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Chargers vs. Raiders could’ve been a tie. Instead, we got wild, beautiful chaos –



What if they tie? It was a question spoken in subtle whispers to open the week leading up to the final game of the final Sunday of the 2021 NFL regular season, a divisional matchup between the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders.

It grew louder over the course of the week, evolving into a fun, harmless theory — the ultimate far-fetched possible playoff clinching scenarios for both teams should the ideal conditions align. A tie game, in the right situation, would mean both the Chargers and Raiders would make the playoffs.

What if they tie? The question got louder as Sunday’s action progressed with a series of unlikely, unbelievable outcomes that brought the exact conditions to pave the way for the tie-game scenario.

In the early window of Sunday’s games, the Jacksonville Jaguars went out and absolutely dominated the Indianapolis Colts, opening the door for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, teams who entered Sunday’s matchup with less than a 10 per cent chance of making the playoffs.

But after a thrilling overtime victory for Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers over the Ravens, Pittsburgh’s hopes skyrocket to a whopping 99 per cent. At this point, all that stood between Big Ben and the playoffs was one game: Chargers versus Raiders. And the only outcome that would lock out the Steelers? A tie.

What if they actually tie? The stage was set for both the Chargers and Raiders to simply take a knee and walk hand-in-hand into the post-season so long as neither team went for the win. The situation still felt extremely unlikely, considering the Chargers were down 29-14 with just five minutes remaining in regulation.

Then the unlikely happened. A wild run of fourth-down conversions had the Chargers back in the game and tying things up with mere seconds to spare to send things to overtime.

It was chaos, and it was beautiful.

Wait, they could really tie? As we entered overtime deadlocked at 29-29, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert’s fourth-down heroics were the story of the game, leaving those watching the game and those involved in it thinking that the most chaotic ending possible may just come to pass.

“Yeah, it was a conversation,” Raiders coach Rich Basaccia said after the game, when asked about the tie scenario. “We ran the ball there [on second down of the Raiders’ final possession] and they didn’t call a timeout. So, I think they were probably thinking the same thing. And then we had the big run in there, and when we got the big run it got us into advantageous field goal position for us, we were going to take the field goal and try to win it.

“But we certainly talked about it on the sideline.”

That’s when Chargers head coach Brandon Staley called a timeout, and all hell broke loose.

“We wanted to see if they were going to call a timeout or not on that run,” Basaccia said. “They didn’t, so we thought they were thinking the same thing, and then we popped the run in there which gave us a chance to kick the field goal to win it.”

The timeout call came with 38 seconds to go in an overtime period that had escalated into a next-score-wins situation after both team scored a field goal on their first OT possessions. Staley’s timeout came as the Raiders were looking like they were going for another third-down run. The timeout call prompted the Raiders to then switch up their formation before successfully running the ball into more comfortable field-goal territory.

“We needed to get in the right grouping. We felt like they were going to run the ball, so we wanted to get our best 11-personnel run defence in, make that substitution so that we could get a play where we could deepen the field goal,” Staley said.

“I don’t think it changed their mindset because they were going to run the ball on the play before and then they ran the ball on the very next play,” he continued after a follow-up question. “So we wanted to make sure that we got our run defence in there and we obviously didn’t execute well enough but we wanted to get our premium one-back run defence in here and that’s what we did.”

Asked if any part of his motivation was to conserve time on the clock in case the Raiders missed their field goal attempt, thus giving the Chargers the ball, Staley said: “My mindset was to make the field goal as long as possible.”

We know now, of course, that Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson went on to split the uprights from 47 yards out with two seconds to go, winning the game for Vegas and sending Chargers fans packing — and questioning everything.

And while we may never know for sure exactly how that timeout call altered the outcome of the game — were the Raiders content to let the clock run out for a tie? — the post-game comments, beyond just Staley’s, were revealing.

Asked post-game by NBC’s Michele Tafoya how the timeout shifted Vegas’ strategy, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said “it definitely did, obviously,” before making it clear that the team did not want to end the game with a tie:

“But we knew, no matter what, we didn’t want a tie. We wanted to win the football game. Obviously, if you tie you’re in and I think all those things, but my mindset all day … was to make sure that we were the only team moving on after this,” he said.

As for Herbert? Well, he was all of us:

In a season filled with parity and wild plays and walk-off wins, the Chargers and Raiders gave us a grand finale that was certainly worthy of its title.

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Montreal Canadiens place Alex Belzile on waivers, plus other injury updates – Habs Eyes on the Prize



The Montreal Canadiens have placed forward Alex Belzile on waivers on Monday.

The forward will be assigned to the Laval Rocket should he clear waivers. The 31-year-old was pointless in 11 games this season with the Canadiens. He has four goals and seven assists in 16 AHL games this season.

The team also provided several injury updates, as the new Vice President of Communications Chantal Machabée briefed the media before head coach Dominique Ducharme answered questions.

Joel Edmundson is back from Montreal after being in Manitoba and away from the team. There is no timeline on his return, and the same goes with Carey Price.

Jake Allen will undergo an MRI, while Paul Byron and Tyler Toffoli are nearing a return.

Cayden Primeau will start against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday afternoon. Laurent Dauphin and Josh Anderson also draw back in the lineup. Michael Pezzetta will be a healthy scratch.

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Updates regarding the Canadiens' roster –



GLENDALE – The Canadiens announced the following roster moves on Monday morning.

SHOP: Caufield Blue Socks

Forwards Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Jesse Ylonen were assigned to the Laval Rocket.

