Redskins, Vikings grab last playoff berths

Updated 31 December 2012
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Redskins, Vikings grab last playoff berths

WASHINGTON: With quarterback Robert Griffin III and fellow rookie Alfred Morris leading the way, the Washington Redskins beat Dallas 28-18 Sunday to capture the last NFL playoff berth.
In the final game of the regular season, Morris rushed for a career-best 200 yards and three touchdowns to help the Redskins claim the NFC East division crown in a must-win game against their bitter division rivals.
The victory was Washington’s seventh straight, and their post-season berth was the reward for a remarkable turnaround since they opened the season with just three victories in their first nine games.
Morris finished the regular season with 1,613 rushing yards, surpassing the Redskins’ single-season record of 1,516 set by Clinton Portis.
“My goal wasn’t to break the record. My goal was to make the playoffs,” Morris said. “I couldn’t have imagined to come in here in my rookie year and do what I’ve been able to do.” Griffin, still hampered by the lingering effects of a knee injury, completed just nine of 18 passes for 100 yards, but still rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo completed 20-of-37 passes for 218 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions as Dallas missed the playoffs for the third successive season.
Next Sunday the Redskins will host the Seattle Seahawks in the first round of the playoffs.
Seattle closed the season with a 20-13 victory over St. Louis, with their rookie quarterback Russell Wilson completing 15 of 19 passes for 250 yards and rushing for the game-winning touchdown.
The Seahawks secured the NFC’s fifth seed, while the NFC West crown went to division rivals San Francisco — who beat Arizona 27-13 and gained a first-round bye.
Green Bay were also trying for that bye, but fell short in Minneapolis, where Adrian Peterson narrowly missed the NFL’s single-season rushing record but played a key role in a thrilling 37-34 Vikings victory over the Packers.
Peterson ran for 199 yards — nine less than he needed to break the rushing record of 2,105 yards set by Eric Dickerson in 1984.
Peterson, a year removed from a career-threatening knee injury, admitted it was “bittersweet” to miss the record, but rejoiced in accomplishing the “ultimate goal” of reaching the playoffs.
He ran for two touchdowns and delivered a 26-yard spurt on the final drive that set the stage for Blair Walsh’s game-winning field goal.
The Vikings will face the Packers again in the first round on Saturday, in Green Bay.
Minnesota’s victory spelled the end of Chicago’s playoff hopes, after the Bears’ win had extinguished the slim chances of reigning Super Bowl champions the New York Giants.
The Giants did what they could, routing Philadelphia 42-7. Shortly after they walked off the field, Chicago knocked them out of playoff contention with a 26-24 victory over Detroit — then the Bears saw their hopes end with the Vikings’ win.
Atlanta went into their season finale assured of the top seed and a first-round bye in the NFC. But they won’t carry the momentum of a win into the playoffs, falling 22-17 to Tampa Bay.
In Denver, Peyton Manning threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns as the Broncos secured the top seed in the AFC, a bye and home field advantage with a 38-3 rout of lowly Kansas City.
Denver entered the day lying second in the conference behind Houston, but got the chance to seize the No.1 spot when the Texans fell 28-16 to the playoff-bound Indianapolis Colts.
It was an emotional regular-season finale for a Colts team that welcomed head coach Chuck Pagano back to the sideline after his treatment for leukemia.
The New England Patriots also snuck past the Texans in the AFC seedings, seizing the No.2 spot and a first-round bye with a 28-0 thumping of Miami.
While Denver and New England rest next weekend, the Texans will host Cincinnati, who closed out the regular season with a 23-17 win Baltimore.
The Ravens, who rested most of their starters, will host the Colts in the first round next Sunday.
In other games, Buffalo beat the New York Jets 28-9, Carolina downed New Orleans 44-38, Pittsburgh beat Cleveland 24-10, Tennessee downed Jacksonville 38-20 and San Diego edged Oakland 24-21.


'We want to make Saudi Arabia proud': Pizzi promises better showing against Egypt

Updated 21 June 2018
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'We want to make Saudi Arabia proud': Pizzi promises better showing against Egypt

  • Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday
  • Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious

ROSTOV-ON-DON: “Keeping possession of the ball seems to be the absolute and most important thing, but then when you sometimes find issues in getting the ball into your opponent’s half, you have to find other movements and ways of doing that,” said Oscar Tabarez after watching his lackluster Uruguay rely on a solitary Luis Suarez goal to eliminate Saudi Arabia from the World Cup. 
Tabarez was talking about his own team’s struggles, yet the assessment is considerably more applicable to the Green Falcons, who dominated possession and retained the ball with ease in midfield, yet for the second match running looked absolutely bereft of ideas in the final third. With Uruguay and Russia now on six points, Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday.
The Green Falcons coach Juan Antonio Pizzi confirmed he intends to stay at the helm of the side for the long-haul, yet is only too aware that the potential of this team is being hamstrung by its inability to score. He called it “our weakness”, adding that his side enjoyed “good ball possession, but no effectiveness”. They, he said, did not have the sufficient “weapons or tools” to equalize.
Pizzi’s side have found the net now just twice in their past five games and against Uruguay managed only three shots on target in 90 minutes — two of which came in added time and were so tame they would hardly have troubled the opposition goalkeeper Fernando Muslera had he been relaxing at his far post sipping a drink. In the 5-0 defeat to Russia last week, they failed to muster a single shot on target. 
Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious. One passage of play in the opening exchanges saw Saudi Arabia complete 16 passes untroubled without the ball entering the opposition penalty box. When Uruguay finally won possession, they required only four quick exchanges to find Edinson Cavani on the left wing drilling the ball across the front of goal. 
“I don’t share that assessment,” said Pizzi, when it was put to him that his team was too slow to attack. “We played at the speed that was necessary. We need to be accurate, but if you step up the speed you lose accuracy with your passes. We had control of the game and that was why.”
Striker Mohammed Al-Sahlawi had been the focal point of much criticism from Turki Al-Sheikh, the head of Saudi’s General Sports Authority, after the Russia “fiasco” and was dropped from the side against Uruguay. So too was goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf, another who Al-Sheikh name-checked as having been at fault.
Pizzi, asked whether the scathing assessment from his bosses had forced his hand when it came to team selection, calmly dismissed the suggestion. He also ruled out the notion that administrative issues between the players and the country’s football federation had caused unrest in his squad.
“I have a list of 23 players here and they are all available to play. We are here together and pushing in the same direction. 
“I wanted — and still want — to make the Saudi Arabian people feel proud of our energy and the desire we show in matches. Unfortunately we were unable to do that against Russia and will be playing our next match without any hope of progressing. I hope now they will feel a little more proud even though we are out of the World Cup,” he said.