Veteran Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers has announced his retirement after 17 seasons in the NFL.

Rivers spent the first 16 years with the Chargers, initially in San Diego and later in Los Angeles, before joining the Colts for the 2021 season.

During his solitary campaign in Indianapolis, Rivers led the team back to the playoffs with an 11-5 record, throwing for 4,169 yards and 24 touchdown passes.

He finishes his career ranked fifth overall for completed yards at 63,440 and touchdown passes with 421.

The 39-year-old played in 244 NFL games in total including 240 straight starts, which remains the second-longest streak for a quarterback behind the legendary Brett Favre (297).

Announcing his decision to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Rivers said: "It's just time. It's just right.

"It [his career] was awesome. A young kid from northern Alabama who grew up wanting to play pro ball. I got to do it.

"This is the first year I felt like the ending was real. We talked about it other years, but we knew we weren't doing it. This year felt different. It just seemed right."

Rivers is now set to embark on a new chapter in his life in Alabama, where he is to become the head football coach at St. Michael High in Fairhope.

"I can sit here and say, 'I can still throw it. I love to play.' But that's always going to be there. I'm excited to go coach high school football," he added.

"What has helped me come to this [decision] is the growing desire to coach high school football. That's what I've always wanted to do. It's been growing. I can't wait."

RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann said football and the NFL can learn from each other as he revealed his admiration for the Green Bay Packers.

Nagelsmann – one of Europe's finest tacticians – said he is a fan of American football after hailing the "extraordinary" discipline of the league's players.

As Aaron Rodgers and the Packers prepare to face Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, Leipzig boss Nagelsmann insisted the two sports can learn from each other.

"Our general manager Timmo Hardung is a huge Green Bay Packers fan, so that's rubbed off on me a bit," Nagelsmann told reporters ahead of Leipzig's match against Union Berlin on Wednesday.

"My heart beats for them a bit, their history is very interesting and different to most of the other clubs in the NFL."

Nagelsmann added: "It's a very interesting sport. And I think we can learn a lot from American football in soccer, and our players can learn a lot from it as well. Especially in terms of their discipline in studying and executing the team's playbook. I definitely think that's an area that soccer can improve on.

"The game is based on an unbelievable number of plays, and the players have to understand a lot of specific terms and then act accordingly out on the field. They have to do all that extremely quickly, which is extraordinary."

"You could see in the games that there were one or two tricks – I'd like to see a bit more of that. 'Hitch and Pitch' I think it's called. That worked quite well in the play-offs a couple of times," he continued.

"So American Football can learn from football, but definitely vice versa too. And if any NFL coaches would like to have a chat about it all, feel free to get in touch!"

Leipzig – Champions League semi-finalists last season – are third and four points adrift of Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich after 16 matches in 2020-21.

For the first time in NFL history a woman will officiate at the Super Bowl.

The league announced the officiating crew for Super Bowl LV on Tuesday and Sarah Thomas was named the down judge.

This will be the second playoff assignment for the 47-year-old Thomas, after she worked an AFC divisional-round game between the New Patriots and Los Angeles Chargers on January 13, 2019.

Thomas became the league’s first full-time female official back in 2015.

Troy Vincent Sr, the NFL executive vice president of football operations, said: "Sarah Thomas has made history again as the first female Super Bowl official.

"Her elite performance and commitment to excellence has earned her the right to officiate the Super Bowl. Congratulations to Sarah on this well-deserved honour."

Carl Cheffers has been named the referee for the championship game scheduled for February 7 in Tampa, Florida. Cheffers has previously officiated in 17 playoff games, and was in charge for Super Bowl LI in 2017.

Thomas and Cheffers will be joined by umpire Fred Bryan, line judge Rusty Baynes, field judge James Coleman, side judge Eugene Hall, back judge Dino Paganelli and replay official Mike Wimmer.

Robert Saleh warned there would be "no shortcuts to success" for the New York Jets after he was confirmed as the team's new head coach.

