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    By Andy Warrener and Steve Lee, Times Correspondents
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    TAMPA — Saturday night's Hillsborough County All-Star Game at Raymond James Stadium proved to be a fitting end to the football season.

    Because no Hillsborough County teams were in Saturday's state finals in Orlando, there were more players available this year, and thus the intensity and crowd support grew. Saturday's game set an attendance record of 1,878.

    Fans watched West senior quarterbacks Aaron Banks (Plant) and Brandon Hawkins (Alonso) shred the East in a 33-20 victory.

    The East was led by Newsome senior quarterback, Will Worth, who was named that team's offensive player of the game.

    "I really like both of those quarterbacks (Banks and Hawkins)," West coach Matt Kitchie said. "They are a little different with what they're good at, but they're both great quarterbacks."

    There were fireworks from the opening kickoff. Banks drove the West first, hitting Jonathan Moore (Jefferson) for a 55-yard gain. Running back Robert Davis (Carrollwood Day) fumbled a play later and Isaac Tanner (Freedom) recovered for the East.

    On the East's first play, Worth faked to his running back up the middle but ducked outside, streaking for a 98-yard TD.

    Banks, who was named the offensive player of the game for the West, was 11 of 17 for 175 yards and two scores. Hawkins went 9-for-11 for 188 yards and three touchdowns. Shug Oyegunle (Gaither) had touchdown catches of 50 and 26 yards for the West.

    Worth engineered a late touchdown drive for the East, hitting receiver Robbie Robertson (Cambridge) as time expired.

    "We try to make the experience as fun as possible for the kids," Kitchie said.

    Quentin Robinson (Plant City) and senior John Franklin (Blake) wwere named defensive players of the game for the East and West, respectively.

    In the state football finals held Saturday at Orlando, Apopka (13-2) turned back a late Weston Cypress Bay (12-3) drive to win the Class 8A title 53-50. The 103 points were the third most ever in the state finals. And in the Class 6A game, Joseph Yearby and Dalvin Cook each rushed for two touchdowns as Miami Central (12-2) defeated Gainesville (14-1) 37-14.

    Brandon wrestlers claim duals meet title

    PLANT CITY — The Federal Division Duals were bereft of championship and consolation rounds, but many wrestlers participated in eight matches during the two-day event hosted by Durant that concluded Saturday.

    "The duals format reinforces the team concept," Durant coach Drake Millard said of the nine-round tournament.

    Winning as a team is something 12-time defending state champion Brandon knows well, and Saturday was no different as the Eagles came out on top with 624 points. Riverview (401 points) was the runnerup while Lennard (350) hopped over host Durant (319), which had a bye in the ninth and final round.

    "It was a great meet," Brandon coach Russ Cozart said. "You get a lot of matches in two days."

    The Eagles went 8-0 in the duals, shutting out every team except for a 71-3 win over Riverview. Durant, Lennard and Riverview each posted 6-2 records.

    For Riverview coach Wili Sargable: "There were more highs than lows. We use this as an experience to get better."

    Connor Barrick, a junior who wrestled at 195 and 220 pounds, went 8-0 for the Sharks, while Dylan Baxter, a senior at 152, and 113-pound junior Michael Parker turned in 7-1 marks.

    "It seems like I was doing well with my switches," noted Barrick, who had four pins.

    Jeff Carey, a Lennard assistant, was encouraged by the continued development of his wrestlers. "A lot of guys are learning control, and that's an important thing," he said.

    Added Lennard coach Ron Buffano, "We lost two matches, so it shows that we're able to handle it and come back."

    The top wrestlers for Lennard were Tyler Sierra, who went 7-1 at 145, and 132-pound Herminio Camacho, who was 6-2.

    Spoto coach Jim Kauderman, whose team came in second-to-last with 152 points, just ahead of Newsome's 148, focused primarily on the experience factor.

    "We don't really have a JV team so this gets more matches for everybody," he said.

    While Brandon had its usual number of top wrestlers, Cozart was glad to insert backups Frank Bruno (106), Devon Berrian (120) and Brandon Johnson (195) for some matches.

    Steve Lee, Times correspondent, and information from Times wires contributed to this report.


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    Associated Press
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    ISTANBUL — Ryan Lochte broke the 100-meter individual medley world record Saturday in the semifinals of the short-course world championships, and St. Petersburg's Megan Romano won her second relay gold medal of the event.

    Lochte, a former Gator, finished in 50.71 seconds, bettering the mark set by Slovenia's Peter Mankoc in December 2009. Friday, Lochte set the world record in the 200 IM.

