Bama's aura of invincibility gone after near-miss


Bama's aura of invincibility gone after near-miss

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Now it's out of Alabama's hands.

The fourth-ranked Crimson Tide has not only lost that aura of invincibility that seemed to surround Nick Saban's team through eight games and the final two minutes against LSU, but surrendered control of its fate in the national title derby. No. 9 Texas A&M made sure of that with Johnny Manziel's dazzling performance and a goal line stand in Saturday's 29-24 upset.

Bama (9-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) fell three spots from its nearly season-long perch atop the rankings and now must hope for some sort of shakeup among No. 1 Oregon, No. 2 Kansas State and No. 3 Notre Dame.

The word of the night from Saban was ``recommit,'' and he used it several times after the game. The Tide nearly duplicated its last-minute game-winning drive of the previous week against LSU, but still had plenty of issues that had seldom crept up against lesser competition.

``I was really concerned about this week,'' Saban said. ``We seemed like we were a little bit out of gas, and Texas A&M is a really good team and they played really, really well. Their quarterback's a really fantastic player and made some plays that were great plays out there. And you have to have a tremendous amount of discipline to play a guy like that, and there were times when we didn't quite get it done the way we'd like to.

``I think our players will recommit themselves and do the things that they need to do to finish the season the right way, and hopefully have an opportunity to accomplish something of significance with this particular team,'' Saban said.

Alabama does still control its own fate in the SEC, but has little chance in the next two games to make a statement for poll voters or the BCS computers. Next up is a visit from Western Carolina, a 1-9 FCS team. Then comes Auburn (2-8, 0-7 SEC).

A win over the Tigers puts the Tide into the SEC championship game against No. 5 Georgia on Dec. 1. Alabama had trailed only 15 seconds through eight games. Saban pointed out that his 2003 national champion LSU team lost 19-7 to Florida and last year's Tide team dropped a 9-6 overtime decision to LSU.

Alabama's offense has been inconsistent the past two games, with performances that went from sputtering to fantastic faster than Saban can scowl. Quarterback AJ McCarron pulled off a dramatic last-gasp rescue in Baton Rouge but was picked off at the goal line - his second of the game and the season - trying to do it again.

The defense has been vulnerable, too, even though Alabama and Notre Dame yield the nation's fewest points. Bama has allowed 435 and 418 yards against LSU and Texas A&M (8-2, 5-2) but still made a stop at the end that would have forced a punt except for an offsides penalty.

``We really had a lot of undisciplined, missed assignments, not playing with the kind of discipline you have to play with, especially against their quarterback, `` Saban said.

Whatever sliver of an opening the Tide allowed, Manziel squirted through it. He passed for 253 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 92 yards, while completing 21 of his first 22 passes.

Manziel led touchdown drives on the Aggies' first three possessions against a team that had outscored opponents 104-6 in the opening quarter. He might have left Tuscaloosa a solid Heisman Trophy candidate, he definitely left with Alabama's respect.

``That's the kind of player he is,'' Saban said. ``The players have to know that they have to contain him, that he's going to scramble, that he's elusive and he's instinctive in the pocket, and he's also fast. So if you get pushed by the quarterback, which we did once on third down, if you don't stay in your pass rush lane, he's going out the gate. We adjusted to that, because he must have had 50 yards rushing in the first quarter.''

In fact, he ran for 74 and passed for a touchdown on a play when he bobbled the ball in a crowd before rolling away from the pressure. The Aggies also converted their first seven third-down attempts, including that 10-yard TD pass to Ryan Swope and Manziel's 32-yard scamper into Tide territory in the first quarter.

``Zero-for-seven in the beginning of the game on third down kept every one of their drives alive, led to points,'' Saban said. ``We played better as the game went on, but we still didn't make the plays that we needed to make.''

McCarron passed for 201 of his 309 yards in the fourth quarter, including a 50-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper and a 54-yarder to Kenny Bell on the final drive that set up first down from the 6 before the fourth-down interception.

``Everybody needs to recommit themselves to playing better, being a little more consistent, and being somebody that they can trust us, we're going to put them in a good situation,'' Saban said.

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

It may be the 18th of March but today could be like Christmas for five Redskins players.

The Redskins decided to use today, four days after the start of the league year, for some contract triggers. In this case, the triggers are all 2018 salary guarantees (some teams will pay out roster bonuses on trigger dates, but the Redskins rarely use that type of structure).

Here are the players whose have guarantees that kick in today 4 p.m. All data is via Over the Cap.


CB Josh Norman, base salary of $13.5 million becomes fully guaranteed—This was a window for the Redskins to move on from Norman if they were not happy with his performance after two seasons. He is 31 and he had no interceptions last season, leaving some to wonder if the Redskins might think about releasing him. But it never was a consideration.

TE Jordan Reed, $8 million of his $8.25 million salary becomes fully guaranteed—No, I’m not sure why they are leaving that $250,000 out there non-guaranteed. Fans thought that the Redskins might move on from Reed due to his injury issues. But, as with Norman, it never was a consideration.

S D.J. Swearinger, $3 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—This is a mere technicality, Swearinger wasn’t going anywhere after helping to solidify the safety position.


RB Chris Thompson, $1.996 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—His rehab is going well and after last year Thompson’s two-year, $7 million contract extension signed last September looks like a good deal for the team.

DE Terrell McClain, $3.25 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—If the Redskins sign a top free agent D-lineman or draft on early in the draft they could be in a numbers crunch. That new acquisition would be guaranteed a roster spot along with Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Stacy McGee, and Anthony Lanier. That makes five and the Redskins kept six last year. Ziggy Hood is a favorite of the coaching staff but he has no guaranteed money left on his contract. That could tip the sixth spot in favor of McClain if he is on the roster at the close of business today. If they release McClain after today, they would take a cap charge of over $2 million. It seems unlikely that anything will happen but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


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It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

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