Falcons have history on their side against Seattle

Falcons have history on their side against Seattle

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) The Atlanta Falcons have more than home-field advantage to help them against Seattle in the playoffs.

The Falcons also have history on their side.

The Seahawks won their wild-card game at Washington and will have to make another cross-country trip for Sunday's game at Atlanta.

According to STATS LLC, the 1989 Los Angeles Rams are the only West Coast team to win back-to-back postseason games on the East Coast - at Philadelphia and the New York Giants. STATS' research included teams from Seattle, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Arizona.

Falcons offensive tackle Tyson Clabo downplayed the Seahawks' repeat trip across the nation.

``It's not like they're going to be going to the moon or anything,'' Clabo said Monday. ``They have a schedule they follow when they travel and I'm sure they're going to keep it the same.''

The Falcons claimed the top seed in the NFC with a 13-3 record. They also held the top seed two years ago before losing at home to eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay. They lost last year's playoff opener at the Giants to fall to 0-3 in the postseason under coach Mike Smith.

Smith said he adjusted last week's practice schedule based on lessons learned in the bye week two years ago. Players had more time off before the loss to the Packers.

``We did it a little bit different this time,'' Smith said. ``We worked a little bit longer. I think one of the things we had to do was to get some work done between playing games. We needed to work on some things fundamentally that we didn't do well at the end of the season.''

Fundamentals were emphasized in four practices Wednesday through Saturday. The team was off Sunday and met Monday morning for its first briefing on the Seahawks.

``I think if you do it the same and you didn't get the results you want, that's probably not the right way to approach it,'' Smith said. ``We approached it differently this time.''

Clabo said there were no complaints from the players.

``We needed to work on some things,'' Clabo said. ``We're not perfect. As a player and as a team you're always striving to find things you can improve. We did a little self-scout and said `Let's do this.'

``It was good but it was quick. Coach Smith wanted it to be quick so it didn't run us into the ground or anything like that. I think everyone was on board with doing whatever it took to win this game.''

Smith said he hopes the bye week gives three defensive starters a chance to play against Seattle: defensive end John Abraham (left ankle), cornerback Dunta Robinson (concussion) and safety William Moore (hamstring).

Abraham and Robinson were hurt in a 22-17 loss to Tampa Bay to close the regular season. Moore missed the last four games but returned to practice last week.

Smith, who doesn't provide a full injury report before Wednesday, said Abraham will participate in Wednesday's first practice of the week.

``We will have almost a full boat,'' Smith said. ``We won't have everybody there.

``The workload for some of these guys was limited last week and this week we'll limit some early in the week and hopefully we'll have everybody ready to go by the end of the week.''

Smith said the three postseason losses in his first four seasons left this Falcons team better prepared for success.

``We're a much more mature team because of our experiences,'' he said. ``I think you learn from your previous experiences in the playoffs. This is a team that has been very focused from the very beginning of the season and we've got a lot of guys who have experienced the playoff atmosphere. They're going to be able to help some of the younger guys who haven't.''

The playoff losses have raised the pressure on Smith and the Falcons to end the drought, even if the coach insists his approach will not change.

``To me it's no different than any other game,'' Smith said. ``It's 100 percent on our football team to go out and play our best, whether it's a preseason game or regular-season game or whether it's the postseason.

``I think every team that's in this tournament respects every other team. I don't think there's anybody not respecting other teams. This is a very good football team. We feel like we accomplished what we needed to accomplish to get here and we are looking forward to playing against Seattle this weekend.''

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Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

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Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

The Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 109-102 on Saturday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Important victory: Saturday night's game between the Wizards and Pacers had several layers of playoff implications on the line and it was Washington who rose to the occasion and showed the urgency commensurate for the stakes.

By beating the Pacers, the Wizards locked up the season series between the teams, two games to one. That gives them the tiebreaker for playoff seeding if the teams finish the regular season with the same record. That could very well prove paramount. As of now, the Wizards and Pacers have the same record (40-30) with 12 games to go.

The season series advantage means the Wizards are above the Pacers in the standings despite having the same record. They moved into fourth place in the East with the win and the Cavs slotted back into third. There will likely be a lot more movement as these next few weeks play out, but the Wizards now hold an important edge over the Pacers.

The win also pushed the Wizards to 14-8 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. Wall could return this coming week or the week after and the Wizards have more than stayed afloat during his absence.

The Wizards' magic number to make the playoffs is now just five. 


