Lamar Jackson did not appear to give much significance to the chapter he wrote in the NFL record books on Sunday, as the Baltimore Ravens surged to 5-1.

Jackson and the Ravens claimed their fifth straight win with a dominant 34-6 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers at M&T Bank Stadium.

It was a victory earned more on the legs of Baltimore's running backs and the solidity of the Ravens' defense than Jackson's dual-threat skill set.

But it saw the 2019 MVP break Dan Marino's record for the most wins by a quarterback before the age of 25, claiming his 35th.

Speaking about the record after the game, Jackson said: "It's pretty cool. I don't know what to say after that. It's cool."

Asked if such records matter to him, he replied: "We're on the road to something else. If it happens, it happens. But we want something else.

"It's a lot of season left. We just want to keep winning. A game at a time. That's all."

Head coach John Harbaugh, however, did attach some meaning to a record focused entirely on the numbers in the win column.

"That's the biggest one [winning]," Harbaugh said. "Have people heard of that one? I know they said they haven't heard about all these records – they have heard of about that one.

"I promise you that's what Lamar's most proud of, and that's the one we're the most proud of, absolutely."

The Chargers dropped to 4-2 having been held to just 208 net yards of offense.

Los Angeles had managed at least 350 in each of their previous five outings, with quarterback Justin Herbert conceding Baltimore's defense confused the Chargers with different looks.

"Yeah, it was a lot of looks that we didn't see on film and stuff they constructed for us," Herbert said.

"They did a great job at disguising their looks; bringing pressure from one way and hiding from another. 

"It was looks they hadn't shown all season and stuff that you know we have to be better at to adjust to during the game. But, you know, they played a great game."

The Milwaukee Bucks will raise their 2021 title banner and receive their championship rings on Tuesday, just before a season opener against a Brooklyn Nets team missing a star player they hoped would deliver silverware to their franchise.

Milwaukee defeated Brooklyn in a seven-game Eastern Conference semi-finals series en route to their first NBA title in 50 years last term.

It was an engrossing series in which Milwaukee prevailed largely due to their superior health, the Nets' cause hindered by injury struggles for James Harden and Kyrie Irving.

And they will again be minus Irving for the season opener in Wisconsin, though for a markedly different reason.

Irving's refusal to receive a coronavirus vaccine, and the fluctuations in his ability that would cause with mandates in major cities preventing unvaccinated individuals from entering public spaces, led the Nets to decide he will not play for the team until the issue is resolved.

As a result, much of the burden will again fall on Kevin Durant, though he will at least have the assistance of Harden, as the Nets aim to get a measure of revenge on Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.

Even with Irving out of the picture, the Nets look set to contend with the Bucks for superiority in the East, and this encounter may provide an early indication of which team has the upper hand in 2021-22.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Milwaukee Bucks – Jrue Holiday 

While Antetokounmpo is the man around whom everything revolves for the Bucks, he receives substantial support from Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday.

It is the latter who is the chief facilitator for Milwaukee. Holiday's 10.5 assists per 48 minutes last postseason ranked fifth among players to play in at least 10 playoff games.

The Bucks will look for him to have a similar influence on their title defence, starting with the visit of the Nets.

Brooklyn Nets – James Harden

Harden was in the MVP conversation last season until a hamstring issue derailed his campaign.

His one full regular-season appearance against the Bucks saw him post a double-double with 34 points and 12 assists.

With Irving unavailable, getting that kind of performance from Harden would be critical to the Nets' hopes of opening the season on a high.

 

KEY BATTLE – Giannis vs. KD

Though both teams have plenty of depth at their disposal, the unquestioned headline act of the season opener will be the heavyweight matchup between Antetokounmpo and Durant.

Last season, the All-Star duo definitely brought out the best in each other.

In 10 games against the Nets across the regular season and postseason, Antetokounmpo only once scored fewer than 30 points. He averaged 61.5 points/assists/rebounds per 48 minutes and had an effective field goal percentage of 57.9.

In three of those games, Durant went over 40 points, with the two-time Finals MVP averaging 58.5 points/assists/rebounds per 48 minutes and posting an effective field goal percentage of 55.6.

However, Durant's plus-minus across all meetings with the Bucks was minus 18 compared to plus 26 for Antetokounmpo, perhaps speaking to his lack of support in the postseason.

With Harden in his corner for this contest, Durant will hope to flip the script in that regard and spoil the Bucks' celebration.

HEAD TO HEAD

The Bucks will be confident they have the edge after their postseason defeat of the Nets and also won each of their home games against Brooklyn last season. A momentous night of celebration for Milwaukee is not the time to let their advantage slip.

The Pittsburgh Steelers made T.J. Watt the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL before the season, and he delivered an emphatic reminder of why in their win over the Seattle Seahawks.

Pittsburgh moved to 3-3 on the year with a dramatic overtime triumph over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, with edge rusher Watt having a decisive say.

Watt was a constant thorn in the side of Seahawks backup quarterback Geno Smith, filling in for the injured Russell Wilson, and saved his biggest impact for overtime.

He sacked Smith for the first time in the extra period and did so again after the Steelers punted the ball back to Seattle, this time robbing him of possession in the process and giving Pittsburgh crucial field position deep in Seahawks territory.

That allowed Chris Boswell to hit a 37-yard game-winning field goal and clinch a 23-20 success.

