Minnesota takes advantage of 7 Chargers turnovers in victory
CARSON (AP) — Mike Zimmer has accomplished many things as a defensive coordinator and head coach. He added one more Sunday in the Minnesota Vikings 39-10 rout of the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Vikings forced seven Chargers’ turnovers and converted them into 20 points. It is the most takeaways a Zimmer-led unit, surpassing the six that Dallas forced against Washington in 2003.
“Obviously the turnovers were big,” Zimmer said. “We knew that they had minus in turnover margin, so it was important that we try to get some today.”
The Vikings have won four of their last five going into next Monday night’s key NFC North showdown against Green Bay. Minnesota also has a two-game lead for the NFC’s final playoff spot after Dallas defeated the Los Angeles Rams.
“It’s still all up for grabs,” said quarterback Kirk Cousins, who was 19 of 25 for 207 yards with a touchdown and interception. “Ten wins is a good place to be. We’ve put ourselves in a position to have a lot to play for these last two games.”
It is the first time the Vikings have forced at least seven turnovers since Sept. 24, 1995, against Pittsburgh. The last time the Chargers have committed at least seven in a game was Dec. 13, 1998, when they had eight against Seattle.
The biggest turnover came just before halftime. The Vikings led 12-10 but the Chargers mounted a late drive and were in field goal range at the Vikings 26 with 23 seconds remaining. But on second-and-2, Philip Rivers fumbled when he was sacked by Danielle Hunter. Austin Ekeler recovered it at the 38 and tried to make a play but also fumbled. Ifeadi Odenigbo then scooped up the loose ball and went 56 yards for a touchdown to give Minnesota a 19-10 lead.
The score was part of a run of 30 unanswered Vikings points after the Chargers had a 10-9 lead midway through the second quarter.
Super fall for Rams, who are on brink of playoff elimination
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Todd Gurley and the inconsistent Los Angeles Rams are close to being run out of the playoff race this season.
A year after going to their first Super Bowl since the 2001 season, and trampling all over the Cowboys in a playoff game along the way, Gurley had only 20 yards rushing on 11 carries in a 44-21 loss Sunday in Dallas that put the Rams on the brink of elimination.
“It’s never ideal, but it’s our situation right now,” quarterback Jared Goff said.
“Our mentality doesn’t change,” receiver Cooper Kupp said. “Regardless of all the different situations, all the different things that could happen — some things in our control, some things out of our control.”
With games left against NFC West foes San Francisco and Arizona, the Rams (8-6) have to win both and get some help to get to the playoffs for the third year in a row. There was a 12-season postseason drought before that.
“Had a good feeling all week, and the guys had a good look in their eye,” coach Sean McVay said. “But then once the game started, you could just feel there was some momentum that they ended up creating on their own as a result of making some plays and getting some stops. And we didn’t do that.”
The Rams set a franchise playoff record with 273 yards on 50 carries in a 30-22 divisional win at home over Dallas last January. They had only 22 yards on 14 carries Sunday, while the Cowboys had 263 with two 100-yard rushers — Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard — and scored their most points since a 44-17 win over Washington in the 2014 regular-season finale.
While Los Angeles has one more win than Dallas (7-7), the Cowboys share the NFC East lead with the Philadelphia Eagles, who they play next week.
The Rams won’t win their third consecutive NFC West crown; they are three games behind division co-leaders San Francisco and Seattle. They are also two games behind Minnesota for the NFC’s last wild-card spot.
“We’ve just got to finish these last two games off, and see what happens from there,” defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. “It’s the National Football League. When you don’t play good football you lose, and we didn’t play good football.”
Raiders close out Oakland tenure with late-game collapse
OAKLAND (AP) — Derek Carr’s last-second desperation heave fell to the turf in the end zone and the fans at the Oakland Coliseum went silent.
The final scheduled NFL game ever in Oakland ended with a fourth-quarter collapse by the Raiders instead of a celebration for one last win before the franchise heads to Las Vegas.
Carr and some of his teammates then went to the Black Hole as fans pelted the scrum with debris and booed Carr as he ran off the field one last time following a 20-16 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
“I’m still emotional and angry about it,” Carr said about the loss. “There are a few plays out there we left. There’s nothing I can say right now that will make anyone feel better. It won’t make me feel better.”
There was no happy spin to put on this day for the Raiders (6-8), who had hoped to give the jilted fans in Oakland one last positive memory from what has otherwise been a mostly disappointing 25 seasons since the franchise returned from Los Angeles in 1995.
Instead, the team blew a 13-point lead and was eliminated from playoff contention in a final gut punch to the fans in Oakland.
“It’s not really the result today, it’s the results of the Raiders over the years,” coach Jon Gruden said. “It’s the Oakland Raiders. It’s the appreciation, the loyalty these fans have had for the Raiders. We’re going to miss them. The relationship hopefully will never end. It was sad walking in here today and it will be sad walking out for the last time.”
James’ caps busy weekend with 32 as Lakers beat Hawks 101-96
ATLANTA (AP) — LeBron James finished off a whirlwind weekend with another dazzling performance.
Not looking the least bit tired, James scored 32 points and the Los Angeles Lakers extended their winning streak to seven with a 101-96 victory over the pesky Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night.
The Lakers pulled even with Milwaukee for the NBA’s best record at 24-3.
“Highlights: sometimes they happen, sometimes they don’t,” James said. “I try to play the game with a lot of joy.”