    Romano was part of the United States' 400 freestyle relay team, which won in 3 minutes, 31.01 seconds, followed by Australia and Denmark. Also on the team were 2012 Olympic gold medalists Jessica Hardy, Lia Neal and Allison Schmitt.

    Romano also was on the winning 800 freestyle relay team. She has four medals total in the event, which ends Sunday. She got silver in the 100 freestyle and was part of the bronze-winning 400 medley relay team.

    Clearwater's Melanie Margalis was sixth in the 200 individual medley final, won by China's Ye Shiwen, a two-time 2012 Olympic gold medalist, in a championship record 2:04.64.

    Ruta Meilutyte, 15, of Lithuania won her second gold medal, taking the 100-meter breaststroke, the event she won at the London Olympics. She won in 1:03:52, beating the championship record of 1:03.98 set by American Rebecca Soni in Dubai in 2010.

    Another championship record was set by Brazil's Nicholas Santos, who won the 50 butterfly in 22.22. Olympic gold medalist Chad Le Clos of South Africa got the silver in 22.26, and American Thomas Shields finished third in 22.46.

    Robert Hurley of Australia won the 50 backstroke in 23.04. American Matt Grevers, another 2012 Olympic gold medalist, came second in 23.17.


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    Times wires
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    TUCSON, Ariz. — Mark Lyons hit a contested layup with 7.1 seconds left and No. 8 Arizona rallied from a six-point deficit in the final minute to pull out an improbable 65-64 win over No. 5 Florida on Saturday night.

    Arizona (8-0) struggled with Florida's mix of zone and man defenses, falling behind by 11 in the second half. The Wildcats used their press to force consecutive turnovers on inbounds plays, pulling within 64-63 after Brandon Ashley hit one of two free throws.

    Arizona fouled Florida guard Kenny Boynton, who missed the front end of a 1-and-1, then raced to the other end for Lyons' driving shot.

    Florida (7-1) botched its final possession, fumbling the ball away before taking a desperation 3-pointer.

    Guard Mike Rosario led the Gators with 16 points and swingman Erik Murphy had 15.

    Solomon Hill had 18 points, Nick Johnson added 15 and Lyons 14 for Arizona.

    The loss broke Florida's streak of eight consecutive victories against Pac-12 opponents, including last season's win over Arizona.


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    NEW ORLEANS — The Bucs knew they still had a lot of problems to fix entering Sunday's game against New Orleans: a leaky secondary, a patchwork offensive line and finding a way to pump the brakes on a three-game losing skid.

    But a 41-0 thrashing at the Superdome uncovered another hard truth: Their quarterback was as wobbly as a midnight reveler on Bourbon Street.

    Josh Freeman played one of the worst games of his four-year career, throwing four interceptions and losing a fumble.

    And the Saints, who entered allowing a league-high 436.9 yards per game, recorded their first shutout in almost 17 years while holding rookie Doug Martin to 16 yards on nine carries.

    "This is unacceptable," said Bucs coach Greg Schiano, whose team had 386 yards of offense (76 on the final drive). "I know that. It's my name, the organization's name. We don't do that, so we've got to get it right."

    By losing their fourth game in a row, the Bucs (6-8) blew any chance of finishing above .500 in Schiano's first season and their faint playoff hopes have all but slipped down the American Standard.

    A week after being shut out in the first half by an Eagles defense that had given up the seventh-most points in the league, the Bucs fell behind 24-0 to a defense that had given up the third-most.

    By then, Freeman was 7-of-16 for 85 yards with two interceptions — at the New Orleans 20 and New Orleans 26. He finished 26-of-47 for 279 yards. His 37.5 passer rating was the fourth lowest of his career. The three lowest came during his rookie season.

    While it was obvious the Bucs receivers didn't always work off the same page of the playbook as their quarterback, Freeman was asked how much blame he should shoulder for the four-game losing streak.

    "I'm an offensive captain. I'm the quarterback of the team," he said. "You've got to take it all."

    Of course, the defense also was helpless against Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who passed for 307 yards and four touchdowns.

    The frustration boiled over into a sideline altercation between linebacker Adam Hayward and defensive front-seven coach Bryan Cox that forced teammates to separate them.

    "I'm not happy about it," Schiano said. "But I do know it's been resolved."

    Unfortunately for Schiano, his team didn't show that much fight on the field.

    Freeman, who failed to complete at least 50 percent of his passes for the third consecutive game and fourth time this season, had two chances during the first half to help the Bucs keep it close.

