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Saints-Panthers rivalry becomes a trilogy in the playoffs

By Associated Press

Published: 15:38 EST, 6 January 2018 | Updated: 15:48 EST, 6 January 2018

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By Associated Press

Published: 15:38 EST, 6 January 2018 | Updated: 15:48 EST, 6 January 2018

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Saints coach Sean Payton takes a small measure of comfort in New Orleans' regular-season sweep of Carolina.

It means the Saints (11-5) play the Panthers (11-5) in the Superdome, where New Orleans hasn't lost a playoff game since 1992 and is 4-0 in the postseason under Payton.

Beyond that, however, the Saints coach asserts that teams evolve over the course of a season as they develop chemistry and adjust to roster or positional changes brought on by injuries.

FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2017, file photo, Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton (1) and New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees (9) embrace before an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C. Saints coach Sean Payton takes a small measure of comfort in New Orleans' regular-season sweep of Carolina. It means the Saints  play the Panthers (11-5) in the Superdome, where New Orleans hasn't lost a playoff game since 1992 and is 4-0 in the postseason under Payton. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone, File)

FILE – In this Sept. 24, 2017, file photo, Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton (1) and New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees (9) embrace before an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C. Saints coach Sean Payton takes a small measure of comfort in New Orleans' regular-season sweep of Carolina. It means the Saints play the Panthers (11-5) in the Superdome, where New Orleans hasn't lost a playoff game since 1992 and is 4-0 in the postseason under Payton. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone, File)

And on Sunday, there will be a different psychology to performing in the postseason, when losing brings the season to a sudden end.

"Each game's different," said Payton, whose team took its first NFC South crown since 2011 by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker over Carolina.

"From the midpoint of the season, when (Carolina) got on a roll, you can see the confidence grow with that team. And you're also talking about a team that (two years ago) was in the Super Bowl," Payton said. "The prior two games don't matter."

Payton pointed out that the Panthers not only defeated two of the top teams in the NFL this season – New England and Minnesota – but beat the Patriots on the road.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera doesn't downplay the significance of those victories.

"I don't think that is overplayed. I think that is a reality. But at the same time, we are playing against a team that has beat us twice," Rivera said. "We have to figure out what went well and improve on that and what went wrong and correct that."

When the Saints pounded the Panthers by 21 in Carolina in Week 3, it began an eight-game winning streak that vaulted New Orleans atop of the division for good.

When New Orleans topped Carolina by 10 in the dome in Week 13, it ended a Panthers four-game winning streak and was one of only two losses in Carolina's past nine games.

Their third meeting – also the first playoff clash between them – is loaded with story lines. Here are some of the main ones:

CAM ON THE RUN: The Panthers have been better when quarterback Cam Newton runs the ball. But Newton, Carolina's leading rusher this season, didn't run much in two losses to New Orleans, gaining 67 yards on nine carries.

That could change with the season on the line. Newton has averaged 12.5 carries for 59.7 yards per game in Carolina's past four games.

"That's my edge," Newton said. "I'm comfortable running the football. I feel like I help the team when I'm running the football."

While Saints All-Pro defensive end Cam Jordan has done well containing the 6-foot-5, 245-pound, fleet-footed Newton in previous meetings, he said he doesn't exactly enjoy the prospect of having to do so again.

"Who likes facing Cam Newton? I mean, come on," Jordan said. "He's able to escape, spins. He reverse-spins. He pivot-spins. He gets out of the pocket as well as he climbs through the pocket and he's got some weight to him. I mean, he's not a frail guy."

FAMILIAL INSPIRATION: Saints quarterback Drew Brees, whose 72 percent completion rate this season was an NFL record, enters his first playoff game in four years just days after traveling to Texas for the funeral of his 92-year-old grandfather, Ray Akins, a World War II veteran and long-time high school football coach.

Brees said his two days in Texas was "obviously very sad" at times, but stressed that he "really came back energized."

"Being with my family, and with friends, and with guys that played for my grandfather, and just listening to their stories again, just reemphasizing to me what a great man he was, and what a wise man he was, and just a true American hero," Brees said.

"He was my hero. I learned so much from him and it just reemphasizes all the important things in life, and the values and morals that I want to live by not only in the way I conduct myself as a family man and in the community, but also as a member of this team."

DEFENDING THE RUN: The Panthers finished third in the league against the run, but struggled to stop the Saints.

The Pro Bowl running back tandem of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara helped the Saints rush for 149 and 148 yards in two games against Carolina, the two highest rushing totals allowed by Carolina this season.

