SYDNEY (AP) — Pablo Matera has been stripped of the captaincy of the Argentina national rugby team and suspended along with two teammates over historic social media posts which have been deemed “discriminatory and xenophobic.”The suspensions were announced Tuesday after an emergency meeting of the Argentina Rugby Union, and further disciplinary action may be coming.Matera became a national hero when he led the Argentina team to its first-ever win over the New Zealand All Blacks during the Tri-Nations series in Australia three weeks ago. Now he, veteran lock Guido Petti and hooker Santiago Socino will miss Los Pumas’ final Tri-Nations match against Australia in Sydney on Saturday as their suspensions begin.The board of the Argentina union issued a statement saying it “repudiates the discriminatory and xenophobic comments published by members of the Los Pumas team on social networks.”It said the board resolved to “first, revoke the captaincy of Pablo Matera and asked (the national team) staff to propose a new captain to the board."Second, order the suspension Pablo Matera, Guido Petti and Santiago Socino from the national team until resolving disciplinary actions."Third, open a disciplinary case to the three players mentioned, which will be handled by the disciplinary commission of the Argentine Rugby Union.”The statement said social media posts were sent between 2011 and 2013 and “don’t represent the integrity as personas all three have shown through out this time with Los Pumas.”But it said “the Argentine Rugby Union condemns all kinds of hate speech and consider unacceptable that those who conveyed them represent our country.”The posts, mostly tweets, reportedly were aimed at Black people and Bolivian and Paraguayan domestic workers.Matera has closed his Twitter account and expressed regret over the messages on Instagram.“Today I have to take (responsibility) for what I said nine years ago,” Matera said. “I am very ashamed. Apologies to all those who were offended by the atrocities I wrote. At that moment I did not imagine who I was going to become."I’m also sorry to my team and my family for the moment they are going through ... and thanks to the people who love me for their support.”____More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The head of the world’s largest humanitarian network is urging governments and institutions to combat “fake news” about COVID-19 vaccines which has become “a second pandemic” and start building trust in communities around the world about the critical importance of vaccinating people.Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said in a virtual briefing to the U.N. Correspondents Association on Monday that “to beat this pandemic, we also have to defeat the parallel pandemic of distrust.”He said there is “a growing hesitancy about vaccines in general, and about a COVID vaccine in particular” around the world, pointing to a recent Johns Hopkins University study in 67 countries that found vaccine acceptance declined significantly in most countries from July to October this year.In a quarter of countries, Rocca said, the study found that the acceptance rate for a vaccine against the coronavirus was near or below 50 percent, with Japan dropping from 70 percent to 50 percent acceptance, and France dropping from 51 percent to 38 percent acceptance.He stressed that the lack of trust “is by no means a Western phenomenon,” citing the federation’s research in recent months in eight African countries -- Congo, Cameroon, Gabon, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Lesotho and Kenya -- which showed a steady decline in the perceptions of the risk of COVID-19 infection.A growing number of people indicated the virus doesn’t affect young people or Africans, that the disease doesn’t exist now but did exist and the pandemic has ended, he said. “In several African countries, we have seen a common skepticism towards vaccines in general, with a common belief being that foreigners use Africa as a medical ‘testing ground.’” Surprisingly, Rocca said, some typically vulnerable and marginalized groups aren’t even aware of the pandemic, pointing to a federation survey in Pakistan which found 10 percent of respondents didn’t know about COVID-19.