    Trailing 7-0 in the first quarter, Freeman drove the Bucs to the New Orleans 20. But on second and 10, his pass was a little behind tight end Dallas Clark, and cornerback Jabari Greer recorded the first of his two interceptions.

    Then down 10-0 early in the second quarter, the Bucs got a 39-yard punt return from Roscoe Parrish coupled with a Saints holding penalty that set them up at the New Orleans 33.

    Martin ran for 11 yards on the first play of the series. But he lost 4 on the next play, and then came mistakes on the next two. On second and 14, Freeman overthrew an open Mike Williams in the end zone. Then Freeman threw a pass right to safety Rafael Bush.

    Freeman said because he saw a blitz, he expected receiver Vincent Jackson to cut inside. But Jackson kept streaking upfield.

    "We're not operating efficiently, and when you have before and now you're not, something has to be unraveled," Schiano said. "It's never as simple as, 'Let's change that and then we're all set.' We've got to unpeel the onion here and figure out what the issues are."

    Clark, also the intended recei­ver on Freeman's third interception, said there's plenty of blame to go around.

    "It's definitely not just one person," Clark said. "Unfortunately in this league, the quarterback and head coach, those guys are always the first ones to be thrown under the bus. But I'll be the first one to say it's me. It's everyone."

    Schiano was quick to point the finger at himself for the Bucs being held scoreless for the first time since 27-0 against the Giants on Sept. 27, 2009.

    "This is the guy it starts with and ends with," Schiano said, pointing to himself. "I didn't get this team ready to go, for whatever that reason is.

    "Up until this point, there have been some tough losses, but they were one-score losses. (Sunday) was a different animal, and it will be addressed."

    Rick Stroud can be reached at stroud @tampabay.com and heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620.


    DANIEL WALLACE   |   TimesDANIEL WALLACE | Times

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  • 12/16/12--15:31: Dolphins 24, Jaguars 3
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    Dolphins have 'lot of fun' in victory

    MIAMI — The Dolphins snapped a scoring slump with a ball-control attack that had 26 first downs, made three stops on fourth down and benefited from an odd penalty to beat the Jaguars.

    "It feels good to go out and execute the game plan, have some fun, have some long sustained drives and convert third downs," Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. "It was a lot of fun."

    While Tannehill accomplished a season-high passer rating of 123.2, Jacksonville's Chad Henne failed to reach the end zone playing in Miami for the first time since he left the Dolphins last offseason.

    With the score tied, an illegal-substitution penalty cost Jacksonville in the second quarter. Henne's 20-yard scoring pass to Justin Blackmon was negated because Guy Whimper had entered as a third tackle — as he had done five times earlier — without reporting as an eligible receiver.

    Whimper said officials failed to understand him when he reported; Jacksonville eventually lost the ball on downs.

    "There are some plays I wish I could have back," Henne said.


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    Times staff
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    .TONIGHT

    FSU vs. Louisiana-Monroe

    When/where: 7; Tucker Center, Tallahassee

    Radio: 1040-AM

    Records: FSU 5-4; Louisiana-Monroe 1-5

    Notable: The Seminoles are coming off a 91-59 win over Maine on Dec. 9 that snapped a three-game skid. They shouldn't face much of a challenge from the Warhawks, who went 3-26 last season. … Junior guard Amos Olatayo's 13 ppg lead Louisiana-Monroe, which is shooting 36.5 percent from the field (114-of-312) and 58 percent from the free-throw line (65-of-112).

    Times staff


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    By Dave Mistretta, Times Correspondent
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    What's hot: Last week we targeted amberjack and red grouper. During the cold front they didn't have much interest in feeding. As winter takes hold, many fish will shut down and not eat as much. Once the system pushes through, they begin to feed better.

    Bottom fishing: We have found numerous gag grouper just about everywhere we have fished. With the season closed, it can be frustrating to have to let so many big ones go. To come home with red grouper fillets, you must weed through the species. Red grouper populations have not improved west of Clearwater in 80 feet. It appears we are fishing the population that arrived in April. We hope new batches will migrate our way soon.

    Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 439-2628 or visit jawstoo.com.


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  • 12/16/12--16:09: Saints 41, Bucs 0

  • Sunday, December 16, 2012

    First quarter
    Scores
    Saints 7-0 11:12 7 plays, 74 yards, 3:48
    David Thomas 9-yard pass from Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley kick). Key plays: TE Jimmy Graham 13 pass from Brees to NO 39; Marques Colston 13 pass from Brees to NO 42; Darren Sproles 15 run to TB 43; RB Pierre Thomas 20 pass from Brees to TB 11.
    First quarter
    Scores
    Saints 7-0 11:12 7 plays, 74 yards, 3:48
    David Thomas 9-yard pass from Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley kick). Key plays: TE Jimmy Graham 13 pass from Brees to NO 39; Marques Colston 13 pass from Brees to NO 42; Darren Sproles 15 run to TB 43; RB Pierre Thomas 20 pass from Brees to TB 11.