"We take pride in being good at stopping the run," Panthers outside linebacker Thomas Davis said. "If you look at those two games, we flat out didn't get it done. … It's uncharacteristic of this defense. This weekend should be a much better showing."

GETTING HEALTHIER: The Panthers expect to get two key players back on offense – running back Jonathan Stewart and guard Trai Turner.

Stewart sat out last week's 22-10 loss to Atlanta with back soreness. Turner has missed three games with a concussion.

New Orleans could get starting left tackle Terron Armstead back from a thigh injury that kept him out of last week's 31-24 loss at Tampa Bay. He practiced on a limited basis this week and was listed as questionable.

Meanwhile, Panthers star tight end Greg Olsen and Saints Pro Bowl cornerback Marshon Lattimore are slated to play after missing each of the previous two meetings.

___

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

___

AP Sports Writer Steve Reed in Charlotte, North Carolina, contributed to this report.

FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2017, file photo, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton talks to an official in the first half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in New Orleans, Sunday, Payton takes a small measure of comfort in New Orleans' regular-season sweep of Carolina. It means the Saints play the Panthers in the Superdome, where New Orleans hasn't lost a playoff game since 1992 and is 4-0 in the postseason under Payton. (AP Photo/Bill Feig, File)FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2017, file photo, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton talks to an official in the first half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in New Orleans, Sunday, Payton takes a small measure of comfort in New Orleans' regular-season sweep of Carolina. It means the Saints play the Panthers in the Superdome, where New Orleans hasn't lost a playoff game since 1992 and is 4-0 in the postseason under Payton. (AP Photo/Bill Feig, File)

FILE – In this Dec. 3, 2017, file photo, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton talks to an official in the first half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in New Orleans, Sunday, Payton takes a small measure of comfort in New Orleans' regular-season sweep of Carolina. It means the Saints play the Panthers in the Superdome, where New Orleans hasn't lost a playoff game since 1992 and is 4-0 in the postseason under Payton. (AP Photo/Bill Feig, File)

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Australia

Sydney seaplane crash: Exhaust fumes affected pilot, report confirms

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The pilot of a seaplane that crashed into an Australian river, killing all on board, had been left confused and disorientated by leaking exhaust fumes, investigators have confirmed.

The Canadian pilot and five members of a British family died in the crash north of Sydney in December 2017.

All were found to have higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide in their blood, a final report has found.

It recommended the mandatory fitting of gas detectors in all such planes.

British businessman Richard Cousins, 58, died alongside his 48-year-old fiancée, magazine editor Emma Bowden, her 11-year-old daughter Heather and his sons, Edward, 23, and William, 25, and pilot Gareth Morgan, 44. Mr Cousins was the chief executive of catering giant Compass.

The family had been on a sightseeing flight in the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver plane when it nose-dived into the Hawkesbury River at Jerusalem Bay, about 50km (30 miles) from the city centre.

The final report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) confirmed the findings of an interim report published in 2020.

It said pre-existing cracks in the exhaust collector ring were believed to have released exhaust gas into the engine bay. Holes left by missing bolts in a firewall then allowed the fumes to enter the cabin.

“As a result, the pilot would have almost certainly experienced effects such as confusion, visual disturbance and disorientation,” the report said.

“Consequently, it was likely that this significantly degraded the pilot’s ability to safely operate the aircraft.”

The ATSB recommended the Civil Aviation Safety Authority consider mandating the fitting of carbon monoxide detectors in piston-engine aircraft that carry passengers.

It previously issued safety advisory notices to owners and operators of such aircraft that they install detectors “with an active warning” to pilots”. Operators and maintainers of planes were also advised to carry out detailed inspections of exhaust systems and firewalls.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55862128

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Australia

Australia unlikely to fully reopen border in 2021, says top official

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Australia is unlikely to fully open its borders in 2021 even if most of its population gets vaccinated this year as planned, says a senior health official.

The comments dampen hopes raised by airlines that travel to and from the country could resume as early as July.

Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy made the prediction after being asked about the coronavirus’ escalation in other nations.

Dr Murphy spearheaded Australia’s early action to close its borders last March.

“I think that we’ll go most of this year with still substantial border restrictions,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday.

“Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don’t know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus,” he said, adding that he believed quarantine requirements for travellers would continue “for some time”.

Citizens, permanent residents and those with exemptions are allowed to enter Australia if they complete a 14-day hotel quarantine at their own expense.

