Warriors

Thursday night football yields a surprising result

924895.jpg

Thursday night football yields a surprising result

From Comcast SportsNetMINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Traveling to Minnesota to play on a Thursday night was supposed to be tough for Tampa Bay.Rookie Doug Martin ran around the field as if he didn't want to leave.Martin racked up 214 total yards -- including a career-high 135 rushing -- and two touchdowns, and the Buccaneers romped to a 36-17 victory to hand the Vikings their first home loss this season."It was pretty fun. I'm not going to lie," said Martin, who took a screen pass 64 yards for a score, one of Josh Freeman's three touchdown passes, to give Tampa Bay (3-4) a 27-10 lead 1:21 into the second half.Then Martin, the first-round draft pick from Boise State, capped a drive of more than 9 minutes with a 1-yard muscle into the end zone midway through the fourth quarter."It's hard to come from college to the NFL," Martin said. "The speed of the game is definitely increased, and this is a feel thing. You're looking for that rhythm, as a running back, getting comfortable in the offense and having that game-time experience. I'm definitely there, right where I need to be."Adrian Peterson had a season-long 64-yard run for a score that brought the Vikings (5-3) to 30-17, but his lost fumble in Minnesota territory in the second quarter led directly to a touchdown."It can get frustrating sometimes, but you can't show that during the game. You've got to stay focused, stay resilient," Peterson said. "I feel like we did that, but we just weren't able to continue with it and stay on a roll with it."The Bucs, the second visiting team to win on a Thursday night in seven games this season, revived their struggling pass rush with three sacks and flustered Christian Ponder with a heavy dose of blitzes. Ponder finished 19 for 35 for 251 yards, one touchdown and a late interception.With a 13-point lead, just trying to keep that clock running as quickly as possible, the Bucs could've gone conservative, but they refused to settle for a punt. Starting at their own 13 with 1:12 left in the third quarter, they plowed their way up the field -- Freeman completed four third-and-long passes -- and finished off the game with Martin's third-and-goal touchdown run with 7:03 remaining."Ah, he is definitely an asset to our football team," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "For a young guy to have that kind of vision, to have that kind of patience as a runner, it's pretty impressive."Freeman went 19 for 36 for 262 yards and, most importantly, no turnovers. Mike Williams had one of the touchdowns and 68 yards on six receptions, and the Bucs held the ball for nearly 38 of the 60 minutes.With two games apiece against division rivals Chicago and Green Bay plus road trips to Seattle and Houston in the second half of their schedule, the Vikings have quite the challenge waiting for them and their strong start after Thanksgiving.They faced an important test in this second half, too, after taking the clear advantage they had as the home team in this matchup and handing it over to the Buccaneers."There are so few opportunities in the NFL to ride that momentum, and we've got to take advantage of them," Ponder said.Their first three possessions were three-and-outs, Ponder started 0 for 5, Jerome Simpson lost a fumble after a short catch near midfield. The Bucs turned that into the second of Connor Barth's three field goals and took a 13-0 lead."It's always good to have a fast start, especially playing in an environment like this one. I think it makes things a lot easier down the road," Freeman said.Harvin finally gave the Vikings some life by grabbing a screen pass for a 32-yard gain and then pivoting to haul in sideline pass over his shoulder for an 18-yard touchdown catch.But Peterson, who was having no trouble reaching the Tampa Bay secondary with almost every run through the line, had the ball stripped after a spin move by the veteran Barber. The Bucs got the ball at the Minnesota 37, and Williams made a tricky catch in the corner of the end zone for a 3-yard score and a 20-7 lead.The Buccaneers won only two of new coach Greg Schiano's first six games, but all four of their losses were by seven points or less. So here was their chance to finally enjoy a comfortable victory, setting up a second half that was just as eventful as the first.Martin caught a screen pass and sped straight through the Vikings, escaping Chad Greenway's tackle and not stopping until he reached the end zone. The Bucs used a three-and-out by the Vikings to add three more points and stretch the lead to 30-10.Peterson made up for his earlier fumble, though, by matching Martin's big play with one of his own, sprung by a pancake block from Simpson to reach the end zone and bring the Vikings back in it.But Tampa Bay, after blowing a 21-7 lead in losing to New Orleans last week, finished strong this time."Guys are getting more comfortable with what we're doing and with each other," said Schiano, the former Rutgers coach. "We're getting better and that's what you're supposed to do."NOTES:Peterson finished with 123 yards on 15 carries. ... The Bucs is 4-13 in their history on the road in prime-time games. ... Harvin had 90 yards on seven catches. ... Tampa Bay has won six in a row in the series, last losing to Minnesota here in 2001.

With lofty win total unlikely this year, here's a number the Warriors can chase

durant-kerr-ap.jpg
AP

With lofty win total unlikely this year, here's a number the Warriors can chase

OAKLAND -- Getting to 73 wins is impossible for the Warriors, and the pursuit of it never entered their minds.

Reaching 69 wins, their average in three seasons under coach Steve Kerr, is highly improbable.

Even winning 67 games, the lowest total under Kerr, is extremely unlikely.

There is, however, a number the Warriors are aiming for that also happens to be within their grasp -- but only if they can fight through the regular-season malaise and break an unhealthy tendency.

They can get to 35 victories at Oracle Arena. Currently 16-6 at home, the Warriors would have to go 19-0 to reach 35, and it’s possible insofar as they are less than two years removed from posting an NBA-record 54 consecutive wins at home.

Can a team that once went 14 months without losing at Oracle summon a three-month stretch of perfection at home?

