Weekend Sports In Brief

January 31, 2022 GMT

NFL

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Travin Howard made a game-sealing interception with 1:09 to play, and the Los Angeles Rams rallied from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to secure a spot in the Super Bowl at their home stadium next month with a thrilling 20-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game Sunday night.

Cooper Kupp caught two touchdown passes from Matthew Stafford for the star-studded Rams (15-5), who began the fourth quarter down 17-7 after wasting a multitude of scoring opportunities.

But after Kupp’s second TD catch and a tying field goal on a drive extended by Jaquiski Tartt’s brutal dropped interception, the Rams drove for Matt Gay’s go-ahead, 30-yard field goal with 1:46 to play. Los Angeles’ defense then won it when Aaron Donald got hold of Jimmy Garoppolo and forced him to fling a pass toward JaMycal Hasty. The ball caromed high in the air off Hasty’s hands and came straight down to Howard — and the fourth-year pro didn’t miss it.

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Los Angeles will welcome the Cincinnati Bengals in two weeks for Super Bowl 56 in Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s multibillion-dollar SoFi Stadium. After 54 consecutive Super Bowls without an NFL team playing in its home stadium, the Rams are the second team to do it in two seasons after Tampa Bay broke the streak last year.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Evan McPherson kicked a 31-yard field goal with 9:22 left in overtime after Joe Burrow kept his cool while leading a furious second-half comeback to get the Cincinnati Bengals to the Super Bowl for the first time in 33 years with a 27-24 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game.

The Bengals erased an 18-point deficit — tying an AFC title game record — to take a late 24-21 lead on McPherson’s 52-yarder. But Harrison Butker’s 44-yard kick as time expired in regulation sent it to overtime a week after his 49-yarder on the final play of regulation did the same against Buffalo.

One week after Buffalo’s Josh Allen called tails and it came up heads for the overtime coin toss — giving Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs the ball — Cincinnati backup quarterback Brandon Allen called heads and the coin came up tails. The Chiefs opened overtime again with the ball, but Vonn Bell intercepted Mahomes on the third play, and Burrow and the Bengals took over.

And now they’re heading to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1989 after winning their first playoff overtime game.

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — While the NFL conference championship games went on without Tom Brady for only the second time in 11 years, the world waits for the greatest quarterback of all time to make his future plans official.

An announcement is expected soon and a person close to Brady told The Associated Press his decision will be based on family priorities, not finances. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Sunday because he wasn’t authorized to speak on Brady’s behalf.

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Brady has already stated a desire to spend more time with his wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, and three children.

Brady’s contract is a complicated matter for the Buccaneers. He signed a $25 million, one-year extension with three voidable years last March to free up salary cap space to allow the Buccaneers to return all 22 starters from the Super Bowl championship team.

Brady is scheduled to earn a base salary of $8.925 million in 2022 with a signing bonus of $15 million, a roster bonus of $1,470,588, and an incentive bonus of $1.875 million, while carrying a cap hit of $20,270,588 and a dead cap value of $32 million. He’ll be paid $15 million of his $20 million signing bonus on Friday. However, he would owe the team money if he retires.

TENNIS

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal got to 21 first, breaking the men’s record for most Grand Slam singles titles and doing it the hard way by coming back from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev in an almost 5 1/2-hour Australian Open final.

Nadal was broken when serving for the championship for the first time at 5-4 in the fifth set, but he made no mistake two games later by serving an ace to earn three championship points and converted it on the first attempt.

The 35-year-old Spaniard now has one more major title than Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, his long-time rivals in the so-called Big Three.

With the 2-6, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 win, Nadal also became just the fourth man in history to win all four of the sport’s major titles at least twice.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ash Barty recovered from 5-1 down in the second set to win the Australian Open final 6-3, 7-6 (2) over Danielle Collins on Saturday, ending a 44-year drought for Australian women at their home Grand Slam tournament.

Barty was the first Australian woman into the singles final here since since Wendy Turnbull in 1980 and is now the first Australian champion since Chris O’Neil in 1978.

The top-ranked Barty now has major titles on three surfaces, adding the hard court at Melbourne Park to her win on grass at Wimbledon last year and on clay at the French Open in 2019.

Evonne Goolagong Cawley, a tennis icon with seven Grand Slam titles and a trailblazer for Indigenous athletes from Australia, was a surprise guest to present the champion’s trophy to Barty, who is part of a new generation of Indigenous stars. O’Neil was involved in the night, too, after carrying the trophy into the stadium for the pre-match ceremony.

NBA

PHOENIX (AP) — Devin Booker scored 28 points, Mikal Bridges added a season-high 26 and the Phoenix Suns overcame a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win their 10th straight game, beating the San Antonio Spurs 115-110 on Sunday night.

The NBA-leading Suns became the first team in the league with 40 wins — against only nine losses. The victory also assured that coach Monty Williams and the rest of the coaching staff will lead Team LeBron in the All-Star Game next month.

Booker hit back-to-back 3-pointers late in the fourth to turn a two-point deficit into a 112-108 lead with 1:18 left. He finished 12 of 24 from the field, going 4 of 9 from 3-point range. Phoenix point guard Chris Paul had another huge game with 20 points, 19 assists and eight rebounds, just two nights after he had his 18th career triple-double.

GOLF

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Luke List earned his first PGA Tour victory with a birdie on the first playoff hole at Torrey Pines on Saturday, holding off Will Zalatoris well after sunset to win the Farmers Insurance Open.

List began the final round five shots back of leaders Zalatoris and Jason Day, and had to wait nearly two hours after closing with a 6-under 66 to see if he had a shot for the first win in a career that began in 2013.

Zalatoris missed the chance to secure his own first career victory when he barely missed an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th, forcing a playoff. After both players rescued their errant playoff tee shots from a fairway bunker, List spun an exceptional 131-yard wedge approach shot to within a foot of the cup.

After List tapped in and Zalatoris missed his 13-foot birdie putt, List celebrated in the gloaming with his wife, Chloe, while he held their daughter, Ryann.

Zalatoris and List finished regulation at 15-under 273, setting up the fourth playoff in the last 11 years at the Farmers. Zalatoris shot a nervy final-round 71, finishing with 12 straight pars.

BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — A terrific up-and-down for a scrambling par from a short-side bunker on the 72nd hole lifted Lydia Ko to a one-shot victory over Danielle Kang on Sunday at the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio.

Kang, trying to become only the second player since 1966 to open a season with back-to-back LPGA Tour victories, shot a 4-under 68, one shot better than Ko, but fell one short.

Ko finished at 14-under 274, earning her 17th LPGA victory. Yuka Saso (67), the U.S. Women’s Open champion, was third, two shots behind. Charley Hull (68) and Celine Boutier (69) tied for fourth.

Ko, a 24-year-old from New Zealand, won for only the third time since 2016.

AUTO RACING

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Helio Castroneves climbed the fence for the third time this calendar year Sunday after earning another crown jewel victory, this time a second consecutive win in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The Brazilian closed out the race for Meyer Shank Racing, the team that helped him win a record-tying fourth Indianapolis 500 last May. Castroneves in the No. 60 Acura held off Ricky Taylor over the final hour of the twice-round-the-clock race — an ironic close because Castroneves won his first career Rolex watch 365 days ago as Taylor’s teammate in the No. 10 Acura.

Castroneves denied Wayne Taylor Racing a fourth consecutive win at Daytona International Speedway, where he of course climbed the fence with his team in celebration. Now rival team owner Taylor went to victory lane to congratulate Castroneves.