WAMC Sports Report: Chargers reach playoffs, beat Colts 20-3
Austin Ekeler scored on two 1-yard runs and the Los Angeles Chargers clinched their first playoff berth since 2018, intercepting Indianapolis quarterback Nick Foles three times to beat the overmatched Colts 20-3. Justin Herbert threw for 235 yards and Cameron Dicker made two short field goals for the Chargers, who won their third straight after getting the help they needed this weekend from Las Vegas, Miami, New England and the New York Jets. Los Angeles won on the road on a Monday night for the first time in more than a decade. Indianapolis lost its fifth straight under interim coach Jeff Saturday.
New York Jets coach Robert Saleh announced Mike White has been cleared by doctors and will start at quarterback on Sunday in Seattle. White missed the Jets’ past two games while dealing with broken ribs suffered in New York’s 20-12 loss at Buffalo on Dec. 11. He has practiced on a limited basis since, but hadn’t been cleared by doctors for contact so he couldn’t play. That clearance came Monday. Saleh said White will start the rest of the season barring injury. Zach Wilson will return to being the No. 3 quarterback and Joe Flacco will serve as White's backup.
The Denver Broncos have fired coach Nathaniel Hackett after 15 games. Hackett never was able to get quarterback Russell Wilson out of a season-long slump. The Broncos are 4-11 and have posted their sixth straight losing season and are missing the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season. Hackett replaced Vic Fangio last January but the Broncos got worse in almost every category under the first-time head coach. Players were told during a team meeting Monday that senior assistant coach Jerry Rosburg will serve as interim head coach.
The NFL has suspended for one game Broncos linebacker Randy Gregory and Rams offensive lineman Oday Aboushi for exchanging punches following their game on Sunday. Gregory and Aboushi exchanged words during the postgame handshake and Gregory threw a punch at Aboushi's helmet. Aboushi retaliated before teammates stepped in and separated them. Gregory had received two 15-yard penalties during the Broncos' 51-14 loss to the Rams. He threw his helmet on one play and then hit Rams QB Baker Mayfield in the head on the other.
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has returned to the NFL’s concussion protocol. Coach Mike McDaniel said Monday that Tagovailoa was experiencing concussion symptoms when he met with team doctors on Monday, a day after the Dolphins’ 26-20 loss to Green Bay. Teddy Bridgewater is expected to get most of the first-team reps in practice this week. McDaniel said it is too early to name a starter for Miami’s game at New England on Sunday. It is the second time this season that Tagovailoa has been in the concussion protocol. The protocol itself was changed after Tagovailoa took a hard hit and appeared to show concussion symptoms but remained in a game.
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant each scored 32 points and the Nets extended their winning streak to nine games with a 125-117 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Nets withstood a sensational 46-point performance by Darius Garland, who single-handedly kept the Cavs close in the fourth. Brooklyn has won 16 of 19 and is beginning to look like an NBA title contender. T.J. Warren added a season-high 23 points for Brooklyn and Ben Simmons had nine rebounds and eight assists while helping hold Donovan Mitchell to 15 points.
The United States will permit Major League Baseball players from Cuba to represent their home country in the World Baseball Classic next year. The license could be a big step in once again turning Cuba’s national team into heavy hitters on an international stage. It clears the way for MLB stars such as Yordan Alvarez, José Abreu and Randy Arozarena to play for Cuba in the World Baseball Classic in March if they choose to accept a potential invitation. It’s up to each country’s national governing body to pick the players on its team. Final 30-man rosters are due Feb. 7 for the WBC, which begins March 8 with Cuba facing the Netherlands in Taiwan.
AP Top 25 Men’s College Basketball Poll
Purdue remained atop The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll for a third straight week. The week also included preseason No. 1 North Carolina returning to the rankings at No. 25 and New Mexico cracking the poll for the first time in eight years. The Boilermakers earned 40 of 60 first-place votes in Monday’s new poll, while fellow unbeaten Connecticut earned the other 20 to sit at No. 2 in an unchanged top. Houston, Kansas and Arizona rounded out the top five. Miami made the week's biggest jump by climbing eight spots to No. 14.
AP Top 25 woMen’s College Basketball Poll
South Carolina maintained its hold on top of The Associated Press women’s basketball poll. The Gamecocks have held the No. 1 spot for 27 consecutive weeks. That is the fifth longest run all-time. UConn has three of the top four streaks, including the record 51-week run from Feb. 18, 2008 to Dec. 10, 2010. Louisiana Tech has the second longest streak of 36 weeks. The top five teams remained unchanged as Stanford, Ohio State, Indiana and Notre Dame stayed behind the Gamecocks. South Carolina hosts Texas A&M on Thursday.