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Titans bully Bills in return from COVID-19 hiatus

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Oct. 14 (UPI) — The Tennessee Titans handed the Buffalo Bills their first loss of the season with a dominant performance in their first game in more than two weeks due to a team COVID-19 outbreak.

Tennessee (4-0) hadn’t played since Sep. 27 before the 42-16 win on Tuesday in Nashville. The Titans played the Minnesota Vikings before the hiatus. The outbreak included 24 positive cases among Titans players and staff members since Sept. 24.

“You don’t all of a sudden galvanize when things are bad, and I think that is a testament to these players and what we’ve tried to build here,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel told reporters.

“You don’t say, ‘There’s a [expletive] storm, we better galvanize.’ You stay tight throughout and hope your core values and core beliefs can take over when things get difficult.”

The Titans had their Oct. 4 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers postponed and were scheduled to play the Bills on Sunday before the game was moved back to Tuesday. Titans facilities were closed for more than a week due to the outbreak and the team had very limited in-person practice time ahead of Tuesday’s game.

The Titans showed no rust with in the 26-point thrashing of Buffalo.

“I’m going to keep it plain and simple: We expected to win,” Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler said. “We don’t need nobody to give us a chance. We give ourselves a chance. That’s exactly what we did tonight.”

Butler intercepted Bills quarterback Josh Allen twice in the victory.

Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed 21 of 28 passes for 195 yards and three scores. He also had a rushing touchdown. Derrick Henry had two rushing touchdowns in the win.

Allen completed 26 of 41 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to his two turnovers.

“We got punched in the mouth early on,” Allen said. “I can’t do that to our defense. I put them in vulnerable positions and allowed their defense to have short fields. We have to be faster starters.”

Butler intercepted Allen on the first drive of the game. Tannehill threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Brown two plays later to give the Titans a 7-0 lead.

Allen then orchestrated a 15-play, 76-yard touchdown drive. He ended the drive with a three-yard touchdown toss to Isaiah McKenzie.

Henry helped his team retake the lead with a 1-yard rushing touchdown at the start of the second quarter. Bills kicker Tyler Bass followed with a 43-yard field goal.

Tannehill ended the half with a 10-yard rushing touchdown to give the Titans a 21-10 lead at the break.

The Titans turned another Allen interception into points in the third quarter. Butler picked off the Bills quarterback and had a 68-yard interception return to get the ball to the Buffalo 12-yard line.

Tannehill then threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jonnu Smith to give the Titans a 28-10 lead 1:52 before the fourth quarter.

Allen then led a 14-play, 105-yard touchdown drive to cut the Titans lead to 28-16. The Bills quarterback threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Yeldon to end that possession, but Buffalo failed a two-point conversion attempt after the score.

Henry ran in for a 9-yard score on the Titans next possession. The Titans then recovered a fumble on the kickoff, which led to another Tannehill touchdown toss to Smith for the final points of the game.

“I felt really good coming in,” Tannehill said. “There was great energy coming in, and guys were excited to come out and play.

“It has been a long couple of weeks, with ups and downs. We’re playing, we’re not playing. We’re practicing, we’re not practicing. We’re on Zoom. We’re in the building and out of the building.

“It has been a roller coaster in every which way. But our guys believe in each other, we stuck to the process.”

The Titans host the Houston Texans at 1 p.m. EDT Sunday in Nashville. The Bills host the Kansas City Chiefs at 5 p.m. EDT on Monday in Orchard Park, N.Y.

This week in the National Football League

Los Angeles Chargers’ Justin Herbert (L) scrambles away from New Orleans Saints’ Sheldon Rankins in New Orleans, where the Saints rallied for their 30-27 victory in Monday Night Football. Photo by AJ Sisco/UPI | License Photo



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Saints WR Emmanuel Sanders put on COVID-19 list, out vs. Panthers

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Oct. 23 (UPI) — The New Orleans Saints will be without top wide receivers Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders for their game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

The team announced Friday that Sanders, the Saints’ second-leading receiver this season, is out for Sunday’s matchup after landing on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Thomas, who was already dealing with an ankle sprain, was ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Saints head coach Sean Payton told reporters Friday that Sanders — who practiced Wednesday and Thursday — tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, leading to his placement on the COVID-19 list. The team then tested about 20 people who might have been in contact with Sanders, but all of them tested negative.

However, Payton said backup cornerback Ken Crawley will be placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list as a precaution because of his close contact with Sanders.

“We found out [Thursday]. He wasn’t feeling well,” Payton said. “Right away, [director of sports medicine] Beau [Lowery] sent him to our doctors for one of our tests. That came back positive. After that happened, we traced those players he was around, coaches — we actually tested about 20 more people that might have been near him, and those all came back negative.

“Ken Crawley, for instance, came back with a time frame that puts him out, so he’ll show up as COVID but without a positive test. It’s more of a precaution.”

Sanders becomes the second Saints player to test positive for the coronavirus this season. Running back Dwayne Washington spent time on the team’s COVID-19 list in training camp and early in the season.

Sanders caught a career-best 12 passes for 122 yards in the Saints’ Week 5 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. New Orleans had a bye in Week 6.

Thomas will now miss his fifth straight game. He suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 1 and was benched for disciplinary reasons in Week 5.

This week in the National Football League

Philadelphia Eagles’ Boston Scott (L) makes the 18-yard, game-winning touchdown catch at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Thursday, to defeat the New York Giants 22-21. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo



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NBA considering 72 games, pre-Christmas start for 2020-21 season

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Oct. 23 (UPI) — The NBA is eyeing a pre-Christmas Day start and a reduced regular-season schedule for the 2020-21 season.

League sources told ESPN and The Athletic on Friday that the league proposed multiple changes to next season that include a 72-game regular season, a play-in tournament and the likelihood of no All-Star weekend in Indianapolis. According to the outlets, the NBA is targeting Dec. 22 to begin the upcoming season.

The league also is considering a two-week break at the halfway point of the season, according to ESPN. The NBA shared its plans in a conference call with team owners on Friday afternoon, and the league wants to move quickly to finalize negotiations with the National Basketball Players Association to implement the plan.

The reduction in the number of regular-season games — which would help accommodate a play-in tournament format for the Eastern and Western conferences — would allow the NBA to finish its season before the Summer Olympics in Japan next year.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA wants to avoid another bubble format, according to reports. Instead, the league continues to discuss travel and game schedules that would keep teams in cities for a longer amount of time to play multiple games, similar to a Major League Baseball series.

The NBA and the NBPA agreed that Oct. 30 would be the deadline to complete ongoing talks on modifications to the collective bargaining agreement for the 2020-21 campaign. That deadline date requires the league or players’ union to provide 45 days notice if either side opts to terminate the CBA.

The league recently completed its 2019-20 season in a bubble format on the Walt Disney World Resort campus near Orlando, Fla. A limited number of family members and friends were allowed to attend during the playoffs, but games were mostly held without anyone in attendance.



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Washington fines Dwayne Haskins for violating team’s COVID-19 protocols

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Philadelphia Eagles’ Boston Scott (L) makes the 18-yard, game-winning touchdown catch at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Thursday, to defeat the New York Giants 22-21. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo



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