Watt signed a four-year, $112million contract extension with $80m in guarantees back in September, a price Pittsburgh will be more than happy to pay if he maintains his stellar play.

"That's how he’s compensated," said head coach Mike Tomlin. "I don't think anyone is surprised by his ability to deliver in those moments."

His team-mate on the defensive front, Cameron Heyward, was certainly not shocked when Watt's pressure finally told in the most pivotal spot.

"I love the fourth quarter and the overtime by T.J.,” Heyward said. "All game, he was like, 'Man, I’m just not hitting home.' I told him it was going to come and just, 'Keep staying after it. You’re going to be great.'

"And when we needed it the most, he made his plays. What an emphatic play to end the game with a sack strip fumble. We needed it, and he's a hell of a player."

On the eve of the 2021-22 NBA season, the league appears well-positioned with as much talent and star power as in any year in recent memory. 

Future Hall of Famers like LeBron James, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant remain at the centre of the basketball universe, while a younger generation led by Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum and Zion Williamson continues to grow stardom. 

But the most recent additions to the league – those in the 2021 NBA Draft class – appear to be in prime position to make their mark in their rookie seasons. 

This year's class of rookies was targeted years ago as a deep crop of talented prospects, and some of the most coveted players landed in situations that will allow them to contribute immediately. 

Early and frequent contributions – in combination with the NBA's current wide-open, high-scoring style of play – mean that this year's talented rookie class has a chance to make history. 

Shaq and Co. set the standard

The top five picks from the 1992 draft class averaged 19.0 points per game in the 1992-93 season, the most by the top quintet of first-year players since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976. That class featured Shaquille O'Neal (23.4 points per game), Alonzo Mourning (21.0), Christian Laettner (18.2), Jim Jackson (16.3) and LaPhonso Ellis (14.7) taken with the first five picks. 

The top five from 2018 was the highest-scoring rookie class in recent memory by averaging 17.3 points, led by Doncic (21.2 points per game) and Trae Young (19.1). 

Michael Jordan's 28.2-point rookie scoring average boosted the top quintet from the 1984 class to 16.9 points per game. 

 

The high end of the lauded 2003 class – which included James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh – averaged 15.9 points per game despite scant contributions from the infamous Darko Milicic (1.4 points per game). 

But can this year's top five picks compete with some of the best draft classes in league history?

Green already impressing in Houston

The Detroit Pistons took Cade Cunningham number one overall, the Houston Rockets selected Jalen Green second and the Orlando Magic picked Jalen Suggs number five – three natural scorers on the perimeter who landed on teams deep in the rebuilding process. 

Cunningham and Suggs both averaged more than 15 points in Las Vegas Summer League action, while Green was a top-10 scorer there, averaging 20.3 points in just 24.1 minutes. 

Detroit and Orlando ended last season with two of the youngest five rosters in the NBA, making it likely that they feature their rookies early and often in the 2021-22 campaign. 

Cunningham has been held out all preseason after suffering a sprained ankle in a late-September practice, but Pistons head coach Dwane Casey classified the injury as "mild", giving Detroit hope that the top pick will be available for the team's season-opening game on Wednesday. 

The Cleveland Cavaliers, who selected versatile big man Evan Mobley number three overall, seem to have intentions of making a playoff push and have more experienced players inside like Jarrett Allen, Lauri Markkanen and the estranged Kevin Love. A slight frame and Cleveland's crowded frontcourt could limit Mobley's minutes in his first year, but he has shown his versatility in exhibition play, blocking shots and grabbing rebounds while averaging 11.7 points per game in Summer League and exhibition play. 

Scottie Barnes was drafted fourth overall by the Toronto Raptors and, like Mobley, is more of an all-around player than a pure scorer, but the six-foot-nine forward has averaged 10.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists in his first three exhibition games, handling the ball plenty for a team that lost Kyle Lowry this offseason. 

Potential for eye-popping numbers

It is far too early to count on the 2021 class to be one of the best in recent memory, but today's rookies have the advantage of putting up big numbers in a high-scoring league, especially with each of the top five selections showing promise from three-point range. 

When LeBron James was a rookie in 2003-04, teams scored an average of 93.4 points per game and attempted 79.8 field goals per game. Last season's league scoring average was 112.1 points, a 20 per cent increase, and a typical team launched 88.4 shots, up nearly 11 per cent. 

Last season saw 32 different players score at least 20 points per game. Just a decade ago, only 19 players hit that milestone. 

The NBA's pace and scoring continue to rise, and young players are seeing statistical bumps as well. Last year's top pick, Anthony Edwards, struggled to begin his first season with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He finished the season by scoring at least 15 points in 36 of his last 40 games and averaged 23.5 points per game over that span.

 

Cunningham, Green and Suggs are all considered better outside shooters than Edwards was heading into his rookie season, and this crop of rookies could let it fly from three-point range early and often. 

While the ultimate verdict on the 2021 draft class will be decided several years down the line, the door is open for some of league's most coveted prospects to put up eye-popping numbers in today's wide-open NBA. 

Maori All Blacks and former Chiefs wing Sean Wainui has died in a car crash at the age of 25.

Wainui was killed in a single-vehicle accident at McLaren Falls Park near Tauranga when his car hit a tree in the early hours of Monday.

As well as featuring 10 times for the All Blacks, he also made 44 appearances in Super Rugby for the Chiefs and broke the record for the number of tries in a single game in the competition with five against the Waratahs in June.

