KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Andy Reid rarely digs into his own past, preferring to stay in the moment or focus squarely on the future. It’s an approach that has served him well during a coaching career that might someday land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Yet when his Kansas City Chiefs faced a seemingly insurmountable hole in the divisional round of the playoffs, Reid caught himself thinking back almost four decades to his final game as an offensive lineman at BYU. It was the Holiday Bowl and SMU had taken a 45-25 lead in the fourth quarter. Just about everybody in Jack Murphy Stadium that night thought it was over, only to watch, stunned, as the Cougars scored three late touchdowns to win the game.
“That kind of stuck in there. You had that hope,” Reid said this week when asked what gave him confidence Kansas City could rally to a 51-31 win over the Texans for a spot in the AFC championship game. “You had that hope. Then it’s the feel of your team. You’re on the sideline, you’ve been down there long enough, you can sense what they’re thinking, where their mind is at. These guys weren’t flinching. Let’s get it right.”
The Chiefs (13-4) got everything right the rest of the way. And the comeback from a 24-0 deficit propelled them into a matchup Sunday with Tennessee (11-7), which has merely knocked off the Patriots and top-seeded Ravens — on the road, no less — to reach the precipice of the Super Bowl.
It will be the first time coaching this deep in the playoffs for the Titans’ Mike Vrabel, but it’s certainly familiar territory to his counterpart. Reid had the Chiefs in the same position a year ago, when they lost in overtime to New England — the Patriots won the coin toss and marched downfield for a touchdown — and he led the Eagles to five NFC championship games during his 14 years in Philadelphia.
“I have done a few of these,” Reid said, “and you know, we try to keep it as normal as we possibly can as far as the schedule goes for the players, so they can get their work done. One thing that changes is how fast the game is. I can tell you from experience, the magnitude, every time you take a step up in the playoffs — it’s single elimination.”
Experience is great. Successful experience is better, and that is where Reid falls short. His only conference title came during the 2004 season, when the Eagles lost the Super Bowl to the Patriots. And who should be on the New England roster that night but a game-wrecking linebacker named Vrabel, who even caught a touchdown pass.
Vrabel may not have any experience in this position as a coach, but has plenty as a player. He lifted the Lombardi Trophy three times with New England before finishing his career — coincidentally — with two seasons in Kansas City.
“I spent 14 years in the National Football League,” Vrabel said, “and I don’t even know how many playoff games, but those were good experiences about preparation and really focusing on what got us to this point from where we were at different points in the season. And then, there’s also things that I have to do as a coach to make sure that we’re ready.”
On offence, that means pounding away with running back Derrick Henry and getting just enough production from Ryan Tannehill, just as the Titans did during a back-and-forth Week 10 win over the Chiefs.
On defence, it means slowing down the aerial assault of quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his fleet of game-changing playmakers: running back Damien Williams, tight end Travis Kelce and wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins.
“I think there is a belief in one another, first and foremost,” Tannehill said. “We’ve been through a lot this season, ups and downs, and won games in a lot of different ways. With that comes a lot of belief and a lot of confidence in one another.”
The Chiefs have plenty of confidence in their own right. They haven’t lost since that game in Tennessee, and their comeback last week gave them the belief they can overcome anything. Their offence is still shattering records and a retooled defence under new co-ordinator Steve Spagnuolo has been playing as well as any in the league.
“I think that with the Titans, the physicality and determination they play with is big,” Mahomes said. “They’re going to get after it and fight for every single yard. Their defence is going to fly around to the ball and not give up on anything. We’re just trying to match that. We’re going to go out there and give it everything we have to come out with a victory.”
Henry already made history as the first player in the Super Bowl era to run for at least 180 yards in three consecutive games, and nobody has more yards rushing over the first four post-season games than his 561. He also has the three best games in Titans history for yards from scrimmage, set the franchise’s single-game post-season rushing mark in each of the past two weeks, and he even threw a jump pass for a touchdown in their 28-12 win in Baltimore.
“We always knew he was a beast,” Titans safety Kevin Byard said. “I’m just glad the whole world knows as well.”
Seemingly forgotten during the brilliant season of the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson, Mahomes has again put together an MVP-calibre resume. He kept it going in the playoffs, too, becoming the first player to throw for at least 300 yards, run for at least 50 and throw five TD passes in a single playoff game last week against Houston. He’s also healthy after ankle and knee injuries this season, including one that hobbled him in Week 10 against Tennessee.
The Titans have gotten back to the stingy defence they played much of the season, including the first seven games, when they didn’t allow an opponent to score more than 20 points. They’ve allowed only two touchdowns on seven chances inside their 20, thanks in part to the return of injured cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. Defensive captain and defensive lineman Jurrell Casey says they wanted to make sure and try to match what the offence has been doing.
“And it’s just guys locking back in,” Casey said.
The Chiefs’ Travis Kelce became the first player with three post-season touchdown catches in one quarter in last week’s comeback win over Houston. It was another highlight in another Pro Bowl season for the tight end, who has been dealing with some minor knee pain during the post-season but should be ready to go Sunday.
