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UPI NewsTrack Sports

Jan. 4, 2013 at 11:13 PM   |   Comments

Super Bowl chase begins Saturday

HOUSTON, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- The battle for the NFL title begins Saturday with three rookie quarterbacks featured along with a veteran trying to win the Super Bowl with his second team.

Wild card playoff games will take place during the weekend in Houston, Green Bay, Baltimore and Washington and for the first time in seven years every playoff participant won at least 10 games during the regular campaign.

It will all start in Houston, where the Texans will host Cincinnati in the first of Saturday's games. Green Bay will then take on Minnesota for the second week in a row. The Vikings defeated the Packers in Minneapolis last Sunday to earn a playoff position.

On Sunday, Indianapolis will be at Baltimore and Seattle will visit Washington. Denver, New England, Atlanta and San Francisco earned first-round byes and will host games next week.

This year's playoffs follow a regular season in which more points were scored than in any other NFL campaign. Nine teams scored at least 400 points and seven of them qualified for the post-season.

Minnesota's Adrian Peterson came within eight yards of equaling the all-time single-season rushing record of 2,105 set by Eric Dickerson in 1984. Peterson had seven games of at least 150 yards, which tied Earn Campbell for the most in any one year.

Quarterbacks Robert Griffin III (Washington), Andrew Luck (Indianapolis) and Russell Wilson (Seattle) all led their teams to the playoffs in their rookie campaign. This is the first time since the Super Bowl was first played after the 1966 season that three rookie signal callers have started a game in the playoffs.

Griffin boosted the Redskins into the Super Bowl chase after they opened the season 3-6. They are the first team in 14 years to reach the playoffs after such a start. Indianapolis becomes the second team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to get to the post-season after winning two or fewer games the year before.

Peyton Manning, meanwhile, resumed his record-breaking career in Denver this season after a neck injury kept him out of action during his final year with Indianapolis.

Eleven quarterbacks have won two or more Super Bowls and Manning hopes to join that group after guiding Indianapolis to the crown 6 years ago.

New England's Tom Brady, meanwhile, will be trying to become part of the elite group of quarterbacks with four Super Bowl championships to their credit. Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana won four titles during their career. Brady has captured three, as did Troy Aikman.

Five of this year's playoff teams -- Atlanta, Cincinnati, Houston, Minnesota and Seattle -- have never won the NFL crown.


Chiefs hire Andy Reid as head coach

KNSAS CITY, Mo., Jan. 4 (UPI) -- The Kansas City Chiefs announced Friday they had hired Andy Reid as their new head coach and called a news conference for Monday to introduce him.

Team officials used their Twitter account to make the announcement, posting a photograph of Reid signing his contract with team Chief Executive Officer Clark Hunt at his side.

The deal is reportedly for five years.

Reid, 55, was fired as head coach by the Philadelphia Eagles Monday, becoming one of seven NFL coaches to be dismissed since the regular season ended last Sunday.

Romeo Crennel, who Reid will succeed in Kansas City, also was fired Monday.

Reid coached the Eagles for 14 years, during which they reached the NFC title game five times. They won only one of those games, however, and then lost to New England in the Super Bowl at the end of the 2004 season.

His 130 regular-season wins with the Eagles are the most for a coach in franchise history.

Reid's hiring came after the Chiefs dismissed General Manager Scott Pioli earlier in the day. Pioli had been with the team for four years.

That clears the way for Reid to become chief of football operations, which allows him to hire a general manager of his choosing.

Earlier in the week, there had been speculation Reid was headed for the Arizona Cardinals, which had him at the top of their list as a replacement for Ken Whisenhunt. Reid, however, agreed to terms with Kansas City before he interviewed with the Cardinals.

Philadelphia went 4-12 this season while the Chiefs were only 2-14. Kansas City owns the No. 1 pick in this year's draft.


PGA Tour's first round of 2013 wiped out.

KAPALUA, Hawaii, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Rain and wind that made the course unplayable Friday forced PGA Tour officials to wipe out what was to have been the first round of the American golf season.

With 20 of the 30 players in the field having begun play on the Plantation Course at Kapalua, the opening round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions was canceled.

It was a rare occurrence on the tour, where the normal policy is to count every shot taken during the course of a tournament.

The conditions were so severe, however, that after a lengthy weather delay it was decided it would be unfair to those who had started play in the worst of the day's weather if their scores were counted. That weather included wind gusts of 42 miles per hour and sheets of rain that blew sidewise across a hilly course exposed to the conditions.

Of those who had begun their opening round, current U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson had the best score working at 3-under through seven holes. Scott Stallings was at the other end of the spectrum, having played the first four holes in 7-over.

The fact that balls would not remain still on the greens and that shots buried in the wet sand caused tour officials to discard Friday's results.

An attempt will be made Saturday to play 36 holes with the players going off both the first and 10th tees, although the weather forecast is not favorable.

The season-starting event is open only to players who won a PGA Tour competition during 2012.

That group includes first-time winners Rickie Fowler and Jason Dufner, who were the first to face the elements on Friday. Dufner birdied the first hole, but his tee shot on the par-3 eighth all but disappeared in a greenside bunker and he wound up with a double bogey. Fowler was 3-over through eight holes when play was stopped.

Masters champion Bubba Watson is the leading player in the world rankings competing this week, standing at No. 8.


Pistons survive late drought to down Hawks

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Rodney Stuckey scored Detroit's last points with 2:15 to play Friday and the Pistons held on to edge Atlanta 85-84.

Stuckey's layup gave the Pistons a three-point lead and the teams combined to go 1-for-7 from the field with two missed free throws and two turnovers the rest of the way.

The lone basket down the stretch came from Al Horford, who brought the Hawks within one by hitting a layup with 5.6 seconds left to account for the final score.

Detroit then turned the ball over, but a jump shot just before the buzzer by Lou Williams was blocked by the Pistons' Andre Drummond to preserve the win.

The Pistons have won four in a row after opening the season with an 8-22 record.

Austin Daye came off the bench to lead Detroit with 20 points. Greg Monroe added 18 points for the Pistons, who almost let an 18-point led in the third quarter slip away.

Josh Smith scored 20 points for the Hawks, while Horford had 18 points and 15 rebounds.

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