SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP)Christian McCaffrey scored on a go-ahead 2-yard run in the fourth quarter and San Francisco’s defense did the rest, sending the 49ers to their second straight NFC title game with a 19-12 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
The 49ers (15-4) used back-to-back long scoring drives in the second half to wear down the Cowboys (13-6) and win their 12th straight game. San Francisco advanced to play the Eagles in the NFC title game next Sunday in Philadelphia after losing in that round to the Rams a year ago.
The Cowboys lost for the record seventh straight time in the divisional round and have failed to make it to the NFC title game since winning their fifth Super Bowl title following the 1995 season. Dak Prescott threw two interceptions and Brett Maher missed his fifth extra point of the postseason when his attempt was blocked. He later made two field goals.
San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy, the last pick in the draft last April, improved to 7-0 as a starter since replacing an injured Jimmy Garoppolo early in Week 13. He went 18 for 28 for 215 yards with no turnovers against the Cowboys, joining Joe Flacco (2008) and Mark Sanchez (2009) as the only rookie QBs to win two playoff starts.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) – Joe Burrow threw two touchdown passes, Cincinnati’s defense swarmed Josh Allen on a snow-slicked field and the Bengals advanced to their second straight AFC championship game with a 27-10 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Damar Hamlin’s inspirational presence while watching the game from an end-zone suite was not enough to spark the Bills in a rematch of a regular-season game that was canceled on Jan. 2 when the Bills safety went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated on the field in Cincinnati.
Burrow completed his first nine passes for 105 yards in leading Cincinnati to a 14-0 lead after its first two possessions. Ja’Marr Chase opened the scoring with a 28-yard TD catch 3:20 into the game, followed by Burrow’s 15-yard TD throw to Hayden Hurst eight minutes later. Joe Mixon scored on a 1-yard run, and Evan McPherson made field goals from 20 and 28 yards in a game the Bengals never trailed.
Cincinnati advanced to consecutive AFC championship games for the first time in franchise history, and will again travel to play Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bengals beat the Chiefs 27-24 to advance to last year’s Super Bowl, which they lost to the Los Angeles Rams.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Jalen Hurts erased lingering doubts about the state of his right shoulder by throwing two touchdown passes and running for a score during a dominant first half, and the Philadelphia Eagles overwhelmed the New York Giants 38-7 on Saturday night in an NFC divisional playoff game.
Hurts is back, and so are the Eagles as a Super Bowl threat. Top-seeded Philadelphia will host the NFC championship game next Sunday against San Francisco.
Hurts missed two late-season losses with a sprained right shoulder and then showed the Giants nothing in the season finale when the Eagles ran a vanilla offense designed to protect the Pro Bowl QB.
Under bright postseason lights at the Linc, the Eagles unleashed an offense designed to clobber the Giants. Hurts dazzled early with his arm and Philadelphia’s offensive line opened big holes for Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell as the Eagles finished with 268 yards on the ground. Hurts finished 16 of 24 for 154 yards.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Hobbling along on an injured ankle, Patrick Mahomes threw for 195 yards and two touchdowns Saturday, leading the Kansas City Chiefs to a 27-20 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars and a spot in their fifth straight AFC title game.
Mahomes missed most of the second quarter after his ankle was landed on by a Jacksonville defender. But the All-Pro quarterback returned in the second half and, relying on guts and guile, led the Chiefs on a 75-yard TD drive in the fourth quarter that helped to ensure a date with the Bengals for a spot in the Super Bowl.
The AFC title game will be played at Arrowhead Stadium.
Mahomes sustained a right high ankle sprain, a person familiar with the nature of the injury told The Associated Press on Sunday, though the All-Pro quarterback expects to play against Cincinnati next week.
DENVER (AP) – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander banked in a decisive 8-foot jumper with 9.2 seconds remaining and finished with 34 points as the Oklahoma City Thunder snapped Denver’s league-leading nine-game win streak and beat the Nuggets 101-99 Sunday night.
After Denver’s Zeke Nnaji hit two free throws to tie the game at 99 with 30 seconds left, Gilgeous-Alexander got the ball out of a timeout and hit the mid-range jumper to give the Thunder the lead. The Nuggets’ Jamal Murray missed a fadeaway 14-foot shot in the final seconds.
Oklahoma City’s victory ended the Nuggets’ 16-game home win streak – the franchise’s longest run in 10 years.
HOUSTON (AP) – Damian Dunn scored 16 points and made the go-ahead free throw, Kur Jongkuch blocked Houston’s go-ahead attempt in the final seconds and Temple held on to defeat the top-ranked Cougars 56-55 on Sunday.
Temple improved to 3-18 against No. 1 ranked teams. The Owls (12-9, 6-2 American Athletic Conference) earned their first win over a No. 1 ranked team since a 77-69 win at No. 1 Cincinnati on Feb. 20, 2000.
Tied at 55, Dunn made a free throw with 1:06 left to give Temple a one-point lead. Jamal Shead missed a 3-pointer and Nick Jourdain grabbed the rebound. Dunn missed a layup with 8 seconds left, and Jongkuch grabbed the rebound, but the Owls were whistled for a shot clock violation upon review.
Trailing by one, Shead drove to the basket but Jongkuch blocked it out of the bounds with 1.3 seconds left. Tramon Mark’s tip-in attempt fell short at the buzzer to give the Owls the win.
Zach Hicks added 12 points for Temple, which snapped a six-game losing streak to Houston. The Owls shot 31% but were 20 of 22 from the free throw line.
LA QUINTA, Calif. (AP) – Jon Rahm took advantage of mistakes by rookie Davis Thompson over the adventuresome final three holes and closed with a 4-under 68 to win The American Express by one stroke on Sunday, his second PGA Tour win in two starts this year.
Thompson shot a final-round 69.
Rahm had two putts to finish at 17-under 261 and win for the ninth time on the PGA Tour. He moves up one spot to No. 3 in the world. He is playing next week at Torrey Pines, while world No. 1 Rory McIlroy makes his 2023 debut in Dubai on the European tour.
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – Brooke Henderson shot a 2-under 70 on Sunday at Lake Nona to complete a wire-to-wire victory in the season-opening Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions.
In windy and sometimes difficult conditions, the 25-year-old Canadian played steadily, making sure not to give much hope to a group behind her trying to mount any sort of challenge. She began her day leading by three and eventually won by four, finishing the event at 16-under 272. It was her 13th LPGA victory.
Second-year LPGA pro Maja Stark of Sweden showed a nice finishing kick by shooting 5-under 31 on her final nine. She tied for second alongside England’s Charlie Hull. Both shot 69, Hull doing so for the fourth consecutive day.