BALTIMORE (AP) -- I'll Have Another waited a little longer to catch Bodemeister in the stretch this time, and now that he's done it twice in a row it's time for a Triple Crown try in the Belmont Stakes in three weeks. With a breathtaking closing rush, the smooth-striding colt won the Preakness Stakes by a neck at Pimlico Race Course on a sunny Saturday, a dramatic finish that topped his win two weeks ago in the Kentucky Derby. The race unfolded the same way as the Derby, with the speedy Bodemeister moving to the lead under Mike Smith, with I'll Have Another hanging back in fourth in the 11-horse field. The early fractions were slower than the Derby, but when it came time for Bodemeister to hang on, I'll Have Another found another gear under young jockey Mario Gutierrez and ran down trainer Bob Baffert's horse in the shadow of the wire. "We're thinking Triple Crown, baby," an elated trainer Doug O'Neill said. "He's a special horse. We'll see how he comes out of it, and if he comes out of it in good shape, we're heading to New York, baby." It's been 34 years since Affirmed swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont and became the 11th and most recent Triple Crown champion. Since then, 11 horses have won the first two legs only to come up short in the Belmont. The most recent try came in 2008, when Big Brown was pulled up around the turn for home and did not finish. Before that, Smarty Jones was run down in the final 70 yards by Birdstone in the 2005 Belmont. If margins are an indication, perhaps I'll Have Another has a Triple Crown in his future. Affirmed won the Derby by the identical 1 lengths over Alydar, and then beat his rival by the same neck margin in the Preakness. "I didn't feel confident we were going to get there until 10 yards from the wire," owner J. Paul Reddam said. I'll Have Another, sent off as the second choice at 3-1 over 8-5 favorite Bodemeister, covered the 1 316 miles in 1:55.94. The winner returned 8.40, 3.80 and 2.80. Bodemeister returned 3.20 and 2.80, and Creative Cause paid 3.60 to show.
Nicklas Backstrom has made a career out of setting up other players, but what many forget is that he is a pretty darn good scorer in his own right. Just not these days.
Backstrom had three goals in the first six games of the season, but since then he has been held scoreless. His last goal game on Oct. 14 against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Offense, in general, has been hard to come by for the veteran center who also underwent a career-long seven-game pointless streak.
While Backstrom has managed to get back on the score sheet with three assists in his last five games, he still can’t seem to get a goal.
“Obviously you want to score,” Backstrom said. “That's a no brainer, but at the same time you've just got to stick with it. I mean, at least I created chances tonight.”
While the goals may not be there, however, the chances are. For Barry Trotz, that’s an encouraging sign.
“Backy was on the bench, I gave him a little tap I said you know the hockey gods will even that out,” Trotz said. “You probably could have had three tonight and he'll probably get one of those leaky lizards go through the legs or through the arms and one from a bad angle. They'll even it out for him.”
With Backstrom taking on a more defensive shutdown role this season, his offensive numbers have taken a hit. The Capitals, however, do not have the same scoring depth as in recent years and need Backstrom, still arguably their best center, to produce offensively in order to be successful. He is just too good of a player to not produce.
But given his recent play, Trotz is not all that concerned and believes the goals are coming. Backstrom seems to agree.
“The sun goes up the next day anyway even if I don't score,” he said, “So you've just got to stick with it, work hard and hopefully you'll get rewarded.”
NEW ORLEANS—Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, November 19, four days before the Washington Redskins play the New York Giants on Thanksgiving Day at FedEx Field.
Today’s schedule: Redskins kickoff, noon, NBC Sports Washington; Redskins @ Saints, 1 p.m., FOX
—Redskins @ Cowboys Thursday night (11/30) 11
—Redskins @ Chargers (12/10) 21
—Cardinals @ Redskins (12/17) 28
Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Saints
Will the Redskins commit to running the ball? Some of you will answer with a kneejerk “no” because they don’t think that Jay Gruden will do that. But just look back at the Rams and Raiders games, when they ran 39 and 34 times, respectively. If running is even moderately effective and if the score remains in a range where the Redskins can play ball control, Gruden is more than happy to let Kirk Cousins had the ball off. The Saints defense allows 4.7 yards per carry, 30th in the NFL so the effectiveness aspect should allow for running. Can the Redskins defense keep a cap on Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, and Mark Ingram long enough for Gruden to be able to stick with the run?
The Chris Thompson factor—Whether he is taking handoffs or catching passes, Thompson’s productivity has been a key for the Redskins. He averages 61 yards from scrimmage in their losses and 116 yards in their wins. Earlier in the season it was Trent Williams and Brandon Scherff getting out in front of Thompson on outside zone runs and screen passes. While they were out of the lineup, Thompson was largely stuck in the mud. With both back, maybe he can get some traction in the Superdome.
Can’t afford mistakes—Like most teams who lead their divisions, the Saints are very opportunistic when it comes to takeaways. They don’t have a large number of them, 13 (13th in the NFL), but they are taking advantage. They have scored eight touchdowns after turnovers, with two pick-sixes, a scoop and score after a fumble, and five TD drives. Kirk Cousins can’t afford to make a mistake, especially in his own territory.
Prediction—It’s not impossible to paint a picture where the Redskins win this game. But it would take something like we saw in Seattle, with some mistakes by the Saints (equivalent to the three missed Seahawks field goals) combined with a dash of late magic could get them past the Saints. The Redskins are 7-1 in the Superdome and Drew Brees has a career passer rating of 70.5 with eight touchdowns and 11 interceptions against Washington. Of course, many of the players responsible for those numbers have long since retired. But the reality is that the Saints are playing better than the Redskins and they’re at home. That means that the home team is likely to win.
Saints 31, Redskins 21
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In case you missed it
- The Redskins week that was—Where's Galette, Cousins' future
- Redskins lose three starters to injury ahead of Sunday
- Norman earns Week 10 NFLPA community MVP