SEATTLE — A lot of Cam Akers churning yards on the ground and mostly a great Rams defence has Los Angeles moving on in the NFC playoffs at the expense of division-foe Seattle.
Akers rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown, Darious Williams returned Russell Wilson’s interception 42 yards for a score, and the Rams beat the Seahawks 30-20 in the NFC wild-card playoff game Saturday.
The best defence in the league during the regular season carried its dominance into the playoffs — even while missing unanimous All-Pro tackle Aaron Donald for much of the second half. No team was better at limiting yards or points than the Rams (11-6) and they continued to torment Wilson and the Seahawks (12-5).
Seattle’s quarterback was under a siege from the defensive front and a secondary that minus one play never let DK Metcalf or Tyler Lockett break loose. Donald, before leaving with a rib injury, and Jalen Ramsey were superb. But so were other role players such as Troy Reeder, Jordan Fuller and Leonard Floyd.
Floyd had two of the Rams’ five sacks. Two of the others belonged to Donald. The Rams allowed just 278 total yards and 11 first downs.
It added up to sending the Rams into next week’s divisional playoff round, likely at top-seeded Green Bay unless Chicago upsets New Orleans.
Williams’ interception was his third of the season against Wilson after picking him off twice in Los Angeles in November. He jumped a wide receiver screen intended for Metcalf and returned it untouched to give the Rams a 13-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
Akers added a 5-yard TD run just before halftime for a 20-10 lead. It proved enough with a Seattle offence that was disjointed and confused nearly from the start.
Wilson had one of his worst playoff performances. He was 11 of 27 for 174 yards. Wilson connected with Metcalf on a pair of TDs: 51 yards in the first half off a broken play, and a 12-yard TD with 2:28 left to make the score more respectable.
Seattle never played with the lead and was 2 of 14 on third downs. It’s first home playoff game in four years was a dud without its raucous home crowd, and the Seahawks saw their 10-game home playoff win streak snapped.
Their last home playoff loss came in January 2005 to the St. Louis Rams.
The Rams pulled off the upset without a healthy quarterback for more the three quarters of the game. John Wolford started for the second straight week but suffered a neck injury when he dived head first in the first quarter and was hit in the helmet by Jamal Adams’ shoulder. Wolford was taken to a local hospital as a precaution.
Jared Goff took over less than two weeks after undergoing surgery on his right thumb; he was injured in the Week 16 loss to Seattle. Goff didn’t do anything spectacular but also avoided major mistakes.
Goff was 9 of 19 for 155 yards. He capped the victory with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods with 4:46 left after Seattle’s D.J. Reed fumbled a punt.
Akers, the Rams’ rookie ball carrier, was outstanding after not playing two weeks ago. Akers had the best rushing day by a Rams running back since Marshall Faulk went for 159 against Philadelphia in January 2002.
The Rams finished with 164 yards rushing.
Donald left in the third quarter with a rib injury. After going in and out of the locker room a couple of times he was a spectator most of the second half. WR Cooper Kupp limped off grabbing at his right knee in the closing minutes.
Wolford was 3 of 6 passing for 29 yards and had one run for 2 yards before getting hurt.
The Rams will most likely play at the Packers next week. Seattle will head into an off-season filled with questions after winning the division but experiencing another early playoff exit.
A former United States Olympics gymnastics coach with ties to disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar killed himself on Thursday, hours after being charged with turning his Michigan gym into a hub of human trafficking by coercing girls to train and then abusing them.
John Geddert faced 24 charges that could have carried years in prison had he been convicted. He was supposed to appear in an Eaton County court, near Lansing, but his body was found at a rest area along Interstate 96, according to state police.
“This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said.
Nessel earlier announced Geddert was charged with several crimes, including sexual assault, human trafficking and running a criminal enterprise. The charges were the latest fallout from the sexual abuse scandal involving Nassar, a former Michigan State University sports doctor now in prison.
Geddert, 63, was not arrested and transported to court. Rather, Nessel’s office allowed him to show up on his own.
