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Packers look forward after quieting critics

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Packers look forward after quieting critics

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers were able to hush their critics - for one day, at least - with a convincing road win against previously unbeaten Houston. Next they'll try to win consecutive games for the first time this season.

``Our team has a lot of pride. They have never lost any confidence. I haven't seen that. I think after (Sunday) night's win, it's even stronger,'' coach Mike McCarthy said a day after beating the Texans 42-24.

Now, the Packers (3-3) turn their attention to the Rams (3-3), whom they'll face Sunday in St. Louis in the last of three consecutive road games.

``But you just turn the page and you get up and you come into work today and you put on the St. Louis Rams tape and you see a team that had almost 500 yards of offense versus (Miami on Sunday) and they lose the game. So it's tough every week in this league, and you're foolish not to think so.

``We need to do all the little things that we did a better job of leading up this game and into this game this week as we did (Sunday) night. And that's the facts.''

Another fact: Rodgers, the reigning NFL MVP, plays better when he feels he has something to prove - and he certainly felt that way against the Texans, who watched him complete 24 of 37 passes for 338 yards with a franchise record-tying six touchdowns and no interceptions (133.8 passer rating).

After the game, Rodgers was asked what he thought he told critics with the team's performance against Houston.

``Shhhhhhh,'' Rodgers replied before smirking and walking away.

There were certainly plenty of critics for Rodgers and the Packers to answer, both nationally and locally. In his postgame news conference, Rodgers didn't specifically address any of the criticism but acknowledged he was aware of it.

``Of course, I heard it,'' Rodgers said. ``It wasn't like I paid a lot of attention to it, but people, whether it's good stuff or bad stuff, friends of mine, they like to tell me what's being said out there. I'm not somebody that watches a ton of TV or puts a whole lot of worth into some of those comments, but I feel like I've always played with a chip on my shoulder. It helps when people give me a reason to have that chip.''

Meanwhile, McCarthy took issue with the idea that, before Sunday night's victory, there had been something ``wrong'' with his team. After dropping the regular-season opener to San Francisco at home, the Packers' next two losses came under unusual circumstances: Sept. 24 at Seattle on a contested desperation touchdown pass on the game's final play that was ruled a catch and not an interception by the NFL's replacement officials working the game; Oct. 7 at Indianapolis in which the Packers frittered away a 21-3 lead against an emotional Colts team that was playing its first game after head coach Chuck Pagano had been diagnosed with leukemia.

``There's such a fine line between winning and not winning. I think that sometimes gets lost in the conversation that the players and the coaches go through and when it doesn't go your way,'' McCarthy said. ``I think sometimes when you give honest answers to questions . things get skewed and strong opinions are made about individuals or how we're playing.

``We're 3-3, and I know exactly why we're 3-3. But I (also) know how to continue to improve. Maybe that gets old, but that's the way we operate. It's about fundamentals, it's about having the proper mindset and energy. Teams have to work and improve throughout the year at practice, we're doing that. Those are things we're focused on. That's not what's wrong with our team.''

NOTES: The Packers announced that both starting inside linebacker D.J. Smith and reserve running back Brandon Saine had been lost for the remainder of the season to knee injuries they sustained Sunday. Saine was placed on injured reserve on Monday to make room for ex-Buffalo Bills running back Johnny White, whom the team claimed on waivers. Saine played in all six games this season, but did not carry the ball and worked almost exclusively on special teams. . The team did not make a roster move with Smith, but defensive coordinator Dom Capers said he has a number of options at the position. Smith became a starter when standout inside linebacker Desmond Bishop had a season-ending hamstring injury in the Aug. 9 preseason opener at San Diego. . McCarthy indicated that injuries to two other starters - rookie outside linebacker Nick Perry (knee) and cornerback Sam Shields (shin) - were not season-ending and said more information would be available about each player on Wednesday after further medical testing.

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How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

The Capitals found themselves in deep trouble on Saturday.

Game 5 at Capital One Arena provided Washington a golden opportunity to take a 3-2 lead in their 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. A loss -- another home loss -- would have been a devastating blow.

After battling back from a 2-0 series deficit, to lose in Washington would mean facing elimination in Columbus. Game 5 was the game the Caps needed and it would have slipped away from them if not for Nicklas Backstrom.