The former New Zealand Under-20s international joined Bay of Plenty in May for the 2021 National Provincial Championship campaign.

Chiefs and Maori All Blacks head coach Clayton McMillan led the tributes for Wainui, who also previously played for Taranaki and Crusaders in his homeland.

"He was an influential member in the teams he has been a part of and his presence will be missed," McMillan said.

"He epitomised everything you could possibly ask for in a player. He will be remembered for being a passionate, hard-working, proud Maori who was an exceptional player but more importantly father and husband."

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson added: "We know Sean's passing will be felt deeply by everyone involved in rugby, particularly his Bay of Plenty and Chiefs team-mates and we share their sorrow and their shock."

The Chiefs posted on Twitter: "One of Rugby NZ's tallest totara trees has fallen. 

"To you Sean, our Rangatira, we farewell you to the outspread arms of the multitudes who await you beyond this earthly realm. 

"You leave us here bereft and drown in sorrow as we weep for you. Rest well in peaceful repose."

Wainui is is survived by his wife and their two children.

Ronald Acuna Jr feels around "70 per cent fit" in his recovery from a long-term knee injury but is happy to continue playing the role of cheerleader for the Atlanta Braves for the time being.

The 23-year-old was ruled out for the season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained in July when attempting an outfield catch against the Miami Marlins.

Acuna was in MVP contention at the time of his injury with a .283 batting average, 24 home runs, 52 RBIs and 17 stolen bases.

While the two-time All-Star has been unable to help the Braves on the field, he has been present in the stands for Games 1 and 2 of his side's National League Championship Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Braves took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series after coming through in the bottom of the ninth inning for the second consecutive night on Sunday, Eddie Rosario's two-out single securing a 5-4 win in Game 2.

Watching on from the clubhouse has been a frustrating experience for Acuna but, just three months on from surgery on his damaged ACL, he will not rush his return to action.

"Honestly, this is one the hardest moments of my career, to be here at the stadium and not be able to join my team-mates out there," he said through an interpreter. 

"There's nothing you can do about that. So for me, it's just about being here and continuing to give support as if I was playing.

"I feel good, but in the same sense, I feel as good as I did about two months ago. It's kind of been a gradual process. 

"But if I had to put a percentage on it, I'd say I'm about 70 per cent. But that's just my personal opinion as far as I'm feeling. 

"But as far as the return and where I'm actually at, I leave those decisions up to the doctors and trainers.

"I don't have a date in mind. It's a knee. The knee is a big focal point in terms of structure and stability for any athlete. So I'm going to take my time with it for sure."

Jon Gruden's resignation as head coach was used as a catalyst to inspire the Las Vegas Raiders to victory over the Denver Broncos, according to quarterback Derek Carr.

The Raiders were rocked last week when Gruden stepped down after an investigation revealed numerous offensive emails he sent while working as a television analyst.

Gruden apologised for any hurt caused by the messages, which are alleged to have contained racist, homophobic and sexist content.

A tumultuous week for the Raiders ended on a positive note, though, thanks to a 34-24 win over the Broncos on Sunday as they snapped a two-game losing run and improved to 4-2. 

Carr starred in Rich Bisaccia's first game as interim head coach, throwing 341 yards and two touchdowns in completing 18 of 27 passes.

The 30-year-old's passer rating of 134.4 was his highest in almost three years and came at the perfect time for his side. 

"We needed a win bad this week," he said. "Sometimes when you get punched in the gut, it's hard to bounce back. But we were able to do it.

"If anything, what's happened the this heightened our intensity, it heightened our focus. 

"More now than ever, we had to step up and be a voice. There will be a time for all the emotions, but now is not the time. 

"It sucks not hugging 'Gru' after a game like that. Some of the plays we ran, he would have been so fired up, but it is what it is and we need to move forward. 

"For those three hours, it's definitely easier to just focus on football."

Carr's fourth 300-plus passing yard game of the season is the second-most ever of any Raiders player after six games after Rich Gannon, who had five at this stage in 2002.

The Raiders forced four turnovers in defense and committed zero turnovers of their own – the first time that has happened since the 1988 season against the Kansas City Chiefs.

For Bisaccia, it marked a first win in what was his first game as a head coach at any level.

"The best part for me was to be able to get on the grass," he said after the triumph at Empower Field at Mile High. "The worst part for me was figuring out the headset! 

"Once you get on the field and the game goes, a lot of my responsibilities were the same. It's emotional for everybody, right? 

"I think they did a good job. It's a bunch of grown men, handling their emotions throughout the week, putting them in perspective when it was time to go play the game. 

"It's a job for all of us. They seemed to do a really good job with it. We'll see what goes on."

The NBA and its leading stars will hope the coming regular season is exactly that: regular.

The past two have not been. In 2019-20, the season was paused for the coronavirus pandemic and resumed in Orlando, in a bubble and without crowds.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was at least able to put forward his claims for a second straight MVP honour prior to that point.

In 2020-21, a rapid turnaround from the playoffs appeared to catch some leading men out, before the brutal 72-game December-to-May calendar saw a number of top performers face spells on the sidelines.

As a result, Nikola Jokic was the clear MVP candidate, outstanding for the Denver Nuggets but crucially also one of just 11 players across the league to play in all 72 games. His 2,488 minutes trailed only New York Knicks pair Julius Randle (2,667) and RJ Barrett (2,511).

With a proper preseason to plan – and the Nuggets hurt by Jamal Murray's injury – it seems unlikely Jokic will defend his title.