    Second quarter
    Scores
    Saints 10-0 13:23 11 plays, 74 yards, 5:43
    Garrett Hartley 25-yard field goal. Key plays: Graham 15 pass from Brees on third and 4 to NO 40; WR Devery Henderson 13 run to TB 44; Marques Colston 26 pass from Brees to TB 18; Lance Moore 12 pass from Brees to TB 6.
    Saints 17-0 4:57 8 plays, 51 yards, 4:26
    Darren Sproles 2-yard pass from Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley kick). Key plays: Hold on CB Anthony Gaitor on second and 18, to NO 46; Colston 21 pass from Brees to TB 34; Moore 16 pass from Brees to TB 9.
    Saints 24-0 :09 5 plays, 38 yards, :55
    Lance Moore 7-yard pass from Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley kick). Key plays: Sproles 37 punt return to TB 38; Graham 7 pass from Brees to TB 31; Graham 24 pass from Brees on third and 3 to TB 7.
    Second quarter
    Scores
    Saints 10-0 13:23 11 plays, 74 yards, 5:43
    Garrett Hartley 25-yard field goal. Key plays: Graham 15 pass from Brees on third and 4 to NO 40; WR Devery Henderson 13 run to TB 44; Marques Colston 26 pass from Brees to TB 18; Lance Moore 12 pass from Brees to TB 6.
    Saints 17-0 4:57 8 plays, 51 yards, 4:26
    Darren Sproles 2-yard pass from Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley kick). Key plays: Hold on CB Anthony Gaitor on second and 18, to NO 46; Colston 21 pass from Brees to TB 34; Moore 16 pass from Brees to TB 9.
    Saints 24-0 :09 5 plays, 38 yards, :55
    Lance Moore 7-yard pass from Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley kick). Key plays: Sproles 37 punt return to TB 38; Graham 7 pass from Brees to TB 31; Graham 24 pass from Brees on third and 3 to TB 7.


    Third quarter
    Scores
    Saints 31-0 9:05 8 plays, 92 yards, 4:24
    Joseph Morgan 34-yard pass from Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley kick). Key plays: Mark Ingram 31 run to NO 39; Sproles 7 run to TB 49; Graham 10 pass from Brees on third and 2 to TB 31.
    Third quarter
    Scores
    Saints 31-0 9:05 8 plays, 92 yards, 4:24
    Joseph Morgan 34-yard pass from Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley kick). Key plays: Mark Ingram 31 run to NO 39; Sproles 7 run to TB 49; Graham 10 pass from Brees on third and 2 to TB 31.


    Fourth quarter
    Scores
    Saints 34-0 8:09 8 plays, 63 yards, 2:46
    Garrett Hartley 36-yard field goal. Key plays: Ingram 26 run to TB 47; Morgan 27 pass from Brees to TB 20.
    Saints 41-0 4:54 3 plays, 43 yards, 1:32
    Mark Ingram 11-yard run (Garrett Hartley kick). Key plays: DE Cam­eron Jordan recovery of QB Josh Freeman fumble at TB 43; pass interference on SS Mark Barron on third and 18, to TB 11.
    Fourth quarter
    Scores
    Saints 34-0 8:09 8 plays, 63 yards, 2:46
    Garrett Hartley 36-yard field goal. Key plays: Ingram 26 run to TB 47; Morgan 27 pass from Brees to TB 20.
    Saints 41-0 4:54 3 plays, 43 yards, 1:32
    Mark Ingram 11-yard run (Garrett Hartley kick). Key plays: DE Cam­eron Jordan recovery of QB Josh Freeman fumble at TB 43; pass interference on SS Mark Barron on third and 18, to TB 11.

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  • 12/16/12--16:09: Redskins 38, Browns 21
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    Cousins a capable fill-in for Griffin

    CLEVELAND — Kirk Cousins threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns filling in for injured Robert Griffin III, leading the Redskins to a fifth straight win.

    Cousins connected with Leonard Hankerson for both touchdowns in his first career start and the Redskins rolled without Griffin (sprained right knee) to tie the Giants, who lost, and Cowboys, who won, for first in the NFC East.

