And the Ravens needed a fumble by Clyde Edwards-Helaire as Kansas City was marching into field goal range to clinch it.

With Jackson leading the Ravens’ 251 yards rushing and throwing for 239 and a score, Baltimore ensured that all four AFC North teams would have 1-1 records. Kansas City, which allowed 481 yards and gained 405, also is 1-1 in the rugged AFC West.

Jackson had his ninth career 100-yard rushing game, tied with Michael Vick for most by a quarterback.

The dynamic Jackson twice got into the end zone to his right with dives — well, the last TD was more of a somersault.

“I landed on my butt,” he claimed, laughing.

Twice the Ravens misfired on 2-point conversions, but Jackson’s run for a first down on fourth-and-1 after Edwards-Helaire fumbled secured the victory.

“He (coach John Harbaugh) asked if we wanted to go for it,” Jackson said. “I said, `Hell yeah.’

“I said, `Man, I got to get this first down no matter what.”

Like a video game with no controller for defense, the teams moved up and down the field with little opposition. Most thrilling was Travis Kelce’s 46-yard slalom in which he avoided nearly the entire Baltimore defensive unit before falling into the end zone, exhausted.

But it was not enough because Mahomes finally threw an interception in September, to Tavon Young, which set up Jackson’s first touchdown run.

“We were strong and together and we kept that focus,” Jackson said, referring to the overtime loss at Las Vegas to open the season. “I know my team is going to look at me and I got to do it for my guys.”

The Chiefs broke a 14-14 tie with a precise drive late in the first half, sparked by a 20-yard screen pass to backup tight end Blake Bell. Darrel Williams ran it in from the 10 with 51 seconds to go.

That was enough time for Baltimore to reach field-goal range for Justin Tucker, who nailed a 43-yarder. The problem for the Ravens: Kansas City got the second-half kickoff.

Mahomes capped a quick 74-yard drive with a short pass to Byron Pringle, who eluded two tacklers for a 40-yard score and a 28-17 lead.

And the problem for the Chiefs was their defense, which was getting shredded — aside from Tyrann Mathieu’s interceptions — had to take the field. It completely lost Marquise Brown on a 42-yard jump pass TD four plays after Pringle scored.

“Lamar’s a heck of a football player,” Chiefs DE Frank Clark said. “He does everything that he can. … They took it. They came in, beat us in the rushing attack. We missed tackles.”

Of course, with Mahomes chucking the ball and guys like Kelce catching it, the Chiefs barely shrug in such circumstances. And Kelce’s highlight-reel touchdown restored the 11-point margin; he finished with seven catches for 109 yards.

Young’s pick — Mahomes said “It’s probably one of the worst interceptions I’ve probably ever had” — set up Baltimore near midfield and yet another quick drive was finished by Jackson’s sprint right and dive for a 2-yard score. But a 2-point conversion pass to Brown was negated by a penalty and the Ravens failed on the next try.

They didn’t miss the winning score when they got the chance to go ahead. That Jackson made like a gymnast added a superb twist to it all.

“I love being around this team,” Harbaugh said of his undermanned group. “I told them it would be an honor to be on the field with them. What makes me proud of these guys is that’s who we are and what we do.”

Mahomes was 24 for 31 for 343 yards and three TDs, with the interception.


Kansas City struck quickly — and with its defense. When receiver Sammy Watkins, a former Chief, slipped, Mathieu was there to grab Jackson’s second pass of the game. The 2020 All-Pro sped down the left side for a touchdown.

Baltimore answered right back on a 75-yard drive highlighted by Devonta Freeman’s 31-yard run. From the Chiefs 10, running back Ty’Son Williams was headed into the end zone when he fumbled. The ball popped into the air to teammate Devin Duvernay, who surged in to tie it.

So the Chiefs responded with a 92-yard drive capped by Demarcus Robinson beating Anthony Levine on a post pattern for a 33-yard score. Less than nine minutes in, it was 14-7.


Mathieu’s second interception of the opening quarter ended another impressive Baltimore drive as Jackson threw into triple coverage. It didn’t help much as penalties put the Chiefs in a third-and-39 — and not even Mahomes Magic could handle that.


Baltimore, already ravaged by injuries, lost safety DeShon Elliott to a concussion and nose tackle Brandon Williams to a strained neck.


For the first time since 2019, the Ravens had a full house for a home game. They did allow limited attendance for part of last season during the pandemic.

Two bands played outside the stadium and Ravens cheerleaders made an appearance in balmy weather beforehand. The crowd of 70,417 got plenty of excitement just before kickoff when Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis was introduced and did his customary dance on the field.


With their 251 yards rushing, the Ravens have 41 consecutive games with at least 100 yards on the ground. Pittsburgh holds the NFL record at 43 from 1974-77.


Kansas City hosts the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.

