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Harvin, Vikings take down Titans 30-7 to go to 4-1

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Harvin, Vikings take down Titans 30-7 to go to 4-1

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Percy Harvin had the Tennessee Titans asking for mercy.

There's no let-up in his game, though, and the Minnesota Vikings aren't slowing down, either.

Harvin had one touchdown rushing and another receiving to help the Vikings keep up their commanding start to the season with a 30-7 victory over the Titans on Sunday, their first three-game winning streak in almost three years.

Harvin caught eight passes for 108 yards for the Vikings (4-1), who have given up a combined 33 points in winning three straight games. Christian Ponder threw his first two interceptions after 143 attempts without one this year, but he still finished 25 for 35 for 258 yards and two scores against the reeling Titans (1-4), the latest team that couldn't contain Harvin.

``You're in awe watching him,'' Ponder said.

Harvin's second score put the seal on this one, a highlight-reel catch and run to add to his already-impressive collection of video clips. Grabbing a quick pass at the line of scrimmage -- it's called a ``bubble'' screen play -- Harvin used the same hesitation move twice to get overeager defenders to fly past him before bouncing into the end zone. He said afterward some of the Titans players were pleading with him to slow down.

Nice try.

``Around here we count for every yard,'' Harvin said. ``In all our meetings, if you run out of bounds, you're going to have a coach look at you funny. We want every yard. Every yard's precious. The yard is hard to come by, so I want all of them.''

Adrian Peterson charged his way for 88 yards on 17 carries for the Vikings, another strong performance on his surgically repaired left knee. That was a stark contrast to the 24 yards Chris Johnson managed on 15 tries, often stutter-stepping at the line, trying fruitlessly to find room.

``It doesn't look good right now. I know we're better than it looks, but we are how we play,'' said Matt Hasselbeck, who threw for one late touchdown pass in place of injured starter Jake Locker. ``The only thing I can say that I know for sure is I know we can fix it.''

The Titans host Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

``You don't have time to feel sorry for yourself,'' coach Mike Munchak said, adding: ``Maybe that's the best thing for us, that we're playing in four days against a good team.''

Hasselbeck was intercepted by Antoine Winfield in the second quarter, setting up Vikings rookie Blair Walsh for the first of his three field goals.

``It's hard to come up with answers when you keep getting the same results,'' said tight end Jared Cook, who had the only touchdown catch.

Ponder was picked off by Robert Johnson right in front of the goal line near the end of the first half and by Jordan Babineaux on the first play of the third quarter, but he went 12 for 13 after that, finding Kyle Rudolph in double coverage in the fourth quarter to give the Vikings their highest score this season.

``I shook it off and moved on. That's part of the role,'' Ponder said.

Ponder didn't complete a pass longer than 29 yards in any of the first four games, but he floated a perfect pass up the sideline to Harvin for a 45-yard gain in the first quarter. The fourth-year do-it-all wide receiver then took an inside handoff and pounded his way into the end zone four plays later from 4 yards out.

Throw in last week's opening kickoff return for a touchdown, and Harvin is building a case to be a non-traditional Most Valuable Player award candidate. Not bad for a guy who asked for a trade during minicamp in June. Coach Leslie Frazier helped talk him through his frustration this summer.

``To bring a championship to Minnesota, that's exactly what he wants and that's what I want,'' Frazier said. ``And as long as all our players feel the same way, there are no problems that we can't work through.''

NOTES: Peterson rolled his left ankle on the second play of the game, blaming that for distracting his focus. ``I came out and did all right in the second half, but I've just got to do better,'' said Peterson, whose runs of 34 and 22 yards were his two longest of the season. Backup Toby Gerhart had a 22-yard gain, too, also his longest of the year. ... Titans RB Javon Ringer hurt his left knee and left on a cart in the fourth quarter. ... Vikings WR Jerome Simpson was bothered by soreness near his left ankle that kept him from pushing off and didn't have any catches. ``He did a pretty good job, but he wasn't himself,'' Frazier said. ... Titans WR Kenny Britt was active despite being hampered all week by a sprained left ankle. He was targeted five times but had just two catches for 23 yards. ... Vikings SS Harrison Smith was ejected for shoving back judge Steve Freeman out of the way after Freeman tugged Smith away from a tussle with some Titans players. Smith apologized afterward. ``I should never have been there,'' he said.