“We had no indication that Geddert intended to flee or hurt himself or others. We had been in contact with his attorney and were assured of his cooperation,” Nessel spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney said.
Calls seeking comment from lawyer Chris Bergstrom were not immediately returned.
Geddert was head coach of the 2012 US women’s Olympic gymnastics team, which won a gold medal. He was long associated with Nassar, who was the Olympic team’s doctor and also treated injured gymnasts at Twistars, Geddert’s Lansing-area gym.
Among the charges, Geddert was accused of lying to investigators in 2016 when he denied ever hearing complaints about Nassar. But the bulk of the case against him involved his gym in Dimondale and how he treated the young athletes whose families paid to have them train under him.
The charges against Geddert had “very little to do” with Nassar, said Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark.
Geddert was charged with using his strong reputation in gymnastics to commit a form of human trafficking by making money through the forced labour of young athletes.
“The victims suffer from disordered eating,” Nessel said, “including bulimia and anorexia, suicide attempts and attempts at self-harm, excessive physical conditioning, repeatedly being forced to perform even when injured, extreme emotional abuse and physical abuse, including sexual assault.
“Many of these victims still carry these scars from this behaviour to this day,” the attorney general said.
Nessel acknowledged the case might not fit the common understanding of human trafficking.
“We think of it predominantly as affecting people of colour or those without means to protect themselves … but honestly it can happen to anyone, anywhere,” she said. “Young impressionable women may at times be vulnerable and open to trafficking crimes, regardless of their stature in the community or the financial wellbeing of their families.”
Geddert was suspended by Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics during the Nassar scandal. He told families in 2018 that he was retiring.
USA Gymnastics said in a statement late on Thursday news about the charges against Geddert would “lead to justice through the legal process”.
“With the news of his death by suicide, we share the feelings of shock, and our thoughts are with the gymnastics community as they grapple with the complex emotions of today’s events,” the organisation said.
On his LinkedIn page, Geddert described himself as the “most decorated women’s gymnastics coach in Michigan gymnastics history”. He said his Twistars teams won 130 club championships.
But Geddert was often portrayed in unflattering ways when Nassar’s victims spoke during court hearings in 2018. Some insisted he was aware of the doctor’s abuse.
Sarah Klein, a gymnast who trained under Geddert for more than 10 years and was assaulted by Nassar, said the coach’s death was an “escape from justice” and “traumatising beyond words”.
“His suicide is an admission of guilt that the entire world can now see,” said Klein, a lawyer.
Rachael Denhollander, the first gymnast to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual abuse in 2016, said she was proud of the women who stepped forward against Geddert.
“So much pain and grief for everyone,” she said on Twitter after his death. “To the survivors, you have been heard and believed, and we stand with you.”
So much pain and grief for everyone.
To the survivors, you have been heard and believed, and we stand with you. Thank you for telling the truth. What you have done matters.
Pulled midway through the game after surrendering four goals, David Rittich paused as he walked towards the dressing room to headbutt a door.
It’s the kind of move the organization has mimicked of late, self-inflicting all sorts of pain to reach new lows Thursday.
A 6-1 loss to the last-placed Ottawa Senators wiped out any good feelings the Flames may have generated in Toronto the previous two outings, leaving the Flames with just one regulation win in their last eight games.
It marked the third time in six games the team’s starter was pulled from the game.
In that span, the Flames have scored just eight goals, finishing with only one goal in five of the six.
So much for the players’ belief that the team’s identity revolves around being a hard-checking team that can score.
Only seven teams in the league have scored fewer goals per game, which coach Geoff Ward and several players believe has plenty to do with the high rate of neutral zone turnovers costing them zone entries.
“The last little bit we’ve been having trouble getting into the offensive zone – that’s certainly going to be a factor,” said Ward, adding his team isn’t getting to the inside once in the zone.
“We missed the net an awful lot. That’s not the only night that has happened.”
This cub seems to be running out of answers these days.