“Just got to keep your foot on the gas pedal,” he said. “You can’t get too excited; you can’t get a sense of relief like, ‘Oh, we’re back in the game.’ You got to keep going forward and know that you’ve got a lot of unfinished business.”
The Titans haven’t won a conference championship since 1999 and haven’t appeared in a title game since 2002, though to the Chiefs that probably seems like yesterday. It has been 50 years since they played in the Super Bowl, and they ache to give owner Clark Hunt the AFC championship trophy that bears the name of his father, team founder Lamar Hunt.
“We’re going to put the pressure on ourselves to find a way to win it,” Mahomes said. “When you fall that short and that close last year, the next step is to get to the Super Bowl. We understood that going into this season and we know it’s a long season. We know it’s a process. We know that day by day we have to get better. I think that’s what this team is great at, just getting better every single day and then going out and fighting until the end in every single opportunity we get.”
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Tkachuk: Sens who tested positive for COVID-19 are 'doing well' – TSN
Brady Tkachuk is hunkered down with family in St. Louis trying to wait out the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ottawa Senators winger has also been also keeping close tabs on a pair of teammates who tested positive for the disease.
“Those guys, they’re doing well,” Tkachuk said on one of the NHL’s video conference calls Monday. “We’re a tight group, so we’re always in contact with one another.”
Two of the league’s four players to test positive since the season was suspended March 12 amid the novel coronavirus outbreak are unnamed members of the Senators.
The team played in San Jose, Calif., against the Sharks on March 7 despite a warning from officials in Santa Clara County against holding large public gatherings. The Colorado Avalanche played at SAP Center the following night, and two members of that team have also since tested positive for COVID-19.
“All of us are concerned about (the Ottawa players) and everybody impacted by it,” Tkachuk added.
Reporters have been asked by the league to submit questions ahead of time for the video conferences calls.
Despite being on one of two teams to have players test positive, Tkachuk was only asked one question on the subject by a member of the NHL’s public relations staff during a 35-minute session that also included a trio of Atlantic Division rivals — Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares, Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and Detroit Red Wings centre Dylan Larkin.
The Senators said March 17 the first player had tested positive before making the second announcement four days later.
Gord Wilson, the club’s veteran radio colour commentator, revealed Friday he also tested positive for COVID-19.
The Senators had two days off in California following their game in San Jose before meeting the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings on consecutive nights. Ottawa’s contest at the Staples Center on March 11 came 24 hours after the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets — who had four players test positive — played at the same arena against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Avalanche faced off against the Kings at Staples Center on March 9.
COVID-19 pandemic has killed thousands of people across the globe, devastated economies and brought about an era of social distancing and self-isolation.
As for the pause to the NHL season, Tkachuk said he and older brother Matthew, who plays for the Calgary Flames, have been doing their best to stay active.
“Been keeping busy with him and my younger sister,” Tkachuk said. “We’ve got the Peloton (bike) downstairs that we’ve been going on. We’ve been just keeping active with basketball and stuff like that. It gets fired up.
“It’s not stuff we’re not used to, but I’m trying to make the most of it.”
Tavares, who’s at home in Toronto with his wife and young son, said it took some time to process this new reality.
“First couple days just try to get an understanding of kind of where things are at and what’s hit us,” Tavares said. “Since then just try to develop some type of routine, some type of structure.”
Select players from the Metropolitan Division and Pacific Division took part in video conference calls late last week, while the Central Division is scheduled to go Tuesday.
Chara provided the funniest moment of his session when he was asked — every player has been lobbed the same question — which teammate he’d least like to spend time with in quarantine?
The answer: Boston goalie Tuukka Rask.
“The way he farts … the smell is awful,” said Chara, who had the other players cracking up. “He likes his chicken wings.”
Turning serious, Chara, whose Bruins sat first in the overall standings when the league paused after falling in Game 7 of last spring’s Stanley Cup final, said it’s important to put everything in perspective.
“It’s one of those situations that you can’t really control,” said the 43-year-old defenceman. “Right now we all have to look after each other and look after our families. Hockey’s secondary.
“Hopefully we will play again and we’ll see when that’s gonna be.”
On a separate call with a representative from the remaining Atlantic Division teams later Monday, Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber touched on the public service announcement he did on the importance of listening to public health and government officials during the crisis.
“We’re in this together,” Weber said. “As soon as someone’s messing around or not taking it seriously, that’s when things can turn bad for everyone.
“It’s tough times, but we’ve just got to stick together and come through this together.”
Players were also asked their preference for how the league should proceed if it’s allowed to resume this spring or summer.
“It would be tough to jump straight into playoffs, there’s no question about it,” Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman said. “But this is uncharted waters for everyone.
“It’s tough to see where this is going to end.”
Added Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel: “We really don’t know what tomorrow holds, never mind a month from now.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2020.
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Ottawa Race Weekend cancelled due to COVID-19 – CBC.ca
Ottawa Race Weekend is the latest event to be cancelled due to COVID-19.
