Defense rules in NFL playoffs
PITTSBURGH, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Defense was the order of the day in the NFL playoffs Sunday and not enough of it was played by the defending Super Bowl champions.
Baltimore enjoyed a run to the league title last season thanks to an unyielding defense, but the Ravens were ousted from the playoffs Sunday because their defense was nowhere near as good as that of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And then the St. Louis Rams, who are known for their high-scoring offense, put on an amazing defensive display of their own to eliminate Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers.
That whittled the chase for the Super Bowl down to four teams and they will be in action next Sunday when Pittsburgh hosts New England for the AFC title and St. Louis entertains Philadelphia for the NFC crown.
Kordell Stewart, Amos Zereoue and Plaxico Burress combined to give Baltimore's defense a rare headache Sunday despite the fact the Steelers were without star running back Jerome Bettis. But it was the Pittsburgh defense - ranked No. 1 in the NFL during the regular season - that dominated the afternoon to give the Steelers a 27-10 victory.
The Steelers intercepted Baltimore quarterback Elvis Grbac three times, forced a fumble that led to a field goal, did not allow a first down until the final four minutes of the first half and did not surrender a third-down conversion until the last six minutes of the contest.
Two of the interceptions came from safety Brent Alexander, the second one coming with four minutes to play when Baltimore receiver Travis Taylor bobbled what appeared to be a touchdown catch right into Alexander's hands on the goal line.
Alexander's first interception came in the end zone late in the first period and halted one of the Ravens' few scoring chances.
Baltimore was limited to 150 total yards, just 22 of those coming on the ground, and the Steelers had the ball for almost two-thirds of the contest. The Ravens finished with seven first downs, four of them coming in the game's final minutes.
The Ravens' lone touchdown came on an 88-yard punt return in the third period by Jermaine Lewis that briefly brought Baltimore within 10 points. But Stewart promptly marched the Steelers 83 yards in 12 plays through a weary Baltimore defense to put the game away.
In St. Louis, Aneas Williams and Tommy Polley combined to return three of six Rams interceptions for touchdowns in a 45-17 blasting of the Packers.
The Packers did a reasonable job at that thanks to a surprise scheme in which they employed seven defensive backs, but it was the St. Louis defense that turned the game into a nightmare for Favre. Not only were three of his interceptions returned for scores, another was brought back to the four-yard line, setting up an easy touchdown.
The 45 points surrendered by the Packers were the most they had ever given up in a playoff game and a majority of them came from Green Bay mistakes. The Packers turned the ball over a total of eight times, one short of the all-time NFL playoff record.
Mickelson wins 20th tour title
LA QUINTA, Calif., Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Phil Mickelson, who let a chance for a remarkable 2001 season get away, birdied the par-5 18th hole to earn his way into a playoff Sunday and then birdied it again to beat David Berganio and win the Bob Hope Classic for his 20th triumph on the PGA Tour.
Both of the playoff participants birdied the closing hole of regulation, Mickelson doing so with a remarkable chip shot from deep rough that finished a foot from the hole and Berganio holing an eight-foot putt.
But when Berganio went for the 18th green in two in the first hole of the playoff, he came up short and his ball finished in the water. Mickelson, who hit his tee shot into a fairway bunker, laid up 80 yards from the green with his second and then hit his third shot to within six inches for a tap-in birdie that wrapped up the victory.
The win came 21 weeks after Mickelson had played his last previous round of competitive golf. He took a full five months off, during which his second daughter was born.
He skipped both the lucrative Tour Championship at the end of the 2001 season and the Mercedes Championship - the exclusive tournament that kicked off the 2002 campaign.
Although Tiger Woods again dominated the tour in 2001, Mickelson had a chance to challenge the game's top superstar.
Mickelson finished among the top three on 11 occasions, having a realistic chance to win every one of those events. He won only two of them. He finished third in the Masters while missing putt after putt over the final two rounds, wound up second to David Toms at the PGA Championship and began the final round of the U.S. Open among the frontrunners only to shoot a 75 and finish tied for seventh.