After scoring 28 points in a win at Miami on Friday night, James flew to Columbus, Ohio, to watch son Bronny play a high school game Saturday night.
Then, James traveled on to Atlanta to face the struggling Hawks.
He never considered sitting out.
“I don’t know how many games I’ve got left in my career,” the 34-year-old James said. “I don’t know how many kids show up to come see me play. … That’s my obligation. My obligation is to play.”
The Hawks kept it close all the way. Vince Carter passed up an open layup and dished to rookie Cam Reddish in the corner for a potential tying 3-pointer, but the shot clanked off the rim. Danny Green went to the other end and knocked down a pair of free throws to send the Hawks to their fourth straight loss.
“We did our best to compete,” Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce said. “I’m proud of our guys.”
If the home team was hoping to get an off night from James, he quickly dispelled that notion.
Elleby, Pollard boost Washington St. past UC Riverside 70-56
PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — Four the fourth time this season, Washington State forced more than 20 turnovers against their opponent.
The Cougars’ defensive effort helped lead them to a 70-56 victory over UC Riverside Sunday afternoon, marking their third victory in a row for the first time this season.
“That’s just what we do,” said Washington State Head Coach Kyle Smith. “We have some good quickness on defense and we got off to a good start in both halves.”
CJ Elleby scored 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting and had six rebounds and Jeff Pollard added 16 points and seven rebounds for the Cougars. Aljaz Kunc also had 13 points, two rebounds and two assists.
Washington State (6-4) led the game almost the entire way, forced 23 turnovers for 24 points to help get the Cougars to a win, despite losing the rebounding battle 33-31 and the battle in the paint 30-28.
UC Riverside (7-4) couldn’t take care of the ball down the stretch and shot only 8 of 13 from the free throw line. Angus McWilliams lead the way for the Highlanders with 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting. George Willborn III added 11 points for the Highlanders.
“I thought our guys competed for 40 minutes, but our execution was bad turning the ball over 23 times,” said UC Riverside Head Coach David Patrick. “We haven’t done that all years. Kudos to Washington State for their pressure. I thought we competed, but we just did a bad job of taking care of the basketball.”
Okongwu scores 28 in leading USC over Long Beach State 87-76
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Long Beach State gave up 17 points in the first five minutes of the game and only two of those were scored by Onyeka Okongwu.
The freshman saved his big impact for the second half, scoring 24 of his 28 points to lead Southern California over the Beach 87-76 on Sunday for the Trojans’ third straight win.
Okongwu was limited to four points on 2-of-5 shooting, one block, one steal and one foul in the first half. He came alive to start the final 20 minutes, scoring 16 of the Trojans’ first 17 points as they extended their lead to 12 points.
“Great players make great plays,” Beach guard Chance Hunter said. “We tried to key and stop him but it wasn’t enough.”
Okongwu had three dunks in the game, the last coming off an inbounds pass from Ethan Anderson that pushed the Trojans’ lead to 70-56.
“He knows where to throw it up,” Okongwu said of Anderson. “It’s a play we drew up and I just said, ‘Throw it up to me.'”
Jonah Mathews interjected, saying, “Wait, who set the screen?”
Okongwu replied, pointing to Mathews, “Credit to him too.”
Okongwu finished 13 of 19 from the field and came up five points short of his career high of 33 points. He led the team with 12 rebounds.
Treinen, Dodgers finalize $10 million, 1-year contract
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Reliever Blake Treinen and the Los Angeles Dodgers finalized a $10 million, one-year deal on Sunday.
The 31-year-old right-hander and the Dodgers reached agreement during the recent winter meetings, shortly after the Oakland Athletics declined to offer Treinen a new contract.
Treinen was an All-Star in 2018 with a 0.78 ERA. But he struggled last season with a 4.91 ERA and was lost his closer’s role to Liam Hendriks.
The Dodgers have won seven straight NL West titles.
Kopitar scores 2, Kings beat Red Wings 4-2
DETROIT (AP) — Anze Kopitar scored two goals and the Los Angeles Kings beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-2 Sunday night.
Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli also scored for Los Angeles, which has won three of its last four (3-0-1). Alex Iafallo had two assists and Jack Campbell, who is from Port Huron, Mich., stopped 22 shots.
Defenseman Madison Bowey had a goal and an assist, and Filip Zadina also scored for Detroit. Eric Comrie finished with 28 saves.
Carter gave the Kings a 1-0 lead with 7:45 left in the first period when he put in his own rebound from just below the left circle, after intercepting a pass by Red Wings defenseman Filip Hronek. It was Carter’s 10th goal.
Kopitar scored twice in the second period to make it 3-0. His attempted pass from the top of the left circle went in off the skate of Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson 40 seconds into the period and Kopitar cashed in on a rebound with 8:46 left in the middle period forhis 13th.
Toffoli scored 6:40 into the third period, getting his ninth, for a 4-0 lead. Toffoli has seven points (three goals and four assists) in his last four games.
Zadina thwarted Campbell’s shutout attempt midway through the final period. It was his second goal of the season and second in three games. Bowey added his second goal with 2:23 left.
NOTE: Kopitar’s goals gives him 919 points to pass Wayne Gretzky and move into fourth place on Los Angeles’ franchise list. … It was Zadina’s 10th game of the season. That means his three-year, entry-level contract begins this season. Zadina was the sixth overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. … Former Red Wings defenseman, Hall of Fame member and seven-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom was in attendance on Sunday night. … Both teams played on the road Saturday night. Los Angeles lost 5-4 in a shootout to the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1.