“We believe that the massive, coordinated efforts that will be needed to roll out the COVID vaccine in an equitable manner need to be paralleled by equally massive efforts to proactively build and maintain trust,” Rocca said.This will require the same kind of sustained community engagement that recently defeated Ebola in Congo, he said.The federation operates in 192 countries with almost 14 million volunteers and painstaking community outreach and engagement are at the heart of its COVID-19 response, Rocca said.So far, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, with federation support, have reached 243 million people with COVID-19 activities including tracking community perceptions, responding to questions and suggestions, “and providing accurate and timely information in local languages through diverse channels,” he said.Rocca said he has watched with concern in recent weeks “as the imminent arrival of a possible vaccine has, at least in some countries, washed away the commitments that were made over the summer to ensure an equitable distribution of vaccines between and within countries.”He said “politicizing the vaccines is a huge mistake” and strongly backed the international initiative to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to countries worldwide known as COVAX as “the correct approach both for rich countries and the rest of the world.” “If a few wealthy nations insist on a `vaccine nationalism' approach, then many other countries — maybe even most other countries — will not be able to access them, both because of exclusive deals between wealthy countries and pharmaceutical companies and the inevitable lag in manufacturing enough doses,” he said..”
TOKYO (AP) — The five Olympic rings are back in Tokyo Bay. They were removed for maintenance four months ago shortly after the Tokyo Olympics were postponed until next year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The rings arrived on Tuesday after a short cruise from nearby Yokohama and are positioned on a barge in the shadow on Tokyo's Rainbow Bridge. The rings — painted blue, black, red, green, and yellow — are gigantic. They stand about 15 meters tall and 33 meters in length — about 50 feet tall and 100 feet in length. The rings will be lighted at night and herald the coming of the Tokyo Olympics, which are to open on July 23, 2021, followed by the Paralympics on Aug. 24. The rings made their first appearance early in 2020, just a few months before the Olympics were postponed late in March.The reappearance of the rings is the latest sign that organizers and the International Olympic Committee are increasingly confident that 15,400 Olympic and Paralympic athletes can safely enter Japan during the pandemic.These Olympics are sure to be like no other. They will hinge partly on the availability of vaccines and rapid testing for COVID-19, and on athletes and other participants following strict rules that could involve quarantines, a limited number of fans in venues, and athletes leaving Japan shortly after they finish their competitions.Organizers have been vague about exactly how the Olympics will be held. Plans are in flux with dozens of COVID-19 countermeasures being floated involving athletes, fans, and tens of thousands of officials, judges, VIPs, and media and broadcasters.Protocols should become clearer early in 2021 when decisions must be made about permitting fans from abroad, which will affect revenue from ticket sales.The meter continues to run on billions in costs, with Japanese taxpayers picking up most of the bills. Reports in Japan this week say the cost of the postponemen t is about $3 billion.—-More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand has joined Australia in denouncing a graphic tweet posted by a Chinese official that shows a fake image of a grinning Australian soldier holding a bloodied knife to a child’s throat.Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Tuesday that New Zealand has voiced its concerns directly with Chinese authorities.“This is an image that wasn’t factual. It wasn’t correct. And so in keeping with our principled position where images like that are used, we will raise those concerns and we’ll do it directly,” Ardern told reporters.China has not backed down from the tweet and said there will be no apology. Ardern's criticism was more muted than Australia's. She faced an awkward choice of how far to get involved in a conflict between New Zealand's closest ally, Australia, and its biggest trading partner, China. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday called the image “repugnant” and demanded an apology from the Chinese government. The post took aim at alleged abuses by Australian soldiers during the conflict in Afghanistan.The incident is further souring already tense relations between Australia and China. The image, which appeared to show the soldier slitting the child’s throat, was posted by Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry. He wrote a caption with his tweet: “Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, & call for holding them accountable.” He was referring to a disturbing report by Australia’s military earlier this month which found evidence that elite Australian troops unlawfully killed 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers and civilians during the Afghanistan conflict. The report recommended that 19 soldiers be referred to federal police for criminal investigation.Asked about the issue at a daily briefing, foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying cast blame on the Australian side. “What Australia should do is to reflect deeply, bring the