    Griffin said he was unhappy about being held out but respected the decision: "We're in first place in our division now, and it was a great business trip for us. I got healthier by not playing, we won the game and put ourselves in position to control our destiny."

    Rookie Trent Richardson had two touchdown runs for the Browns. Pat Shurmur, whose coaching job in Cleveland is in more doubt than ever, said Griffin's absence didn't change Washington's attack.

    "That looked like the Redskins' offense,'' he said. "I'd like to credit Kirk. He did a nice job."


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  • 12/16/12--16:14: Broncos 34, Ravens 17
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    Broncos see rout as a statement

    BALTIMORE — Chris Harris returned an interception 98 yards for a momentum-turning touchdown and the Broncos won in Baltimore for the first time, cruising to a ninth straight victory.

    "You come to the Ravens' house and beat them handily, it's a statement game," Harris said. "We wanted to show to everybody that we're an elite team."

    Peyton Manning threw for 204 yards and a score in his ninth consecutive win against Baltimore, and Denver's defense dominated the Ravens, who sputtered in their first game with Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator.

    Down 10-0 late in the first half, the Ravens had first and goal at the 4-yard line when Harris stepped in front of Anquan Boldin, picked off a pass by Joe Flacco and sprinted down the right sideline, setting a Denver regular-season record for an interception return and leaving Flacco with a cut lip after a failed tackle. "I made a mistake. No other way to say it," Flacco said.


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  • 12/16/12--16:17: Vikings 36, Rams 22
  • Times wires


    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    Vikings: 'Thank you, Sam Bradford'

    ST. LOUIS — Adrian Peterson had an 82-yard touchdown run while gaining 212 yards on 24 carries and the Vikings remained in the playoff picture while seriously damaging the Rams' slim hopes.

    Minnesota scored 10 points in the second quarter off turnovers by QB Sam Bradford, who watched in disbelief from his knees on a 29-yard interception return by defensive end Everson Griffen.

    "He threw it right to me," Griffen said. "It was a dream come true. I want to say 'Thank you, Sam Bradford.' "

    "Yeah, that's one of those things I've got to be able to see," Bradford said. "He's right there."

    Bradford has been sacked in 30 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL.

    Quarterback Christian Ponder, a former FSU standout, had no turnovers and ran for the game's first score for the Vikings, whose only other road victory was at Detroit in September.


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  • 12/16/12--16:21: Texans 29, Colts 17
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    Texans harass Luck, win division

    HOUSTON — The Texans won a second straight AFC South championship as Andre Johnson had 151 yards receiving and a touchdown, Bryan Braman scored on a blocked punt and Shayne Graham kicked five field goals.

    The Texans will have homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs if they win out.

    The Colts had won three straight games and needed a win to clinch a playoff berth a year after going 2-14. Before that, they had won the division seven times since Houston entered the league in 2002.

    J.J. Watt had three of Houston's five sacks as Colts quarterback Andrew Luck struggled behind a makeshift offensive line missing center Samson Satele (ankle) and tackle Winston Justice (biceps).

    Watt increased his AFC-leading sack total to 19½ — the NFL record for a season is 22½ — and finished with 10 tackles.

    "It's awesome," Watt said of the division title. "But there's a lot more fun ahead, so I hope everybody is not celebrating too early."


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    By Tom Jones, Times Staff Writer
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    Biggest decision

    The Bucs suddenly have a quarterback who can't hit water if he fell out of a boat. They couldn't run the ball Sunday. They scored zero points against what was, statistically, the worst defense in the NFL. They gave up 41 points. They had a player and coach get into a shoving match on the sideline. If the Bucs were a car, the red engine light would be on and smoke would be pouring out from under the hood.

    Coach Greg Schiano can go two ways here: He can scream, kick over coolers and become meaner than a snake for the final two weeks of this now-lost season, or he can accept that the team is beat up, unmotivated and disappointed.

    Schiano isn't going to change his stripes. He's a hard guy and likely will be like sandpaper for the rest of the season.

    But, let's be honest here, is anyone surprised that they are 6-8 and got blown out Sunday? Part of it is injuries. Part of it is lack of talent. Part of it is that some players are underperforming. But, mostly, they are 6-8 because that's what they are: a 6-8 team.

    Worst performance

    QB Josh Freeman has been awful the past three weeks. He has completed only 48 percent of his passes with four TDs and five interceptions. He looks lost. He looks confused. And, often, he comes off the field looking like he just drank a gulp of sour milk.

    While his receivers didn't fight for the ball on a couple of those interceptions, and more than one might have been running the wrong route, it's clear that Freeman is having major issues.