Baltimore is at Detroit on Sunday.


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Tom Brady throws for 276 yards and 5 TDs as Buccaneers rout Falcons –



TAMPA, Fla. — It’s good to be 2-0 with a franchise-best 10-game winning streak and an even more impressive run of nine straight 30-plus point performances in a victory.

The defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers insist, however, that they still haven’t played anywhere near up to their potential after pulling away in the fourth quarter to rout the Atlanta Falcons 48-25 on Sunday.

“I think we’ve got a lot to learn from,” coach Bruce Arians said. “It’s always better to learn from winning. I like the way we finished the game.”

Tom Brady threw for 276 yards and five touchdowns, and Mike Edwards returned two of Tampa Bay’s three interceptions for TDs as the Bucs scored 30-plus points in a victory for an NFL-record ninth straight time.

The 44-year-old quarterback was also part of teams with New England that scored at least 30 in eight straight wins in 2007 and 2010.

“We were a little loose with the ball. Some penalties at different times that knocked us out of some scoring drives. Some missed throws and missed reads. I certainly wish I had made a few better throws,” Brady said.

“But it’s good to get the win. 2-0,” the seven-time Super Bowl winner added. “There’s a lot to build on.”

Brady improved to 9-0 lifetime against the Falcons (0-2), who’ve lost seven in a row going back to last season, with three of those setbacks coming against the Bucs, who’ve outscored their NFC South rivals 124-62 over the past 10 quarters of those outings.

Rob Gronkowski caught a pair of TD passes for the third straight game, including the Super Bowl, as he and Brady continued to climb the career list for regular-season TDs by a passing duo with 88 — one behind Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates for second place. Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison are first with 112.

Mike Evans also scored on receptions of 3 yards and 1 yard, the latter set up by Shaquil Barrett’s third-quarter interception of Matt Ryan, who fell to 0-6 against teams led by Brady, who rallied New England from a 28-3 deficit to beat Atlanta in Super Bowl 51.

Ryan, who tossed TD passes to Calvin Ridley and Cordarrelle Patterson before running for a 2-point conversion to trim an 18-point deficit to 28-25 late in the third, threw a pair of interceptions that Edwards returned for fourth-quarter TDs that broke the game open.

“These guys kept coming back, back, back,” Arthur Smith, Atlanta’s first-year coach said. “It’s a shame. You get in there, it’s a three-point game and then it ends the way it does.

“When the score got out of hand, a lot of that was on the offence, right? You can almost put four of those touchdowns — two of them for sure, pick-6’s (on the offence),” Smith added. “Everybody feels sick when you see that box score, but there were some positives.”

Since trailing the Falcons 17-0 at halftime of their Week 15 meeting in Atlanta last December, Brady has thrown for 11 touchdowns vs. one interception in guiding the Bucs to three victories in a series that’s seen Tampa Bay win four of the past five meetings.

Gronkowski, who spent nine seasons with Brady in New England before coming out of retirement to rejoin his long-time teammate with the Bucs last year, scored on receptions of 20 yards and 1 yard in the first half.

Brady’s fifth TD pass — a 12-yarder to Chris Godwin with just over nine minutes remaining, put the Bucs over 30 points for a ninth straight game. Edwards scored on interception returns of 31 yards and 15 yards to finish the rout.

Brady completed 24 of 38 passes without an interception. He was sacked three times, losing a fumble on one of them.

Ryan finished 35 of 46 for 300 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.

“Got it to a three-point game, and we had some momentum, really did. Credit to them, they changed the tide,” Ryan said. “They did a good job in the fourth quarter putting us away. I think there’s things we can improve, there’s a lot of things we can correct.”


Former Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honour during a halftime ceremony.

Kiffin, credited with being the architect of the Tampa-2 scheme, led the Tampa Bay defence for 13 seasons from 1996 to 2008. He joins four defensive stars from the 2002 Bucs, who won the Super Bowl — Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, John Lynch and Ronde Barber — as members of the Ring of Honour at Raymond James Stadium.

Jon Gruden, Mike Alstott, Lee Roy Selmon, Jimmie Giles, John McKay, Doug Williams, Malcolm Glazer, Paul Gruber and Tony Dungy, who hired Kiffin in 1996, are also in the Ring of Honour.


Falcons: WR Russell Gage (ankle) left in the second quarter but returned in the second half. … CB A.J. Terrell (concussion) left in the second half and did not return.

Buccaneers: CB Carlton Davis III played after being listed as questionable with a sore hamstring. … WR/KR Jaydon Mickens left with a hip injury in the second half.


Falcons: Will try to break a seven-game skid at the New York Giants next Sunday.

Buccaneers: Travel to the West Coast to face the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday in the first of two straight road games. Brady returns to New England to face the Patriots for the first time the following week.

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