Meanwhile, defenseman Gianni Fairbrother has joined the Rocket and returned to training, having completed his period of isolation required by the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.

The Canadiens will face the Coyotes in Arizona on Monday, January 17.

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Novak Djokovic could be barred from French Open if unvaccinated –



Novak Djokovic returned home Monday after being thwarted from defending his Australian Open title only to face a new predicament: He could be barred from the French Open this year, too, if he’s still not vaccinated against COVID-19.

A plane carrying the No. 1-ranked player touched down in his native Serbia, closing at least the first chapter in a dizzying drama that has resonance in the world of elite sports, Australia’s pandemic politics and the polarized debate over the coronavirus shots.

A handful of fans waving the Serbian flag greeted him at Belgrade’s airport. Djokovic has an almost iconic status in Serbia, and many there felt he was poorly treated by Australia.

But his troubles may not be over yet: He could be barred from the French Open this year, under a new law intended to exclude the unvaccinated from stadiums and other public places. Much could change between now and the start of the Grand Slam tournament in late May, but that raised the spectre the recent saga in Australia would be not just a blip but an ongoing challenge for the athlete, who is increasingly being held up as a hero by the anti-vaccine movement.

A member of the French Parliament, Christophe Castaner, said the new law will apply to anyone who wants to play in the French Open — a reversal of earlier plans to create a “bubble” around the tournament.

“To do your job, to come for pleasure or leisure, to practice a sport, it will be necessary to present a vaccine. This will be valid for people who live in France but also for foreigners who come to our country for vacation or for a major sports competition,” Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu told BFM television on Monday.

But some details of the law are still being hashed out, including how it will deal with people who have recently recovered from COVID-19, as Djokovic has. The question is how recent the infection must be to qualify for an exemption to vaccination rules. France’s sports ministry said Monday once the law is in place, there will be no exceptions until further notice.

WATCH | Djokovic deported from Australia after losing final appeal:

Novak Djokovic deported from Australia after losing final appeal

18 hours ago

Duration 2:01

Top-ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic has been deported from Australia after losing his final appeal to not have his visa revoked, meaning he could not compete in the Australian Open. Djokovic’s lack of COVID-19 vaccination has galvanized tennis fans, Australians and become a rallying cry for anti-vaxxers. 2:01

Djokovic is also the defending champion at Wimbledon, which begins in late June. But so far, England has allowed exemptions from various coronavirus regulations for visiting athletes, if they remain at their accommodation when not competing or training. The U.S. Tennis Association, which runs the U.S. Open, has said it will follow government rules on vaccination status.

It’s also not clear when Djokovic could head back to Australia. Deportation can lead to a three-year ban on returning to the country, although that can be waived, depending on the circumstances.

For now, a warm welcome awaits Djokovic, who has overwhelming support in his native Serbia where his closest family lives. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has accused the Australian government of “harassing” the top-ranked tennis star and urged him to return home.

Novak Djokovic plays a forehand during a practice session ahead of the 2022 Australian Open in Melbourne on Friday. A court upheld a decision by the immigration minister to cancel the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on public interest grounds. (Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Denied entry to Australia

“God bless you Novak,” read one of the banners held by the fans at the airport as he was whisked through the passport control and customs and then driven by his brother Djordje to his apartment in Belgrade.

The official Tanjug news agency reported that Djokovic’s mother, Dijana, said her son will remain in Belgrade in the coming days and won’t make statements for the media.

WATCH | Djokovic says his agent made error on Australia entry form:

Novak Djokovic blames human error for inaccurate travel declaration

5 days ago

Duration 1:52

Novak Djokovic says human error is to blame for an inaccurate travel declaration form that claimed the tennis champion hadn’t travelled for two weeks before arriving in Australia for an upcoming tournament in Melbourne. 1:52

Djokovic’s Australian saga began when he was granted an exemption to strict vaccination rules by two medical panels and the tournament organizer in order to play in the Australian Open because he had recently recovered from COVID-19. He received a visa to enter the country through an automated process. But upon arrival, border officials said the exemption was not valid and moved to deport him.

The initial news that the star had been granted the exemption 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.

More than 95 per cent of all top 100 men and women tennis players in their tours’ respective rankings are vaccinated. At least two other men – American Tennys Sandgren and Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert — skipped the Australian Open due to vaccine requirements.

In the end, Australian authorities revoked Djokovic’s visa, saying his presence could stir up anti-vaccine sentiment and kicking him out was necessary to keep Australians safe. He was deported Sunday, a day before the tournament got underway in Melbourne.

Djokovic has won nine titles there previously. He had hoped this year to secure his 21st Grand Slam singles trophy, breaking the record he shares 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, but Nadal is competing.

WATCH | Canadians to watch at Australian Open:

Canadians to watch at the 2022 Australian Open

3 days ago

Duration 3:17

CBC Sports’ Vivek Jacob walks through the Canadian tennis stars you should be watching as they gear up to compete in the 2022 Australian Open 3:17

As the legal battle played out in Australia, Djokovic acknowledged he had attended an interview in Belgrade in December with journalists from L’Equipe newspaper after testing positive for the coronavirus. He later described this “an error” of judgment.

Asked if Djokovic would face any penalties for flouting his isolation while being infected when he returns to Serbia, Serbian officials said he would not because the country is not in a state of emergency.

Djokovic is a national hero in Serbia, whose president had called the court hearing in Australia “a farce with a lot of lies.”

“Novak, welcome home, you know that we all support you here,” said Snezana Jankovic, a Belgrade resident. “They can take away your visa, but they cannot take away your Serbian pride.”

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