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Patriots hoping for win before bye week

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Patriots hoping for win before bye week

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) The New England Patriots have one major mission before their bye week. Go to London and bring back a win.

That would be a fine souvenir of the first half of the season and, they hope, a momentum booster for a team that has been inconsistent on offense and generous on defense.

``It would feel really good for that two-week stretch,'' quarterback Tom Brady said on Wednesday.

The Patriots leave on a red-eye flight Thursday night for Sunday's game with the St. Louis Rams after squeaking by the New York Jets 29-26 in overtime after losing to the Seattle Seahawks 24-23 when they squandered a 23-10 lead in the fourth quarter.

A win would give the Patriots a 5-3 record and undisputed possession of first place in the AFC East, the same record they had midway through last season when they finished at 13-3 and lost the Super Bowl 21-17 on a last-minute touchdown by the New York Giants.

The Patriots historically have improved over the second half of the season, especially the last two seasons when they went 16-0. That should give them confidence once they return from the bye.

``It does,'' wide receiver Deion Branch said. ``We wish we'd have played a lot better the first half. We don't want to go out and go 4-4 and then try to win the last eight games.''

Brady would love to see the Patriots string some wins together. Their only winning streak this season lasted just two games.

``Part of the mental toughness is putting what happened (behind) and moving forward to next week without wasting any time or energy spent thinking about last week,'' he said. ``That's how you string wins together. That's why you don't win one, lose one, win one, lose one, because at the end of the day, you're mediocre and you're watching all the good teams play.

``The good teams win, win, win, win, win and if you lose you (still have to) win, win, win, win. That's just how it is.''

In Bill Belichick's previous 12 years as coach of the Patriots, they were 8-4 in the week preceding their bye, although Brady has won his last five. They're 9-3 in their first game back, though they lost two straight games after the bye last year.

A loss to the Rams (3-4) could prompt Belichick to give the team a bit more work in their two weeks before returning on Nov. 11 for a home game against the Buffalo Bills.

``It's never good going in with a loss, especially with the coach we have,'' tight end Aaron Hernandez said, ``but I'm sure we'll be fine. And as long as we follow the game plan, work hard and play Patriot football, we should be fine.''

Part of Patriot football is piling up yardage. Last Sunday, they tied the NFL record of 16 consecutive regular-season games with at least 350 yards, set by the Rams in 1999-2000.

``You don't call plays that aren't designed to gain significant yards,'' Brady said. ``If you execute them the right way, they're productive and there aren't a lot of negative plays. I think last week we had 80 plays. There were only two negative plays out of 80, which is pretty good. So, if you're not going backwards and killing yourself with penalties and turnovers and really not beating yourself, you can usually put yourself in a good position to win the game.

``Gaining yards is certainly important, but scoring points is more important.''

The Patriots gained 387 yards against the Arizona Cardinals, 396 against the Baltimore Ravens and 475 against the Seattle Seahawks - and lost to all of them. They lead the NFL with 436.1 yards per game after finishing second with 428 last year.

``We have a good quarterback and a lot of good players,'' Hernandez said. ``You could get the ball out to a lot of different players and as long as some of them come to play, then we're going to have a lot of yards.

``We have enough players, enough athletes and enough dominant players to win every game.''

To do that Sunday, they'll have to overcome the 10th-rated defense in the NFL with an aggressive attitude instilled by new coach Jeff Fisher.

``The trip will be fun with a victory,'' Branch said. ``We've had five road games the first eight. So I think it would be good for us to go out here and play our best football, come back, enjoy this bye week and get ready to come back for the last stretch of the season.''

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NOTES: Brady appeared surprised when told that the team's game notes said he was one of several Patriots, along with Belichick, scheduled to appear Saturday at the NFL's fan fest at Trafalgar Square. ``We're not doin' that,'' Brady said ``Is that what it says? Don't believe everything you read. Not me. Have fun, though.'' ... Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe was born in Birmingham, England, and came to the United States as an infant. ``I didn't stay too long, so I don't remember too much.'' ... Devin McCourty was named AFC special teams player of the week for his 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He also lost a fumble that led to the Jets' go-ahead field goal with 1:37 left in regulation last Sunday.

