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Bills stampede Patriots 47-17 in Wild Card game, end Mac Jones’ rookie season

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Bills stampede Patriots 47-17 in Wild Card game, end Mac Jones’ rookie season

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Mac Jones era was born from pain.

A legend’s exit, a losing season and the temporary loss of a franchise’s championship identity.

That suffering, spread over 12 months, allowed the Patriots to recover in record time. And for a while, pairing a rookie quarterback with the largest free-agent haul in NFL history proved to be a winning formula. The Pats won seven straight, clinched a playoff berth and began to frame their present with the expectations of their past.

But en route to racing toward a future that felt promised, pain returned. The Patriots’ smooth regular-season ride that hit a few speed bumps late blasted into a brick wall at Buffalo.

And then that brick well fell on them, extinguishing any expectations and the rest of their season.

The Bills pummeled the Pats over a 47-17 AFC Wild Card showdown, unleashing two decades of division frustration in a single night. The Patriots defense suffered its worst outing of the Bill Belichick era, with Buffalo scoring seven touchdowns and becoming the first team to record a turnover, punt or field goal in NFL history. Saturday marked the third-worst playoff loss in franchise history and the worst ever under Belichick.

Bills quarterback Josh Allen was again masterful, completing 21-of-25 passes for 308 yards and five touchdowns. He was never bothered, never fooled and hasn’t led a drive against the Patriots that resulted in a punt since their first regular-season meeting on Dec. 6.

The Patriots finish at 10-8, with losses in four of their last five games and a sense of wonder of what could have been. Again, they started slowly and committed a first-half turnover, hallmarks of their poor play since an early December bye week.

Offensively, all of Mac Jones’ safest outlets — screens, out routes and checkdowns — were eliminated by Buffalo’s top-ranked defense until the Pats trailed by four scores in the second half. He finished 24-of-38 for 232 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of picks, numbers boosted late touchdown drives in garbage time.

Electrified by their first capacity crowd for a home playoff game in 25 years, the Bills robbed the Patriots any hope of any early lead by marching to an opening-drive touchdown.

In the first sign of a special night brewing in Buffalo, Allen rolled right inside the red zone flipped an apparent throwaway toward the end zone. Instead, his fluttering pass found tight end Dawson Knox in the back right corner for an 8-yard touchdown. After a Jones interception, Allen followed his first touchdown with another strike to Knox, who beat Pats safety Adrian Phillips for an 11-yard score.

Trailing 14-0, the Pats punted on fourth-and-1 from their own 34. Naturally, Allen made them pay.

The Bills patiently covered 61 yards in 10 plays, while Belichick’s defensive staff searched for answers. Without corners Jalen Mills and Shaun Wade, both lost to COVID-19, they deployed three safeties against a sizzling Buffalo offense. Devin Singletary finished off the drive with a 3-yard rushing touchdown.

Singletary added another at the 2-minute warning, facing a Patriots defense now populated by practice-squad corners and bouncing haplessly between man and zone coverage.

The Pats managed to tack on a 44-yard field goal seconds before halftime to make it 27-3. But it was no match for Allen, who tossed three more touchdowns around Jones’ first of the night. His last hit backup offensive lineman Tommy Doyle from one yard away in the fourth quarter, the ultimate punctuation to a painful night seared into the football memory of New England.

Here were the best and worst Patriot performances from Saturday night

Best

Field goal block unit The Pats blocked two extra points.

WR Kendrick Bourne He set team highs in catches (7), receiving yards (77) and touchdowns (2). Bourne was the team’s lone bright spot offensively.

Worst

Pass defense The pass rush didn’t sack Allen once, the corners couldn’t cover and the safeties were all over the place.

Run defense Buffalo rushed for 174 yards, their third-highest total of the season. The Pats were served a dose of their own bully-ball medicine.

Coaching An unprecedented embarrassment for the greatest defensive coach in NFL history.

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Former South St. Paul basketball coach dies by suicide, two days before sentencing on federal fraud case

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Undated courtesy photo, circa January 2022, of Matthew McCollister, head boys basketball coach at South St. Paul High School. (Courtesy of South St. Paul Public Schools)

Former South St. Paul boys basketball coach Matthew McCollister died by suicide on Monday, two days before he was to be sentenced for fraud in federal court.

McCollister, 40, leaves behind his wife and three young children.

He pleaded guilty in January for his role in a scheme to defraud car insurance companies with false medical claims while working as a personal injury attorney.

Matthew McCollister (Courtesy of South St. Paul Public Schools)

Mendota Heights Police Chief Kelly McCarthy said officers were called around 3 p.m. Monday for a possible suicide in the 3600 block of Wesley Court and found McCollister dead in his home.