The Caps’ most underrated superstar -- the one who is constantly overshadowed by the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby -- took center stage on Saturday as he tipped a Dmitry Orlov shot past Sergei Bobrovsky at 11:53 of overtime to seal the victory for Washington.

“It was just a good shot from [Orlov],” Backstrom said after the game. “I thought before he had a chance to block it, and I got a tip on it, and it’s usually what happens in the playoffs. Tip goals or rebound goals. That’s the way it is. It was nice.”

Backstrom’s overtime goal capped off a three-point night for the veteran center, who also scored in the first period and assisted on a goal from T.J. Oshie.

The team ended up needing every one of his points.

From the start, Columbus outplayed Washington. With the series tied 2-2, a best-of-three mentality took over and the Blue Jackets pushed hard for the pivotal Game 5 win.

It is in those very moments that team needs its superstar players to step up. In Game 3, it was Holtby who stole the show to help Washington steal a win in Columbus.

On Saturday, it was Backstrom.

Columbus converted a shorthanded goal to seize a 1-0 lead in what was shaping up to be a dominant first period. A fluke goal from Backstrom, however, made sure the score was knotted up, 1-1, after the opening frame.

With the puck behind the goal line, Backstrom tried to slip a pass through the crease. Bobrovsky got a piece of the puck with his stick, but the amount of spin on the pass forced the puck to carom off the stick, off the back of Bobrovsky himself, and into the net.

“I was trying to make a pass,” Backstrom said. “Honestly, got lucky. I don’t know who came back-door there but I was trying for him. I’ll take it.”

After a back and forth game, the Blue Jackets came out swinging to start the third. Down 3-2, Columbus tied the game just 2:30 in and made a real push to win the game in regulation. Washington was outshot 16-1 in the third and looked like they had no push at all.

But the Caps looked like a different team when they took the ice for the extra frame. What happened in between periods?

“As I was leaving the room after the period, I could hear guys, the right guys, all saying the right things,” head coach Barry Trotz said.

When later asked if one of those guys was Backstrom, Trotz said, “Absolutely. He's one of the leaders on our team. They were all talking about let's make sure we're doing the right things. There's a lot of pride, lot of good leadership in that room.”

Whatever Backstrom and the other leaders said did the trick. Washington made a strong push in overtime leading to Backstrom’s game-winning goal.

This isn’t the first time Backstrom has delivered. Saturday’s overtime tally is the fourth of his career. That’s the most in franchise history and tied for fifth in NHL history.

Through his efforts on the ice, the Caps were able to erase a bad first period and steal the win in overtime. But it also took a big effort off the ice to get the job done.

“If you just look at the scoresheet, that doesn't say enough of about Nick Backstrom, his contribution from in the dressing room to on the ice to key moments to key faceoffs,” Trotz said.

“I've been on his soapbox about how complete a player he is and I never really worry about Nick Backstrom. He's got enough games under his belt, he's got enough stats to back it up and he's played huge minutes and he's one of our leaders. He's a tremendous hockey player.”

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John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

After losing Game 1 and Game 2 at home, Alex Ovechkin declared "It’s going to be fun when we bounce back and going to tie the series and come back here and play Game 5 at home.”

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella seems to be taking a similar tactic.

The Capitals won Game 5 in overtime on Saturday in a game that could prove to be emotionally draining for the Blue Jackets in a number of ways.

  • It was Washington's third straight win
  • Columbus was the better team for the majority of the game, but still took the loss
  • The Blue Jackets now face elimination despite holding a 2-0 series lead to start and losing only once in regulation

Tortorella has become famous for his fiery postgame press conferences in the past, including abruptly walking out after Game 4's presser when he declared "We sucked" to the media.

Saturday's was another fun one.

In a presser that lasted less than two minutes, Tortorella twice said, "We'll be back here for Game 7."

After such a draining game, Tortorella was asked how he would get them ready for what is sure to be an emotionally charged Game 6.

"I won't have to say a damn word to them," Tortorella said. "No. We'll be back here for Game 7."

The Blue Jackets will have to win Game 6 in Columbus to make that happen.

Barry Trotz was asked for his reaction after Tortorella's comments.

"What else are you going to say? That's good. He wants to get it out there, he believes in his team just as I believe in my team. It's our job for that not to happen."

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