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Saturday, January 6, 2018
NFL Playoff Previews
Rams make long-awaited playoff return vs. Falcons
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES — Matt Ryan
and the Atlanta Falcons visited the
Coliseum late last season on their
path to the Super Bowl, and they
easily racked up a blowout victory
over the woebegone Los Angeles
When they return on Saturday
night for their NFC wild-card
playoff opener, they might hardly
recognize the guys in the horned
helmets on the other sideline.
That 42-14 loss to the Falcons
was a catalyst in the Rams’ trans-
formation from LA laughingstocks
into NFC West champions, because
coach Jeff Fisher was ﬁ red the next
day. One month later, Sean McVay
was hired to lead the most incred-
ible one-year turnaround in recent
“People are excited, and that was
our goal when we came back here,”
McVay said. “We wanted to be able
to provide a good football product
that our fans can be proud of, and
they want to come out and support.”
Led by the 31-year-old McVay,
who grew up near Atlanta, and
a roster of playmakers including
Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and Aaron
Donald, the Rams (11-5) are in
the playoffs for the ﬁ rst time in 13
years. The NFC’s third seed drew
a tough matchup with 2016 league
MVP Ryan and the Falcons (10-6),
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
who appear capable of making
Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley, left, and quarterback
another conference run.
Goff chat on the sidelines during the ﬁ rst half of an NFL foot-
But the Rams expect to feed off Jared
ball game against the San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 31, 2017.
the excitement of a city hosting
its ﬁ rst playoff game since the LA receiver Julio Jones.
Chiefs, Titans meet to
Raiders’ last postseason trip 24
The Falcons are back for their
ﬁ rst postseason game since that end years of futility
“It’s deﬁ nitely a cool thing,” memorable Super Bowl collapse
Saturday, 1:20 p.m., ABC
Goff said. “After football has been against New England. That loss
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) —
gone from here for so long, and could have broken weaker teams, Chiefs linebacker Reggie Ragland
we come back in Year 2 and are but coach Dan Quinn kept this bunch was in swaddling blankets the
able to bring a playoff game to the together — and now they’re the only previous time Kansas City won a
Coliseum, that’s very cool.”
group in the six-team NFC ﬁ eld that home playoff game.
Goff, the second-year pro also made the playoffs last season.
Wide receiver Tyreek Hill was
coming off a transformative 3,804-
“I love the resiliency and the nestled comfortably in the womb.
yard season , is eager to face off toughness of this team,” Quinn
It was January 1994, Joe
with Ryan, who is in the playoffs said. “When you’ve been through Montana was the quarterback and
for the sixth time in 10 years. Both some of the ﬁ re together and you the Chiefs beat the Steelers on an
teams have a wealth of offensive come out the other side stronger overtime ﬁ eld goal by Nick Lowery
playmakers, from Rams MVP as a brotherhood, we’re certainly to advance.
candidate Gurley to star Falcons improved.”
And it’s hard to believe anybody
packed inside Arrowhead Stadium
that day imagined a quarter century
would pass without another home
“It would be nice to break that,”
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith
said, “but you can’t add any extra
motivation once you get to this
stage. This is all the work we’ve
been putting in as this team from
day-one — this team. When we
were putting in our goals and
talking about that.
“It’s tough to add any more
motivation with historic streaks or
things like that.”
Besides, the Titans (9-7) are
trying to end their own maddening
stretch of playoff futility.
Tennessee rumbles into Kansas
City for the wild-card round
Saturday in its ﬁ rst postseason trip
since 2008, when the Titans were
the AFC’s top seed.
If they can waltz out with a
win, as they did in 2016, it would
be their ﬁ rst playoff victory since
Panthers hoping playoff
experience pays off
Sunday, 1:40 p.m., FOX
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) —
When it comes to the playoffs, the
Carolina Panthers have been there,
The Panthers are unquestion-
ably the most battle-tested team
in the NFC playoffs with a roster
consisting of players who have
participated in 187 career post-
season games. That’s quite a few
more than the Atlanta Falcons
(143), and more than double
that of Carolina’s ﬁ rst-round
opponent, the New Orleans Saints
Philadelphia players have played
in 74 playoff games and Minne-
sota’s 69, while the Los Angeles
Rams are the least experienced
NFC playoff team with 21.
Whether or not that experience
pays off for the Panthers (11-5)
remains to be seen. Carolina enters
Sunday’s game at New Orleans
having lost both previous regular
season matchups to the Saints
(11-5) by a combined 31 points.