McCollister was charged in December in U.S. District Court with felony conspiracy to commit health care fraud from 2016 to 2017. He was charged by felony information, a process by which a defendant agrees to waive a grand jury indictment and instead plead guilty.

McCollister resigned from the team and his student support assistant job at South St. Paul High School on Jan. 12, the day the Pioneer Press first reported the accusations and just hours before he was scheduled to plead guilty at the federal courthouse in St. Paul. That hearing was postponed after his attorney fell ill.

McCollister entered his plea on Jan. 19. Sentencing guidelines called for 10 to 16 months in prison. McCollister remained free on his own recognizance pending his sentencing, which was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright.

“We ask that you give his family time and space to grieve,” his attorney, Ryan Pacyga, said in a statement Tuesday. “There will not be a sentencing hearing tomorrow. I have no further comments.”

McCollister had been South St. Paul High School’s head basketball coach since November 2019, and was credited with leading a turnaround of a once-struggling program. Prior to joining South St. Paul, McCollister had been a head coach at Breck, St. Croix Preparatory Academy and Brooklyn Center.

FRAUD SCHEME

McCollister was admitted to practice law in Minnesota in 2009. Starting around 2015, McCollister began his own law practice that focused primarily on pursuing personal injury claims on behalf of people who had been in car accidents.

About a year later, a chiropractor introduced McCollister to a confidential informant who was working with the Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau and posing as a “runner,” according to federal prosecutors. A runner is someone who gets paid to recruit people who supposedly were injured in car crashes and then receive chiropractic treatment paid for by auto insurance companies.

McCollister met with the runner at the Red Cow restaurant in St. Paul on March 1, 2016, and asked the individual to find people who supposedly were injured, prosecutors said. McCollister’s idea was to then have them go to chiropractors for care and that he would represent them in bringing claims against auto insurance companies for the purported injuries, according to the plea agreement. McCollister offered to pay the runner $300 or more for each person recruited.

Prosecutors allege McCollister then directed one of the two undercover patients to be “treated” by chiropractor Huy Nguyen, who is currently serving a prison sentence for his role in the conspiracy.

In December 2015, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Nguyen’s chiropractic clinic, Healthcare Chiropractic, in Brooklyn Park, where McCollister maintained an informal office and spent considerable time, according to U.S. Attorney David MacLaughlin.

“Huy Nguyen’s notoriousness could not have escaped Mr. McCollister’s attention,” MacLaughlin wrote in an April 26 memorandum that argued for a 16-month sentence for McCollister.

McCollister’s “brazen use of a known crooked chiropractor” continued throughout 2016 and into 2017, the memo read. On March 16, 2016, the undercover runner had lunch with McCollister, Nguyen and another now-convicted conspirator/MRI specialist named Quincy Chettupally at Fogo de Chao in downtown Minneapolis. The lunch was video recorded without McCollister’s knowledge and the conspirators openly discussed the scheme, according to prosecutors.

A grand jury in December 2016 indicted Nguyen in the conspiracy to which McCollister would later plead guilty. In August 2017, the grand jury added Chettupally to the conspiracy count.

Despite the indictments, McCollister sent two letters to Liberty Mutual Insurance, demanding a $25,000 bodily injury settlement for two separate bogus claims, prosecutors say.

DISBARRED

McCollister was the second Minnesota attorney charged and convicted through what was dubbed “Operation Back Cracker,” an effort by the state Commerce Fraud Bureau, the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office to combat personal injury protection fraud cases.

In November 2020, Minnetonka attorney William Sutor was sentenced to 16 months in prison after being convicted of the same offense as McCollister.

Pacyga, McCollister’s attorney, planned to argue for a five-month prison sentence followed by home confinement or community supervision.

McCollister “promptly accepted responsibility” by forgoing an indictment, Pacyga noted in his April 25 sentencing memorandum. “McCollister has lost not one, but two careers,” he added.

McCollister in February was disbarred by the Minnesota Supreme Court for professional misconduct unrelated to the federal charge. He had admitted to intentionally misappropriating more than $16,300 in client funds from his trust account between July 2020 and December 2020.

“Besides the father and husband that he has been and continues to be, he continues to work on himself with therapy and stays sober, even in the face of a federal criminal sentencing and the loss of both his law and coaching careers,” Pacyga wrote in his memo.

When McCollister left the team, South St. Paul was 14-0 and among the top-ranked teams in Class 3A. Assistant coach Darren Edwards took over as head coach and the team went on to win 14 straight games before falling to DeLaSalle 69-67 in the Section 3 final. It was South St. Paul’s second straight loss in the section final.

Prior to resigning, McCollister was a full-time student support assistant at the high school. In that role, he worked with student-support specialists who focus on student behavior.

To get help for thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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Heat may need to keep Victor Oladipo caffeinated with jolt required vs. Celtics in East finals

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Ravens kicker Justin Tucker’s record-breaking kick honored as NFL’s Best Moment of the Year

Considering Jimmy Butler is a walking coffee shop, one would not think the Miami Heat would have an issue getting caffeinated.

But a bench set on domination in the Eastern Conference finals has come up short, making the strained left groin that took Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro out of Monday night’s loss to the Boston Celtics all the more significant.

With all eyes on the Heat injury report, it has become apparent that depth might be the only answer for the Heat to regain control of the best-of-seven series that is tied 2-2 going into Wednesday’s 8:30 p.m. Game 5 at FTX Arena.

Hope was added in Game 4, with Victor Oladipo closing with 23 points.

“Just being aggressive,” Oladipo said.

At 11.8 points per game in this series, Oladipo is not far behind Herro’s 12.3. The difference is Oladipo also is 6 of 15 on 3-pointers, compared to Herro’s 1 of 14, as well as 17 of 23 from the line, as opposed to Herro’s 4 of 4.

So an aggressive Oladipo plus a revived Herro could be worth more than any double shot being served up by Butler’s Big Face Coffee grinders, with the Heat’s starting forward with his own series concerns.

“He’s just being successful in his role,” Heat center Bam Adebayo said of Oladipo. “He’s been doing that night in, night out. We can’t take anything from him. He’s definitely a spark that was keeping us in the game.”

Oladipo’s effort in Game 4, in fact, was so unique that, according to ESPN, he became the first reserve to outscore his team’s starting lineup in a playoff game since starters first were tracked by the NBA in 1970-71.

“Just got to continue to keep improving, continue to keep playing hard and figure out ways to win,” said Oladipo, as he continues to work back from May 2021 quadriceps surgery. “It’s a seven-game series, so on to the next one. Got to get ready for Game 5.”

Better looks

Among the Heat’s priorities is creating a better shot menu than Game 4, when they had only three shots at the rim in Monday night’s first half.

“I think that’s on us,” Butler said. “We settled for too many mid-range jump shots, myself included. A lot of shots behind the three that weren’t even good ones, at that.

“Ain’t nothing more than that. We need to move the ball around, get it to the open guy and let that guy make the play and live with what we get out of it. I think we’ve just got to be better.”

It starts, Butler said, with better ball movement.

“Move the ball, get it from one side to the other, keep the game extremely simple,” he said. Whenever we tend to do that, we tend to play well. When anybody tries to hit a home run and do it by themselves, we kind of get in trouble. Ball sticks. We turn the ball over. We take a bad shot.

“We just need to do everything together like we’ve been doing all year long. It will be on myself, on Kyle [Lowry], on Bam to make sure that we make that happen.”

Higher calling

Having missed the Celtics’ Game 2 victory at FTX Arena for the birth of his son, Celtics guard Derrick White said he felt twice blessed after playing a major role in Monday night’s victory, closing with 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists while playing in the injury absence of Marcus Smart.

But, he said, it mostly was about the after party, getting back to see his son.

“He’s been a super blessing to myself and my family,” White said. “I can’t wait to go home and see him and just hold him. It’s cool just to watch him. I’m excited to see how he grows.”

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Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Dwayne Haskins was drunk, had ketamine in his system when he was fatally hit by dump truck

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Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Dwayne Haskins was drunk, had ketamine in his system when he was fatally hit by dump truck

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Dwayne Haskins had a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit when he tried to cross a Florida interstate in April and was hit and killed by a dump truck.

Haskins, 24, had blood alcohol levels of 0.20 and 0.24 in two separate samples, according to a toxicology report released Monday by the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office; the legal limit is 0.08.

A urine sample also tested positive for ketamine and norketamine, drugs that can be used both as anesthetics and recreationally.

Haskins, who had been training in South Florida with his teammates, went out to dinner on April 9, then went to a club with a relative, where they “drank heavily” and separated after a fight, according to the report.

Around 6:15 a.m., the quarterback ran out of gas and pulled over onto the shoulder on the westbound side of I-95, where he tried to flag down passing drivers for help. Witnesses, including the driver of the dump truck, said Haskins wandered out into the middle of the road, where the truck driver had no way to avoid him.

Haskins was then hit by a Subaru that unsuccessfully tried to swerve to avoid him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

His official cause of death was ruled an accident from multiple blunt force injuries.

The medical examiner’s report also noted that a “female companion” was in Haskins’ car when he pulled over, but did not identify her.

Haskins’ wife, Kalabrya Haskins, asked for privacy in a statement through her lawyer Monday.

Haskins, a New Jersey native, was drafted by the Washington football team in 2019 out of Ohio State University, then picked up by the Steelers in 2021 after being released. He had resigned with Pittsburgh barely three weeks before he was killed.

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