perpetrators to justice, make a formal apology to the Afghan people, and solemnly promise to the international community that they will never commit such terrible crimes again,” Hua said. Morrison said Zhao’s tweet was “utterly outrageous” and a terrible slur against Australia’s military.It "is truly repugnant. It is deeply offensive to every Australian, every Australian who has served in that uniform,” he told reporters in Canberra. “The Chinese government should be totally ashamed of this post. It diminishes them in the world’s eyes.”Morrison said his government contacted Twitter asking it to take the post down. The post had a warning tag on it on Tuesday but could still be viewed. Zhao’s account comes with a Twitter label stating that it’s a Chinese government account.Despite China blocking Twitter and other U.S. social media platforms within the county, Chinese diplomats and state media have established a strong presence on them. Zhao was criticized by the U.S. in March after tweeting a conspiracy theory that U.S. soldiers may have brought the coronavirus to China. He is considered a leading representative of China’s high-pitched new strain of assertive foreign relations. Morrison acknowledged there were tensions between China and Australia.“But this is not how you deal with them,” he said. “Australia has patiently sought to address the tensions that exist in our relationship in a mature way, in a responsible way, by seeking engagement at both leader and ministerial level.”The rift between the two nations has grown since the Australian government called for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. China has since imposed tariffs and other restrictions on a number of Australian exports.
Darrell Bevell is pumped about the opportunity to coach the Detroit Lions, and quarterback Matthew Stafford sounds relaxed and ready for these last few games of the season — no matter what the future holds after that.The Lions finally cleaned house, firing their coach and general manager, and now the rest of the franchise can begin moving on.“I hate the circumstances with which it happened, but it's an opportunity,” said Bevell, who is now Detroit's interim coach. "You've got to take full advantage of opportunities that you're given, however they come your way. Like I told the players, I'm jacked, I'm excited. I get a five-game audition."Bevell has over a decade of experience as an offensive coordinator, including with the Lions. He was promoted to interim coach when Detroit fired coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn over the weekend. Ownership now has a lot of decisions to make about the team's long-term future, and it's not clear what the next few months could hold for the remaining coaching staff and many of the players.Yet the decision to fire Patricia and Quinn may also bring about a sense of relief — at least there's no more uncertainty and speculation about that. Bevell clearly wants his team to have fun during these last few weeks of the regular season, and Stafford is focused on the short term as well.“Obviously, winning is a lot of fun. Losing makes it less fun, that's for sure," Stafford said. "Do everything we can to win. I think Bev's probably speaking more to his personality and how he wants things to go. This is an opportunity for him, to put his stamp on it.”Detroit is 4-7 this season and went 13-29-1 during Patricia's tenure. The last game for the old regime was a 41-25 loss to Houston on Thanksgiving.Any analysis of the Lions at this point should have less to do with the next game and more to do with what the next few years could look like.WHAT'S WORKINGThere aren't a lot of bright spots when a team plays poorly enough for multiple firings in the middle of the season. Still, when healthy, the Lions have the makings of a solid passing game. Receiver Kenny Golladay has been out lately with a hip injury, but he put up back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons before 2020. Tight end T.J. Hockenson leads the team in receptions in his second season.The problem is that Stafford is now in his 12th season, and Detroit will need to decide whether to keep trying to build around him — or really start over with someone younger.“As far as my future goes past this season, I'll figure that out and talk about that later on," Stafford said. "To me, I've got a lot of work to be done, as a team and as a leader. There's a lot to be done here for the rest of the season.”WHAT NEEDS WORKThe defense was particularly disappointing under Patricia, since he was a defensive coordinator for the Patriots before coming to Detroit. Last week was the third time this season the Lions allowed 40 points in a game.STOCK UPDefensive end Romeo Okwara has six sacks this season and is closing in on his career high of 7 1/2, set two seasons ago.STOCK DOWNDetroit's draft results under Quinn have been underwhelming, and his final first-round selection — defensive back Jeff Okudah — has not had a great rookie season.INJUREDIn addition to Golladay, the Lions were also missing Okudah (shoulder) and running back D'Andre Swift (concussion) in last week's game. Defensive back Desmond Trufant aggravated a hamstring injury against the Texans.KEY NUMBER11 — That's the number of coaches, including Bevell, the Lions have had since they last won a playoff game during the 1991 season. UP NEXTThe Lions play at Chicago this coming Sunday. The teams met in the season opener, with the Bears rallying to win 27-23.___Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — Julian Champagnie had 29 points, 10 rebounds and a key block in his season debut to help St. John's beat Boston College 97-93 on Monday night.St. John's led 92-79 with 2:39 remaining before Boston College went on a 12-1 run as the Red Storm turned it over five times in six possessions.Down 96-93, Boston College turned it over with 17.6 seconds left but St. John's did the same on the ensuing inbound pass. Wynston Tabbs grabbed an offensive rebound after a missed 3 and stepped back to the 3-point line in the corner, but was blocked by Champagnie. John McGriff sealed it at the other end with a free throw. Freshman Posh Alexander added 18 points with five assists, and Greg Williams Jr. had 17 points and six assists for John's (3-0). Alexander went 6 for 6 in the first half for 16 points to help St. John's build a 52-40 lead. Champagnie, who missed the first two games with a sprained right ankle, added 14 points and Dylan Addae-Wusu had five assists.Tabbs scored 23 points to lead Boston College (1-2). Sophomore CJ Felder added a career-high 18 points, and Jay Heath, who returned to the starting lineup after missing the Rhode Island game, and Makai Ashton-Langford each scored 13.___More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
ATLANTA (AP) — Some establishment Republicans are sounding alarms that President Donald Trump’s conspiratorial denials of his own defeat could threaten the party’s ability to win a Senate majority and counter President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.The concerns come ahead of Trump’s planned Saturday visit to Georgia to campaign alongside Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who face strong Democratic challengers in Jan. 5 runoffs that will determine which party controls the Senate at the outset of Biden’s presidency. Republicans acknowledge Trump as the GOP’s biggest turnout driver, including in Georgia, where Biden won by fewer than 13,000 votes out of about 5 million cast. That means every bit of enthusiasm from one of Trump’s signature rallies could matter. But some Republicans worry Trump will use the platform to amplify his baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud — arguments roundly rejected in state and federal courts across the country. That could make it harder for Perdue and Loeffler to keep a clear focus on the stakes in January and could even discourage Republicans from voting.“The president has basically taken hostage this race,” said Brendan Buck, once a top adviser to former House Speaker Paul Ryan.Especially fraught are Trump’s continued attacks on Georgia’s Republican state officials and the state’s election system, potentially taking away from his public praise of Loeffler and Perdue.“Trump’s comments are damaging the Republican brand,” argued Republican donor Dan Eberhart, who added that the president is “acting in bad sportsmanship and bad faith” instead of emphasizing Republicans’ need to maintain Senate control. The GOP needs one more seat for a majority. Democrats need Jon Ossoff to defeat Perdue and Raphael Warnock to defeat Loeffler to force a 50-50 Senate, positioning Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking majority vote.Trump on Monday blasted Gov. Brian Kemp as “hapless” for not intervening to “overrule” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s certification of Biden’s win. A day earlier, Trump told Fox News he was “ashamed” he’d endorsed Kemp in his 2018 GOP primary for governor. Kemp’s office noted in response that state law gives Kemp no authority to overturn election results, despite Trump’s contention that Kemp could “easily” invoke “emergency powers.” Meanwhile, Raffensperger, a Trump supporter like Kemp, has accused the president of throwing him “under the bus” for doing his job.Perdue and Loeffler have attempted to stay above the fray. They’ve long aligned themselves with Trump and even echoed some of his general criticisms of the fall elections, jointly demanding Raffensperger’s resignation. But the crux of their runoff argument — that Republicans must prevent Democrats from controlling Capitol Hill and the White House — is itself a tacit admission that Biden, not Trump, will be inaugurated Jan. 20. And at one recent campaign stop, Perdue heard from vocal Trump supporters who demanded that he do more to help Trump somehow claim Georgia’s 16 electoral