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Patriots Were Firing on All Cylinders en Route to 24-17 Win Over Bills – Sports Illustrated

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Patriots Were Firing on All Cylinders en Route to 24-17 Win Over Bills – Sports Illustrated


The New England Patriots are the AFC East champions for the 11th straight season following their 24-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Week 16. 

The matchup was everything we had anticipated. Playing in Foxboro against a Bills team that has been shaped to beat the reigning Super Bowl champions, the game came down to the final series, with New England’s defense closing it out. However, for the first time in a while, the Patriots’ offense was firing on all cylinders for a full four quarters. Aside from a lone turnover on the first offensive series, New England’s offense was consistent, explosive and overall effective. 

New England controlled the clock by running the ball early and often, while also using its running backs in the passing game. The backfield combined for 143 rushing yards and one score. Sony Michel had a season-high 96 rushing yards on 21 totes, and Rex Burkhead had a career-high 77 receiving yards along with a touchdown. 

In a game where Julian Edelman missed a quarter of action because of a head injury, it was the trio of Michel, Burkhead and James White that got the job done in both phases of the offense. It was their efforts, along with some creativity by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, that got many of New England’s pass-catchers involved (nine players caught a pass in Week 16) and had the Bills’ defense constantly guessing. This allowed New England to rack up 414 yards of total offense, going 7-for-14 on third down, and dominate the time of possession (38 minutes compared to 21 minutes for Bills’ offense).

“This time of the year you have to be able to run the football, you can’t be one dimensional,” said White during his postgame press conference. “When you get in the red zone and you don’t have to always throw it in and you can run it in, that’s always a big bonus. The offensive line did a great job blocking, tight ends, (Elandon Roberts), the receivers, they opened up lanes for Sony (Michel), Rex (Burkhead) and myself. I think everybody tried to run hard.”

A win over Buffalo speaks loudly to what the Patriots can do moving forward. Scoring 24 points, all from the offense, against a top-tier defense shows that Tom Brady and the offense actually have what it takes to be productive and creative enough to keep themselves in a game without their defense forcing a single turnover. That’s something they haven’t shown over the past five weeks. 

“In a good offense everyone has to produce,” Brady said during his postgame press conference. “If you can get both tight ends involved, and all receivers involved, and all the backs involved, it’s hard to defend. We did a good job of that today. You have to make them defend everybody, and a lot of guys came up big. It was a big game for us. We needed it. Happy to come from behind in the fourth (quarter) and win.”

Heading into their season finale against the Dolphins, the Patriots have one big weight lifted off their back thanks to a win over Buffalo that clinched the division title. Now, it’s about finishing strong and clinching a first-round playoff bye. With Marcus Cannon (ankle) and Jason McCourty (groin) unable to finish the Saturday afternoon game, Brady still tending to his right elbow, and Edelman having just about every injury under the sun, New England desperately needs a week of rest. Getting a win at home against the last-place team in the division should do the trick.  

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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s

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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s

Andy Murray‘s grasscourt return was cut short in brutal fashion at Queen’s Club as Italian top seed Matteo Berrettini dished out a 6-3 6-3 defeat to the former world number one on Thursday.

The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.

Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.

Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.

Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.

He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.

Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.

“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.

“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”

Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.

(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)

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Be Like the King of the North Division and Develop Skills

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North Division

It’s been a year unlike no other for Canadian hockey teams, with COVID-19 travel restrictions forcing the creation of a new NHL division made up entirely of Canadian teams. The previous generation of NHL hockey was known as the “Dead Puck Era” because referees tolerated slowing down the game with clutching and grabbing.

The leading scorers today score in jaw-dropping fashion and routinely pull off stickhandling dangles that were unimaginable until only recently. The Canadian team that will win the North Division will be the one with the most skill.

Here are the training aids that will help you develop your skills all year long.

Passers

Innovators like HockeyShot Canada make “passers” so that players can develop pinpoint accuracy and the soft hands necessary to cradle and control a pass when it lands on your stick. The high-quality rubber bands return the puck with the same force which passed it, so you can give yourself one-timers or work on accuracy.