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Capitals place Taylor Chorney on waivers, which could signal something, or nothing

Capitals place Taylor Chorney on waivers, which could signal something, or nothing

When the Capitals acquired defenseman Michal Kempny on Monday, that put the team at the maximum of 23 players on the roster including eight defenseman.

Another move seemed likely and the Caps made it on Tuesday by placing veteran blueliner Taylor Chorney on waivers.

Teams now will have 24 hours to potentially claim Chorney. Should he clear at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, it is expected that he will be sent to the Hershey Bears of the AHL. Whether he is claimed or sent to Hershey, his entire $800,000 cap hit will no longer count against the Capitals' salary.

One important thing to note, however, is that placing Chorney on waivers was not required in order for Washington to remain under the salary cap.

Having eight defensemen would mean scratching two every game — assuming the team does not dress seven and after that failed experiment in last year's playoffs, why would they — which means it would be a struggle to make sure everyone gets consistent playing time in the final weeks of the season.

Perhaps placing Chorney on waivers is the team trying to get him more playing time to keep him sharp in case the team suffers injuries on the blue line and he is called upon in the playoffs.

Or perhaps it could mean something else.

RELATED: RANKING THE CAPITALS' TOP PROSPECTS

Chorney played on Feb. 15, but that was during the mentor's trip. Barry Trotz's policy for those trips is to get everyone in at least one of those two games. Before that, Chorney had not played since Jan. 2. It certainly seems like the team was comfortable with him being the designated No. 7 and was not all that concerned about getting him regular playing time before now.

When asked if the Kempny trade would mean any roster moves, Trotz said Monday that he was not sure and hinted that perhaps more moves could be coming from general manager Brian MacLellan. Moving Chorney's salary off the books does not clear much cap room, but it does clear some.

Perhaps MacLellan has another move up his sleeve before Monday's trade deadline.

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New free agent Doug Martin unlikely fix to Redskins' woeful run game

New free agent Doug Martin unlikely fix to Redskins' woeful run game

News broke Tuesday that the Tampa Bay Bucaneers released former Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin, and while the name certainly triggers value, his play of the last two seasons should calm the excitement. 

Since a 2015 season where Martin rushed for 1,400 yards and averaged nearly 5 yards-per-carry in 16 games, Martin has been suspended, undergone substance abuse rehab and missed games due to injury.

In the last two seasons, Martin has played in 16 of 32 games, rushed for 827 yards and averaged less than 3 yards-per-carry.

Over his six year NFL career with the Bucs, Martin has only played two full seasons. Those two seasons were great, in 2012 and 2015, but the other four have been largely disappointing. 

RELATED: WHAT SHOULD THE REDSKINS DO AT RUNNING BACK?

The Redskins averaged just 3.6 yards-per-carry last season, and could definitely use a boost in the run game. It's entirely possible Washington might look to upgrade their offensive backfield this offseason, either in free agency or in the 2018 NFL Draft, but Martin does not look like the player to help. 

Early in the 2017 season, it appeared the Redskins run game might be a strength for the offense. After a disappointing effort on the ground to open the year in a loss to the Eagles, the Redskins rushed for at least 111 yards in their next three contests, including nearly 230 yards on the ground in a Week 2 win over the Rams. 

Injuries undid the run game, however, as Rob Kelley got hurt and the offensive line lost players, too. Over the course of the season, rookie Samaje Perine sustained minor injuries and Chris Thompson was lost for the year with a broken leg. 

Going into 2018, Kelley, Perine, Thompson and Kapri Bibbs are all on the roster and expected for now to stay with the team. That's yet another reason why the Redskins are likely to stay away from Doug Martin.

RELATED: 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT 5.0

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