MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Anthony Harris highlighted a thorough thrashing by Minnesota's defense with two interceptions of Matt Ryan and a fumble recovery, Dalvin Cook carried a revived running attack, and the Vikings started the season with a 28-12 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
Eric Wilson recovered his own blocked punt at the Atlanta 21-yard line after a three-and-out by the Falcons on the first possession of the game, and the Vikings were well on their way to winning a fourth straight opener. Including the blocked punt, their first in five years, they turned all four Falcons turnovers into touchdowns.
Kirk Cousins connected with Adam Thielen for a 23-yard score to finish the short first drive and crossed the goal line on a 1-yard sneak in the second quarter to cap a 79-yard march to give Minnesota a 21-0 lead. Cousins went 8 for 10 for 98 yards, all career lows for games he started, but there was no need for more.
Cook had 21 rushes for 111 yards and two touchdowns behind the new zone blocking scheme influenced heavily by new offensive adviser Gary Kubiak, the former Houston and Denver head coach. Cousins averaged 38 attempts per game in his first season with the Vikings, and much to head coach Mike Zimmer's chagrin they finished with the third-fewest rushing yards in the NFL. The new system directed by offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski and the favorable field position sure shifted the ratio hard the other way.
Ryan played more like a rookie than a 2016 league MVP beginning his 12th NFL season, unable to find his footing all afternoon in the face of a fierce pass rush that racked up four sacks. The worst moment came at the end of Atlanta's first possession of the second half, a 13-play, 82-yard drive thwarted when his second-and-3 fling into the back of the end zone for backup tight end Luke Stocker was picked off by a leaping Harris.
Ryan finished 33 for 46 for 304 yards and two fourth-quarter scores to Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones to make the fantasy football players happy, but the Falcons left without much to be pleased about. Devonta Freeman had only 19 yards on eight carries, plus the lost fumble. Jones, who signed a $66 million, three-year contract extension on Saturday, was targeted 11 times but managed only 31 yards on six catches.
The Falcons, trying to get a once-potent offense back on track this year after missing the playoffs along with the Vikings in 2018, started rookies Kaleb McGary and Chris Lindstrom on the right side of their offensive line. James Carpenter won the left guard job over Jamon Brown, who signed an $18.75 million, three-year contract in free agency. McGary took turns at right tackle with Ty Sambrailo, with Matt Gono inactive because of a back injury. Lindstrom left the game with a foot injury.
Vikings: Nickel CB Mackensie Alexander injured his elbow in the second quarter and did not return. ... WR Stefon Diggs was in the lineup after being listed as questionable with a hamstring injury. He had two catches for 37 yards.
Vikings: Play at rival Green Bay (1-0) on Sept. 15. Their visit to Lambeau Field in Week 2 last season resulted in a 29-all tie with the Packers.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Mike Clevenger won his 10th straight decision, and Carlos Santana and Francisco Lindor homered as the Cleveland Indians beat the Minnesota Twins 5-2 on Sunday.
The Indians moved back to 5 1/2 games behind the Twins in the AL Central. The teams close the season series with a three-game set in Cleveland that begins on Friday.
Clevenger (11-2) pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs and four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. He hasn't lost since June 28. In his last 13 starts, Clevenger is 10-0 with a 2.00 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 81 innings.
Brad Hand pitched around a walk and a hit batter in the ninth to earn his 34th save of the season.
The Indians took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on Franmil Reyes' two-run single off Twins starter Randy Dobnak (0-1).
Santana hit his 33rd homer of the season, a solo shot off reliever Devin Smeltzer in the third. Lindor tagged Smeltzer for his 29th of the season in the fifth.
The Twins got a solo home run from Mitch Garver - his third in two days and 29th of the season - in the fourth inning.
Rookie LaMonte Wade Jr. drove in a run with an infield single in the seventh to make it 5-2. The Twins loaded the bases with one out, but reliever Nick Wittgren struck out C.J. Cron and Garver to end the threat.
BUXTON TO SEE SPECIALIST
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said CF Byron Buxton flew to California on Sunday to have a specialist check out his injured left shoulder.
Buxton was sidelined for a month after injuring his shoulder while crashing into a wall on Aug. 1. He was activated on Sept. 1 and has made five appearances as a defensive replacement and pinch runner, but he hasn't been able to swing a bat yet, and his status for the rest of the season remains uncertain.
"I don't really think anybody can say for sure, or with any confidence," Baldelli said of Buxton's return date. "And that's why we're trying to seek out as many opinions as we can."
Jake Cave, who has filled in for Buxton the past five weeks, left Friday's game with a strained left groin, leaving the Twins thin in the outfield. On Sunday, they acquired veteran outfielder Ryan LaMarre in a trade with Atlanta. The 30-year-old hit .311 at Triple-A Gwinnett this season. He appeared in 46 games with the Twins in 2018.
Twins: RF Max Kepler left the game in the second inning with upper-chest discomfort. He is considered day-to-day. ... Baldelli said DH Nelson Cruz (wrist) was "petitioning to play," but with a day off Monday, the Twins decided to give him an extra day of rest. He aggravated a left wrist injury while swinging a bat on Friday. ... Baldelli expressed optimism that Cave (groin) would return to action "well before the season ends."
Twins: RHP Jose Berrios (11-8, 3.78) will start the opener of a three-game series against Washington on Tuesday night at Target Field. The two-time All-Star has struggled in the second half, and is 1-3 with an 8.07 ERA in six starts since Aug. 6.
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Riquna Williams hit four 3-pointers and finished with 15 points to help the Los Angeles Sparks beat Minnesota 77-68 on Sunday, ruining the Lynx's chance of hosting a playoff game in the first round.
The Sparks have a first-round bye in the playoffs, which begin on Wednesday, and will host the worst remaining seed in the second round.
The Lynx (18-16), who had a five-game win streak snapped, will be the No. 7 seed because of their loss and Seattle's win over Dallas. Minnesota has lost three in a row against the Storm overall and four straight in Seattle.
Los Angeles (22-12), which won the WNBA title in 2016 and lost to Minnesota in the 2017 Finals, has won three in a row overall and 14 straight home games.
Napheesa Collier led Minnesota with 16 points and career-high tying 11 rebounds.
UNDATED (AP) - The Baltimore Ravens have never been known as an offensive juggernaut, but that could be changing.
The Ravens set numerous team records while ruining Brian Flores' first game as an NFL head coach, blowing out the Dolphins, 59-10 at Miami. Lamar Jackson completed his first nine passes for 204 yards and four touchdowns after Mark Ingram ripped off a 49-yard run on Baltimore's first offensive play.
Jackson tied a franchise record with five touchdown passes for the Ravens, who broke franchise marks for points and total yards with 643.
Ingram ran for 107 yards and two scores in his team debut as Baltimore earned its fourth consecutive season-opening victory.
Also on the opening Sunday of the NFL's 100th season:
- Tom Brady showed he still has life in his 42-year-old arm by passing for 341 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Patriots' 33-3 romp over the Steelers. Phillip Dorsett caught two touchdown passes from Brady, including a 58-yard score. Ben Roethlisberger completed 27 of 47 passes for 277 yards and an interception, with much of that coming after the Patriots built a 20-0 lead in the fourth quarter.
- Patrick Mahomes threw for 378 yards and three touchdowns while leading the Chiefs to a 40-26 victory over the Jaguars. Sammy Watkins caught nine passes for a career-high 198 yards and three TDs while Tyreek Hill missed most of the game with a shoulder injury. Jacksonville quarterback Nick Foles suffered a broken left collarbone in the first half, and Myles Jack was ejected for throwing a punch during a fracas in the end zone.
- The Rams opened their NFC title defense with a 30-27 win at Carolina as Jared Goff threw for 186 yards and a touchdown. Todd Gurley started and ran for 97 yards on 14 carries after being limited to eight yards rushing on five touches in the first half. Malcolm Brown scored two TDs and was the primary ball carrier for the better part of three quarters, finishing with 53 yards on 11 carries.
- Dak Prescott tied his career high with four touchdown passes while throwing for 405 yards as the Cowboys overwhelmed the Giants, 35-17. Ezekiel Elliott finished with 53 yards on 13 carries, including a 10-yard scoring run in his first game since ending his training camp holdout and signing a six-year, $90 million contract extension last week. Michael Gallup had seven catches for 158 yards, and Amari Cooper grabbed six balls for 106 yards.
- Anthony Harris picked off Matt Ryan twice and had a fumble recovery to highlight the Vikings' defensive display in a 28-12 thrashing of the Falcons. Davin Cook had 21 rushes for 111 yards and two touchdowns as Minnesota utilized its ground attack to the fullest. Kirk Cousins scored on a one-yard sneak and needed to attempt just 10 passes, completing eight for 98 yards and a score.
- The Titans mauled the Browns, 43-13 as Marcus Mariota threw for three touchdowns, including a 75-yard scoring strike to running back Derrick Henry. Tennessee tight end Delanie Walker had two TD catches in the fourth quarter, and Titans defensive backs intercepted Baker Mayfield three times in the final period. The Browns committed 18 penalties for 182 yards in their first game under coach Freddie Kitchens.
- Carson Wentz threw a pair of deep touchdown passes to DeSean Jackson to help the Eagles overcome a 17-point deficit and beat the Redskins, 32-27. Wentz was 28 of 39 for 313 yards and three TDs in his first game since Week 14 after not taking a snap in the preseason. Case Keenum threw for 380 yards and three TDs for Washington, which jumped out to a 17-0 lead.
- Russell Wilson hit Tyler Lockett for a 44-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter before the Seahawks held off the Bengals, 21-20. Wilson was 14 of 20 for 196 yards and two scores, including a 10-yard TD pass in the first half to Chris Carson. Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton looked great running new coach Zac Taylor's offense, throwing for a career-high 418 yards and hitting John Ross for a pair of first-half touchdowns.
- Austin Ekeler's third TD of the day came with 5:01 left in overtime to lift the Chargers past the Colts, 30-24. Ekeler ran for 58 yards on 10 carries and caught six passes for 96 yards and two scores. Philip Rivers made his 209th consecutive start and completed 25 of 34 passes for 333 yards to orchestrate the Los Angeles offense.
- Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon returned interceptions for touchdowns while the 49ers picked off Jameis Winston three times in a 31-17 victory against the Buccaneers. San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was 18 of 27 for 166 yards and one touchdown in his first game in nearly a year. Winston threw for 194 yards to become Tampa Bay's career passing leader, including a 10-yard scoring pass to Chris Godwin that got the Bucs within 20-14 late in the third quarter.
- Josh Allen threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to John Brown with three minutes left to complete the Bills' rally from a 16-0 deficit in a 17-16 victory over the Jets. Allen finished 24 of 37 for 254 yards and a touchdown for Buffalo, which began its comeback after Le'Veon Bell's touchdown and two-point conversion catch late in the third quarter. The Bills committed four turnovers but took advantage of a missed extra point and a shanked 45-yard field-goal attempt by New York kicker Kaare Vedvik.
- The Cardinals pulled off a nice comeback in quarterback Kyler Murray's NFL debut, rallying from an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter before settling for a 27-27 tie with the Lions. Murray was 15 of 19 for 154 yards and two touchdowns in the final period, hitting David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald for TDs and finding Christian Kirk tying 2-point conversion with 43 seconds remaining. Matthew Stafford threw for 385 yards and three touchdowns for the Lions.
UNDATED (AP) - The Chicago Cubs took another step backward in the NL Central race as they also attempt to play themselves out of a wild-card berth.
Tyler Austin drove a pinch-hit, three-run homer in a five-run fourth off Jon Lester as the Brewers dumped the Cubs, 8-5 to win the four-game series. Eric Thames added a solo shot off Lester in the sixth, and pinch-hitter Tyrone Taylor furnished an RBI single off Duane Underwood Jr. for his
first major league hit.
Winning pitcher Brent Suter worked two innings of relief as the Brewers climbed within two games of the Cubs for the second NL wild card.
Chicago is 4 1/2 games behind the NL Central-leading Cardinals and just 1 1/2 games ahead of Arizona for the second NL wild card.
The Redbirds won for the eighth time in 11 games as Jack Flaherty held the Pirates to five hits over eight innings to lead St. Louis to a 2-0 shutout in Pittsburgh. Paul Goldschmidt had an RBI double and Harrison Bader added a run-scoring single to help Flaherty win for the sixth time in his last eight starts.
The Diamondbacks wasted a chance to get within a half-game of a playoff berth. Pitcher Michael Lorenzen lined a game-ending, pinch-hit double in the ninth inning to give the Reds a 4-3 victory and end Arizona's five-game winning streak.
Eugenio Suarez homered twice and has 44 this season for Cincinnati, one behind Mike Trout and Pete Alonso for the major league lead.
Elsewhere on major league diamonds:
- Philadelphia is within two games of the second NL wild card after homers by Maikel Franco, Scott Kingery and Adam Haseley helped the Phillies turn an early 3-0 deficit into a 10-7 win in the rubber match of their three-game set with the Mets. Pinch-hitter Phil Gosselin blooped an RBI single that gave the Phillies a 5-4 lead in the sixth. The Mets lost for the eighth time in their last nine home games to stay four games out of a playoff berth.
- The Dodgers' magic number to clinch the NL West is two after Corey Seager and Matt Beaty homered in a 5-0 shutout of the Giants. Beaty delivered a two-run blast and Seager added a three-run shot as the Dodgers increased their NL-record homer total to 255. Kenta Maeda threw four dominant innings in relief as he prepares to work out of the Los Angeles bullpen for the postseason.
- Max Scherzer won for the first time in two months and the Nationals avoided a four-game sweep by drubbing the Braves, 9-4. Yan Gomes (yahn gohmz) homered twice, and Adam Eaton and Asdrubal Cabrera each had three RBIs as Washington ended Atlanta's nine-game winning streak. The Nats outhit the Braves 17-7 and went ahead when Eaton hit a two-run homer on Mike Siroka's (sah-ROH'-kahz) fifth pitch.
- The Yankees broke their single-season record for homers and inched closer to an AL East title by doubling up the Red Sox, 10-5. Gleyber Torres and Mike Tauchman hit two-run blasts before Aaron Judge provided a solo shot that gives New York 268 round-trippers, topping the mark they set last year. Torres went 3 for 5 with four RBIs.
- The Indians moved back to 5 1/2 games behind the Twins in the AL Central by taking the rubber match of their three-game set in Minnesota, 5-2. Carlos Santana and Francisco Lindor homered to help Mike Clevenger win his 10th straight decision. Clevenger is 11-2 after limiting Minnesota to a pair of runs and four hits while fanning seven over six innings.
- The Astros rolled to a 21-1 dismantling of the Mariners as Gerrit Cole struck out 15 and held Seattle to one hit over a season-high eight innings. Cole improved to 16-5, winning his 12th straight decision and joining Pedro Martinez as the only pitchers in major league history with 14 or more strikeouts in three straight games. Jake Marisnick and George Springer homered, and rookie Yordan Alvarez had six RBIs while hitting three of Houston's team-record 11 doubles.
- Tyler Glasnow struck out five over two innings as the Rays whipped the Blue Jays, 8-3 to complete a four-game sweep. Glasnow struck out Bo Bichette, Teoscar Hernandez and Rowdy Tellez in order on 12 pitches in his return from a four-month layoff caused by a strained right forearm. Austin Meadows and Avisail Garcia homered for Tampa Bay, which remains one game ahead of Oakland for the top AL wild card.
- The Athletics beat the Tigers, 3-1 as Sean Manaea matched his career high by striking out 10 in his second start following shoulder surgery. He allowed two hits over seven innings, blanking Detroit until Christian Stewart homered leading off the fifth. Khris Davis had a two-run double for the A's, who are still 1 1/2 games ahead of Cleveland for the second AL wild card.
- The Rangers completed their first four-game sweep in Baltimore since 1982 as rookie Nick Solak had three hits and four RBIs to send Texas past the Orioles, 10-4. Ronald Guzman and Rougned Odor homered as part of the Rangers' 20-hit attack.
- Danny Mendick hit his first career home run and Jose Abreu slammed his 31st of the season as the White Sox dumped the Angels, 5-1. Mendick, Matt Skole and James McCann had two hits apiece for Chicago.
- Sandy Alcantara picked up his first victory since the All-Star break by tossing a four-hitter in Miami's 9-0 rout of the Royals. Starlin Castro hit his 18th home run and drove in two to back Alcantara, who is the first Marlins pitcher since Dontrelle Willis in 2003 to throw two shutouts in his rookie season.
- Wil Myers singled home Manny Machado with one out in the 10th inning to give the Padres a 2-1 win against the Rockies. San Diego hurler Eric Lauer held Colorado to a run and four hits over six innings.
NEW YORK (AP) - Rafael Nadal is the U.S. Open champion and a 19-time Grand Slam winner after enduring a nearly five-hour match against Daniil Medvedev. The second-seeded Nadal squandered a two-sets-to-love lead before holding off the No. 5 seed, 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 victory in 4 hours, 50 minutes. Down by two sets and 3-2 in the third, Medvedev shifted styles, upped his level against a rattled Nadal, and even received an unexpected boost from Arthur Ashe Stadium spectators. Only once before had Nadal lost a Grand Slam match after taking the opening two sets. It's the fourth U.S. Open title for Nadal.
INDIANPOLIS (AP) - Kevin Harvick won the Brickyard 400 for the second time, beating Joey Logano by 6.118 seconds in a crash-marred race that ended Jimmie Johnson's perfect playoff run.
Johnson had been the only driver to qualify for every Cup playoff since the format was introduced in 2004. His long-shot bid finally ended when William Byron and Johnson ran side-by-side through the second turn and the rear end of Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet spun in front of Kurt Busch, sending both into the second turn wall.
Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman claimed the final two spots in the 16-driver field, while Johnson was eliminated for the first time. Daniel Suarez finished 17th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, four points short of becoming the first Mexican-born driver to make the playoffs.
T25-COLLEGE FOOTBALL POLL
UNDATED (AP) - The Southeastern Conference held three of the top four spots in The Associated Press college football poll after LSU's road victory against Texas pushed the Tigers to No. 4.
Clemson remained No. 1 on Sunday, receiving 56 first-place votes out of 62 in the Top 25 presented by Regions Bank. No. 2 Alabama received 6 first-place votes and Georgia stayed at No. 3.
Oklahoma is fifth, followed by Ohio State, Notre Dame, Auburn, Florida and Michigan.
No. 21 Maryland, No. 24 Southern Cal and No. 25 Virginia are the poll newcomers.
(Copyright 2019 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)