votes.Republicans see three potential negative outcomes to Trump fanning the flames.Some GOP voters could be dissuaded from voting again if they accept Trump’s claims that the system is hopelessly corrupted. Among Republicans more loyal to Trump than to the party, some could skip the runoff altogether out of anger at a party establishment the president continues to assail. Lastly, at the other end of the GOP spectrum are the moderate Republicans who already crossed over to help Biden win Georgia and could be further alienated if the runoff becomes another referendum on Trump.Josh Holmes, a top adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said Republicans “haven’t seen any evidence of lack of enthusiasm in the Senate races.”But none of those potential bad effects would have to be sweeping to tilt the runoffs if they end up as close as the presidential contest in Georgia. “We’ll see how it plays out. It changes day by day and week by week. But so far, so good,” Holmes said.In Georgia, any Republican concerns are more circumspect.Brian Robinson, a former adviser to Kemp’s Republican predecessor as governor, said Trump should “drive a strong, forward-looking message” about what’s at stake for a Republican base that “is fervently devoted to him.” “The best thing he can do for the party,” Robinson said, “is to talk about the importance of having a Republican Senate majority to project his policy legacy and to make sure the Democrats can’t reverse a lot of what he has put in place that Republicans support.”Asked what Trump should avoid, Robinson circled back to what he believes the president should say.Former U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, a Trump ally, downplayed the potential for GOP splintering, framing an “inner-family squabble” as a sideshow to the “incredible” consequences that define the runoffs.“Followers of Trump will follow Trump, but they’re not blind to the huge stakes. And neither is he,” Kingston said. “He knows to keep his legacy. He’s got to get these people reelected.” Trump, Kingston argued, is “keeping the base interested,” a necessary component of any successful runoff campaign since second rounds of elections often see a drop-off in voter participation.Robinson added that Democrats face their own challenge in replicating record turnout for Biden.“What’s the best motivator? Fear,” he said. Before November, Democrats dreaded a second Trump term more than Republicans feared Trump losing, Robinson reasoned. “Republicans have reason to be scared now,” he said, because of the prospect that Democrats could control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. “That could make a difference in turnout” beyond anything Trump says, Robinson concluded. For their parts, the senators continue their public embrace of all things Trump ahead of the visit.“I couldn’t be more excited to welcome” the president “back to Georgia,” Loeffler wrote on Twitter after Trump confirmed his plans. Perdue’s campaign quickly retweeted the comment, which Loeffler punctuated with a reminder that the runoffs are “an all-hands-on-deck moment.” It’s not clear, though, if all Republicans will be on hand at all.Kemp, the governor who appointed Loeffler upon Sen. Johnny Isakson’s retirement last year, has on previous Trump visits greeted the president as he disembarks from Air Force One. Asked Monday whether Georgians will see a similar scene Saturday, Kemp spokesman Cody Hall said he could not comment “yet.” ___Fram reported from Washington.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A record-setting Atlantic hurricane season that saw the highest number of named storms officially came to a close Monday. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season set multiple records while producing a record 30 named storms. There were so many that the list of 21 conventional names was exhausted and the Greek alphabet was used for only the second time. The season also saw the second-highest number of hurricanes on record after 13 of the storms reached hurricane status. There were six major hurricanes with top winds of 111 mph (178 kph) or greater. NOAA said an average season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three become major hurricanes."We had more named storms in the Atlantic basin than any other year on record, breaking the old record of 28 set in 2005," said Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist with the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University. This season also set a record for the number of storms that made landfall in the continental U.S. with 12 such storms. Klotzbach said of those 12 named storms, six made landfall at hurricane strength, tying the record of six hurricane landfalls also set in 1886 and 1985. “The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season ramped up quickly and broke records across the board,” said Neil Jacobs, acting NOAA administrator, in a news release. Five of the 12 storms that hit the United States this year made landfall in Louisiana.