But which players are most likely to follow his lead and move clear of the rest in the coming months? Stats Perform breaks down the chances of the MVP favourites.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Having claimed back-to-back MVP Awards, Antetokounmpo entered preseason last year as the favourite again and threatened for a time to contend, averaging 28.1 points, 11.0 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. A six-game lay-off in April, immediately after scoring 47 points in Portland, put paid to those hopes.

However, it would have been tough for voters to justify again picking Antetokounmpo regardless. At that stage, he had won only three playoff series in his entire career. By contrast, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird – the three men previously honoured three years in a row – each celebrated at least one championship across the first two seasons of their respective runs.

It is very different now, though. Although Antetokounmpo would become only the ninth player to take the Maurice Podoloff Trophy on three occasions, there is less daunting historical precedent with the lean year in between. Crucially, too, the 'Greek Freak' is now himself a champion.

 

Antetokounmpo was the Milwaukee Bucks' Finals MVP as they won their first title in 50 years. Rather than regress in the playoffs – his points average had dipped from the regular season in four of his five prior postseason campaigns – the 26-year-old forward scaled new heights, taking more responsibility with a career-high 20.9 field goal attempts per game and being rewarded with 30.2 points.

Now embracing his strengths, taking only 3.3 shots from three-point range in the postseason and shooting 73.6 per cent at the rim, Antetokounmpo should have the confidence to kick on again.

Luka Doncic

It is Doncic, not Antetokounmpo, who has been installed as the early favourite this year. The Slovenian is only entering his fourth season, but it feels about time he truly established himself as a future great.

Doncic was one of those who acknowledged he was "not in my best shape" as the 2020-21 season promptly got under way, and the Dallas Mavericks were an underwhelming 8-12 at the end of January, although the point forward still averaged 27.4 points over that slow early period. He then weighed in with 30.3 points across 12 games in February.

Only four players bettered Doncic's 1,830 points come the end of the year, yet he could still be a little more consistent in pursuit of a regular-season award. The 22-year-old has set an astonishing standard on the biggest stage. While waiting on a first series win, his 33.5 playoff points are the most by any player to feature in at least 13 career games. Doncic's 143 points at the Tokyo Olympics led the tournament.

If Dallas can be competitive from the outset, Doncic's game is certainly a good fit for individual recognition, his 2020-21 usage rate of 36.0 per cent the highest among players with 500 or more possessions. Similarly dominant for Slovenia, his 57 assists and 196 minutes also topped the charts at the Olympics.

New coach Jason Kidd will ask "young Picasso" Doncic to share the ball around a little more this year, though, saying: "As a coach, I don't know if anybody told Picasso that he had to use all the paints. But I just want to remind Luka that he can rely on his team-mates, and his team-mates are going to be there to help him."

He added: "We know that it's easy to get the ball to Luka, but the one thing we do want to get accomplished is other guys as playmakers so come the fourth quarter Luka is fresh and is ready to deliver." Some more big moments – Luka's 93 clutch points ranked 21st last year – would certainly help Doncic's cause.

Stephen Curry

The Los Angeles Lakers' new 'big three' – we will come to the Brooklyn Nets shortly – is likely to help title hopes but hinder MVP bids. Russell Westbrook's relentless regular-season efforts, averaging 34.4 per cent usage over the past seven seasons, might take some of the shine away from LeBron James. Curry does not have that problem.

As last year, when he had the next-most first-place votes after Jokic (albeit just five to 91), the Golden State Warriors are set to be hugely reliant on Curry – at least until fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson is back from injury.

In his first full season since Kevin Durant left and Thompson went down, Curry set his stall out early with 62 points against the Portland Trail Blazers but saved his best for the end of the year, averaging 36.9 points after a tailbone injury in March to take a second scoring title. The two-time MVP could not quite do enough to carry the Warriors through the play-in round.

A young supporting cast is now another year older, however, meaning Golden State should be competitive enough to keep Curry in the limelight without having enough talent to distract from his displays.

Only Thompson's return is likely to alter the pattern of play after Curry set career highs in points (32.0), rebounds (5.5), field goal attempts (21.7), three-point attempts (12.7), foul line visits (6.3) and usage rate (34.7). He scored a league-high 24.6 per cent of the Warriors' points.

 

Kevin Durant

Durant, like James, was set to merely be the biggest star on a team of stars until the complications around Kyrie Irving's status arose. As it stands, Irving will not feature for the Nets due to his refusal to get a coronavirus vaccine that would allow him to play home games.

Of course, Brooklyn also have James Harden, who briefly flirted with the MVP picture last year prior to a hamstring injury, but Durant will be the team's go-to as long as he stays on the court.

Although Durant made only 32 starts in 35 games in 2020-21, he led the Nets in points per game (26.9) and usage rate (31.1). Irving ranked second in both categories (also 26.9 points per game, 30.5 per cent usage).

The former Warrior is now another year on from his awful Achilles injury and gave an indication in the playoffs of the player he can still be. Playing in all 12 games, unlike Harden and Irving, Durant scored an outstanding 34.3 points – a league best among those to play 10 or more games. Only a borderline call on a Durant shot in Game 7 against the Bucks ended Brooklyn's campaign.

With or without Irving, the Nets are expected to contend for the title this time. Durant was Finals MVP in his two championship triumphs in 2017 and 2018 but has only a single regular season award, back in 2013-14. If he is back to his best, as would appear to be the case, the 33-year-old could dominate the coming season from start to finish.