Whether you’re on a two-on-one, sending a breakout pass from the defensive zone, or holding down the blue line on the power play, every positional player needs to pass accurately.

Shooting

A player is lucky to get a few shots on net each game, and they can’t let them go to waste. Until recently, players needed to rent ice in the off-season to practice their shots in realistic game-like conditions.

Now, players can use shooting pads at their home that let pucks glide as they do on real ice. Shooting is perhaps the one skill that requires the most repetition because one inch can be the difference between going bar-down and clanking one wide off the post.

Practice your quick release and accuracy and develop an arsenal of shots, including wrist shots, slapshots, one-timers, and more. The more tools in your tool kit, the deadlier a sniper you’ll be.

Stick Handling

Having the puck on your stick is a responsibility, and you don’t want to cough it up to the other team and waste a scoring chance or lose possession. The ability to stickhandle helps you bide time until a teammate is open, so you can pass them the puck and continue attacking.

If you’re on a breakaway, you may want to deke the goalie rather than shoot if your hands are silky enough. Develop stickhandling skills, and you’ll keep goalies and opponents guessing – being unpredictable helps make a sniper’s job easier.

Of course, you also need to handle the puck in your own zone without causing a turnover. Stickhandling is a crucial skill in all areas of the ice.

When the coach sends you over the board, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. Maybe you’ll get the puck in the slot or somewhere else, but when it’s playoffs, you always need to be ready. The Kings of the North Division have all of the above skills and more, and you can too if you practice all year.

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Australia swim trials calendar shift to reap Tokyo rewards

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Australia swim trials calendar shift to reap Tokyo rewards

Australia broke with tradition to hold its swimming trials just six weeks before the start of the 2020 Olympics and former world champion Giaan Rooney said the move could reap rich rewards in Tokyo after disappointments at London and Rio.

Australia has typically held its trials up to six months before an Olympics but that gap has been drastically cut this year with swimmers vying for Tokyo spots this week in Adelaide.

Rooney, who won individual world titles at Fukuoka and Montreal and a relay gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said Australia is gearing up for a much improved Games after its swimmers flopped at Rio and London.

“I think we needed to make it work,” she told Reuters. “The shift started about a year ago to bring the trials into line with the rest of the world and qualify five or six weeks before.

“In sport and swimming, six months is a long time,” Rooney added. “From a coaching perspective, it’s much better to know you have chosen the team in form.”

After winning five gold medals at Sydney 2000 and seven in Athens, the Australian team was rocked by accusations of disruptive behaviour by some of its top sprinters at the 2012 Olympics.

Australia won just one gold medal in the London pool and three in Rio five years ago.

Australia knew something had to be done if it was to close the gap on the powerful Americans and moving the trials is part of the strategy.

“I think it’s to make your swimmers more resilient to change,” Rooney said.

“In the USA they get to race every week regardless of illness or breakups and under all circumstances. Nothing rattles them.

“Australia doesn’t have that racing continuity. This is about making sure you are prepared for anything. I think our swimmers are more resilient than they have been in the past decade, COVID is part of this.”

Rooney said there might even be an “upside” for Australia with the Olympics postponed by a year due to the global health crisis, with the emergence of swimmers like teenager Kaylee McKeown, who broke the women’s 100m backstroke world record on Sunday.

“We are now talking about athletes who are not only going to make the Olympics but are medal chances,” Rooney said.

“We wouldn’t have been talking about her this time last year. She might not have been ready for a position on the team. She is now a legitimate gold medal chance in Tokyo once she gets there.”

For all her confidence about Australia’s performance in Tokyo, Rooney was wary of making predictions about a gold rush for her compatriots.

“I think this will be a more successful Olympics for us than Rio in the pool but individual goal medals will still be difficult to come by,” said the 38-year-old.

“The biggest challenge is to make the jump from minor medals to gold.”

 

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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