“Louisiana was especially hard hit this year, with five named storms hitting the state. The prior record for named storms hitting Louisiana in a single hurricane season is 4 set in 2002,” Klotzbach said.“Today marks the end of the 2020 hurricane season. It’s been a hard one, but if we’ve learned anything from the five storms that came ashore this year it’s that the people of Louisiana are resilient and by working together, there’s no challenge too great for us to overcome,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards wrote on Twitter. Jean Lafitte Mayor Tim Kerner Jr. told The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate that closing the book on the 2020 season brings welcome relief to his south Louisiana community.“It was an incredibly stressful time for the entire community,” he said of all the times his town had to go on a storm footing. “Each time, you have to prepare like the worst is going to happen."Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30 although storms can form before and after those dates. NOAA said this was the fifth consecutive year with an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, with 18 above-normal seasons out of the past 26.
Coach Jon Gruden didn’t feel any better rewatching the Las Vegas Raiders lopsided loss at Atlanta than he did when he saw it in person.The five turnovers, 141 yards in penalties and a couple of defensive breakdowns that added up to the 43-6 loss to the Falcons on Sunday have a way of doing that.“You ever go to the dentist and have to have your teeth pulled out? It’s pretty much like that,” Gruden said Monday. “This was tough, man.“Fourth-and-1 we have the ball, we go for it, we get rejected. Next possession, first down, we take a shot with an aggressive play-action protection, sack-strip fumble. Right before the half, we’re going in for points, sack-strip fumble. Early in the third quarter, we’re in great field position, interception for a touchdown. We force a kicker to miss a field goal, we rough the kicker and they end up getting seven (points) out of that."There wasn’t anything pleasant about watching the tape.”The game was a complete reversal of the way the Raiders (6-5) had been playing in recent weeks. They won three straight and then lost a tight game at the end to the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs that showed they can compete with just about anybody.But then when the schedule was supposed to get easier, starting with a visit to the struggling Falcons, the Raiders fell flat instead. They now have a difficult road in the tough AFC to make it to the playoffs for the second time in 17 seasons.Las Vegas will likely need to win four of its final five games to make it, starting with this week’s trip to face the winless New York Jets, who lost 20-3 on Sunday to Miami.“I’m not going to worry about anything down the road except the Jets,” Gruden said. “If you watch the Jets play yesterday, they’re a handful. They are going to be hard to move the ball on. ... This will be a fist fight, no doubt about it. I got a lot of respect for the way the Jets are competing.”WHAT’S WORKINGPasses to Hunter Renfrow. The second-year slot receiver is emerging as the Raiders' most dependable wide receiver. He matched a career high with seven catches on Sunday for 73 yards. He leads all Las Vegas wideouts with 38 catches for 509 yards this season.WHAT NEEDS HELPDerek Carr’s ball security. Carr committed a career-worst four turnovers in the game, losing three fumbles on sacks and throwing an interception that was returned for a TD by Deion Jones. Carr’s 11 fumbles are the most in the NFL this season and he has lost a league-high eight of them. He has fumbled eight times on his 17 sacks, more than quadruple the league average rate of fumbles on sacks.STOCK UPNicholas Morrow. There were few players who earned praise in the loss but Morrow was one of them. He played 77 of 78 snaps despite the return of Cory Littleton from injury, and led the team with 10 tackles to go with one quarterback hit, one tackle for loss and two passes defensed.STOCK DOWNBrandon Parker. The third-year tackle earned praise for his solid play in recent weeks as a fill-in at both left and right tackle. He was exposed against the Falcons when he started on the right side. He was beaten by Jacob Tuioti-Mariner on a sack late in the first half that led to a fumble by Carr.INJUREDRB Josh Jacobs was slowed by a sprained ankle but is confident he won’t miss a game. ... CB Damon Arnette left with a concussion. He was feeling better Monday and Gruden is hopeful he can clear the protocols this week. ... RT Trent Brown will return to practice from the COVID-19 list Wednesday but is unlikely to play the upcoming game. DE Clelin Ferrell and DB Lamarcus Joyner could play this week after missing two games on the COVID-19 list.KEY NUMBER14 — The Raiders have gone 14 straight drives without scoring a TD. During that stretch, they have turned over the ball six times, gone three-and-out three times, punted two other times, kicked two field goals and turned it over on downs once.NEXT STEPSLas Vegas visits the winless New York Jets on Sunday. The Raiders are 1-18 on the road against AFC and NFC East teams the past 13 seasons, with the only win coming when they spent the week in Florida before playing Miami in 2017.