    But that doesn't mean the Bucs can simply abandon their plans to stick with Freeman long term. Furthermore, the Bucs just can't go out and get anybody whose name is not "Freeman.''

    "Need is a terrible evaluator,'' Fox analyst Brian Billick said Sunday, "especially at the quarterback position.''

    Number of the day

    149 Sure, the Bucs pass defense is beat up, but that doesn't explain the Bucs giving up 149 yards on the ground.

    Three things that popped into my head

    1. I'm increasingly thinking that the Bucs have a play in their playbook that specifically says, "Wide receiver goes out and quarterback throws it high in the air and hopes he catches it.'' And I also think the Bucs call that play 10 to 15 times a game.

    2. You know it's a rough day when LeGarrette Blount rushes for 25 yards … and leads the team in rushing.

    3. The Bucs won't admit it and maybe it shouldn't be an excuse, but you can't tell me that last week's last-play loss to the awful Eagles didn't carry over.

    Final thought

    As crazy as this sounds, if the Bucs can finish the season with victories against the Rams and Falcons, an 8-8 record would be a solid turnaround season. But you know what else sounds crazy? Finishing the season with victories against the Rams and Falcons.


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  • 12/16/12--16:43: Packers 21, Bears 13
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    CHICAGO — Aaron Rodgers connected with James Jones on all three touchdowns, Clay Matthews sacked Jay Cutler twice and the Packers clinched a second straight NFC North title by beating the Bears 21-13 on Sunday.

    Green Bay is assured of a home playoff game and is still in the running for the No. 2 seed.

    "We're just getting started," coach Mike McCarthy said. "We feel there's a lot better football in front of us."

    Chicago is in a 1-5 skid and in danger of missing the playoffs after a 7-1 start. Soldier Field fans showered the Bears with boos for much of the game.

    Cutler threw an interception that led to the winning touchdown. He has been picked off 17 times by the Packers, including 10 in his past five games. Matthews has eight sacks of Cutler in as many games.

    Alshon Jeffery committed three offensive pass interference calls, all late in the game as Chicago was trying to rally.

    The Bears had 67 yards of offense in the second half and finished with 190, their third-lowest total of the season. They have lost six straight to the Packers.

    "Everybody involved in this offense should be held accountable, even if that means jobs," said Bears receiver Brandon Marshall, who struggled to compose himself, then cut short his postgame interview. "It's been this way all year. There's no excuse."

    Marshall had trash-talked leading up to the game.

    "When we get on the field we trash talk, but not in the paper,'' Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields said. "We let our actions show on the field."


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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  • 12/16/12--17:05: Raiders 15, Chiefs 0
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    Raiders end skid

    OAKLAND, Calif. — Sebastian Janikowski kicked five field goals, Darren McFadden rushed for 110 yards and the Raiders shut out the Chiefs for the second time to snap a six-game losing streak.

    "It's extremely hard to shut anybody out," Oakland coach Dennis Allen said. "It doesn't matter who they are. That's an accomplishment that we take great pride in."

    Kansas City is in a 1-10 skid and tied for the second-most losses in franchise history, behind a 2-14 mark in 2008. The Chiefs took nearly 40 minutes to earn their initial first down.

    "Couldn't run the ball, couldn't throw the ball, got into the red zone and couldn't get any points,'' coach Romeo Crennel said. "If there's a bright spot in the game it's the punter. He did a nice job."


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    Times wires
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan suspended starting cornerback J.T. Floyd, punter Will Hagerup and reserve linebacker Brandin Hawthorne for the Outback Bowl in Tampa for a violation of team rules Sunday.

    Coach Brady Hoke did not dis­close details, saying only each used poor judgment.

    Floyd was a second-team All-Big Ten selection. His five passes defensed lead the team, and his 48 tackles are sixth. Hagerup led the Big Ten in punting with an average of 45 yards. Hawthorne appeared in all 12 games, primarily on special teams.

    More Outback: South Carolina receiver D.L. Moore and center Kyle Harris won't play for violating team rules, coach Steve Spurrier said late Saturday. Spurrier didn't disclose details. Moore had eight catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns while starting five games. Harris appeared in four games, starting one.

    Report: FSU hires Tide assistant to lead D

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida State has hired Alabama defensive backs coach Jeremy Pruitt to be its defensive coordinator, two recruiting websites, 247sports.com and rivals.com, reported.

    Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher declined to confirm the hiring.

    "I will announce it when all things are appropriate for all parties," he said.

