Patriots win 11th straight
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Sept. 16 (UPI) -- The New England Patriots have demonstrated thus far that last season was no fluke. So have the Chicago Bears.
The St. Louis Rams, however, seem to have lost the magic while the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints have found it.
And the Dallas Cowboys showed once more that in the National Football League, the difference between one week and the next can be enormous.
The second Sunday of the season ended with New England, Miami, San Diego, Denver, Chicago, New Orleans, Carolina and Oakland unbeaten. Washington will try to advance to 2-0 Monday night when it hosts Philadelphia.
Defending Super Bowl champion New England was given little pre-season title consideration this year, but Tom Brady threw for 269 yards Sunday to help carry the Patriots to a 44-7 blasting of the New York Jets.
The Patriots extended their winning streak to 11 games. Brady completed 25 of 35 passes, connecting with tight end Cam Cleeland on a one-yard touchdown in the first quarter and rookie Deion Branch on a 49-yard scoring play in the fourth. Last Monday, the Super Bowl XXXVI MVP threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-14 win over Pittsburgh.
"As long as we win, no one cares who gets the credit," Brady said. "Everytime we go out, we feel we've got to prove it. We earned respect last year, and if we didn't, I guess people are too stupid to realize it."
While New England owns the Lombardi Trophy, Chicago Bears own the league's best streak in history for close victories. They were 8-0 last season in games decided by seven points or less, the best such record ever in the NFL.
They are 2-0 in close games this year, holding on for a 14-13 victory over Atlanta when the Falcons' Jay Feely missed a 45-yard field goal with 55 seconds remaining.
"We just have a knack for winning close games," Bears coach Dick Jauron said. "It is a great quality to have. We'll take a win any way we could get it."
Miami remained unbeaten Sunday with Ricky Williams turning in his second straight outstanding rushing performance in a 21-13 victory over Indianapolis; San Diego handed expansion Houston its first loss, 24-3; Denver clawed its way past San Francisco, 24-14; New Orleans put together a surprisingly dominant, 35-20 win over Green Bay; Oakland used an avalanche of big plays to beat Pittsburgh, 30-17; and Carolina improved to 2-0 with a 31-7 decision over Detroit.
Carolina has already won more games this year than it did all of last season.
St. Louis, however, is going the other way. The defending NFC champs fell victim to the New York Giants Sunday, 26-21. The Rams have not won a game since last year's NFC title contest. They lost to New England in the Super Bowl, lost all of its exhibition games this season and have dropped their first two contests in the regular campaign.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, showed that there are few sure things in the NFL anymore.
Last week, Dallas became the first team in 41 years to lose to an expansion franchise in its debut. That stunning setback gave the impression that the Cowboys were in for a dismal season.
But on Sunday, the Cowboys turned in an excellent defensive effort and surprised the Tennessee Titans, 21-13. Quincy Carter threw two touchdown passes and linebacker Dexter Coakley turned the game around in the third quarter with an interception return for a score.
Twins win AL Central
CLEVELAND, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- The Minnesota Twins finished their journey Sunday that took them from contraction candidates to division champions.
The Twins completed their unlikely rise to the top of the American League Central Division with a 5-0 triumph over the defending champion Cleveland Indians.
Kyle Lohse and two relievers combined on a three-hitter and Denny Hocking drove in a pair of runs as the Twins posted their 87th win of the season.
The victory, combined with the Chicago White Sox's loss at Yankee Stadium, gave Minnesota its first Central Division title and guaranteed its first postseason appearance since 1991, when it won the World Series.
The Twins are one of baseball's best stories this season. A target of contraction during the offseason, they have overcome injuries to the starting rotation to win in manager Ron Gardenhire's first year.
"Eleven years waiting, it is very emotional," Gardenhire said. "We've been on a mission all season. They tried to take away our team, but we have a good team and good players. We'll live for the moment."
In the race for the American League West title, Anaheim moved a game in front of Oakland with a 13-4 win over Texas. Tony Glaus recorded his first career three-homer game and tied a season high with six RBI. Anaheim also clinched the best single-season record in team history.
Oakland fell out of a first-place tie with a 6-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners.
Other American League results: Baltimore 8, Boston 3; Tampa Bay 7, Toronto 4; New York 8, Chicago 4 in a game reduced to six innings by rain; Kansas City 9, Detroit 4.
Arizona nears division crown
PHOENIX, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Tony Womack's RBI single in the 13th inning Sunday lifted the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 6-5 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
The win, coupled with losses by San Francisco and Los Angeles, reduced Arizona's magic numbers to seven for its second consecutive NL West division title.
Curt Schilling was in line for his 24th victory before a fielding miscue in the top of the ninth allowed Milwaukee to score the tying run. Despite not figuring in the decision, the 2001 World Series co-MVP recorded eight strikeouts and joined Randy Johnson in becoming the first pair of teammates ever to each register 300 strikeouts in the same season.
With runners on second and third and none out in the 13th, Womack dropped a single just inside the left field foul line to plate Felix Jose with the winning run. The victory improved Arizona's record in extra-inning games to 9-3.
Other National League results: Atlanta 6, Florida 4; Chicago 6, Cincinnati 0; Montreal 10, New York 1; Philadelphia 1, Pittsburgh 0 in 10 innings; Houston 8, St. Louis 0; Colorado 5, Los Angeles 4; San Diego 4, San Francisco 1.