The Jets, who last reached the NFL playoffs in 2010, finished the 2020 season with a 2-14 record and fired Saleh's predecessor Adam Gase in December.

Saleh, 41, joins from his previous role as defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers and becomes the Jets' 20th head coach.

He has also held roles with the Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars and now becomes a head coach for the first time.

His task of improving the Jets is one that Saleh vowed to embrace, but he knows he is walking into a challenging job.

Jets general manager Joe Douglas described Saleh as "an exceptional teacher, motivator and communicator" as he welcomed him to New York.

"There are no shortcuts to success," Saleh said, "and I am committed to working with Joe to build this team the right way: with talented players that play fast and smart, and a staff that supports and helps develop them through it all.

"To Jets fans, your passion and commitment are priceless. I understand your expectations and embrace them. We have a lot of work to do and can’t do it without your support. Thank you for your warm welcome and please stay safe and healthy."

Douglas is convinced Saleh has rich potential as a head coach.

"We spoke to some tremendous coaches, but Rob is the right partner and leader for us," Douglas said.

"His vision for this team aligns with what we have been working to establish here the last two years. Coach Saleh's energy, knowledge and focus are contagious and will serve our team well as we continue to develop our culture, our foundation, and move this organisation in the right direction."

Lamar Jackson got his playoff win last week, but six days on from their revenge over the Tennessee Titans, the Baltimore Ravens were left to reflect on a year in which they will feel they fell short of expectations.

Their season came to a meek end on Saturday with a 17-3 loss to the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Divisional Round, the Ravens bowing out at that stage for the second successive season.

Baltimore's offense failed to really get going and the turning point in a close contest came when Jackson tossed a red-zone interception to Bills defensive back Taron Jackson.

The 2019 MVP's namesake promptly returned it 101 yards for a Bills touchdown that left the Ravens with what proved an insurmountable deficit.

Jackson then left a chastening game with a concussion, and wide receiver Willie Snead afterwards gave a frank assessment of how the Ravens' signal-caller will respond to this setback.

"I just think he’ll look back at the whole season — not just this game, the whole season — and he'll make those adjustments that he needs to do to be an elite quarterback; an even more elite quarterback," Snead said.

"He is an elite runner, an elite passer, but there are steps he can take, better strides that he can take, and he knows that. That's the competitor in him to want to get better each and every offseason, to fix the little things that his game needs improvement on and continue to get better as a passer.

"I think if he knuckles down on that part of his game and really reaches his full potential in that area, then the sky is the limit for Lamar, man. It's just a matter of time. So, it's really on him. I think this game is going to be a wake-up call for him, hopefully this offseason. So, we'll see what he does next year."

Yet there is a case to be made that it is Baltimore's front office that needs the wake-up call, with key issues on the offensive side of the ball exposed once more by the Bills.

If the Ravens are to climb the mountain with Jackson, they must address two key problem areas.

Interior issues

Jackson's concussion was suffered as he scrambled to recover a snap way over his head from center Patrick Mekari.

Mekari was off target with four snaps in a dismal performance indicative of the Ravens' struggles on the interior of the offensive line following the retirement of future Hall of Fame guard Marshal Yanda.

Yanda has understandably proved tough to replace, and the numbers reflect that.

Jackson was pressured on 16.2 per cent of his dropbacks in 2019 as the Ravens compiled a league-best 14-2 record.

In the 2020 regular season, that number rose to 21.4 per cent, and Jackson and backup Tyler Huntley were pressured on 36.6 per cent of dropbacks against the Bills, according to the NFL's NextGen Stats.

There has been a clear drop-off in Jackson's protection, which has been compounded by a lack of difference-making options at wide receiver.

Wideout woes

The Ravens did invest a first-round pick in a wide receiver in Marquise Brown in 2018. 

Brown made strides in 2020 but the fact tight end Mark Andrews led the team with 50.1 receiving yards per game is illustrative of the lack of a consistent impact from the wideouts.

Snead, an experienced slot receiver set for free agency this offseason, led the Ravens in percentage of catches that went for a first down with 69.7 and yards after catch per reception with 5.9.

