NFL

Bills bully Dolphins again after Tua goes down early

By Sports Desk September 19, 2021

The Buffalo Bills got their 2021 NFL season up and running with a sixth straight win over the Miami Dolphins, who lost Tua Tagovailoa to a rib injury.

Tipped by many to make the Super Bowl this year, the Bills endured an underwhelming start in defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but a 35-0 success in Miami got them back on track.

Buffalo benefited from Tagovailoa's departure early in the game, as he had to be carted back to the locker room after a hit from A.J. Epenesa when he attempted a short-range pass on fourth down.

By that point, the second-year Dolphins quarterback had been sacked twice on a three-and-out opening drive before seeing Devin Singletary run 46 yards for the Bills' first touchdown.

Josh Allen threw to Stefon Diggs for a second score, but Buffalo failed to add to their advantage in the remainder of a chaotic first half, epitomised by Levi Wallace's pick from back-up Miami QB Jacoby Brissett moments after receiving a penalty for taunting.

Allen found his range again at the start of the third quarter as Dawson Knox made a low catch in the end zone – this the QB's seventh consecutive start against the Dolphins with multiple TD passes. Only Philip Rivers (against the Houston Texans) had previously enjoyed such a run against a single team.

Miami were never in the game thereafter and Zack Moss added a pair of rushing scores with two bruising runs, the second after Allen was called just short.

Super Cooper rescues Rams

NFC West rivals the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers survived scares against the Indianapolis Colts and the Philadelphia Eagles respectively, each coming through to move to 2-0.

The Rams were grateful to Cooper Kupp for his nine catches for 163 yards and two TDs – following 108 yards and a score last week – after a botched snap for a punt had gifted the Colts their first lead early in the fourth quarter. Carson Wentz ended the game on the sideline.

Wilson woeful for Jets

Zach Wilson's home debut for the New York Jets was a miserable one as he threw four interceptions in a defeat to the New England Patriots.

Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals paid the price for Joe Burrow's three interceptions from three consecutive passes – including a pick six – against the Chicago Bears, who were not punished for a shaky Justin Fields display after Andy Dalton's injury.

Wilson's Jets predecessor Sam Darnold threw for 305 yards, two TDs and a pick in the Carolina Panthers' win over the New Orleans Saints.

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  • Vogel hails 'spectacular' Westbrook despite late miss Vogel hails 'spectacular' Westbrook despite late miss

    Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel had no issues with Russell Westbrook going for gold late on in Friday's defeat to the Charlotte Hornets.

    Without the injured LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers went down 117-114 to Charlotte, as they slipped to 24-26 for the season.

    It was a second successive defeat for the Lakers, who have won just three games out of their last 10, a slump that has put Vogel under pressure.

    In the absence of his fellow star players, Westbrook did his utmost to push Los Angeles over the line, scoring 35 points and adding four rebounds and five assists.

    Yet it was Westbrook who missed a crucial three-pointer with 0.7 seconds remaining, the point guard having gone for glory with the Lakers trailing by two points, instead of trying to take the game to overtime.

    Westbrook's effort hit the rim, leaving P.J. Watson to go up the other end and add a further point for the Hornets with a free throw.

    Vogel defended his decision to take Westbrook off in the final stages of a defeat to the Indiana Pacers earlier this month, but after Friday's game, the Lakers coach was keen to stress his appreciation of the 33-year-old's performance.

    "The hottest guy in the gym has the ball in his hands ready to make a play," Vogel told reporters when asked for his thoughts on Westbrook's decision to go for the three points.

    "He was three for six from the three in the second half and went for the win. He knocks that down, we're talking about one hell of a win. 

    "It just didn’t go down for us. Russell was spectacular in that second half. He just really willed our team into an opportunity to steal one on the road.

    "I really appreciated Russell's performance tonight. I really want to credit [him]. He was very determined tonight."

    "I had just made two [three-pointers] just before that, so I will live and die with that one," said Westbrook, who has 945 points to his name this season at an average of 18.9 per game.

    Miles Bridges was tasked with marking Westbrook in the fourth, a tussle the Hornets' small forward – who had 26 points – enjoyed.

    "I know he didn’t want to go to overtime," Bridges explained. "I tried to get a good contest on him."

    Westbrook added: "I think [Miles] was trying to say I was too small or something, but that ain't the case and he knows better than that.

    "It was definitely on my mind and I was like, ok, that's going to be a good trigger for me. I was able to turn it up a little notch, especially during that time of the game."

    The Lakers are back in action on Sunday, against the Atlanta Hawks.

    The teams met earlier in January, before the Lakers' dismal run, with Los Angeles claiming a 134-118 home win.

    Los Angeles' points tally in that win was the most they had scored in a game against Atlanta since 1993 (135).

