WISCONSIN SPORTS ROUND-UP: Packers still in playoff picture
GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers can still make the playoffs, thanks to an early Christmas present from the Chicago Bears.
The Bears blew a chance to win the NFC North Division, after they got crushed at Philadelphia 54-11 last night. The Packers had lost at home to Pittsburgh a few hours earlier, 38-31. That means Green Bay and Chicago will play for the North Division crown and a playoff berth next Sunday in their regular season finale at Soldier Field. Detroit was eliminated from the post-season after losing at home to the New York Giants, 23-20 in overtime.
The Packer-Steeler contest was a wild see-saw affair, played during a snowstorm in Green Bay. The Packers had come back from a 10-point deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter, when Matt Flynn fumbled the ball away on a quarterback scamper near the Green Bay 20-yard-line. Le'Veon Bell scored the winning touchdown on a one-yard run with 1:25 left. With no time-outs left, the Packers made it down to the Pittsburgh one-yard-line when right tackle Don Barclay was called for a false start. It pushed them back five yards and knocked 10 seconds off the clock. Flynn then over-shot Jarrett Boykin on the game's final play.
The Packers suffered some major injuries in the game. Linebacker Clay Matthews re-injured the broken right thumb he suffered in early October. Running back Eddie Lacy also left early, when he re-injured the right ankle he hurt two weeks ago against Atlanta. Lacy ran for 84 yards and two touchdowns. He broke the Packers' rookie season rushing record with 1,112 yards -- seven yards more than the mark John Brockington held for 32 years. Flynn threw for 232 yards, a touchdown to Jarrett Boykin, and an interception for a Pittsburgh score. James Jones was Green Bay's leading receiver with nine catches for 84 yards. Bell ran for 124 yards. The Packers lost despite having the edge in total yards 370-to-343. The Pack also kept the ball about seven minutes longer.
Green Bay fell to 7-7-1, losing for the first time in three games. Pittsburgh improved to 7-8, to keep its slim playoff hopes alive. Next Sunday's Packer-Bear game has been moved from noon to 3:25 p.m. on Fox.
Chicago still leads the NFC North by a half-game over Green Bay, going into their division showdown next Sunday in the Windy City. The Bears fell to 8-7 after their 54-11 loss at Philadelphia last night. Jay Cutler threw for 222 yards with a touchdown and interception before he was relieved by Josh McCown. The Bears went down 21-0 in the first quarter, thanks to Philly quarterback Nick Foles' only two scoring passes of the night. LeSean McCoy ran for 135 yards and Bryce Brown had 115 rushing yards for the Eagles, who will have their own winner-take-all showdown next Sunday Night against Dallas for the NFC East crown. Detroit will finish third in the North, after their home overtime loss to the Giants, 23-20. Josh Brown's 45-yard field goal midway through the extra period knocked the Lions out of playoff contention. Matthew Stafford threw two interceptions, as the Lions dropped their fifth game in their last six.
Last-place Minnesota dropped to 4-10-1 after getting crushed at Cincinnati 42-14. Adrian Peterson returned after a missing a game with a knee injury. He was held to 45 yards on 11 carries. Andy Dalton threw four touchdown passes for the Bengals, who won the AFC North.
Both the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers were not happy with the major calls that went against them in yesterday's 38-31 Steeler victory. In the third quarter, referee Carl Cheffers awarded the Packers the ball after the Steelers blocked Mason Crosby's field goal attempt -- and Steelers' lineman Ziggy Hood slapped it out of bounds. Meanwhile, the Packers had 10 seconds tick off the clock in the final moments, after right tackle Don Barclay had a false start penalty called on him with no time outs left. Green Bay linebacker A-J Hawk said Cheffers told quarterback Matt Flynn just before he was about to snap the ball that the clock was running -- and it could have thrown off the Packers' timing on their final play, a pass in the end zone which went incomplete. After the blocked field goal, a long conference followed -- and Cheffers ruled that Pittsburgh got a five-yard penalty for slapping the ball forward out of bounds, thus giving Green Bay another first-and-goal situation. Steelers' coach Mike Tomlin said certain that a Steeler had recovered the ball on its way out of bounds, something Cheffers said didn't happen. Tomlin wanted the play reviewed, but the referee it was not reviewable under the rules. The Packers' loss still sets up a showdown at Chicago next Sunday, with the winner clinching the NFC North title and a playoff berth.