The latter stat is particularly telling. So many of the league's best offenses boast playmakers who can make things happen with the ball in their hands but the Ravens, with Snead a potential departure, are severely lacking in that regard, Brown having averaged just 4.3 YAC per reception.

To his credit, speedster Brown was the Ravens' best receiver in terms of plays of 25 yards or more (nine) and touchdowns (eight).

Yet 2019 third-round pick Miles Boykin has delivered only sporadic spurts of production, and while Devin Duvernay showed signs of promise, he and fellow 2020 selection James Proche will need to become significantly bigger parts of the offense if the Ravens do not add to their receiving corps in the offseason.

Even if Snead stays, the Ravens require a more dynamic wideout who can take over the chain-moving burden and provide Baltimore with a legitimate YAC threat in 2021.

Jackson is not without his flaws, as his crushing turnover showed. However, too often in 2020 he had the look of a quarterback not properly protected by the heart of his line and not properly supported by his receivers.

If the Ravens are to make the most of his incredible dual-threat skill set, that has to change.

The Los Angeles Chargers have hired Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley as head coach. 

Staley succeeds Anthony Lynn after the Chargers endured an underwhelming 2020 season, finishing 7-9 despite four consecutive wins to conclude the campaign. 

It was a second successive losing season for the Chargers, underlining the task facing Staley. 

But president of football operations John Spanos is confident the 38-year-old is the right man for the job.

"It doesn't matter if you've known Brandon for five minutes or five years, what quickly becomes apparent is the amount of energy and passion he approaches each and every moment with," Spanos told the franchise's official website. 

"The consistency of that enthusiasm is unique and, most importantly, it drives his ability to connect with people. 

"His coaching journey to this particular moment is inspiring; if not for the sheer perseverance and determination of it all, then certainly for the dramatic results it has produced for the teams and players he has coached." 

Staley impressed as a coordinator in 2020, his maiden year with the Rams, as the team enjoyed its best defensive season since 1975, conceding just 9.6 points and 237.3 yards per game. 

He is now looking forward to leading the Chargers, describing the opportunity as "a dream come true". 

"It's hard to put into words just how excited I am for the opportunity to be the Los Angeles Chargers' head coach," he said. 

"While this is certainly a dream come true, it's also a dream that's just beginning. There's a reason this was probably the most sought after job out there – from ownership, to the fans, to the city, to the men in that locker room – it's the total package."

New Orleans Saints star Drew Brees said he is pondering retirement after Sunday's playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while head coach Sean Payton was tight-lipped over the veteran's NFL future.

Brees and New Orleans' season came to an end following a 30-20 defeat against Tom Brady's Buccaneers in the NFC Divisional Round.

All eyes were on Brees after reports emerged pre-game claiming the 42-year-old quarterback will retire at the end of the campaign.

Brees struggled at Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where the Super Bowl champion threw three interceptions – including two in the fourth quarter – while completing 19 of 34 passes for one touchdown.

"I'm gonna give myself an opportunity to think about the season, think about a lot of things, just like I did last year and make a decision," Brees told reporters when asked if he had played his final game.

Brees almost retired at the end of last season but returned for a 20th campaign in 2020, something the 13-time Pro Bowler does not regret.

"I would never regret it. Never," Brees, who was emotional as he left the field, said. "No complaints. No regrets. I've always tried to play this game with great respect and a great reverence for it, and I appreciate all that this game has given to me.

"There are obviously so many incredible memories, so many incredible relationships that have come as a result of playing in this game, and you find out so much about yourself, and you fight through so much when you play this game.

"And I would say this season, I probably had to fight through more than I've ever had to in any other season in my career, from injury to all the COVID stuff to just crazy circumstances, and it was worth every moment of it. Absolutely."

Saints boss Payton added: "I think that's probably for another press conference. And I can't speak for Drew.

"Obviously, I would take up all of my time on your question tonight. ... Obviously, he's been tremendous for this team, this city, I could go on and on. But let's wait and answer that at the right time."

