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Crabtree's 72-yard TD leads Packers to 31-17 win

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Crabtree's 72-yard TD leads Packers to 31-17 win

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The Green Bay Packers had a powerful incentive to beat the Arizona Cardinals.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy gave his banged-up team the whole week off after the Packers beat Arizona 31-17 Sunday. Less than a minute after Arizona kicked a 20-yard field goal to pare what had been a 17-point lead to a touchdown, Tom Crabtree chugged 72 yards for a late third-quarter score that sealed the victory.

``It's amazing what they'll do for an extra day off,'' McCarthy said. ``It's well deserved. I think it's important for us to just step away, so we'll have a week off.''

Green Bay (6-3) takes a four-game winning streak into the bye, which it desperately needs. Greg Jennings, Charles Woodson and Cedric Benson headline a laundry list of injured Packers, and three more got hurt against Arizona. Clay Matthews tweaked his hamstring, Bryan Bulaga hurt his hip and Jordy Nelson, who missed last week's game and much of practice this week with a bad hamstring, injured his ankle.

On the very first ball Aaron Rodgers threw him, no less.

``I like where we're at,'' Rodgers said. ``We've had some adversity early in the season, we've come together, we've taken some heat and it's brought us closer together. We went on the kind of run we need to go on with four big wins in a row to get to the bye week, and now we can get healthy, and hopefully we can get some of our guys back.

``We've got a lot of guys who, if we can have back in the mix, we can really take off.''

The Packers are second in the NFC North behind Chicago, with five of their last seven games against division opponents.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, limp back to Arizona for their bye week looking for a way to regroup. Arizona has dropped five straight after beginning the season with four wins.

John Skelton threw for more than 300 yards, and he was able to find enough holes in the Green Bay defense for big gains time and again. But the Packers did a good job bottling up Larry Fitzgerald, and Arizona's other receivers had too many drops. Early Doucet and Rob Housler were targeted 13 times and had just five catches.

``We've got to get back,'' defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. ``We've got seven more games to play. We'll get some guys back from injuries. This bye week is going to be very humbling and we need to take advantage of it.''

Criticized all year for their anemic efforts on the ground, the Packers broke free for 176 yards, their most since gaining 202 against Cleveland on Oct. 25, 2009. Four players - Rodgers, Randall Cobb, John Starks and Alex Green - had 25-plus yards rushing, the first time that's happened since 2003.

All that running must have left them tired, however, because the Packers came out sluggish in the second half. They failed to pick up a first down on any of their first four drives, and got only a 33-yard field goal from Mason Crosby despite getting the ball at their own 48, Arizona's 17 and midfield.

``We said at halftime, these are the kind of games where you can really put teams away if you play the way you want to play. We didn't do that in the second half,'' Rodgers said. ``We kind of gave them a reason to hang around and hang around.''

The Cardinals caught a break when LaRod Stephens-Howling was tripped up behind the line of scrimmage only to land on a Packer instead of the ground. He got up and kept going for a 5-yard gain, and the ruling was upheld on review because officials said only his wrist had hit the ground.

On the next play, Fitzgerald shook off tackles by Tramon Williams, M.D. Jennings and Dezman House for a 31-yard touchdown that cut Green Bay's lead to 24-14.

With Matthews in the locker room with a hamstring injury, Skelton went 7 of 9 as he moved the Cardinals 74 yards to the Green Bay 2. But Stephens-Howling was stuffed on third-and-1, forcing Arizona to settle for a 20-yard field goal that cut the lead to 24-17.

``Going back to last year, we always had rough starts but in the second half we always found a way to make the plays that we didn't make in the first half,'' Doucet said. ``When you get behind on a team like Green Bay at home, it is kind of tough to overcome.''

Sure enough, two plays later Crabtree caught the ball at the Green Bay 45 and rumbled up field, glancing over his shoulder to make sure Paris Lenon and William Gay weren't going to catch him.

They didn't - barely - and Crabtree tumbled into the end zone.

``Honestly, I'm still really tired,'' Crabtree said. ``I need to spend this bye week doing some gassers or something.''

Good thing he's got some extra time off.

NOTES: Green Bay has won 17 of its last 18 regular-season games at Lambeau Field. ... Green Bay's 39 rushing attempts also were its most in three years. ... The Packers had a season-low one penalty. ... After a career-best seven catches in each of his last two games, Arizona WR Andre Roberts had four for 86 yards. ... Arizona is oh-for-Wisconsin since 1949, losing its last nine road games against the Packers.

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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.