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Dalton, offense let Bengals down again in playoffs

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Dalton, offense let Bengals down again in playoffs

CINCINNATI (AP) Coach Marvin Lewis was taken aback by the way his team fell apart.

The Bengals played their worst all-around game in months, resulting in a 19-13 loss to Houston on Saturday in a wild card playoff. Even then, they had a chance to win it at the end, but Andy Dalton overthrew an open A.J. Green in the end zone.

After winning seven of their last eight games, the Bengals were convinced they would finally snap one of the most enduring streaks of playoff futility. Instead, they've now gone 22 years without a postseason win, tied for seventh-longest in NFL history.

``It was kind of interesting that a lot of things we went into the game understanding - the poise and the calmness we needed to play with - eventually ended up being our demise,'' Lewis said on Monday.

Nothing was more stunning than the way the offense imploded. And nobody is under more scrutiny heading into another empty offseason than quarterback Andy Dalton.

For the second year in a row, Dalton had a horrid time in the playoffs. He passed for only 3 yards in the first half and finished 14 of 30 for 127 yards with no touchdowns, one interception and a 44.7 passer rating that was third-worst in franchise history for a playoff game.

As a rookie last year, he threw three interceptions during a 31-10 loss in Houston that left him with a passer rating of 51.4. In the two playoff games combined, Dalton has completed 57 percent of his passes for only 384 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions.

In his two biggest games, Dalton has failed to lead the offense to a touchdown.

``Andy's an incredible quarterback,'' receiver Andrew Hawkins said on Monday. ``To do the things he's done this early in his career - 17 wins, he took the Bengals to back-to-back playoffs for the first time in 30 years. When you start winning, the standard gets raised. Now we're bums for losing in the first round where before we were bums for not making it to the playoffs. That's how football works. We understand that.

``He's going to bring the Bengals a lot of wins and a lot of playoff wins for many years to come.''

A lot of the focus next season will be on Dalton, a second-round draft pick who exceeded expectations as a rookie but had his worst moments in the biggest games this season. Lewis met with him on Monday and urged him to continue taking control of the offense.

``As I told Andy, `You've done a lot of good things, now you have to continue pressing forward and putting your stamp on the football team,''' Lewis said.

Another failure to get a playoff win would raise questions about whether he's capable of taking the team to the next level.

``I know the type of player that I am, and I'm not too worried about it,'' Dalton said on Monday. ``To go from 4-12 before I got here to 9-7 and now 10-6 - we're getting better and going to be better next year.''

It's not all on Dalton. The offensive line struggled to protect Dalton and to open holes for the running game in the final month. No receiver emerged as a consistent complement to Green. Tight end Jermaine Gresham tended to drop passes. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden had trouble getting the offense into a flow.

``I think we still lack a little identity of who we are and what our style is,'' left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. ``And of course, people are going to say things about (Dalton). That's the nature of the position. But the truth of it is, all of us have things we can do better.

``It doesn't matter where you are. Great quarterbacks are great because there are other great players on that team, too. It's one of those things that everybody around him has got to play great, too. And we've got to find an identity and a style and go with it.''

Lewis wants to keep the running game the main focus of the offense. Newcomer BenJarvus Green-Ellis had an inconsistent season behind a line that was in flux because of injuries. Green-Ellis finished with 1,094 yards and four 100-yard games.

The defense was playoff-caliber for the last half of the season, setting a franchise record for sacks and routinely shutting down opponents. It even outscored the offense at times - in the final three games, the defense scored three touchdowns to one by the offense.

Coordinator Mike Zimmer said on Monday that he hasn't been contacted by any other teams about head coaching openings, so it looks like he'll be around for another season.

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Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

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USA TODAY Sports

Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

Defenseman Jakub Jerabek is really happy about the opportunity to play with the Washington Capitals, but it could have come at a better time. The trade came with his parents already on their way from the Czech Republic to visit him.

“It was crazy days past three days because I had my parents on the way to Montreal and they didn't know so it was a big surprise for them,” Jerabek told reporters Saturday after his first skate with the team.

A native of the Czech Republic, Jerabek signed his first NHL contract with the Montreal Canadiens in May 2017. After spending some time in the AHL and struggling to consistently earn a spot in the Canadiens’ lineup, he knew a trade was possible.

“My family, maybe we expected some trade. When its come with Caps and it was Washington, I was really happy.”

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Jerabek said he came into the NHL with no expectations and was simply happy for the opportunity, but it is fair to wonder if he was not just the least bit frustrated with how he was utilized by Montreal.

For a player with experience playing for the national team, the Czech league and the KHL, getting only 25 games with a bad Montreal team seems a bit low.

“In first two weeks, I didn't know what's going on because the coaches just told me that I played well, but we just make some competition between the [defensemen] and that I have to wait for my next chance,” Jerabek said. “It was hard, but now I'm happy down here.”

Washington now offers a very different opportunity. In need of help on the blue line, Jeraebek has the chance to earn consistent playing time for a team on pace to reach the postseason.

Jerabek will not play in Saturday’s game against Buffalo, but he was hopeful he would be in the lineup for Monday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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For now, Jerabek and head coach Barry Trotz are unclear as to what his ultimate role on the team will be. With eight defensemen now on the roster, Trotz cautioned any lineup decision could not be rushed because of the trickle-down effect it will have on the other players.

“You always look at chemistry and all that with your group depending how high that player goes up the lineup, it affects different people,” Trotz said. “In a forward group, if you get a guy that you all of a sudden stick on the first line, there's four other guys that are bumped down and one guy's bumped out.”

The addition of Jerabek, however, offers the Caps another defenseman who can quickly move the puck out of the defensive zone, something the team has struggled with immensely throughout the season. Though he shoots left, he also said he is comfortable playing on the right said and has played there regularly over the past few years. That provides the lineup with some flexibility on the third pair behind Matt Niskanen and John Carlson.

As for Jerabek’s parents, they will be arriving in Washington on Saturday.

“I tried to figure out the situation with them to get them to here and they will come today,” he said. “So I'm really happy.”

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.

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The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.

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Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one. 

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