Playing the second half of a back-to-back following their loss in Toronto Wednesday, the Flames trailed 2-0 after the first period before a Milan Lucic goal breathed life into the visitors two minutes into the second.
Five minutes later the Senators had scored two more, including an Erik Brannstrom slapper from outside the blueline that eluded Rittich and ultimately ended his otherwise impressive return to form of late.
It was a tough pill for Rittich to swallow after stopping 70 shots in a row against the Leafs before losing the game in overtime.
“After the fourth one it’s tough,” said Andersson, whose club showed very little pushback after that. “We played in their zone quite a bit and got some shots through and it just felt like every time we had a turnover or odd-man [rush] against they capitalized. We’ve got to stick together and believe in each other still and try to create more energy.”
And try not to make it so obvious that, after an admittedly bad goal, they don’t give up.
“Feels like it was deflating after the third goal, and especially the fourth goal [but] we can’t let a goal suck the life out of us the way it has recently,” said Lucic, whose club gave up two more in the third with Flames fourth-stringer Artyom Zagidulin making his NHL debut.
“We’ve got to be better. This one definitely is not a good feeling right now.”
Playing their fifth game in seven nights, the Flames were indeed showing it, admittedly not at their best following an emotional ending in Toronto less than 24 hours earlier.
Nonetheless, you can bet the noise calling for the coach to be fired, trades to be made and hell to pay will reach a feverish pitch Friday.
Well aware of that, Lucic wanted his thoughts known on where the blame should lie.
“This one is on us, it’s on the players,” said Lucic, a longtime supporter of Ward, with whom he won a Stanley Cup in Boston.
“The coaching staff hasn’t changed from last year and that was one of our strong points and when we started to move in the right direction, playing as a five man unit and for each other and sacrificing for each other. We need to find that again. That’s up to the players and no one else.”
Those who tuned in to see how the Tkachuk brothers would fare against one another left disappointed, as neither found the scoresheet despite generating ten shots and ten hits between them. Big Brady had nine of those hits.
“Anybody that thinks we’re going to fight is an idiot,” declared Matthew before the game, potentially costing the broadcast some viewers.
“I don’t know why people keep saying that each and every year. They obviously haven’t played against their brother in a sport ever.”
If you’re a Flames fan the most entertaining moment of the night was when the button on analyst Kelly Hrudey’s jacket was shown popping off to start the third period, causing the veteran broadcaster to laugh hysterically.
Flames fans will have to smile through the pain until Saturday when game two of this four-game series starts at 11 a.m. MT.
The game was a hockey cliche in all the best ways, featuring both fire wagon hockey and an old timey goalie’s duel.
Goalies Mike Smith and Thatcher Demko put on a show, but Smith stole it.
In the end, Edmonton was able to score on its power play chances while Vancouver was not, and that was the difference.
Edmonton had 14 Grade A chances, Vancouver 13, many of them of the Five Alarm variety for both teams.
For example, Edmonton had four breakaways on Demko but scored on not one of them.
Here’s the running count for scoring chances and below are the game grades.
Connor McDavid, 6. He got a goal and an assist, fired seven shots on net, made some great attacking plays, but also some serious defensive miscues. Came out flying, charging in on for a partial breakaway early in the first. He came close to jamming in a power play rebound shot in the second, but Demko thwarted him again. He made a defensive miscue in the second, letting Travis Hamonic creep in for a wicked shot, which led to a rebound and two more point blank Grade A chances against. A moment later he made another mistake, allowing a cross-seam on a Jake Virtanen one-timer. Fortunately Smith was there to cover for his errors.
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Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 7. He and Tyson Barrie allowed the breakaway pass early in the first period. He let Virtanen slip by him for a second period one-timer. He chipped in on four Grade A chances on the power play, including Alex Chiasson’s goal. Part of a solid PK effort from the entire crew, which bumps up his mark one notch, and the same for all the other PKers.
Jesse Puljujarvi, 7. Solid shifts at even strength and on the power play all game. He had a good screen on an Adam Larsson point shot that Kris Russell almost scored on. He won a net front battle in the third to score Edmonton’s crucial insurance goal.