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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USA Today Sports Images

Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick and the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 7 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Another test

The Wizards continue their difficult stretch coming out of the All-Star break against a very dangerous Sixers team. Philly has proven to be very streaky this season, but right now they are rolling. They come to Washington having won their last seven games dating back to Feb. 6 when they beat the Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center. The Wizards are also playing well, having won eight of their last 11, despite their loss to the Hornets on Friday.

The Sixers are currently seventh in the East and appear on track to make the playoffs. If they keep rising the standings, they could meet the Wizards, who are currently fourth, in the first round. 

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Season series

Speaking of the playoffs, this game could end up looming large for postseason seeding. The Sixers have won two of the three matchups between these teams this year. If they win on Sunday, they will take the season series and own the tiebreaker over Washington.

If the two teams tie head-to-head and end up with the same record at the end of the season, it will then come down to conference record. The Sixers currently have a better record against East teams than the Wizards. But if they can beat Philly this time, the Wizards will have a chance to secure the conference tiebreaker down the stretch of this season.

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Sixers are tough to guard

The Wizards have found out the hard way this season just how difficult it can be to match up with the Sixers, who are led by two emerging stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Embiid is 7-foot-1 with rare abilities to stretch the floor and beat opponents off the dribble. Simmons is 6-foot-10, yet can lead the fastbreak with rare speed and vision to find his teammates with crisp passes.

The mobility for their size is almost unmatched and it has not been easy for the Wizards to answer. In their last meeting earlier this month, Simmons had 15 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. Embiid had 27 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. The Wizards have to try to limit those guys while also dealing with other challenges like Robert Covington, Dario Saric and J.J. Reddick.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKING

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Need to Know: Five Redskins who must step up in 2018

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Usa Today Sports Images

Need to Know: Five Redskins who must step up in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 25, 17 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

Five Redskins who will have to step up in 2018

Originally published 12/26/17

WR Josh Doctson—This list is in no particular order but if it was, Doctson would be right here at the top. The watchword for Doctson is consistency. He makes some incredible catches and then there are throws that he drops or doesn’t quite seem to make enough of an effort to catch. There is promise there. The first-round pick has shown his ability and his teammates say he has a chance to be elite. But the potential must translate into production on the field, week in and week out.  

RB Samaje Perine—There is plenty of chatter about the Redskins’ need to sign or draft a top running back. But a look at this team’s recent history tells us that they are unlikely to invest major assets in the position. That means that Perine, a fourth-round pick in 2017, will have to become a more consistent runner. It’s not all his fault that he hasn’t done much since he had back-to-back 100-yard games in Weeks 11-12; tough defense, offensive line issues, and game score situations have slowed his production. But he needs to be consistently productive in 2018 no matter who he lines up against.

CB Josh Norman—Unless he gets a pick against the Giants, he will go through the year without any interceptions. Sure, they don’t throw his way all that often and INT’s don’t give you the complete picture of his play. But a CB taking up $20 million in cap room needs to get a couple of picks almost by sheer accident. Norman battled some injury problems and if he wants to justify the final two years and $23 million of salary remaining on his contract, his age 30 2018 season needs to be more impactful.

OLB Preston Smith—The third-year player started strong, with at least half a sack in the first five games. And he’s finishing strong, with three sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble in the last two games. But in between, he had a total of just half a sack in eight games. This follows the pattern he displayed his first two years in the league of being dominant in some games and invisible in others. If he can develop some consistency in his 2018 contract year, he could cash in huge in free agency the following year.

Head coach Jay Gruden—Normally I only include players on lists like this one but if Gruden doesn’t do something to get the Redskins out of their near-.500 rut then nothing else will matter. He needs to change up something, whether it’s pushing the players hard in training camp or perhaps fine tuning his friendly approach to the players. Sure, better luck regarding injuries and a schedule that right now appears to be a bit less challenging will help. But Gruden needs to look at what he can change, too.

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.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 4
—NFL Draft (4/26) 60
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 196