Qantas – Australia’s national carrier – reopened bookings earlier this month, after saying it expected international travel to “begin to restart from July 2021.”

However, it added this depended on the Australian government’s deciding to reopen borders.

Australia’s tight restrictions

The country opened a travel bubble with neighbouring New Zealand late last year, but currently it only operates one-way with inbound flights to Australia.

Australia has also discussed the option of travel bubbles with other low-risk places such as Taiwan, Japan and Singapore.

A vaccination scheme is due to begin in Australia in late February. Local authorities have resisted calls to speed up the process, giving more time for regulatory approvals.

Australia has so far reported 909 deaths and about 22,000 cases, far fewer than many nations. It reported zero locally transmitted infections on Monday.

Experts have attributed much of Australia’s success to its swift border lockdown – which affected travellers from China as early as February – and a hotel quarantine system for people entering the country.

Local outbreaks have been caused by hotel quarantine breaches, including a second wave in Melbourne. The city’s residents endured a stringent four-month lockdown last year to successfully suppress the virus.

Other outbreaks – including one in Sydney which has infected about 200 people – prompted internal border closures between states, and other restrictions around Christmas time.

The state of Victoria said on Monday it would again allow entry to Sydney residents outside of designated “hotspots”, following a decline in cases.

While the measures have been praised, many have also criticised them for separating families across state borders and damaging businesses.

Dr Murphy said overall Australia’s virus response had been “pretty good” but he believed the nation could have introduced face masks earlier and improved its protections in aged care homes.

In recent days, Australia has granted entry to about 1,200 tennis players, staff and officials for the Australian Open. The contingent – which has recorded at least nine infections – is under quarantine.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55699581

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Covid: Brisbane to enter three-day lockdown over single infection

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The Australian city of Brisbane has begun a snap three-day lockdown after a cleaner in its hotel quarantine system became infected with coronavirus.

Health officials said the cleaner had the highly transmissible UK variant and they were afraid it could spread.

Brisbane has seen very few cases of the virus beyond quarantined travellers since Australia’s first wave last year.

It is the first known instance of this variant entering the Australian community outside of hotel quarantine.

The lockdown is for five populous council areas in Queensland’s state capital.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the measure on Friday morning local time, about 16 hours after the woman tested positive.

Ms Palaszczuk said the lockdown aimed to halt the virus as rapidly as possible, adding: “Doing three days now could avoid doing 30 days in the future.”

“I think everybody in Queensland… knows what we are seeing in the UK and other places around the world is high rates of infection from this particular strain,” she said.

“And we do not want to see that happening here in our great state.”

Australia has reported 28,500 coronavirus infections and 909 deaths since the pandemic began. By contrast, the US, which is the hardest-hit country, has recorded more than 21 million infections while nearly 362,000 people have died of the disease.The lockdown will begin at 18:00 on Friday (08:00 GMT) in the Brisbane city, Logan and the Ipswich, Moreton and Redlands local government areas.

Residents will only be allowed to leave home for certain reasons, such as buying essential items and seeking medical care.

For the first time, residents in those areas will also be required to wear masks outside of their homes.

Australia has faced sporadic outbreaks over the past year, with the most severe one in Melbourne triggering a lockdown for almost four months.

A pre-Christmas outbreak in Sydney caused fresh alarm, but aggressive testing and contact-tracing has kept infection numbers low. The city recorded four local cases on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has pledged to start mass vaccinations in February instead of March as was planned.

Lockdown interrupts ‘near normal’ life in Brisbane

Simon Atkinson, BBC News in Brisbane

At 8:00 today I popped to the local supermarket for some bread, milk – and because it’s summer here – a mango. I was pretty much the only customer.

When I went past the same shop a couple of hours later it was a different story – 50 people standing in the drizzle – queuing to get inside as others emerged with bulging shopping bags. “Heaps busier than Christmas,” a cheery trolley attendant told me. “It’s off the scale”.

Despite the “don’t panic” messages from authorities, pictures on social media show it’s a pattern being repeated across the city.

While shutdowns are common around the world, the tough and sudden stay-at-home order for Brisbane has caught people on the hop here after months of near normality.

But while such a rapid, hard lockdown off the back of just a single case of Covid-19 will seem crazy in some parts of the world, I’ve not come across too many people complaining.

And I don’t think that’s just because Aussies love to follow a rule. This is the first time the UK variant of the virus has been detected in the community in Australia.

And nobody here wants Brisbane to go through what Melbourne suffered last year. Even if it means going without mangoes.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55582836

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