Leon Draisaitl, 8. The maestro of Edmonton’s power play, chipping in on seven Grade A chances with the man advantage. Some great passes, including sending in McMVP on a breakaway in the first, and also saucering a pass to RNH to kick off a dangerous power play sequence. Could not drain the puck on a wide open net on the power play early in the first. He made a lazy clearance in the second that led to a Grade A chance for Vancouver’s Adam Gaudette. He made up for the mistake a moment later when he stripped the puck from Quinn Hughes and powered in on a breakaway, but couldn’t beat Demko on a dangerous backhanded shot. In the third, his hard shot on the power play caused the rebound that Puljujarvi cashed in.
Kailer Yamamoto, 6. He fought his way to a breakaway in the first and put it off the crossbar. Combined well with Draisaitl through the game.
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Dominik Kahun, 4. Barely noticed him, not good for a forward. Not one shot on net.
Jujhar Khaira, 8. He’s playing with confidence, moving his feet, hitting, defending and moving the puck. Indeed, he’s never before carried and passed the puck with such assurance. Foiled on a breakaway in the first. Late in the third he ragged the puck on the PK like the Second Coming of Craig MacTavish.
Josh Archibald, 6. The refs handed him an iffy penalty for charging the goalie early in the game. But hustled all game and led the team with four hits.
Tyler Ennis, 7. A key man on the third line with his puck winning and handling. He made a great steal of the puck in the first and send in Nitty Gritty Dirt linemate Khaira on a breakway. He made a swell hustling, diving defensive poke-check late in the second.
Gaetan Haas, 6. He got a solid clearance under pressure on the PK late in the second, then another fine PK clearance early in the third.
Alex Chiasson, 6. If you want to show video to any player on how to position yourself net front on the power play, show them video of the master, Chiasson. He was rewarded for all his strong fundamental play there when he took an RNH pass and jammed home a goal in the second.
Darnell Nurse, 8. Such was his confidence, calm and assured play, he looked like Doug Harvey, the Norris Trophy-owning d-man of the 1950s Montreal Canadiens. He played 27:36, looking very much like a true No. 1 NHL d-man.
Tyson Barrie, 6. After allowing a short-handed breakaway early on, he fired in a power play shot that kicked off a dangerous sequence around the Vancouver net, with Draisaitl launching two Grade A shots and McDavid one at Thatcher Demko, but unable to score. A quiet game otherwise.
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Adam Larsson 7. Quiet game, no major mistakes at even strength, what’s not to like?
Kris Russell, 6. Nothing too good, nothing too bad. Part of that strong PK effort.
Evan Bouchard, 5. He took out Nil Hoglander with a hard hit. Otherwise a quiet game, which is what you want to see from a defenceman, if nothing else.
Caleb Jones, 6. He made a fine defensive stop on the PK late in the second, then blocked one shot and sprawled to take away a Pettersson power play shot early in the third. He fired in a dangerous outside shot a shift later. Is fighting hard to stay in the line-up.
Ethan Bear, 6. After an 11 game absence, he was back in the line-up. By the end, his coach trusted him enough to have him out in the final minute of a close game. He made a deft pass to advance the puck out of the d-zone early in the third, even as he was taking a hit. A moment later he ice the puck in solid fashion on a key PK.
Mike Smith, 9. Brilliant game. Did not let a goal in and made numerous stupendous saves. Looked sharp early on stopping a short-handed breakaway. Followed up with big saves off of Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson on Vancouver’s first power play. Next he came up with likely his best save off the first period, a sprawling block stop off another deadly Pettersson one-timer. He kept it up with a huge save on Gaudette in the second after a Draisaitl turnover, following up with three great stops in a single sequence, starting with a save off Travis Hamonic. Finally, he stoned Virtanen on a one-timer. The Oilers shut things down in the third, allowing not one Grade A chance, leaving Smith one Grade A stop with the game on the line short of a transcendent “10.”
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