Capriati reaches quarterfinals
MELBOURNE, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Defending champion and top-seeded Jennifer Capriati endured a grueling second set today before defeating Rita Grande of Italy to move into the quarterfinals at the Australian Open.
Justine Henin of Belgium and Amelie Mauresmo of France also advanced to open the second week of action at Melbourne Park.
Capriati outlasted the 20th seeded Grande, 6-3, 7-6 (11-9), eventually prevailing on her third match point. In the quarterfinals, Capriati will take on eighth-seeded Mauresmo, who also had a difficult time of it before ousting Marlene Weingartner of Germany, 6-0, 4-6, 7-5.
Henin, the sixth seed, reached the quarterfinals with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over No. 11 Elena Dementieva of Russia. Henin will take on the winner of Monday night's match between No. 4 Kim Clijsters of Belgium and unseeded Janette Husarova of Slovakia.
Pete Sampras had an evening match scheduled against Marat Safin of Russia.
Yzerman records 1,000th save
DETROIT, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Steve Yzerman helped set up Mathieu Dandenault's goal 59 seconds into overtime for his 1,000th assist Sunday night as the Detroit Red Wings extended their home winning streak to 10 games with a 3-2 triumph over the Ottawa Senators.
Detroit's long-time captain, Yzerman carried into the right corner before he was checked by Daniel Alfredsson. Igor Larionov tracked down the puck along the end boards and threw it off the side of the net. Jani Hurme tried to pin it, but Dandenault chopped it past the goaltender for his sixth goal of the season and second game-winner.
It was the latest in a series of milestones for Yzerman, who joined Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Marcel Dionne and Mark Messier as the only players in NHL history with at least 600 goals and 1,000 assists.
In the only other game on the schedule Sunday night, Chicago downed Dallas, 3-2.
Terrapins bounce back against Clemson
COLLEGE PARK, Md., Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Juan Dixon scored 23 points Sunday night as third-ranked Maryland rebounded from an emotional loss by holding off Clemson, 99-90.
Dixon shook off a sub-par effort against top-ranked Duke on Thursday night, when he had a season-low 10 points in a 99-78 loss, scoring five key points in the final 1:50 against Clemson.
The Terrapins (14-3, 4-1 ACC) had an 11-point lead trimmed to one midway through the second half, but finished with a 12-5 run.
After the Tigers (11-8, 2-4) closed within 86-85 with 2:57 to play, Drew Nicholas scored five consecutive points on a three-pointer and two free throws for a 91-85 lead with 2:34 left.
Dixon scored in the lane for a 93-86 cushion with 1:50 to play and followed a Clemson basket with a three-point play for a 96-88 lead with 70 seconds remaining.
Lonny Baxter added 21 points and Chris Wilcox chipped in 17 and 14 rebounds for Maryland, which improved to 9-0 at home in its final season at Cole Field House.
American wins World Cup slalom
BERCHTESGADEN, Germany, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- American Kristina Koznick recorded her fifth career World Cup victory Sunday, tying Switzerland's Marlies Oester for the top spot in the slalom competition.
Koznick had finished second to Sweden's Ana Paerson on two occasions this season but when the Swedish star fell on her second run, Koznick cashed in. After a first run in 55.79, Koznick posted a two-run total of 1:56.30.
Oester was slower on her first run (56.58) but made up ground on her second trip down the mountain. Janica Kostelic of Croatia finished third (1:56.60) and Christel Pascal-Saioni of France was fourth (1:56.72).
Another American, Sarah Schleper, was fifth at 1:56.98.
The men also raced a slalom in Kitzbuehel, Austraia on Sunday and Austria's Rainer Schoenfelder collected his second career World Cup victory. The Austrian was followed by teammate Kilian Albrecht, who made a remarkable climb into second from eighth. American Bode Miller climbed from seventh after the opening leg to finish third.