Redskins

Falcons falter, then rally past Seahawks 30-28

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Falcons falter, then rally past Seahawks 30-28

ATLANTA (AP) Matt Ryan won't have to answer that question anymore.

Neither will Tony Gonzalez.

They're both playoff winners.

Finally.

Ryan got over the postseason hump in his fifth season, guiding the Atlanta Falcons to an improbable comeback in the final half-minute for a 30-28 victory over the gritty Seattle Seahawks in an NFC divisional game Sunday.

If Ryan was feeling relief, imagine what was going through Gonzalez's mind. The 16-year veteran, in what is likely the final season of a Hall of Fame career, removed the only blotch from his brilliant record with his first playoff win.

No wonder he broke down in tears when it was over.

``I've cried after a loss. But never a win,'' said Gonzalez, who had been 0-5 in the postseason. ``I thought it was over. Sixteen years. Six playoff games. I was like, `Here we go again.' Especially with that big lead. I thought it just wasn't meant to be.''

The Falcons (14-3) led 20-0 at halftime, and were still up 27-7 going to the fourth quarter. No team had ever blown such a daunting lead in the final period of a playoff game. But the Seahawks, led by Russell Wilson, nearly pulled off a historic win.

Wilson passed for two touchdowns and ran for another, then led a drive that looked like the game winner. He completed three passes for 50 yards, the last of them a short throw to Marshawn Lynch that the bruising runner took all the way to the Falcons 3. The rookie quarterback made it all possible with his legs, spinning away from blitzing linebacker Sean Weatherspoon to give himself extra time to throw.

On the next play, after the rattled Falcons were penalized for too many players on the field, Lynch powered over from the 2 to give the Seahawks (12-6) their first lead of the day, 28-27 with 31 seconds remaining.

The Falcons could've packed it in right there, but Ryan and Gonzalez went back to work.

First, Ryan hit a deep pass to Harry Douglas right in front of the Atlanta bench, a 22-yard completion to midfield. Then, with one timeout remaining, Ryan went to Gonzalez on a 19-yard throw over the middle. The Falcons quickly stopped the clock again, and Matt Bryant connected on a 49-yard field goal with 8 seconds left for the victory.

Atlanta will host the NFC championship game for the first time next Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, another team that features a mobile quarterback. The defense hopes that facing Wilson will help prepare for Colin Kaepernick, who passed for 263 yards and rushed for 181 - a playoff record for a quarterback - in a 45-31 victory over Green Bay.

``Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick are mobile quarterbacks who throw the ball at extremely accurate levels,'' Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud said. ``We can use this game as a cheat sheet to prepare for next week.''

The Falcons overcame their reputation for choking in the playoffs, winning their first postseason game since the 2004 season.

``Nobody flinched,'' Ryan said. ``We just kept battling, kept doing what we do. That's been the makeup of our team all season.''

Ryan came into the game with an 0-3 mark in the playoffs, including a crushing loss to Green Bay two years ago when the Falcons were in the same position, the NFC's top-seeded team with home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Now, he'll no longer be asked why he can't win in the playoffs.

``That's going to be nice,'' Ryan said with a smile. ``But our goal is not to win one playoff game. Our goals are still in front of us.''

Bryant made his third game-winning kick of the season. But he'd never made one like this, with so much on the line.

``When they scored their touchdown, I walked down (the sideline),'' he said. ``I told the offensive line, I told Matt (Ryan), I told all the receivers, `We've done this before.'''

Wilson finished with 385 yards passing and led the Seahawks in rushing with 60 yards on seven carries, an even better performance than the one that carried Seattle to an opening-round victory over Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins.

Not quite enough this time.

``We had high, high hopes for the rest of the season,'' Wilson said. ``When the game was over, I was very disappointed. But walking back into the tunnel, I got so excited about next year. The resilience we showed was unbelievable.''

A botched squib kick by the Falcons gave Seattle the ball at its own 46 and a chance at one more comeback. But Wilson threw a short pass that only picked up 6 yards, forcing a desperation heave into the end zone on the final play.

Falcons receiver Julio Jones, who had practiced for just such a situation during the week, went in on defense and leaped up to make the interception, leaving Atlanta one win away from the second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.

Ryan had a couple of interceptions, but threw three touchdown passes, tying a Falcons playoff record. He completed 24 of 35 for 250 yards - the first time he's eclipsed 200 yards in the postseason.

The scoring passes were 1-yarder to Gonzalez, who made a leaping grab in the back of the end zone; a 47-yarder to Roddy White that stretched the lead to 20-0 late in the second quarter; and a 5-yarder to Jason Snelling, a quick throw after a fake pitch to Jones, gave the Falcons a seemingly comfortable edge late in the third period.