Joel Embiid

Should, as this list suggests, voters look for players who are capable of putting their teams on their backs, Embiid's case has only got stronger.

The big man was already the Philadelphia 76ers' key performer, evidenced by their 39-12 record with him in the team last year compared to 10-11 when he was missing. Indeed, had Embiid not been absent for such a number of games, he might well have pipped Jokic to the top individual award.

Jokic clearly had the edge as a creator, his 8.3 assists per game allowing him to tally 16 triple-doubles, Embiid actually averaged more points (28.5 to 26.4) and his prowess on defense (including 1.4 blocks per game) contributed to far superior numbers in terms of plus/minus (7.9 to 5.3) and defensive rating (103.1 to 109.2).

 

Ben Simmons, the Sixers' second man, was already underwhelming last year, and Embiid's responsibilities on both ends of the floor are set to increase due to the uncertainty surrounding his team-mate.

Even if Simmons sticks around, as is now a possibility, this is clearly Embiid's team. He felt it had not been previously, responding to reports Simmons was unhappy with the dynamic by saying: "I feel like our teams have always been built around his needs." Those claims were "disappointing" and "borderline kind of disrespectful", Embiid added.

He will certainly not be lacking motivation now to put his injury woes behind him, enjoy another outstanding season and claim the MVP award that evaded him last year.

Arizona Cardinals star Kyler Murray said he enjoyed a "little more freedom" in the absence of Kliff Kingsbury after the NFL's hottest team preserved their perfect start to the season.

Kingsbury missed Sunday's clash against the Cleveland Browns after testing positive for coronavirus, but the high-flying Cardinals – the only undefeated franchise remaining – still won 37-14 to improve to 6-0.

Defensive co-ordinator Vance Joseph and assistant head coach/special teams co-ordinator Jeff Rodgers stepped up to share responsibilities in Kingsbury's absence, while assistant wide receivers coach Spencer Whipple was calling plays in Murray's ear.

Murray was 20-of-30 passing for 229 yards and four touchdowns as the Cardinals won six straight games for the first time since Weeks 7-16 of the 2015 season.

"I think once we got the news, it was just an opportunity," Cardinals quarterback Murray said post-game.

"Kind of exciting to go prove ourselves on the road against a great team. I think you could feel the energy before the game."

"That may be a product of not having a coach out there, just having a little more leeway," Murray said after becoming the first Cardinals QB since 1950 with a 100-plus passer rating in five of the team's first six games of a season.

"I guess that did give me a little more freedom, just to whatever I did see, go with it and that's what Whipple's saying to me the whole time: 'Whatever you see'. And I stick to that same rule, as long as it makes sense. You got a plan and go with it."

The Cardinals are 4-0 on the road and have won each game by no fewer than 12 points – in their franchise history, Arizona had never won four consecutive away games by double digits.

On Kingsbury's absence, stand-in coach Joseph added: "It was really seamless".

"It's been an up and down week, but our team leaders were great all week," Joseph said. "No one wavered, no one blinked. The staff didn't blink. Every day it was bad news and no one blinked - not one time. Even yesterday. Even Saturday morning at practice when the players knew that Kliff was down for the game, there were no worries.

"There was really an excitement to go play a really good football team. The boys performed. This staff is amazing. It's a great football staff. It's our third year all together and that helps - having continuity like this."

Trevor Lawrence and Urban Meyer celebrated the Jacksonville Jaguars' drought-ending triumph and "software engineer" Matthew Wright, who ended the team's 20-game skid.

Wright kicked a 53-yard field goal as time expired to lift the embattled Jaguars to a dramatic 23-20 win over the Miami Dolphins at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Sunday.

The Jaguars had not won since their 2020 season-opening victory against the Indianapolis Colts amid the second-longest losing streak in NFL history, second only to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' run of 26 straight defeats in 1976-77.

But Wright emerged the unlikely hero in the final play of the game in the United Kingdom, where rookie Jaguars quarterback Lawrence set up the field goal after the kicker also nailed a 54-yard attempt with just under four minutes remaining.

"Obviously we've had a rough start to the year, been through a lot of adversity even in this game, just having to fight back, battle back and find a way to win," Lawrence – the number one draft pick – told reporters after completing 25 of 41 passes for 319 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions.

"It means a lot, and obviously, like I said, we've struggled a little bit, but to get this win, have this momentum going into the bye week, to do it here in London, it's all just special. I'll always remember this one."

Jaguars head coach Meyer added: "Someone asked me last week if we were desperate for a win, and we are desperate for a win, and we came close a few times.

"There were a lot of things to fix, but you saw a young quarterback make a big-time play at the biggest time of the game, and then a young kicker that we just signed a couple weeks ago pop two 50-plus yarders, so it was a great win."

According to Stats Perform, Wright became the fourth kicker in NFL history to make two 50-yard field goals in the fourth quarter, including the game winner as time expired, joining Greg Joseph (Week 5), Brandon McManus (2019) and Mason Crosby (2016).

"I think [Matthew Wright] was telling me he was like a software engineer like a month and a half ago, and now he snapped our 20-game losing streak and made the game winner from 52, 53, I don't know," Lawrence said. "But just crazy."

"It feels awesome. Just happy they both went in. Happy I could help the team come out with a win," added Wright.

