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Lions still dealing with questions about defense

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Lions still dealing with questions about defense

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) The Detroit Lions aren't a desperate team yet. Coach Jim Schwartz prefers a slightly different description.

``I think our word is `urgent' - we had six of our first nine on the road,'' Schwartz said Monday. ``We now have a stretch of three in a row at home. We have to do something with that.''

After a loss at Minnesota on Sunday, the Lions (4-5) remain in last place in the NFC North. Their playoff hopes are looking tenuous, especially with a tough schedule the rest of the way. Detroit does have that stretch of three straight home games coming up, but it starts Sunday against Green Bay - not exactly an easy matchup.

The Lions allowed 45 points to the Packers when the teams met at the end of last season, and the questions about Detroit's defense haven't gone away. Adrian Peterson rushed for 171 yards in Minnesota's 34-24 win last weekend.

``We don't have a whole lot of wiggle room for mistakes down the stretch. We have to play our best,'' Schwartz said. ``It's life in the NFL. You have to do that all the time.''

Schwartz spent some time Monday standing up for his defensive line. Peterson ran for a lot of yards Sunday, but 61 of them were on one play - a touchdown in the fourth quarter that made it 31-17.

Schwartz was particularly encouraged by Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, who had the team's only sack.

``Nick had one of the best games he's played since he's been here, but a lot like the rest of our team, a couple mistakes overshadowed the good things that he did,'' Schwartz said. ``I thought Ndamukong Suh might have played the best game he's played since he's been here. ... Unless they doubled him in pass protection, he was in the quarterback's lap the whole game.''

Lions fans better hope Schwartz is right about the defensive front, because this weekend they face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Rodgers didn't even play in Green Bay's 45-41 win over Detroit in last season's regular-season finale. Backup Matt Flynn threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns.

Detroit was reeling a bit at that point, and the Lions went on to lose 45-28 to New Orleans in the playoffs a week later. The defense clearly needed to improve, and the Lions were seventh in the NFL in overall defense entering last weekend's game.

But Detroit wasn't able to stop Peterson.

``We contained him for most of the game and then kind of let up in the fourth quarter. He got a couple of runs on the outside and was able to get to the house,'' linebacker Stephen Tulloch said. ``We just have to play a complete game because when you're playing against a guy like Adrian Peterson it takes four quarters.''

There are more tests to come. After hosting the Packers, Detroit faces Houston on Thanksgiving, followed by another home game against Indianapolis. Then comes a difficult finishing stretch with games against Green Bay, Arizona, Atlanta and Chicago.

``We'll leave math for mathematicians and statisticians and stuff like that - need to have consistent performance,'' Schwartz said. ``You need to go out and win the next game that you're playing. You need to be able to put a win or a loss behind you.''

NOTES: Schwartz said CB Drayton Florence has been cleared to return from a broken arm. The Lions released CB Alphonso Smith. ... The Lions took exception to WR Calvin Johnson being hit in the head against Minnesota, but Schwartz said Monday he didn't think there was any deliberate attempt to injure the Detroit star. ``I don't think anybody in this league is trying to hurt somebody,'' Schwartz said. ``They're trying to defend him, but as a result, he ended up getting hit in the head a couple times. Thank goodness he was fine.''

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Otto Porter's status in doubt for Game 6 against Raptors

Otto Porter's status in doubt for Game 6 against Raptors

There appears to be at least some chance the Wizards will be without starting small forward Otto Porter when they host the Toronto Raptors in Game 6 of their first round playoff series on Friday night in Washington.

Porter, 24, continues to deal with a right lower leg strain. The injury is located on the outside of his calf and will require further testing from the Wizards' medical staff to determine his status.

Head coach Scott Brooks addressed the media on Thursday and did not rule out an MRI.

"We don't know as of yet, but he's banged up. So, hopefully we will find out some good news and see how he feels tomorrow," Brooks said.

Porter first suffered the injury on April 10 against the Celtics in the Wizards' penultimate regular season game. He missed the regular season finale, but has appeared in all five games of the Wizards-Raptors series.

Brooks did not make it seem likely that Porter will miss Game 6, but expressed uncertainty.

"Anything is possible," he said. "We hope for the best."

Porter appeared hobbled in Game 5 and has at other times this series as well. After the first two games of the series, Brooks was asked about Porter's health and said that he was "100 percent." It's unclear if Porter suffered a setback in the time between, but clearly that isn't the case anymore.

Porter is averaging just 10.0 points in this series, down from his 14.7 per game season average. Ideally, the Wizards would be getting more than that from their third scoring option.

"We need Otto," Brooks said. "We need Otto to be more of a nine or 10-point scorer for us to win this series."

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If this year is going to be different, the Caps cannot go down 0-2 in the series again

If this year is going to be different, the Caps cannot go down 0-2 in the series again

In last year’s playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Capitals won two out of the last three games and three out of the last five…and still lost the series. That’s because they lost both Game 1 and Game 2 to fall into a 0-2 hole, much like they did against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round this season.

The Caps know if this year is going to be different, they cannot afford to fall into a similar hole again.

“It's always harder to dig yourself out of a hole,” head coach Barry Trotz said after Thursday’s morning skate. “You're room for error is a lot less and it wears on you.”

“If we've learned anything from last year, you lose two it's tough to climb out of that,” Jay Beagle said. “Then this year first round, lose two, it's tough to climb out. It makes the series really hard. You always feel like you're chasing and no room for error.”

It did not cost them against Columbus as Washington was able to rattle off four straight wins to advance to the second round. Overcoming a two-game hole against the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions, however, is a taller task.

For only the second time in franchise history, the Capitals were able to overcome a 0-2 series deficit when they did it against the Blue Jackets. That means it doesn’t happen very often.

Chances are you won’t be able to overcome a deficit like that against Sidney Crosby and Co.

And that’s what makes Game 1 so important.

Washington is at home, opening a series against their arch rival, the Penguins will be without both Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin and the game will be played with the memory of how a 0-2 hole cost the Caps the series last year.

To call it a must-win would perhaps be an overstatement. It is a best of seven after all. But it’s still not that far off.

“We've got to just make sure we're looking at game one, we're not looking ahead,” Beagle said. “We've got to go after them in this first game and really try and take it to them in our rink.”

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