ESPN said Aaron Rodgers was nowhere near ready to play yesterday, as he continues to get over a broken collarbone -- and he demanded not to be pinned with that decision publicly. On the "Sunday NFL Countdown" show, reporter Chris Mortensen said Rodgers vehemently insisted during a meeting with the Packers' top brass on Friday that the decision to sideline him not be portrayed as his. And that's why coach Mike McCarthy said eight times during his Friday afternoon news conference that it was a quote, "organizational" decision to bench Rodgers. The coach refused to pin the decision on any one person. Mortensen cited a source who said Rodgers was so sensitive about it, he feared that people wouldn't think he was tough as his predecessor Brett Favre. Mortensen said coach McCarthy clearly understood team doctor Patrick McKenzie's refusal to clear Rodgers medically and quote, "There was no real organizational decision about it."
Milwaukee Bucks' coach Larry Drew says it's obvious that his team his missed Caron Butler's leadership on the floor. Butler returned on Saturday night after missing 12 games with a swollen left knee. The Racine native had 22 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists in a 10-point win over Philadelphia. Drew said Butler kept pumping up his teammates -- and he kept the players positive during a couple of bad stretches. Khris Middleton scored 27 for the Bucks against the Sixers. The second-year forward came from Detroit in July in the Brandon Jennings trade. Middleton is the only Bucks' player to appear in all 27 games so far, while averaging just over 20 points a game. Tonight, Milwaukee will play at Charlotte, which ended a three-game winning streak with an 88-85 loss to Utah on Saturday night. The Bobcats are among the NBA leaders in scoring with 93 points a game, and field goal percentage at 42-point-six. Kemba Walker has shot 62-percent in his last five games for the Bobcats. Charlotte is 13-15. The Bucks are 6-21.
Rookie center Miroslav Radulica will make his second start for the Milwaukee Bucks tonight, when they play the Bobcats in Charlotte. Meanwhile, Bucks' forward John Henson will be a game-time decision, after he missed Saturday night's win over Philadelphia with a left leg injury. Radulica, a 25-year-old native of Serbia, made his first start in Friday night's loss at Cleveland -- and he scored 14 points off the bench Saturday against the Sixers. Bucks' coach Larry Drew says the 7-1 Radulica does a good around the paint, and he runs the floor well. Drew said he makes some rookie mistakes, but Radulica is still making a conscious effort to do everything the coaches ask of him. Forward Caron Butler will make his second start for the Bucks tonight since missing 12 games with a sore knee. Milwaukee is going for back-to-back wins for the first time this season. Charlotte is a coming off a home loss to Utah on Saturday night, after winning three straight. The Bobcats are 2-0 against Milwaukee this season, with a combined winning margin of 40 points.
The University of Wisconsin men's basketball team remains at Number-four in the new Associated Press media poll. And they're still at Number-six in the USA Today coaches' poll. The Badgers are 12-0. They did not play last week, and they're off until Saturday when they host Prairie View A&M.
UW-Green Bay center Alec Brown has been named the Horizon League co-men's basketball player of the week. Brown shares the honor with senior guard Travis Bader of Oakland. Brown, a seven-foot senior, scored 40 points in a 74-58 Phoenix victory over Fairfield on Saturday at home. Brown made 12-of-17 shots from the floor and had eight rebounds and three blocked shots. He became only the third player in Green Bay history to score 40-or-more in a game, and the first since Tony Bennett had 44 against Wright State in 1989. Also, Oakland guard Kahlil Felder was named the Horizon men's freshman-of-the-week.