Chris Boswell made the game-winning kick for the Pittsburgh Steelers in their 23-20 overtime defeat of the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, but T.J. Watt got the assist.  

All-Pro edge rusher Watt forced a fumble by Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith deep in Seattle territory with just over four minutes to play, setting up Boswell's decisive 37-yard field goal just over a minute later. 

After the teams traded punts on their opening possessions in overtime, Watt ran down a scrambling Smith at Seattle's 13-yard line and stripped the ball from the quarterback for the 20th forced fumble of his career – the most of any NFL player since Watt entered the league in 2017. 

It was fitting that defence played a key role in the outcome after both teams struggled to move the ball at times throughout the game. 

Pittsburgh opened the scoring nearly five minutes into the second quarter with a Ben Roethlisberger (29-of-40 passing for 229 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions) touchdown pass to Najee Harris and took a 14-0 lead into half-time. 

Seattle – without injured star quarterback Russell Wilson – answered after the break with a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter and eventually tied the game 17-17 on a Jason Myers field goal with 12:59 remaining in the fourth. 

Boswell then hit from 53 yards with 1:29 remaining before Myers answered from 43 at the buzzer to send it to overtime – though not without controversy. 

The Steelers believed they had the game won when Seattle's DK Metcalf fumbled after a reception and Seahawks receiver Freddie Swain recovered, leaving the visitors scrambling to stop the clock for a field-goal try. 

Officials then did it for them, stopping play for a video review while Smith tried to race to the line and spike the ball. Replay confirmed the initial play was ruled correctly but the stoppage gave the Seahawks time to spike it and set up Myers' game-tying try. 

Watt's big play in overtime ultimately rendered that complaint moot. 

The Atlanta Braves came through in the bottom of the ninth inning for the second consecutive night as Eddie Rosario's two-out single secured a 5-4 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series (NLCS). 

After winning 18 fewer games than reigning World Series champions the Dodgers during the regular season, the Braves took a 2-0 lead in the NLCS with two wins at home by the slimmest of margins. 

Rosario hit the first pitch from Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen back up the middle, driving home Dansby Swanson from second with the winning run on Sunday.

It was the fourth hit of the night for Rosario, making him the fifth player in postseason history to record at least four hits in a game, including a walkoff. 

The dramatic finish was appropriate for a game that was tight throughout. 

The Dodgers wasted no time getting their offence started, as Mookie Betts singled to lead off the game and Corey Seager followed with a home run. 

A man who performed most of his October heroics for the Dodgers had an answer, though, as Joc Pederson hit yet another postseason home run – his 12th – to tie it up in the fourth. 

The Dodgers jumped back on top in the seventh when Chris Taylor dumped a sinking fly ball in front of onrushing Atlanta centerfielder Guillermo Heredia, who had just entered the game as part of a double switch. 

Even worse for the Braves, the ball got by Heredia, allowing an additional run to score as the Dodgers went up 4-2. 

Some aggressive base-running levelled up the game in the eighth, as Rosario manufactured a run by tagging up on a Freddie Freeman fly out to left field, then came around to score with an acrobatic slide after Ozzie Albies singled. 

Atlanta's Game 1 hero, Austin Riley, then drove a double to the wall in deep left centre to score Albies and make it 4-4. 

After the Braves held the Dodgers scoreless in the top of the ninth, Atlanta's offence came through once again in the end. 

Game 3 is in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

 

Astros at Red Sox

The American League Championship Series (ALCS), tied 1-1, shifts to Fenway Park on Monday as the Houston Astros send Jose Urquidy to the mound against Eduardo Rodriguez and the Boston Red Sox. 

Dak Prescott's game-winning touchdown pass may have been costly for the Dallas Cowboys, though the star quarterback insisted "I'll be fine" after hurting his calf.

Rolling to his right, Prescott leapt to complete a 35-yard touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb that gave Dallas a 35-29 overtime win at the New England Patriots on Sunday, but Prescott said he came down wrong on the play. 

Prescott walked into his post-game news conference wearing a protective boot and the team said he suffered a right calf strain on the final play. 

"It just came down funny and that's what it was," Prescott told reporters. "It's something we'll get checked out and I'll be fine." 

Prescott will have an MRI on Monday, but the good news for the Cowboys is they are entering their bye week and will not play again until an October 31 trip to face the Minnesota Vikings. 

That will provide valuable recovery time for Prescott, who saw his 2020 season end in Week 5 with a fracture and dislocation of his right ankle. 

There are no indications this will be a serious setback for Prescott, who did not play in the preseason this year, but the Cowboys can ill afford to lose him for any significant period. 

"Life keeps throwing punches and I'll keep throwing them back," Prescott said. "It doesn't hurt as bad when you score and win the game."

Prescott completed 36 of 51 passes for 445 yards with three touchdowns and an interception as the Cowboys beat the Patriots for the first time since December 1996 after six consecutive losses in the interim.

His yardage total is the most allowed by the Patriots in head coach Bill Belichick's 22 seasons with New England, topping a 438-yard game by Peyton Manning in November 2014. 

"I can't say enough about Dak Prescott, the way he was distributing the ball, his poise and confidence in the pocket," said Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy. 

"He never wavered. His process was the same throughout. He's on top of his game right now."

Cameron Norrie became the first British player to win the ATP Indian Wells Masters after fighting back to beat Nikoloz Basilashvili in an historic three-set victory.