    Pruitt, 38, has been at Alabama since 2007, spending the past three seasons in his current job.

    Kansas: Chris Martin, who left Florida in June 2011 after an arrest for possession of marijuana, said he will sign this week. Martin was the consensus No. 2 defensive end in the nation when he signed with Cal in 2010. But he never played for it before transferring to Florida. He spent two seasons at City College of San Francisco. Kansas is coached by former Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.

    Tennessee: Zach Azzanni, the receivers coach for Florida in 2010, was hired for the same position. He spent this season as Wisconsin's receivers coach.

    Wisconsin: Quarterback Joel Stave, out since breaking his collarbone Oct. 27 against Michi­gan State, returned to practice. His status for the Rose Bowl hasn't been determined.

    Information from the Orlando Sentinel was used in this report.


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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  • 12/16/12--17:30: Cardinals 38, Lions 10
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    Cardinals score 4 TDs on turnovers

    GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Cardinals turned four Lions turnovers into touchdowns, including Greg Toler's 102-yard interception return — the longest in franchise history — to end a nine-game losing streak.

    It was the Cardinals' first win since beating Miami on Sept. 30. Arizona had only 196 yards of offense but scored its most points of the season.

    The Cardinals intercepted Matthew Stafford three times, returning two for scores and setting up a touchdown with the other. Another Arizona touchdown was set up when Detroit muffed a punt. Stefan Logan, trying to make a fair catch, had his feet knocked out from under him by teammate Pat Lee, who was trying to block.


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    By Gary Shelton, Times Sports Columnist
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    NEW ORLEANS

    I would hereby like to take back every compliment, especially the sincere ones.

    I want to apologize for every positive feeling I may have foolishly passed on to others.

    I wish to withdraw my earlier suggestion that this team was on the brink of turning things around.

    Evidently, it was all an illusion. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are, and remain, a bad football team.

    Not only that, but they seem to be getting worse.

    After watching the bumbling, backsliding Bucs get booted by another bad team, the New Orleans Saints, what other conclusion is possible? The Bucs lost 41-0, and it could have been worse. All in all, it was as if Sunday was Raheem Morris Throwback Day, and you may feel free to debate whether this season's Game 14 was even worse than last season's.

    And furthermore, ouch.

    The defense isn't any good, and the offense is moving in the wrong direction. The corners can't cover, and the linemen can't block. The quarterback can't throw straight, and the linebackers are invisible. There is no pass rush, not even when the safeties blitz from 30 yards away. Judging from the sideline tiff between assistant coach Bryan Cox and linebacker Adam Hayward, you may assume the toes are no longer on the line.

    It was the fourth straight loss by the Bucs, and at this point, who knows if they will win again this year? A season that seemed so promising only a month ago has had much of the hope stripped from it. The momentum is gone, and the end zone is a faraway place where no Bucs visit, and the only way you are allowed to mention the playoffs is if you point and laugh as you do it.

    For a team that is hoping to grow into something special, this is the worst time of the year to regress. This is the time when a young team wants to finish strong and stake a claim on the seasons to come. This is the time when a team with a new coach should start to understand what is being asked of it.

    Instead, this team looks like an out-of-control car rolling backward. Nothing good can come of it. The Bucs were worse this week than last week, and worse last week than the week before, and so on. It is a season being played in reverse.

    "Well, the result would say that we are (getting worse)," coach Greg Schiano said. "I think there are some factors to throw in there, but I don't feel like we are. I feel like the understanding of what we are doing is getting better, but it doesn't show on the field.

    "If I am someone not in the organization, I say it's not getting better."

    Here's a question: Even if you are inside the organization, what progress have you seen lately?

    Quarterback Josh Freeman? He seemed to have it going for a while this season, but lately, his play has been a blend of wild throws and wayward decisions. His quarterback rating was only 37.5 Sunday, and by the time Schiano pulled Freeman in the fourth quarter, you wondered what took him so long.

    Running back Doug Martin? Once again, he was trying to run for daylight in a darkened room. Martin ended up with only 16 yards and a 1.8 average.

    And the defense? Once again, it was like watching slow players chase fast ones. More and more, this looks like the defense we saw in the Jim Bates era, when he was asking too many flawed players to do things they simply were not capable of doing. Most of Sunday, the Bucs seemed to play right into the hands of Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

    By now, you hoped the Bucs would be further along. In football, there is often a transition year that a team uses to springboard itself to better days. In 1971, Pittsburgh won two of its final five, a fairly good run for the Steelers in those days, but afterward, they went to the playoffs eight straight seasons.