___________________________________The UW-Milwaukee men's basketball team defeated Alabama State 67-54 yesterday. That helped the Panthers go 1-1 at the Westin Holiday Classic in New Orleans, as they improved to 10-4 on the year. Milwaukee was up by 12 at the break. Alabama State played a solid defense in the second half, holding the Panthers to just 8-of-30 field goal attempts in the final 20 minutes. However, the Hornets never caught up. They got to within eight before going scoreless in the final 4:47. Kyle Kelm had a career-high 24 points with 12 rebounds for UWM. Jamel Waters had 14 points and 10 assists for Alabama State, which fell to 4-5. ___________________________________ The UW-Milwaukee women beat Illinois State 73-58 at home yesterday. The Panthers led by six at the intermission, and by as many as 17 later on. Milwaukee's defense held Illinois State to a season-low shooting percentage of 30-point-six. Arianna Young had 18 points and 16 rebounds for UW-Milwaukee, which improved to 3-8. Chloe Nelson scored 13 for Illinois State, which fell to 1-8.____________________________________
All of Wisconsin's college basketball teams are off for the entire week. No games are scheduled until at least Saturday -- and then, only a handful of contests are planned in NCAA Divisions I, II, and III. Teams in the the upper two divisions will begin their conference schedules soon after 2014 is ushered in. On the men's side in Division III, UW-Platteville and La Crosse are both 3-0 in WIAC games, with top-ranked Stevens Point at 2-0. The Midwest Conference has only one unbeaten team in men's play, Saint Norbert at 4-0. In the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference, Marian and Aurora share the men's lead at 6-1 in league contests. In women's basketball, UW-Oshkosh is 3-0 against WIAC opponents, and Whitewater is 2-0. Saint Norbert is the only team to beat all of its Midwest Conference challengers so far, at 4-0. Concordia-Wisconsin has the NACC women's lead at 6-1._____________________________________
Lance Leipold of UW-Whitewater has been named the NCAA Division III coach-of-the-year by D3football.com Leipold led the Warhawks to their fifth national title in seven years, in a 52-14 rout of Mount Union at the Stagg Bowl on Friday night. Whitewater senior linebacker Cole Klotz was named the defensive player-of-the-year, and Mount Union quarterback Kevin Burke received the top honors on offense. Burke and Klotz also made D3.com's All-America first team. Oshkosh running back Cole Myhra made the second squad, along with Oshkosh safety Austin Blaschka. Platteville quarterback John Kelly made D3's All-America third team, joined by Whitewater corner Marcus McLin and Saint Norbert special teams' player Dan Egan. Whitewater had four honorable mentions -- receiver Jake Kumerow, guard Lucas Skibba, kick returner Justin Howard, and kicker Eric Kindler. Other honorable mentions are center Paul Santi of Eau Claire, and corner Rob Austin of Platteville.______________________________________
Former UW-Oshkosh stand-out Nate Wara will play indoor football with the Green Bay Blizzard. Wara is the winningest quarterback in Oshkosh history, with 28 victories from 2009-through-2012. He was the NCAA Division III's player of the year on offense in his senior season with 3,311 passing yards and 30 touchdowns. Wara also ran for 740 yards that season with 10 scores. Wara says he's been given a great opportunity with the Blizzard. They'll open their next season on February 22nd. Green Bay's first home contest will be on March 16th at the Resch Center against Cedar Rapids._______________________________________ The Milwaukee Admirals lost at Chicago in overtime yesterday, 2-1. Keith Aucoin scored the game-winner just 27 seconds into the extra period. Taylor Beck scored Milwaukee's only goal on a power play. Magnus Hellberg had 35 saves for the Admirals, who moved into second place during the weekend in the American Hockey League's Midwest Division. The Admirals have 34 points, 10 behind first-place Grand Rapids.