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Bengals RB Green-Ellis finally emerging

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Bengals RB Green-Ellis finally emerging

CINCINNATI (AP) BenJarvus Green-Ellis showed the Bengals his competitiveness this summer when he got wrapped up in a team volleyball game that was supposed to be just for fun.

To him, fun means winning.

``He was out there competing, trying to encourage guys, making sure we didn't lose and things like that,'' quarterback Andy Dalton said on Wednesday.

On the field, the running back's results were disappointing in the first half of the season, when a young offensive line had trouble opening holes. Now, Green-Ellis has run for more than 100 yards in each of the last three games, steadying the offense during a four-game winning streak that has Cincinnati (7-5) back in playoff contention.

His new team is seeing that competitive streak again.

``It's fun to see because he's really turned it on these last couple weeks,'' Dalton said. ``It doesn't seem like anything's stopping him.''

Green-Ellis signed with the Bengals as a free agent after four years with New England, where he had a total of 20 starts and four 100-yard games. The Bengals were looking for a more versatile replacement for Cedric Benson as they evolved into a West Coast offense.

The running game struggled mightily at the outset. Green-Ellis averaged less than 60 yards in the first nine games, and the Bengals rushed for only 93.7 per game, eighth-worst in the NFL.

There's been a pronounced change lately. Green-Ellis ran for 101 against Kansas City, 129 against Oakland and 118 against San Diego, becoming the first Bengals running back with three straight 100-yard games since Corey Dillon in 1999.

During the last two games, he's broken runs of 48, 41 and 39 yards, the three longest of his career.

Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden thinks it's a matter of Green-Ellis settling in behind a new offensive line that was in flux because of injuries early in the season.

``It was his first time with a new line and a new system and terminology and all that stuff,'' Gruden said. ``A lot of the runs were the same he's used to, but still you've got to get used to your linemen and our aiming points and all that.

``He's done a great job being patient, but making his decisions and getting up the field have been outstanding. That's the big thing.''

The Bengals got to see another side of him during the second half of their 20-13 win in San Diego on Sunday. After Green-Ellis was dropped for a loss on third-and-1, he was outspoken on the sideline, rallying the rest of the offense.

``He's vocal in a sense that when he feels like something needs to be said, he'll say it,'' left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. ``He'll ask what he needs and what we have to do to be successful. He's not scared to talk about it. And that's a good thing. It's a mark of a guy that's confident.''

Green-Ellis is the opposite of Benson when it comes to sharing his thoughts with the public. Benson would meet with the media in front of his locker every Wednesday to discuss the state of the team and the upcoming game. If he thought the Bengals were overlooking the run, he'd say so.

Green-Ellis doesn't do many interviews and doesn't say much even then.

``I'm only thinking about Dallas, that's about it,'' he said after practice on Wednesday. ``I don't even care about the last three games. Those are etched in stone. Nothing we can do about them. Only thing I care about is improving and worrying about Dallas.''

The Cowboys (6-6) come to Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday, needing to stop Green-Ellis in order to have a chance to stay in the playoff chase. Dallas is one of four teams in the NFC at 6-6, a game behind Seattle for the final wild card berth.

``Physically the line is good up front, but he just has a good feel for running,'' Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. ``I think anybody who's followed his career when he was in New England, he just seemed to make a lot of yards. He's certainly doing that in Cincinnati.''

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NOTES: DE Carlos Dunlap won the AFC's defensive player of the week award for having five tackles, two sacks and forcing two fumbles in San Diego. ... K Mike Nugent didn't practice on Wednesday because of a sore right calf. CB Dre Kirkpatrick (concussion), RB Cedric Peerman (ankle) and WR Marvin Jones (illness) also were out. ... C Kyle Cook fully participated in practice for the first time, an indication he's close to being activated. Cook hurt his right ankle in the final preseason game and needed surgery. He was designated as the Bengals player who can return from injured reserve during the season. He resumed practice on a limited basis last week.

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE

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3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.