___More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Difficult as it was watching the Buffalo Bills’ maddening inability to close out a win over the Chargers until the final minutes, coach Sean McDermott was at least able to laugh about it afterward.“If I’m laying on the ground one of these days, you’ll know why. You’ll know why,” McDermott said, following a 27-17 win on Sunday.“Look at this,” he said with a grin while pulling off his Bills ballcap to begin rubbing his bald head. “I had a full head of hair when I met you, right?”As evidenced against Los Angeles, the Bills have had their share of hair-raising moments, particularly in the second half of games this season, in which they've not made it easy on themselves despite an AFC East-leading 8-3 record.After building a 24-6 lead early in the third quarter, Buffalo nearly bumbled away its edge by turning the ball over on each of its first three possessions of the fourth quarter, and allowing the Chargers to close to within a touchdown.Even after Tyler Bass hit a 43-yard field goal to give the Bills a 10-point edge, Buffalo’s defense allowed Justin Herbert to complete a 55-yard pass — on fourth-and-27, no less — to Tyron Johnson in the final minute to make things interesting.That the Chargers mismanaged the clock and weren’t able to score on three plays from inside the 2 before the clock expired was immaterial. It instead became another example of the Bills’ flirtations with nearly turning wins into losses.Johnson's catch, while surrounded by Bills defenders, was eerily similar to DeAndre Hopkins’ leaping 43-yard touchdown reception with 2 seconds left in Arizona’s 32-30 win two weeks earlier.Then there was a 35-32 win over the Rams in Week 3, in which Buffalo squandered a 28-3 lead before pulling back ahead on Josh Allen’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Kroft with 15 seconds remaining. And Buffalo's 18-10 victory over the winless Jets in Week 7 wasn’t decided until Bass hit his sixth field goal of the game with 2 minutes left, and defensive end Jerry Hughes ended New York's final drive by intercepting Sam Darnold.Opponents have outscored Buffalo in the second half in all but three games, and by an overall combined margin of 173-133. Turnovers have also been an issue. Of the Bills’ 16 giveaways this season, nine (four lost fumbles and five interceptions) have occurred in the final two quarters.Though Buffalo’s 299 points scored are 15 short of matching last season’s total, the Bills' largest margin of victory has been 10 points.McDermott defended the Bills by suggesting they're not the only team that's had difficulty protecting leads this season. The Chargers, for example, are 2-5 when leading at the half.“I think that speaks to the parity of this this league,” McDermott said. "The thing we have to get corrected is when they're self-inflicted more than anything. That, over the course of time, will get you beat."WHAT’S WORKINGThe defense continues establishing an attacking identity after limiting the Chargers to a field goal on their final five possessions, including three ending inside Buffalo’s 30. WHAT NEEDS HELPBall security. Running back Devin Singletary gained 8 yards before having the ball punched loose by linebacker Nick Vigil at Buffalo’s 45 on the Bills' first possession of the fourth quarter. Two plays into Buffalo’s next drive, Allen muffed a snap at the Chargers 22. Four plays into Buffalo’s third drive of the quarter, Allen threw a weak pass off his back foot, which Michael Davis easily intercepted at his own 44.STOCK UPLinebacker A.J. Klein. The offseason free-agent addition who is filling in for injured starter Matt Milano (partially torn pectoral muscle) was credited with 14 tackles and had 1 1/2 sacks.STOCK DOWNDefensive end Trent Murphy was a healthy scratch and appears to be dropping down the depth chart behind rookie second-round pick, A.J. Epenesa.INJUREDMilano is eligible to return to practice after missing three games on injured reserve.KEY NUMBER11 — Buffalo’s streak of games with 20 or more first downs to break the franchise record set in Weeks 1-10 of 1992.NEXT STEPSBuffalo travels back to Arizona for the second time in three weeks to play the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night. The 49ers were forced to relocate to to Arizona after Santa Clara County banned contact sports teams from holding games and practices for the next three weeks.___More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL