NFL-THURSDAY NIGHT GAME
9-2 Saints drop Falcons to 2-9
ATLANTA (AP) — Drew Brees threw a pair of touchdown passes and the New Orleans Saints overcame a lackluster offensive showing in handing the Atlanta Falcons their fifth straight loss, 17-13.
Brees hooked up with Jimmy Graham on a 44-yard touchdown and Benjamin Watson on a 1-yard scoring play, both in the first half. That was good enough to give the first-place Saints a sweep of their season series with their NFC South rivals. Atlanta was considered a preseason pick to make the playoffs, but instead has seen its season spiral downward.
Atlanta ensured its first losing season since 2008 and was officially eliminated from the division race with five weeks remaining.
The Saints are 9-2 while the Falcons fell to 2-9.
Durant's 28 leads Thunder win
UNDATED (AP)— — Kevin Durant had 28 points and eight assists, Serge Ibaka (ih-BAH'-kah) scored 17 points and blocked three shots and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Los Angeles Clippers 105-91. Russell Westbrook added 12 points for Oklahoma City, which has won its first five home games of the season for the first time since the 2004-05 season, when the franchise was in Seattle.
Blake Griffin had 27 points and 10 boards in the loss for the Clippers.
In last night's other game, Denver outscored Chicago 97-87. Jordan Hamilton was high man with 17 off the bench for the Nuggets. J.J. Hickson added 14 points and nine boards.
Blues win early season showdown in Boston
UNDATED (AP) — Derek Roy scored once in regulation and again in the fourth round of the shootout as the St. Louis Blues beat the Boston Bruins 3-2 for an impressive road win in a matchup of conference leaders.
Jaroslav Halak (YAR'-oh-slav HAH'-lak) stopped 27 shots in regulation, two more in the overtime and three in the shootout. St. Louis won for the fourth time in five games and continued the hottest start in its history at 15-3-3. David Backes (BAK'-ehs) also scored for the Blues, and NHL points-leader Alexander Steen converted their other shootout goal after going the entire game without a shot.
In other hockey action:
— Marian Hossa (HOH'-sah) returned to the lineup and put the Blackhawks ahead for good with a third-period goal as Chicago beat the Winnipeg Jets 6-3. Hossa had missed three games with a lower body injury.
— Henrik Lundqvist made a season-high 41 saves — including a career-best 23 in the first period — to carry the New York Rangers to a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars.
__ Colorado beat Phoenix 4-3 in overtime. Ryan O'Reilly scored a power-play goal with 41 seconds left in OT. The Avs are 7-2 on the road and 16-5 overall.
__ Edmonton beat Florida 4-1. Jordan Eberle scored a pair of goals for the last place Oilers, who've won three in a row.
__ San Jose routed Tampa Bay 5-1. Tommy Wingels scored two goals and Patrick Marleau added a goal and two assists.
__ New Jersey edged the L.A. Kings 2-1 in overtime. Jaromir Jagr (YAH'-roh-meer YAH'-gur) ended it with his ninth goal.
__ The Detroit Red Wings broke a seven-game game losing streak with a 4-3 win over Carolina. Henrik Zetterberg was credited with the tie-breaking goal in the third period. Gustav Nyquist had two goals for the Wings.
— Craig Smith netted two goals, and rookie defenseman Seth Jones and Matt Cullen also scored to give the Nashville Predators a 4-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
— Matt Read scored a pair of goals to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to their fifth win in six games, 4-1 over the Buffalo Sabres.
UConn escapes...Lobos win in double OT
UNDATED (AP) — Ryan Boatwright made two free throws with 7.9 seconds to play and blocked a 3-point attempt at the buzzer, and No. 18 Connecticut beat Boston College 72-70 to reach the finals of the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Wounded Warrior Project.
DeAndre Daniels had 23 points to lead the 5-0 Huskies, who play the winner of the Washington-Indiana game for the title on Friday night at Madison Square Garden. Shabazz Napier had 20 points for Connecticut.
In other AP Top-25 hoops:
__ Ian Miller scored 22 points and Devon Bookert added 18 to help No. 18 Florida State cruise past No. 10 VCU 85-67 at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
__ Ben Brust scored 19 points to lead six Wisconsin players in double figures as the No. 12 Badgers walloped Bowling Green 88-64.
__ Kevin Pangos had 27 points and Drew Barham added 17 to lead No. 13 Gonzaga past Washington State 90-74.
__Nik Stauskas finished with 23 points, Caris LeVert had 20 and No. 14 Michigan made a tournament-record 14 3-pointers in beating Long Beach State 85-61 in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
— Patric Young scored 16 points, one of six Florida players in double figures, and the No. 16 Gators beat Middle Tennessee 79-59.
— Cleveland Thomas hit a 3-pointer with 39.5 seconds left in the second overtime to give No. 19 New Mexico the lead for good in a wild 97-94 victory over UAB at the Charleston Classic.
— Chris Otule and Todd Mayo each scored 16 points to help No. 25 Marquette withstand a scare from New Hampshire in a 58-53 victory.
Incognito grievance on hold
UNDATED (AP) — Richie Incognito has agreed to postpone his grievance hearing challenging his suspension by the Miami Dolphins until the NFL completes its investigation into the team's bullying scandal. The hearing had been scheduled for Thursday.
The Dolphins have released a statement, saying Incognito is cooperating fully and will meet with the league's special investigator, Ted Wells.
Tackle Jonathan Martin alleges he was harassed daily by teammates, including Incognito. Martin left the team Oct. 28, and Incognito was suspended Nov. 3.
In other NFL news;
— Broncos receiver Wes Welker returned to practice Thursday for the first time since leaving Sunday's game against Kansas City with a concussion. Welker passed his baseline concussion test earlier in the week, but wasn't allowed any contact work. He'll get to do that Friday if all goes well. He said he's hopeful he'll be able to play against his former team when the Broncos take on New England Sunday.
— Microsoft co-founder and Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen says he will pay for a two-year, $2.4 million study into whether repeated blows to the head can lead to dementia. Researchers at the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the University of Washington will examine donated brains to look for links between head injuries and later health problems like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
— Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones says coach Jason Garrett will return in 2014, even if the Cowboys fail to end a three-year playoff drought this season. In making the announcement, Jones said he's "disappointed" the Cowboys don't have a better record. Dallas is 5-5, a half-game back of Philadelphia in the NFC East. This Sunday the Cowboys face divisional rival New York, which has won four straight.
— Running back Adrian Peterson says he expects to play for the 2-8 Vikings when they meet Green Bay this week, despite nursing a groin injury.
T25 FOOTBALL-FINAL SCORE
Knights improve to 9-1 with rout of Rutgers
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Blake Bortles passed for one touchdown and ran for another in leading No. 17 Central Florida past Rutgers 41-17 to remain unbeaten in the American Athletic Conference. The Knights are 9-1 overall, and 6-0 in the AAC.
The Knights are one game ahead of Louisville and Cincinnati in conference play. Their only loss was a three-point loss to South Carolina.
Bortles threw a 4-yard TD pass to Breshad Perriman in the opening quarter and UCF scored on its first four offensive possessions to build a 28-7 lead.
Rutgers is 5-5.
LPGA-CME GROUP TITLEHOLDERS
Gal has lead
NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — Germany's Sandra Gal shot an 8-under 64 to take the lead after the opening round of the LPGA's CME Group Titleholders tournament. She enjoys a one-shot lead over Canada's Rebecca Lee-Bentham. Lexi Thompson is in a group at 6-under.
This is the final event of the year for the women and South Korea's Inbee Park leads the money list with six wins, including victories in the first three major tournaments. She's winless in nine starts since the U.S. Women's Open in late June.
A-Rod hearing ends
NEW YORK (AP) — Alex Rodriguez's grievance hearing to overturn his 211-game suspension ended Thursday after 12 days of sessions, a day after the New York Yankees third baseman angrily walked out and decided not to testify in his own defense.
Rodriguez's lawyers returned to Major League Baseball's office for what turned out to be the final day of the proceeding before arbitrator Fredric Horowitz. By the end of the day, both sides had rested their cases, a person familiar with the proceeding told The Associated Press.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.
The next step is for the sides to submit briefs to Horowitz, which will close the record. Horowitz will then decide whether to sustain or alter the 211-game suspension given to the New York Yankees third baseman last summer by Major League Baseball.
Baseball players union head dies at 51
NEW YORK (AP) — Baseball players' union head Michael Weiner (WEE'-nur), has died 15 months after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. He was 51.
The union says Weiner died Thursday at his home in Mansfield Township, N.J.
Weiner was a plain-speaking labor lawyer known for his casual dress and easygoing manner. He took over as head of the powerful union four years ago and helped smooth its often-contentious relationship with MLB management.
Players praised Weiner for his knowledge. As San Francisco Giants pitcher Jeremy Affleldt said in a text to The Associated Press, "We wouldn't be where we are today without his expertise. We all feel this loss of such a great man."
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig (SEE'-lihg), a professional adversary of Weiner, issued a statement praising the late union leader, saying, "Our strong professional relationship was built on a foundation of respect and a shared commitment to finding fair solutions for our industry. I appreciated Michael's tireless, thoughtful leadership of the players and his pivotal role in the prosperous state of baseball today."
A succession plan was put in place last summer that will lead to former big league All-Star Tony Clark taking over Weiner's role as executive director.