Hornish wins IRL title
FORT WORTH, Texas, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- In a high-speed duel that was only fitting for Texas, Sam Hornish defeated Helio Castroneves in another side-by-side battle Sunday, this time by just .0096 seconds to win the Chevy 500 and the Indy Racing League title.
Just one week after beating Al Unser Jr. by .0024 seconds -- the closest margin in auto racing history -- Hornish became locked in a wheel-to-wheel battle with Castroneves for the lead and the title over the last 10 laps at Texas Motor Speedway.
With neither driver giving in, the two fought in a fierce battle until Hornish was able to inch ahead just before the start-finish line.
Hornish became the first driver in the IRL's seven-year history to win the championship twice. He was pushed by Castroneves, a CART star who made the jump with Marlboro Team Penske.
Driving a Dallara/Chevrolet, Hornish averaged 163.981 miles per hour in his eighth IRL victory, tying Buddy Lazier for the all-time lead. He has won four of the five closest races in IRL history.
Pole-sitter Vitor Meira was third, followed by Scott Sharp and Alex Barron. There were 21 lead changes among seven drivers.
Newman wins NASCAR race, Martin takes points lead
LOUDON, N.H., Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Rookie of the Year candidate Ryan Newman recorded his first career NASCAR Winston Cup victory under caution Sunday in the rain-shortened New Hampshire 300.
Driving a Ford Taurus, Newman won from the pole and led 143 laps in an event that started an hour late due to rain and was red-flagged just 22 laps into the race.
"It's awesome," Newman said. "Not just to cross the checkered flag first but having all the drivers come up and congratulate me. Everyone did. It's just great to finish first and have that much class from all the drivers out there."
After a series of delays brought on by off-and-on rains, only 207 of 300 laps were completed when NASCAR officials halted an otherwise uneventful race due to darkness.
Veteran Mark Martin finished 16th and passed Sterling Marlin for the lead in the Winston Cup standings by six points. It is just the third time since 1990 that Martin has assumed the points lead.
Kournikova misses out on first championship
SHANGHAI, China, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Top seed Anna Smashnova ended Anna Kournikova's latest quest for her elusive first WTA Tour singles title Sunday as she posted a 6-3, 6-2 triumph in the final of the SVW Polo Open.
Kournikova, the fourth seed, reached the final for the fourth time in 117 WTA Tour events but again failed in a bid for a tournament win.
One of the world's most popular female athletes, the 21-year-old Russian showed promise when she turned professional in 1995. But although she owns 15 career doubles titles, including the Australian Open with Martina Hingis last January, Kournikova has yet to win a singles crown.
Kournikova also reached the final at Hilton Head in 1999 and Miami the previous year. She had won the previous two meetings with Smashnova, who captured her third title of the year and 95 points in the WTA standings.
Forsman wins with eagle on final hole
PAOLI, Pa., Sept. 16 (UPI) -- After reaching the green at the par-5, 539-yard finishing hole in two shots, Dan Forsman rolled home a 22-foot eagle putt Sunday to capture the Pennsylvania Classic.
Forsman's total of 14-under-par 270 was one shot better than Robert Allenby and Billy Andrade. His final-round 6-under 65 earned him $594,000 and gave him his first PGA Tour victory since the 1992 Buick Open.
Forsman also secured his tour card for the next two years. He began play this weekend 117th on the money list but surpassed $1 million in earnings this season.
Trailing by a stroke heading to the 18th, Forsman hit his drive in the right rough but turned to his 3-wood and ripped his next shot onto the green.
His eagle putt curled in, leaving the 44-year-old Wisconsin native to watch Andrade's par at the final hole.
And Annika Sorenstam won her eighth tournament of the year by holding on for a one-stroke victory over Kate Golden at the Safeway Classic.
Hurricanes stay well in front
MIAMI, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Notre Dame and Penn State made the biggest jumps while the top five remained unchanged in the latest college coaches fooball poll released Sunday.
Notre Dame (3-0) rose nine spots to No. 12 after posting a 25-23 win over Michigan on Saturday. Shane Walton preserved the win for the Fighting Irish, swatting away a two-point conversion with under three minutes left and intercepting a pass in the final 21 seconds. Michigan (2-1) slipped eight places to No. 14.
Penn State (2-0) rolled to a stunning 40-7 rout of Nebraska and catapulted 10 spots to No. 15. The Nittany Lions are coming off two consecutive losing seasons under coach Joe Paterno. Nebraska (3-1) fell 12 places to No. 19.
Defending national champion Miami (3-0) again received 58 first-place votes and 1,522 points overall in a nationwide poll of 61 coaches. The Hurricanes defeated Temple, 44-21, for their 25th straight win as Willis McGahee tied a school record with four rushing touchdowns.
Texas (2-0) is No. 2, retaining its two first-place votes and receiving 1,419 points after a 52-21 win at North Carolina. Chris Simms passed for four touchdowns and Cedric Benson rushed for 208 yards to lead the Longhorns.
Oklahoma (3-0) received the other first-place vote and remained third in the poll, followed by idle Tennessee (2-0) and Florida State (3-0). Oklahoma steamrolled past Texas-El Paso, 68-0, and Florida State defeated Maryland, 37-10.
Ohio State (3-0), Virginia Tech (3-0) and Georgia (2-0) each rose two spots to take up the sixth, seventh and eighth positions. Oregon (3-0) and Florida (2-1) each moved up three places to complete the top 10.