Steelers, 49ers stage big comebacks
SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- The opening weekend of the NFL playoffs came to an end with Comeback Sunday.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers, both seemingly headed for the exit, staged sensational rallies Sunday to stay alive and eliminate the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants.
Pittsburgh's Tommy Maddox directed the Steelers to four touchdowns in the last 19 minutes for a 36-33 win over the Browns and San Francisco's Jeff Garcia brought the 49ers back from a 24-point deficit in a 39-38 decision over the Giants.
Those two thrillers followed a Saturday in which the New York Jets produced the second most one-sided shutout in playoff history against Indianapolis and the Atlanta Falcons became the first team ever to hand Green Bay a playoff loss on the Packers' home field.
The divisional round gets underway next Saturday with Pittsburgh traveling to Tennessee and Atlanta going to Philadelphia. On Sunday, Tampa Bay will be at home against San Francisco and Oakland will host the Jets.
Garcia put San Francisco in front with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Tai Streets with one minute to play and the Giants survived a potential game-winning field-goal attempt on the final play of the game.
During the final 17 minutes, Garcia threw two touchdown passes, ran for another score, converted a pair of two-point conversions and guided the 49ers 74 yards to a field goal.
All of that allowed San Francisco to climb out of a 38-14 hole.
Garcia completed 27 of 44 passes for 331 yards while New York's Kerry Collins wasted a 342-yard effort in which he hit 29 of 43 attempts. He threw four touchdown passes in the first half.
In Pittsburgh, a three-yard run by Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala with 54 seconds to play put the Steelers in front after they had trailed by 17 points in the third period.
Cleveland's Kelly Holcomb, making only his fourth NFL start, carved up Pittsburgh's secondary for 429 yards and three touchdowns. The Browns were trying to win their first road playoff game in almost half a century.
The last of Holcomb's completions came on the final play of the game and went to Andre King for 15 yards to the Steelers' 30 with the Browns having no time outs remaining.
King could not get out of bounds in time to stop the clock and give his team a chance for a game-tying field goal.
Owning a 24-7 lead, the Browns were threatening again midway through the third quarter when Pittsburgh's Mike Logan ignited the Steelers' comeback with an interception, the only Cleveland turnover of the day. Pittsburgh went to the no-huddle offense after gaining possession and the Steelers scored on four of their last five possessions.
Kings rout Heat
SACRAMENTO, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Mike Bibby scored 22 points and Keon Clark almost had a triple-double Sunday to night to carry Sacramento past Miami, 96-70.
Clark was playing in place of the injured Chris Webber.
Webber was sidelined with a bruised knee, but it hardly slowed Sacramento, which had five players in double figures. Miami struggled as guard Eddie Jones sat out with a sprained ankle.
Clark started for Webber and collected 12 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocks. Jim Jackson scored 14 points off the bench and Vlade Divac had 11 and 12 rebounds for the Kings, who never trailed.
Sacramento scored the first 12 points highlighted by three-pointers from Bibby and Peja Stojakovic, who had 11 points. Miami got no closer than nine thereafter as it shot just 30 percent from the floor.
Rookie Caron Butler scored 16 points but was the only player in double figures for the Heat, who are without their starting backcourt after placing point guard Travis Best on the injured list Friday.
Other NBA results: San Antonio 94, LA Clippers 86; New Orleans 99, Toronto 94; Portland 92, New York 89; LA Lakers 109, Phoenix 97.
Hull helps end Blackhawks streak
CHICAGO, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Brett Hull scored two third-period goals and assisted on Jason Woolley's overtime game-winner Sunday night in Detroit's 4-3 win over Chicago.
The Blackhawks had their nine-game unbeaten streak snapped.
Chicago squandered a pair of two-goal leads and lost for the first time in 57 games when leading after two periods. They had a 3-1 lead after Theo Fleury scored with just 10:17 to play in regulation before the Red Wings' onslaught.
Hull halved the deficit on the power play with 7:27 remaining and forged a tie with just 17 seconds to go when he deflected Nicklas Lindstrom's slap shot past Chicago goaltender Jocelyn Thibault.
After Detroit's Curtis Joseph made a spectacular save in overtime, Hull and Woolley took advantage of a two on one. Hull drew the defender to the right circle before passing across the slot to Woolley, who put the puck past Thibault's glove side just 71 seconds into the extra session.
Other NHL results: Philadelphia 5, Anaheim 4; Dallas 1, Anaheim 1.
Duke captures conference opener
CLEMSON, S.C., Jan. 6 (UPI) -- The top-ranked Duke Blue Devils spoiled Clemson's return to Littlejohn Coliseum Sunday night.
Duke pulled away in the second half for an 89-71 victory in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams.
Freshman J.J. Redick scored 22 points for the Blue Devils (9-0, 1-0 ACC), who posted their 14th straight win over the Tigers.
Clemson spent $31 million to renovate the school's longtime basketball home.
The contest matched two of the four remaining unbeaten teams in Division I, but Duke had too much firepower for Clemson (9-1, 0-1). The other unbeatens are Wake Forest and Connecticut.
Dahntay Jones, who was inserted to the starting lineup, capped a 10-2 spurt with a 3-pointer that gave the Blue Devils a 48-38 halftime lead. Duke increased its lead to 65-47 on Daniel Ewing's three-pointer with 11:55 left.
The teams combined for 52 fouls in a physical game that also included six technicals. The Blue Devils led by as many 19 points in the final minutes.
Edward Scott scored 28 points to keep Clemson close.
While their 35-year-old campus facility was being renovated, the Tigers played their first eight home games in Anderson, S.C. Despite the inconvenience, the Tigers are off to their best start since the 1995-96 season, when they won their first 11 games.
Also in the top 10, No. 8 texas defeated Mount St. Mary's, 80-64.
Brother and sister win World Cup races
KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Ivica Kostelic of Croatia celebrated his sister Janica's slalom victory Sunday with a win of his own.
It marked the first time in World Cup history that a brother and sister won the same day.
Kostelic, who posted the fastest time in the opening leg, delivered another speedy run down the soft, crumbling Podkoren 3 course to win with a two-run aggregate time of 1 minute, 44.71 seconds.
The victory came less than an hour after Janica triumphed ahead Austrian runner-up Elisabeth Goergl and Sweden's Anja Paerson in Bormio, Italy.
The siblings have enjoyed much success this season. Ivica - the reigning World Cup slalom champion - won the last slalom in Sestrieres and tops the discipline standings. Janica leads the women's World Cup overall and slalom rankings.
Austria's Rainer Schoenfelder, third after the opening leg, climbed to second with 1:44.98, while Olympic slalom champion Jean-Pierre Vidal of France placed third in 1:45.03.
Finland's Kalle Palander, the 1999 slalom world champion, was fourth in 1:46.07.
Thomas Grandi of Canada was the top North American, placing ninth in 1:46.63, while Tom Rothrock had the best American result, finishing 12th, 2.10 off the pace.
Rothrock saved the honor of the U.S. team after Bode Miller and Erik Schlopy both went out in the opening leg.
Miller, who became the first American in 20 years to lead the overall standings after winning Saturday's giant slalom, straddled a gate halfway down.
Organizers breathed a sigh of relief after the weekend's races were completed without a hitch. The resort was nearly forced to cancel its races after rain and warm weather Friday damaged course conditions. Then a heavy fall of wet snow overnight.
General warm temperatures across Europe have caused several race cancelations this season, with the International Ski Federation scrambling to reschedule events.