    In 1980, it was the 49ers, who finished 3-2 and then went to the postseason nine times in their next 10. In 1990, it was the Cowboys, who went 4-2 down the stretch and reached the playoffs in eight of their next nine seasons.

    Even the Bucs of 1996, Tony Dungy's first year, had the formula down. The team won five of its last seven, and the best era in Bucs history began the next season.

    That was the hope for this year, that with Martin and Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy and Mark Barron and Freeman and Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, this season would boost the Bucs into the status of contenders for next year. Instead, doubt has replaced promise, and losing has replaced winning.

    "We're definitely not going in the right direction," defensive tackle McCoy said quietly. "There are ample opportunities out there. We're just not doing what we're supposed to do."

    It is amazing how quickly, and how decisively, this season went south. A month ago, people were suggesting this was the best offense Tampa Bay has ever seen. Now, it can't manage a point against the worst defense in the NFL, a defense that gave up 52 points a week ago.

    Something is wrong here. Something greater has been lost than four straight games.

    Direction. Promise. Momentum.

    Most of all, hope.

    Listen to Gary Shelton weekdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on 98.7-FM the Fan.


    DANIEL WALLACE   |   TimesDANIEL WALLACE | Times

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  • 12/16/12--18:03: Sports in brief
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    Soccer

    Italian dedicates goal to U.S. Shooting victims

    MILAN — AC Milan midfielder Antonio Nocerino dedicated his goal in Italy's Series A league play Sunday to the victims of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

    An emotional Nocerino, who has two young children, said after his goal 35 seconds into a 4-1 win over Pescara, "My thoughts are only with them."

    Nocerino said he doesn't "know how much the dedication will help the dead American children, but everything I did today was only for them."

    More soccer

    Messi doubles again to hit 90

    Lionel Messi scored twice for his eighth straight start and reached 90 goals for the calendar year, leading host Barcelona over Atletico Madrid 4-1 in the Spanish league. Messi previously had broken the record of 85 goals in a year, set by Gerd Mueller in 1972. Messi has one game left. … Brazil's Corinthians beat England's Chelsea 1-0 to win the Club World Cup in Japan. … The National Women's Soccer League is the name of the eight-team U.S. league that starts play in the spring and replaces the Women's Professional Soccer league, which folded in May. The teams are in Boston; Chicago; Kansas City; Portland, Ore.; New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; Rochester, N.Y., and Seattle.

    Swimming

    Lochte's medal haul reaches 7

    Five-time Olympic champion and former Gator Ryan Lochte won two more races at the short-course world championships in Istanbul, Turkey, finishing the event with six golds and one silver. The result matched his medal total from his last championships effort, in 2010.

    Lochte won the 100-meter individual medley in 51.21 seconds. Lochte then joined Matthew Grevers, Kevin Cordes and Thomas Shields to win the 400 medley relay, and he added silver in the 200 back. "All the races I have done last week are starting to catch up," he said. "But it is the last day … and there is always something left in the tank."

    Et cetera

    Baseball: The Mets and Blue Jays have agreed in principle on a trade that would send National League Cy Young Award winner R.J. Dickey to Toronto, but the deal is contingent on him signing an extension with the Jays, foxsports.com reported. … All-Star outfielder Andruw Jones, 35, finalized a $3.5 million, one-year deal with Rakuten of Japan's Pacific League. He was with the Yankees the past two seasons.

    alpine skiing: American Ted Ligety cruised to his third World Cup giant slalom win of the season by more than two seconds in Alta Badia, Italy. … Slovenia's Tina Maze won her fourth straight giant slalom race to extend her overall World Cup lead and defending champion Lindsey Vonn failed to finish in Courchevel, France.

    Times wires


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  • 12/16/12--18:13: Falcons 34, Giants 0
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    Falcons damage Giants' hopes

    ATLANTA — Matt Ryan threw three touchdown passes, breaking his franchise records for completions and passing yards in a season, and the Falcons handed the Giants their first regular-season shutout since 1996.

    "We love the haters, man," said Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel, who had the first of two interceptions of Eli Manning. "It makes us play with a chip on our shoulder."

    The Falcons, already the NFC South champs, need one win to clinch homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

    Manning had his lowest-rated game, 38.9, since 2007, though he set a franchise record for career completions with 2,585, moving past Phil Simms (2,576).

    New York dropped into a first-place tie with Washington and Dallas in the NFC East, with a playoff berth suddenly in doubt.

    "We've got a lot of questions to answer," defensive lineman Justin Tuck said. "I wish I had some red shoes and I could wish myself right to next Sunday."


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