Norrie dropped the opening set before rallying to a memorable 3-6 6-4 6-1 triumph for the biggest title of his career on Sunday.

The world number 26 became the first man ranked outside the top 25 to win in the Californian desert since Ivan Ljubicic in 2010 as he moved 10th in the Race to Turin, with the ATP Finals taking place next month.

"It means so much to me, my biggest title. I'm so happy. I can't even describe it right now," 21st seed Norrie said in his on-court interview. "It was a strange match today but absolutely massive for me and my team.

"I can't really believe it. If you’d have told me I'd have won before the tournament started I wouldn’t have believed you, so it's amazing."

Basilashvili – the 29th seed – was down an early break at 3-1 before turning the first set on its ear by reeling off five straight games to seize control.

It was the first time Norrie had dropped an opening set at this year's tournament and it was looking ominous when the new British number one surrendered another break at 2-1 at the start of the second.

But a run of eight consecutive points fuelled Norrie, who broke to level the match against Basilashvili.

While Basilashvili had his chances, Norrie used his defensive skills to outlast the Georgian after almost two hours on court.

Norrie, who boasts a 47-20 record in 2021, added: "I've been really enjoying my tennis and been enjoying being out on court and competing in the big moments.

"I'm just really pleased with how I handled the occasion. I think I'm doing a lot better with that this year. I lost a lot of those finals, so it's nice to get the big one today."

Baker Mayfield's troublesome left shoulder popped out of joint twice during the Cleveland Browns' 37-14 NFL loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, but the quarterback "absolutely" expects to face the Denver Broncos in Week 7.

Mayfield initially injured his non-throwing shoulder against the Houston Texans on September 19, suffering a partially torn labrum, and the Browns star has worn a brace in subsequent games. 

That extra protection could not save him when Arizona's J.J. Watt hauled him to the ground in the third quarter, forcing a fumble and leaving Mayfield on the ground in pain. 

But Mayfield returned to the game when the Browns got the ball back and finished 19-of-28 passing for 234 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. 

Case Keenum finished the game at quarterback for Cleveland once the score got out of hand, but Mayfield said he was confident he would be cleared to play the Broncos on Thursday, despite meeting the media with his left arm in a sling. 

"It feels like s***," he said of his shoulder, adding: "It dislocated again [on the Watt sack] and then slipped out again on a non-contact play, so just got to figure out a way to get better."

Mayfield was sacked five times as the Browns played without their usual starting tackles Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jack Conklin. 

"It was just one of those days," Mayfield said. "We couldn't get things going, they had a good plan for us and we got punched in the mouth."

Mayfield and the Browns will have to recover quickly as they face what has become a critical game against the Broncos.

Cleveland entered the year fancied as possible Super Bowl contenders and suffered a tough season-opening loss to reigning AFC champions the Kansas City Chiefs before reeling off three straight wins. 

The Browns now sit at 3-3 after a wild loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 5 and Sunday's blow-out defeat. 

"We're going to see what we're made of," Mayfield said. "Our backs are against the wall. I like our chances."

Rory McIlroy celebrated his 20th PGA Tour win after roaring past Rickie Fowler and holding off Collin Morikawa to clinch The CJ Cup.

McIlroy carded a six-under-par 66 to soar to the top of the leaderboard at 25 under for the tournament as the former world number one prevailed by one stroke in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Fowler was the player to beat heading into Sunday's final round, the former Masters runner-up teeing off with a two-stroke advantage at the Summit Club.

But Fowler fell following a final-round 71 as McIlroy used an eagle, five birdies and just one bogey for his first PGA Tour success since May's Wells Fargo Championship.

With his latest triumph, it marked the first time four-time major champion McIlroy – who endured a forgettable Ryder Cup campaign with Europe – had won in his season debut on Tour.

McIlroy also became the 39th player with at least 20 wins on Tour, moving tied for 35th on the all-time list.

"It is a big carrot," McIlroy – who played bogey-free after his eagle putt on the 14th – said of the 20 wins. "I didn't know it would be this week."

Morikawa rocketed up the leaderboard with a stunning 10-under-par 62 but it was only enough for second position at 24 under.

Fowler and Keith Mitchell (67) finished tied for third at 22 under, a shot better off than Talor Gooch (62), Sam Burns (66), Aaron Wise (66) and former world number one Adam Scott (69).

Emiliano Grillo tied the CJ Cup 18-hole scoring record with his career-low 11-under-par 61 as he shared 18th, alongside Justin Thomas (64), Jordan Spieth (67) and Xander Schauffele (63).

Brooks Koepka (68) finished 10 strokes behind McIlroy, while Dustin Johnson was a shot further back following his 67.

The Cowboys came from behind twice in the fourth quarter to force overtime before Dak Prescott's touchdown pass in the extra session gave Dallas a 35-29 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday. 

Prescott hit a wide-open CeeDee Lamb from 35 yards out with just under four minutes to play in overtime for the victory, the final strike in a game that saw the Dallas quarterback complete 36 of 51 passes for 445 yards and three TDs. 

The final touchdown capped a wild final few minutes in Foxborough, where Trevon Diggs momentarily stunned the New England crowd by intercepting rookie quarterback Mac Jones and returning it 42 yards for a score to give Dallas a 26-21 lead with 2:27 remaining in the fourth quarter. 

Diggs has intercepted a pass in every game this season, with seven picks overall, and has returned two of them for touchdowns. He is the first NFL player in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to intercept at least seven passes with multiple touchdowns in his team's first six games of the season. 