  • Depleted Lakers lose again, Paul and Booker star for red-hot Suns Depleted Lakers lose again, Paul and Booker star for red-hot Suns

    The absences of LeBron James and Anthony Davis were felt as the Los Angeles Lakers suffered a second successive defeat.

    Davis registered 31 points, 12 rebounds in Thursday's loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, but like James missed out through injury on Friday against the Charlotte Hornets.

    That meant the onus was on Russell Westbrook to step up, and though he had 35 points, he ultimately missed a crucial, game-clinching three-pointer, having decided to go for the win rather than try for overtime.

    P.J. Washington secured the rebound after Westbrook's attempt hit the rim, and added further insult with a free throw with 0.2 seconds left on the clock to seal a 117-114 win for Charlotte.

    Since a four-game winning streak was snapped by the Memphis Grizzlies on January 9, Los Angeles has won just three of their nine games.

    The Hornets, meanwhile, gained revenge for their overtime loss to the Lakers back in November in the only previous meeting this season, ending a six-game losing streak against Los Angeles in the process.

    Suns in red-hot form

    It is now nine wins in a row for the Phoenix Suns, who lead the NBA with 39 victories in 2021-22 after overcoming the Minnesota Timberwolves 134-124.

    Devin Booker led the game with 29 points, while Chris Paul had a triple-double of 21 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists and Cam Johnson's tally of 23 points included crucial back-to-back three-pointers in the fourth quarter.

    The Suns' record of 39-9 is the best in franchise history at this stage of a season, and have now won the 30 games in which they have led after three quarters.

    While the Suns top the Western Conference, the Miami Heat continued their run at the top of the East by holding off a late push from the Los Angeles Clippers in a 121-114 success.

    Miami has now won 10 of their last 12 games and snapped a six-game losing streak against the Clippers, who fought back to within four points but fell short of another comeback after their record-setting efforts against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday.

    All-Star Morant sets franchise record

    Ja Morant proved why he has been named an All-Star starter as he delivered a triple-double of 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a 119-109 win for the Grizzlies over the Utah Jazz.

    It was the highest-scoring triple-double in franchise history and the fourth overall for Morant, who has scored at least 30 points for five straight games as Memphis moved to 34-17.

    DeMar DeRozan's return to San Antonio ended in defeat for the Chicago Bulls, who went down 131-122 to the Spurs.

    Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic recorded a triple-double in the Denver Nuggets' victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, while Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 38 points in an emphatic win for the Milwaukee Bucks over the New York Knicks.

  • Giants hire Brian Daboll as head coach Giants hire Brian Daboll as head coach

    The New York Giants are hoping Brian Daboll's proficiency as an innovator can help turn their franchise around.

    Daboll was announced as the Giants' new head coach on Friday, replacing Joe Judge after he was fired just two seasons into the job.

    He joins Joe Schoen in leaving the Buffalo Bills for the Giants. Schoen, previously the assistant general manager with the Bills, was appointed as general manager of the Giants last week, while Daboll had served as the offensive coordinator in Buffalo since 2018.

    In that time Daboll oversaw the remarkable development of Josh Allen from a quarterback deemed by many as a long shot to be successful at the highest level to one of the premier signal-callers in the NFL.

    The Bills ranked second in offense in 2020 as they reached the AFC Championship Game and were fifth in the 2021 campaign, which came to an end for Buffalo last Sunday in an incredible 42-36 Divisional Round defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime in which Allen threw for 329 yards and four touchdowns.

    Daboll, though, will now move on from that disappointment and focus on improving the fortunes of a Giants team that ranked 31st in the NFL with 249 offensive points scored in 2021.

    "It is an honour and a privilege to be named head coach of the New York Giants," said Daboll. "Thank you to Joe Schoen for believing in me and to John Mara and Steve Tisch and their families for entrusting me with this position.

    "My immediate goal is to assemble a coaching staff – a strong staff that emphasises teaching and collaboration and making sure our players are put in the position to be their best and, ultimately, to win games. That's why all of us do this. To teach, to be successful, to develop talent, and to win.

    "I have a pretty good idea where our fan base's feelings are right now, and I get it. I promise we will work our tails off to put a team on the field that you will be proud to support and give us the results we all want."

    Schoen added: "We interviewed several people who are incredible coaches and all of whom are going to enjoy much more success in this league in their current positions and as a head coach.

    "With that said, we – me and ownership – all felt Brian is the right person to serve as our head coach. Over the last four years, I have observed first-hand Brian's strengths as a leader – he is an excellent communicator, intelligent, innovative, and hard-working.

    "Brian's genuine and engaging personality is refreshing. He fosters relationships with the players and coaches around him. He is progressive in his vision and values collaboration, two of the attributes we think are essential.

    "I am thrilled to partner with Brian and welcome he and his family to this side of the state."

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