The schedule invites the possibility, but it’s still up to the Warriors and how they cope with tug of three long seasons and that tendency to float a bit in front of their home fans, two factors that have had more effect at home than on the road.

“In general, the appropriate fear we always talk about, it’s there on the road for most games and it’s not there as much at home,” Kerr conceded Monday.

Kevin Durant used different phrasing but echoed the comments of the coach.

“You tend to relax a bit when you’re at home because you’ve got your home crowd,” he acknowledged. “You’re just comfortable in that situation. You can go home and go to sleep in your own bed after the game. So you relax a bit.

“On the road, it just feels like this is the last game of your career. It just feels that way, especially when you’re playing a tough opponent and somewhere with a crowd that’s going to be really, really into it.”

Having gone 39-2, 39-2 and 36-5 over the last three seasons, the Warriors are assured of having their worst home record under Kerr. Still, 35 is not impossible.

The drop is not unanticipated, as Kerr experienced something similar as a member of the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s, when they won three straight championships as their regular-season wins steadily dropped, from 72 to 69 to 62.

“Where it has truly been the most tangible and palpable is home games against lesser opponents,” Kerr said. “We’ve lost six. Maybe two of those are playoff teams.

“We didn’t lose those games the last the last three years. We dominated the home floor. That’s where it really shows.”

The Warriors have lost at home to the Rockets, Pistons, Kings, Nuggets, Hornets and Clippers. Only Houston is a playoff lock. Detroit, Denver and the Clippers are on the fringe of the postseason race. Charlotte is a longshot, Sacramento a no-shot.

The Warriors, in every home loss, have started drowsily or played too carelessly or were self-destructive enough to give back a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter.

“This is the first year in my four years where we’ve lost a lot of home games that we shouldn’t,” Kerr said. “That just points to emotional fatigue. Trying to get up for 82 games is a difficult thing, especially in Year 4 of a quest to get back to The Finals.”

Coming off a successful road trip during which they won four of five games, the Warriors this week face the Knicks, Timberwolves and Celtics -- the latter two being playoff locks.

A home sweep is difficult, of course, but hardly inconceivable. And if the Warriors can pull that off, they’d have only four remaining home games against teams fighting for a top-four playoff slot: the Thunder and Spurs twice each.

Oklahoma City appears to be getting their act together. The Spurs, while still formidable, are starting to look like a team in decline.

They’re also the two teams most likely to get the full attention of the Warriors, who began the week by sitting through video of their last three games, during which they committed numerous hideous errors.

The message: Their unforced mistakes are the surest route to defeat.

“There are key points of the year where we have to hit the reset button in terms of our priorities,” Kerr said. “Right now is one of those times. This is an important week for us. We need to take care of the ball. We need to be smart and make good decisions. If we do that, we’re really, really hard to beat.”

Carr excited to work with Gruden: 'I want him to be tough on me'

chucky-ap.jpg
AP

Carr excited to work with Gruden: 'I want him to be tough on me'

Jon Gruden has been interviewed several times since becoming Raiders head coach. Quarterback Derek Carr hasn’t listened to most of those sessions, and certainly doesn’t seek them out.

One landed in Carr’s inbox recently, and something Gruden said really resonated.

Gruden’s message, paraphrased: If Derek Carr is not successful, then I’ve failed as a coach.

There are two comments in that one. Gruden considers Carr extremely talented, and he’s taking responsibility for unlocking the quarterback's vast potential.

Gruden will be hands on in Carr’s development, with all the coaching intensity and fire and eyebrow raises that have become Gruden’s signature.

“He’s going to demand of me. He’s going to push me,” Carr said on this week’s episode of the Raiders Insider Podcast, which will drop Tuesday morning (Subcribe right here). “He’s going to make me be the best version of myself.”

Carr had a direct answer to skeptics wondering aloud whether he can thrive under Gruden’s particular coaching style.

“I want him to be tough on me,” Carr said. “For anyone who thinks I want him to be a different way has no clue about me or how I play football or how I prepare to play this game. I don’t need to tell stories about how I prepare or manage myself.

“(Jon) and I are going to get along great. I hope that he demands of me. I hope he’s hard on me. I don’t need to know he loves me. He has already told me that about 20 times. I appreciate that and we’ll be friends forever, but I know he’ll be demanding and tell me what I need to do. Let’s go fix problems that I have and let’s do what I need to do to win championships. Hopefully that will give people some insight and hopefully that’s the story that gets out, because that’s the truth.”

Carr met his new head coach briefly before his introductory press conference, but has known Gruden since filming the Gruden QB Camp segment back in 2014. They got along great then, and in each interaction since.

“We have so much more in common that people realize,” Carr said. “I think it would blow some people’s minds. Him and I are very similar in the way we go about our business and how we carry ourselves. It’s an exciting time.”

Carr’s excited to have some stability in his football life. The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback will start his fifth NFL season with his fourth head coach, fourth go-round with an offensive coordinator and third offensive scheme. Gruden signed a 10-year contract. OC Greg Olson signed a four-year pact. They’ll be here a while, and Carr’s excited about that.

“It’s going to be really nice,” Carr said. “To know Jon signed on for a 10 years and (Olson) signed on for a long time shows me a couple of things. No. 1: that they believe in me. I don’t think Coach Gruden would’ve quit his day job, which I’m thankful he did. To get (Olson) out of a good spot in L.A (with the Rams), shows that they believe in me and that’s awesome. And, No. 2: I’m going to have two people I can talk to in a different language for years to come. We can grow within the relationship, and hopefully we’ll all ride off together. It’s set up that way right now, and we have a lot of work to do to reach that point.”