Tom Brady praised the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' "incredible" defense after a playoff win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

The Buccaneers caused four turnovers, leading to 21 points, to claim a 30-20 win in the NFC Divisional Round.

Brady rushed for a late touchdown and completed 18 of 33 passes for 199 yards and two TDs as the star quarterback improved to 14-2 in the Divisional Round.

The 43-year-old hailed the Buccaneers' defense, which intercepted Saints quarterback Drew Brees three times.

"Defense was incredible all game. The turnovers were huge," he told a news conference.

"Last time we played them we lost the turnover minus-three, today was plus-four. You're not going to lose many games when you're plus-four. Just a great effort. They came up huge.

"Offensively, we made some plays when we needed to, running game was great, line protected great up front, just a great week of prep and really proud of our team and everything we put in to get to this point."

The Buccaneers will face Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in their first NFC Championship Game since 2003.

Brady – a six-time Super Bowl champion – is looking forward to the matchup against the Packers, the top seed in the NFC.

"There's only four teams left, we're one of them, it's tough to get to this point," he said.

"We need a great week of practice. We've got one of the best teams in the league obviously in Green Bay, the top seed, and Aaron's playing incredible.

"They've got a great defense so it's going to be a great matchup."

Brady will start his 14th conference championship when the Buccaneers travel to Lambeau Field.

He has more conference championship wins (nine) than any other quarterback has starts, per NFL Research.

According to Stats Perform, the Buccaneers became the first team in NFL history to lose to a team by double-digit points twice during the regular season but then beat that team by double digits in the playoffs.

Andy Reid said Patrick Mahomes was "feeling good" after the Kansas City Chiefs star suffered a concussion in Sunday's 22-17 win over the Cleveland Browns.

Mahomes was replaced by Chad Henne in the third quarter of the AFC Divisional Round game at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday after a big hit from Browns linebacker Mack Wilson.

Amid concerns over the 2018 NFL MVP – who joined Hall of Famer Steve Young (1993-94) as the only players in NFL history to have a passing touchdown and rushing TD in three successive playoff games – Chiefs head coach Reid was upbeat about Mahomes' health.

"He's actually doing very well. I just talked to him and he's doing good," Reid told a news conference.

"We'll see how he is tomorrow, but right now he's feeling good."

Without Mahomes, Super Bowl champions the Chiefs still managed to book a meeting with the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game.

Henne produced a 13-yard run and made a short pass to Tyreek Hill on fourth-and-one to seal the Chiefs' win.

"When you're around him [Henne], you just know. I'm glad he had an opportunity to play a week or two ago, whenever our last game was, and get in," Reid said.

"I think that helped him when he jumped in this time of just being comfortable with the speed of everything. Everybody has full confidence in him."

Reid added: "We go through all of those Saturday night with the quarterbacks and those situations, fourth-and-one to win the game, what do you want? That play happened to be there.

"My coaches were on board between Mike [Kafka] and Eric [Bieniemy] and Joe [Bleymaier] upstairs, they all did a great job, with the spot, with the calls, with everything. They were spot on so it was a great job."

The Chiefs will host the AFC Championship Game for the third consecutive season. According to NFL Research, Kansas City joined the 2002-2004 Philadelphia Eagles – also coached by Reid – as the only teams to stage three straight conference championships.

Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into their first NFC Championship Game since 2003 with a 30-20 win over the New Orleans Saints.

Brady, 43, and Drew Brees, 42, were below their best in the highly anticipated NFC Divisional Round clash, but the Buccaneers got the job done late at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday.

The Buccaneers scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, with Brady's rushing touchdown capping the win and setting up a clash against the Green Bay Packers.

Brady went 18 of 33 for 199 yards and two touchdowns, while Brees threw three interceptions – including two in the fourth quarter – while completing 19 of 34 passes for one TD.

The Saints' four turnovers proved costly as the Buccaneers moved into the NFC Championship Game.