But 37-year-old defensive end
Julius Peppers believes Carolina’s
experience can only help.
“We’ve had guys who have been
there before, so I feel like we should
be ready and more prepared,”
Peppers said. “I feel like guys have
been around and know how to
approach this thing. I think it will
help us keep our poise a little bit
Jaguars’ D concerned
with rash of big plays
Sunday, 10:05 a.m., CBS
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)
— Jacksonville’s vaunted defense
suddenly seems vulnerable to big
The Jaguars (10-6) have allowed
nine scoring plays of 25 or more
yards — and several more that led
to points — in the last six games.
It’s a negligible but noticeable
nuance for a unit that is among
the NFL leaders in nearly every
“We’re really good in the red
zone, so we try to give up the long
ones,” defensive coordinator Todd
Wash joked Thursday. “We’re
excelling at that.”
Wash actually sounded more
concerned than his players, pointing
the ﬁ nger at himself for trying to
get the defense in the “perfect call”
and giving his players too much
to think about before and after the
“There are some things we’ve
got to get cleaned up,” Wash said.
“We’ve got to just let them play.
I think the other team gets paid,
too. I know we’re not the only
team in the league that gets paid.
You’ve got to give credit to them
also, but we need to eliminate
the long plays and just get them
“If there’s a blade of grass, we
have to do a good job of defending
Jacksonville’s recent defensive
trend has been problematic. The
Jags limp into Sunday’s wild-card
game against Buffalo (9-7) having
dropped consecutive games for the
ﬁ rst time all season and three of
their last six.
U.S. juniors take bronze with 9-3 win over Czech Republic
By JOHN WAWROW
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Trent
Frederic scored four times in
leading the United States to
a 9-3 victory over the Czech
Republic in the world junior
Kieffer Bellows scored
twice, including once on
a penalty shot, and added
an assist. U.S. captain Joey
Anderson and Patrick Harper
had a goal and assist each,
and Ryan Poehling also
Jake Oettinger ﬁ nished
with 28 saves, and stopped
the ﬁ rst 13 shots he faced
before giving up two goals
on three shots in the ﬁ rst 2:11
of the third period.
The defending champion
Americans bounced back
from a 4-2 loss to Sweden
in the semiﬁ nal a day earlier,
to earn a medal for a third
straight year to mark the
nation’s longest streak since
in tournament history. The
U.S. also ﬁ nished third in
Team USA upped its
medal total to 11 (four gold,
one silver and six bronze),
with two of the third-place
ﬁ nishes coming in Buffalo,
where the tournament was
also held in 2010-11.
Radovan Pavlik had a goal
and assist, and Martin Kaut
Daniel Kurovsky also scored
for the Czech Republic.
Despite the loss, the fourth-
place ﬁ nish was the nation’s
best since winning bronze in
Goalie Josef Korenar
allowed three goals 16
shots before being pulled
centering pass banked in off
AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes
United States teammates celebrate a goal during the
second period in the bronze medal game of the world
junior hockey championships against the Czech Re-
public Friday in Buffalo, N.Y.
Anderson’s skate 4:18 into
the second period. Korenar
then returned for the start of
the third period and stopped
nine more shots after backup
Jakub Skarek allowed four
goals on 12 shots.
Sweden faced 16-time
champion Canada in the
gold-medal game Friday
Wisconsin and was selected
by the Boston Bruins in
the ﬁ rst-round of the 2016
draft. His four goals were
one short of matching a
U.S. single-game record
at the world juniors. Wally
Chapman scored ﬁ ve times
against Switzerland in 1984
and Chris Bourque had ﬁ ve
against Norway in 2005.
The Americans took
control by building a 2-0 lead
after Frederic and Poehling
scored short-handed goals
13-seconds apart spanning
Frederic opened the scoring
by stripping the puck from
Martin Kaut at the U.S. blue
line and then beat Korenar
through the legs on a break-
away with 4 seconds left in
the ﬁ rst period.
U.S. defenseman Scott
Perunovich ﬁ red the puck
into the Czech Republic
zone, where Anderson
stripped the puck from
Martin Necas behind the net.
Anderson came around the
left side and fed Poehling
alone in front.
The Americans’ special
teams bounced back a day
after giving up a pair of
short-handed goals over a
38-second span in the third
period against Sweden.
Bellows made it 5-0 by
scoring on a penalty shot in
which he drove in off the left
wing, cut across the front
of the crease before beating
Skarek inside the left post.
Bellows then scored his
goal with 59 seconds left in
the second period to put the
U.S. up 7-0.
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