Organizers announced Monday they’re calling off the annual race, scheduled this year to take place May 23-24, over fears it would be impossible to maintain a safe distance between runners of the marathon, half-marathon, 10K, 5K, 2K or children’s event.
It’s the first time the event has been cancelled since it began in 1975.
But before you hang up your Vaporflys and hit the couch, Run Ottawa, the organization behind Race Weekend, is offering an alternative that will allow runners to compete while still following the physical distancing guidelines set out by Ottawa Public Health.
Competitors will be offered a spot in a virtual race, where they’ll determine their own route and run or walk their chosen distance through their own neighbourhood. The virtual race will start as early as May 23, but will be spread out over the spring and summer months, until August 31. They’ll receive a race kit, including medal, T-shirt, and even a photograph of them crossing a virtual finishing line.
“Part of having a long runway to complete the event is that maybe things will be a little bit different further into the summer, and will allow people to run in groups of two or three,” said Ian Fraser, executive director of Run Ottawa.
Run Ottawa said it will partner with the international race timing company Sportstats to create a virtual finish line, using “e-bibs.” Participants will be able to share their results with friends and family, and compare their times with other runners once the final results are published.
The reality is that a full refund for all participants would bankrupt us, and there wouldn’t be a race weekend in 2021.– Ian Fraser, Run Ottawa
Registration, which was halted two weeks ago with around 18,000 runners signed up, will be reopened to allow for more people to join up for the virtual races.
“There’s a great spirit in the running community that I think is going to see this as something they can celebrate, to push something positive forward in difficult times,” Fraser said.
Run Ottawa had been expecting some 33,000 runners this year.
The virtual race won’t be a sanctioned event, and the results will not qualify runners for major marathons elsewhere, such as Boston.
There will be no refunds, according to Fraser.
“Pretty much all of the registration money that we take in is spent quite a ways before you actually get to the start line,” he said. “The reality is that a full refund for all participants would bankrupt us, and there wouldn’t be a race weekend in 2021.”
Instead, people who have already registered will be given a 50 per cent discount on next year’s race, which is scheduled for May 28-29.
Run Ottawa considered postponing the event until fall, but worried about the crowded running calendar, and the possibility of ongoing mitigation efforts over COVID-19.
“We’re also not certain that the world’s going to be in a better place by then, and we were really mindful to not double disappoint our participants,” Fraser said.
The decision to proceed with a virtual event is meant to encourage runners to keep going with their fundraising efforts for local charities. In years past, runners have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local charities including The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.
Fraser said he understands people will be disappointed.
“I’ve been a runner since I was eight years old,” Fraser said. “I understand the hard work that goes into preparing for one of our events. But the journey to get to the finish line is every bit as important as the actual event itself…. I think using running as a way of coping with what we’re going through is really important. I think there are more people running now than I’ve ever seen before.”
Belarus defiantly keeps playing while the rest of the sports world goes on hiatus – The Globe and Mail
With most sports around the world shutting down because of the coronavirus pandemic, longtime Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is proudly keeping soccer and hockey arenas open.
The Eastern European nation of nearly 9.5 million even started a whole new soccer season this month as coronavirus cases rose.
The move has the full support of Lukashenko, who took to the ice in an amateur hockey tournament on Saturday with a few hundred spectators in the stands.
“It’s better to die standing that to live on your knees,” he said, defending Belarus’ refusal to introduce isolation measures and border restrictions like its neighbours, such as Russia.
With foreign sports networks having little to show and few other options for sports betting, Lukashenko says the pandemic is a perfect opportunity to put the country’s soccer league on display.
“I look at Russia and some people there are winning a lot on bets, because beforehand they didn’t really know our teams,” Lukashenko said. “Someone’s losing, someone’s winning. It’s all useful.”
Fans entering the stadiums in Belarus are given antiseptic hand gel and some have their temperatures monitored by medics. Few wear masks because they’re not considered necessary for open-air events, Belarus soccer federation spokesman Alexander Aleinik said.
Belarus doesn’t publish daily figures on the spread of the virus. On Friday, the last day for which statistics are available, the country recorded 94 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with no deaths.
The Belarusian league isn’t usually an international attraction. Crowds this season barely average 1,200 and UEFA ranks it the continent’s 25th strongest, just below Norway, Israel and Kazakhstan.
But Russian TV has given its games prominent slots on state sports channels and betting firms around Western Europe are streaming them for customers.
British fans on social media have picked teams to follow and thrown themselves into a new fandom, elevating obscure players to hero status and berating coaches for supposedly negative tactics.
There isn’t much competition, with betting sites offering little more than Nicaraguan soccer, Tajikistan basketball and Russian table tennis as rivals.
Sergei Melnikov is one of those hoping to make an impression on the mostly empty global sports stage. He is the director of the Isloch club, which beat Smolevichi 1-0 on Sunday to keep pace with the leaders on points.
“The whole world is watching our soccer right now,” Melnikov said. “That means we have to show the best that we’ve got.”
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