Sato went off: The Wizards jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter mostly thanks to a hot start from Tomas Satoransky, who scored the Wizards' first five points and had 10 by the end of the first quarter.

Satoransky's floater was automatic. He dropped in several in the lane from all different angles. Satoransky was practicing the same shots, floaters off each foot, the day before in practice and it paid off.

It was a well-rounded night for Satoransky. In addition to his 12 points, he also had eight assists and five rebounds, including this one to find Marcin Gortat for the dunk:

Gortat came up big: Speaking of Gortat, the Wizards' big man had one of his best games of the season. He poured in 18 points to go along with eight rebounds, four assists a steal and a block. Gortat shot 6-for-8, consistently having his way on the block.

The Pacers were without two of their best big men in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis and Gortat took advantage of that. He was way too much for Al Jefferson.

The Pacers tried to roll with small-ball lineups using Trevor Booker and Thaddeus Young as their big men, but it didn't work. Gortat was too big for them and his teammates did a great job finding him for open looks.

Gortat's 18 points were his most since Jan. 3 when he had a season-high 21 against the Knicks. Lately, Gortat has seen his minutes dwindle with the increased role for Ian Mahinmi, so Saturday night must have felt good for the Polish Machine.


Bojan held in check: Bojan Bogdanovic, who spent part of last season with the Wizards, was a major factor in the first two matchups between Washington and the Pacers this season. He had 20 points in one game and 29 in another, each time getting hot from three.

The Wizards, though, made some adjustments in this one and held Bo Buckets in check. He didn't make his first shot until nearly the midway point of the second quarter and it was only because Kelly Oubre, Jr. (16 points, 18 minutes) lost his balance. Oubre stumbled backward, giving Bogdanovic a split second to get off an open three. That was the only shot he hit in the first half as he began the game 1-for-4.

Oubre did a good job harrassing Bogdanovic and not giving him space on the premiter. Otto Porter (eight points) and Bradley Beal (19 points) did as well. Both Porter and Beal stripped the ball out of Bogdanovic's hands early in the third quarter. Midway through the third, Bogdanovic got past Porter only to be called for an offensive foul on a collision with Gortat. All in all, it was a frustrating night for Bogdanovic, who had 11 points, three below his season average.

Bogdanovic is a very good shooter and when he's hot can alter games. But when you take his shots away, there's not much else he can do to hurt you. The Wizards did a good job taking away his strengths and making others beat them. Not having to focus on Turner and Sabonis certainly helped. 

Sessions is still in the rotation: It turns out those five games for Ramon Sessions over the course of his second 10-day contract weren't just an audition. Now that he has been signed for the rest of the season, Sessions is still getting the nod over Tim Frazier as the backup point guard.

Sessions logged 18 minutes and even played alongside Satoransky and Jodie Meeks in the fourth quarter. The Wizards had a sizable lead and head coach Scott Brooks decided to experiment with his lineups. That is something to keep in mind for when Wall comes back. Once he does, Sessions will be the third point guard and likely rarely see the court. But if they see something they like about him at shooting guard, that could open the door for more playing time possibilities.

Up next: The Wizards have three off-days before their next game. That will be on Wednesday when they head to San Antonio to face the Spurs. Tipoff is at 9:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. Pregame coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. with Wizards HangTime.

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Scandrick, Hankins both visiting with Redskins soon


Scandrick, Hankins both visiting with Redskins soon

The Redskins will be taking visits from two former NFC East foes in the next few days.

Former Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick will visit Redskins Park on Monday. Scandrick, 31, has been with Dallas since them made him a fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft. He has eight career interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

The Cowboys released Scandrick on Friday in a salary cap move. The Redskins would be attracted to Scandrick’s versatility. He can play either side at corner and, of particular interest to the Redskins, in the slot. That is a position of concern for Washington since they traded Kendall Fuller to the Chiefs as part of the deal for quarterback Alex Smith.

The Redskins have been trying to get former Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to sign for the past several days, but they can’t come together on money. Scandrick could be a fallback if they need one.

The other visitor will be former Giants defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins, per John Keim of ESPN. Hankins, 25, was a second-round draft pick and played his first four years in New York. Last year he moved on to the Colts as a free agent. They are changing their defense and decided to release Hankins after paying him $10 million last year.

Hankins could bolster a defensive line that still needs young talent. It’s not known if he would be considered a nose tackle in the Redskins’ scheme. The Giants ran a 4-3 defense and in the Colts’ 3-4 he was used as an end.

The Redskins had former Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson in for a visit earlier this week, but he decided to sign with the Packers.


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