Trailing 6-3, the first touchdown of the game saw Brady find Mike Evans after Sean Murphy-Bunting intercepted Brees.

The Saints' response came through Jameis Winston, who threw a 56-yard TD pass to Tre'Quan Smith, and the teams were level at 13-13 at half-time.

Brees and Brady traded TD passes in the third quarter to Smith and Leonard Fournette respectively, keeping the game level with a quarter to play.

Ryan Succop's 36-yard field goal put the Buccaneers 23-20 up and Devin White intercepted Brees to give Tampa Bay another chance, which Brady took.

 

Turning point – White steps up with well-timed interception

Brees and the Saints were looking to respond to Succop's fourth-quarter field goal, but instead gifted Tampa Bay an opportunity to extend their three-point lead as White intercepted the QB.

The Buccaneers made no mistake, and it was Brady rushing over from one yard to give his team a decisive 30-20 lead.

Brady gets it done again in Divisional Round

The Buccaneers' win saw Brady improve his record in the Divisional Round to 14-2.

The six-time Super Bowl champion may have been below his absolute best, but he still got it done, putting the Buccaneers into the NFC Championship Game for the first time since 2003.

What's next?

Brady and the Buccaneers face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field on January 24.

For the Saints, meanwhile, there is plenty of talk about Brees' future amid reports the quarterback is set to retire.

Two separate Patrick Mahomes issues gave the Kansas City Chiefs serious cause for concern even as they beat the Cleveland Browns 22-17 to return to the AFC Championship Game.

The defending Super Bowl champions are now one win away from returning to the NFL's showpiece event but will spend the coming days worrying over superstar quarterback Mahomes' status after he exited this game with concussion, having already gone down with a toe injury.

Sunday's success proved far more testing than might have been expected as the Chiefs, led by Mahomes, got off to a typically dominant start, making the most of their full array of offensive weapons in a 10-play, 75-yard opening drive that ended with the QB running in from a yard.

The Browns were restricted to a field goal in response and Mahomes then found Travis Kelce - a boyhood Cleveland fan - for a second Kansas City score.

But Mahomes soon required treatment on his toe and the Chiefs' momentum waned, fortunate to stretch their lead through two field goals heading into halftime as a touchback cost the Browns, with Daniel Sorensen's hit - seemingly led with the helmet - forcing a fumble from Rashard Higgins through the end zone.

Even as Tyrann Mathieu picked off a Baker Mayfield pass at the start of the second half, Cleveland came again and the QB connected with Jarvis Landry for a first TD.

Mahomes was soon heading for the locker room after taking a big hit from Mack Wilson and struggling to regain his balance, with confirmation following that he would not return shortly before Kareem Hunt's three-yard run completed an 18-play, 75-yard TD drive to reduce the deficit to five points.

Veteran backup Chad Henne was called in for Kansas City and promptly followed up a pair of promising passes with an end-zone interception, giving the ball back to Mayfield in the fourth quarter.

However, an epic back-and-forth saw the Browns forced to punt with under four minutes remaining, and Henne came up with two huge plays inside the two-minute warning as head coach Andy Reid gambled on a pass from fourth and inches to clinch victory and a Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills with a vital first down.

Patrick Mahomes was ruled out of the rest of the Kansas City Chiefs' clash against the Cleveland Browns following a concussion evaluation.

Mahomes appeared dazed after taking a big hit from Browns linebacker Mack Wilson in the third quarter.

The star quarterback headed to the locker room and was replaced by Chad Henne in the AFC Divisional Round clash.

Mahomes was evaluated for a concussion before being officially ruled out.

He completed 21 of 30 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown.

The Browns reduced the Chiefs' lead to 22-17 early in the fourth quarter.

Josh Allen praised Buffalo's defense after the Bills clinched a place in the AFC Championship Game - then revealed how he played a part in Taron Johnson's record-tying touchdown.

The Bills overcame the Baltimore Ravens 17-3 on Saturday to progress in the NFL playoffs, quarterback Allen throwing a touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs in what was a hard-fought victory.