But Jones answered on the very next play, hitting Kendrick Bourne for a 75-yard touchdown and passing for the two-point conversion to give New England a 29-26 lead with 2:11 to play. 

That was too much time to leave Prescott, though, and he drove the Cowboys (5-1) downfield to set up kicker Greg Zuerlein – who had missed from 51 yards minutes earlier – for a 49-yard field goal that sent the game to overtime. 

After the Dallas defence forced New England (2-4) to punt in the first possession of overtime, Prescott completed all five of his pass attempts on the game-winning drive. 

The Cowboys racked up 567 yards of total offence on the day, the first time the Patriots allowed at least 500 yards in a game since surrendering 538 to the Philadelphia Eagles in losing Super Bowl LII four years ago. 

Murray, Cardinals stay unbeaten

Kyler Murray threw four touchdown passes as the Arizona Cardinals remained the NFL's only unbeaten team with a 37-14 rout of the Cleveland Browns. 

Murray completed 20 of 30 passes for 229 yards and did not throw an interception as Arizona – without head coach Kliff Kingsbury due to COVID-19 – built a 20-0 lead, then saw Cleveland come back before half-time before pulling away after the interval. 

Baker Mayfield tossed a pair of touchdowns in the final 5:06 of the opening half before suffering a shoulder injury as the Cardinals' defence held Cleveland scoreless after the break on the way to their first 6-0 start since 1974.

In Denver, the Las Vegas Raiders held off the Broncos 34-24 in Rich Bisaccia's first game as interim head coach after Jon Gruden's resignation Monday. 

Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers told jeering Chicago Bears fans "I still own you" after the reigning NFL MVP inspired a 24-14 victory on the road.

Rodgers was at his brilliant best as he claimed his 22nd win over the Bears, the veteran quarterback throwing two touchdowns and running for another at Soldier Field.

His 22-5 record against the Bears ranks third-best for winning percentage (81.5) by a quarterback against a single opponent since 1950 (minimum 25 starts), behind Tom Brady (91.4 per cent against the Buffalo Bills) and Ben Roethlisberger (87.0 per cent against the Cleveland Browns).

As he left the field, Rodgers could be heard taunting Chicago supporters: "All my f****** life, I own you. I still own you. I still own you."

Rodgers finished 17-of-23 passing for 195 yards and no interceptions with a 128.0 passer rating as the Packers (5-1) won their fifth straight game.

The Super Bowl winner also reacted to one fan after his touchdown against the Bears.

"Sometimes you black out on the field – in a good way," Rodgers said. "I looked up in the stands and in the front row all I saw was a woman giving me the double bird.

"So I'm not sure exactly what came out of my mouth next."

"I love this rivalry. It's been a lot of fun over the years," Rodgers said. "That's what I told [Bears rookie] Justin [Fields] on the field. I said, 'Enjoy this. It's a special rivalry, unlike any other in our game.'"

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur added: "Listen, all I can say is: A lot of stuff gets said on the field that nobody ever hears.

"It's one of those moments of competition where things get said and ... I don't know what Aaron said about it, I'm sure you guys asked him. ... Again, it's a competitive game, and I think that's one of those moments where you see the competitor in Aaron come out."

Paula Badosa denied Victoria Azarenka a slice of WTA Indian Wells Open history as the former world number one failed to become the first three-time winner of the singles event after defeat in Sunday's gruelling final.

Azarenka, also a winner in 2012 and 2016, had to come back from a set and a break down in the semi-final, and for a while looked like good preparation for the battle that Badosa provided.

But in the end Badosa prevailed 7-6 (7-5) 2-6 7-6 (7-2) after three hours, four minutes on court, securing only her second title in what was just her second final of the season while becoming the first Spanish woman to claim the title in Indian Wells.

A highly competitive start saw a combined total of nine break points go to waste in the first four games alone, and when Azarenka did finally lose a service game to go 4-3 down, she emphatically hit back at the first time of asking.

She had no option but to repeat that feat soon after when Badosa broke again to take a 6-5 lead, and she duly obliged to set up a tie-break.

But Badosa got the better of two-time grand slam champion Azarenka in the tie-break, despite the latter overturning a four-point deficit to go level at 5-5.

Azarenka appeared re-energised at the start of the second set, though, charging into a 3-0 lead inside 11 minutes, her level of intensity suddenly leagues ahead of her opponent's.

Badosa only showed brief glimpses of her ability and Azarenka had few issues levelling the match, her class on full display in the fifth game as she read a wide drop shot and replied with a sensational cross-court effort.

After such a colossal fight to get back on level terms it was perhaps to be expected that Azarenka would drop off a little early on in the decider, but a bad miss from Badosa allowed the Belarussian to recover from a break and she consolidated to tie the set at 2-2.

The pair continued to slog it out thereafter with neither woman giving an inch, Badosa's often-brutal power countered nicely by Azarenka's athleticism.

But Badosa was her own worst enemy as she overhit two shots to allow Azarenka to get what looked likely to be the decisive break, but the 32-year-old failed to serve out the match and, perhaps predictably, a tie-break ultimately beckoned.

Badosa's energy reserves suddenly looked far deeper than her opponent's as she moved her around the court with almost surgical precision, her eventual 7-2 win in the tie-break speaking to the ferocity she displayed to win the comfortably biggest title of her career to date.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.