Wilson took over from there, running 1 yard for a touchdown to make it 27-14, then going to Zach Miller on a 3-yard touchdown pass that closed the gap to 27-21. Ryan's second interception, an ill-advised deep throw into double coverage, helped keep the Seahawks alive.

But the Seahawks will likely spend the offseason kicking themselves for that last Falcons' drive, and for squandering two scoring chances in the first half.

On fourth-and-1 at the Atlanta 11, Seattle passed on a field goal and a chance to give the ball to Lynch, their beast of a back. Fullback Michael Robinson was stuffed for a 1-yard loss by safety William Moore.

With the clock winding down before halftime, Seattle used all its timeouts and wound up regretting it when Wilson was sacked by Jonathan Babineaux at the Atlanta 20. Time ran out before the Seahawks could get off another play, sending Atlanta to the locker room still up by 20.

Turns out, the game was just getting started.

NOTES: The Falcons played the second half without defensive end John Abraham, who re-injured his right ankle. No word whether he'll be able to play next week. ... Lynch was held to 46 yards on 16 carries. ... Atlanta rushed for a season-high 167 yards behind Michael Turner (98) and Jacquizz Rodgers (64).

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In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

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USA TODAY Sports

In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

The Redskins spent modestly in 2018 free agency, and plenty of fans thought the team should have shelled out much bigger bucks. Talking with sources around the Ashburn facility, a prevaling notion became clear that the Washington brass believed they had a strong team in 2017, but they lost their chance to compete because of injuries. 

Well, the secret is out. Doug Williams said as much on Tuesday. 

"Coming out of Richmond last year, I liked this football team. I think we’ve got a tough football team, a smart football team. Some things you can’t control," Williams said Tuesday in a pre-draft media session. "We were very competitive up to a certain point, and when you have the injuries that we have, at a certain point, that competitive edge, you lose it because your best players are not playing."

Williams' words were true, and telling. 

First the true part:

  • In Washington's first five games of 2017, the team went 3-2. The Redskins only lost to eventual the Super Bowl champs Philadelphia and AFC West champs Kansas City. Washington only gave up more than 100 yards rushing once in those first five games, before rookie Jonathan Allen got hurt and the defense began to look much different. After Week 5, the Redskins only held one team under 100 yards rushing and finished the year dead last in rush defense.

Now the telling part:

  • The Redskins signed free agent WR Paul Richardson, and kept free agent LB Zach Brown. Beyond that, the team added inexpensive veterans in OLB Pernell McPhee and CB Orlando Scandrick. No splash moves, and recurring speculation that Washington was not offering top dollar to free agents. Bruce Allen acknowledged as much during NFL League Meetings when he explained that his team identified exactly how much they would offer free agents, their own and otherwise, and wouldn't go beyond that dollar figure. 

That means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is about this weekend's NFL Draft.

That also means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is not about Johnathan Hankins or any other free agent. 

"We’re going to deal with the draft now, and the second wave of free agents, if it’s somebody out there we feel like can help the Redskins,that’s what we’re going to do," Williams said. 

Throughout the offseason, Redskins fans wanted more action from their front office. It didn't happen, and Williams' basically explained why on Tuesday. The brass likes their team, and by default, expects better health and luck in 2018. 

When Williams talks about drafting the best player available, it's not just the typical NFL front office tripe. Right or wrong, the Redskins believe they have a team ready to compete in 2018, and any rookies that come in will only supplement that position.

"At the end of the day, I like this football team we’ve got. Like, last year when I walked out of camp, I thought we had a pretty good football team and I still feel the same way today," Williams said.

"At the end of the day, you get the best football player, and if that best football player is the guy that you want to plug and play, that’s all right. But if that’s the best football player that’s going to help your team overall, I think that’s the route you have to go."

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How the Caps won their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets

How the Caps won their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets

Things did not look good for the Capitals after two games.

Facing a 0-2 series hole after losing both games in Washington, it looked like it could be an early summer. The Caps were going to be the first team to ever lose a series in the playoffs to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

HOW DID THE CAPS WIN THEIR SERIES AGAINST COLUMBUS? FIND OUT HERE

But the Caps rallied.

Washington won the next four games and turned what looked like it would be another postseason disaster into a postseason triumph.

Only once in franchise history had the Caps rallied from a 0-2 deficit and only once had the Caps won four straight games to win a series. They managed both against the Blue Jackets.

Here's how the Caps were able to rally to a first-round victory over Columbus.