That score put Buffalo 10-3 ahead in the third quarter, though the Ravens threatened to respond with a drive of their own that put them in range to score.

However, cornerback Johnson picked off a pass from quarterback Lamar Jackson in the end zone and then returned the ball 101 yards, creating clear daylight between the teams in a low-scoring contest.

Buffalo will be involved in the AFC Championship Game for the first time since 1994; they will either travel to the Kansas City Chiefs or host the Cleveland Browns next Sunday.

"This was a fun one to be part of. There are some things we can clean up but, at the end of the day, it's the playoffs: you win or go home," Allen told the media.

"Our defense stepped up. Taron Johnson made the play that just changed the game. Unbelievable.

"We've got to turn our focus to the Browns or Chiefs next week - and that's what we were going to do."

Johnson tied the NFL record for the longest interception return for a touchdown in a playoff game, matching Green Bay's George Teague, who achieved the feat for the Packers in the 1993 Wild Card round against the Detroit Lions.

Allen divulged how he played a minor role in helping his team-mate produce a play that will live long in the memory.

"I saw him come out of the end zone with a lot of bodies around him, and usually you want them to stay in. I thought he was going to get tackled at the five or the 10," he said.

"I tell you what, for Tre'Davious White to go ahead and get a block on Lamar, spring him free, was unbelievable. You practice for those situations.

"I'm going to give myself a pat on the back, as in practice I go up behind him and try to punch the ball out. So Taron had that extra sense to look back, feel that someone was coming and to hold onto the ball.

"It was an unbelievable play, one of those that will be remembered for a really long time."

The Buffalo Bills booked their spot in the AFC Championship Game for the first time since 1994 thanks to a 17-3 win over the Baltimore Ravens.

Not since reaching Super Bowl XXVII had the Bills featured in the AFC title decider, but second-seeded Buffalo ended that 27-year drought after downing the Ravens on Saturday.

The Bills used a 14-0 third quarter to progress in the NFL playoffs as the Ravens – seeded fifth – were held scoreless in the second half in windy Buffalo.

Bills quarterback Josh Allen finished 23-of-37 passing for 206 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions, while he was sacked twice.

Ravens star Lamar Jackson was 14 of 24 for 162 yards, no touchdowns and an interception before he was ruled out with concussion against the Bills.

The Ravens were made to pay for their inefficient kicking in the opening quarter, which saw Justin Tucker miss two field goals.

Tucker was 11-of-11 on field-goal attempts inside 50 yards in his postseason career, but he was 0-2 on such field goals against Buffalo.

Buffalo's Tyler Bass also missed a field goal, but he managed to convert a 28-yard attempt to give the Bills a 3-0 lead at the end of the opening quarter.

Tucker made no mistake from 34 yards to level the scores at half-time before the Bills took control in the third quarter.

Allen threw a three-yard pass to star team-mate Stefon Diggs with less than 10 minutes to play and Taron Johnson all but ended Baltimore's hopes with a dazzling 101-yard interception return during the closing stages of the period.

Reigning MVP Jackson was ruled out of the fourth quarter due to concussion after taking a hit from Bills defensive end Trent Murphy on the final play of the third period.

 

Turning point – Bills pull away in third

The Bills and Ravens could not be separated until the game was blown open in the third quarter.

Allen and Diggs combined for the showdown's first TD before Johnson's electric run essentially sealed Baltimore's fate in front of 6,700 fans amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Johnson matches record

Buffalo's Johnson tied the record for longest intercepted return touchdown in a playoff game, according to NFL Research. Green Bay Packers defensive end George Teague also returned an interception 101 yards for a TD against the Detroit Lions in 1993.

Per Stats Perform, the Bills-Ravens game became the first postseason game where there were three missed field goals in the first half since the 1992 AFC Championship Game between the Bills and Denver Broncos.

What's next?

Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs or Cleveland Browns are next up for the Bills in the AFC Championship Game on January 24.

The Ravens, meanwhile, will have a busy offseason following back-to-back exits in the Divisional Round.

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