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Patriots shake loss to 49ers, focus on Jaguars

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Patriots shake loss to 49ers, focus on Jaguars

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) The New England Patriots claim they don't think about playoff seeding. They say the only games they focus on are the next one or two. Win and their postseason position will take care of itself.

Winning their remaining two regular-season games, though, may not help this time around. Not after Sunday night's 41-34 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

The Patriots (10-4) went into it in second place in the AFC and in strong position to snare one of two conference byes. They came out in third place with the likely prospect of having to play a wild-card game. After that - should they win and move on - a road game in the divisional round might be next. Not easy.

Not that it's on their minds, though.

``I'm not even thinking about the playoffs right now,'' linebacker Rob Ninkovich said Monday. ``I'm just focusing on the next two games.''

It was a day-after-game reality the Patriots don't face very often - coping with a loss.

They had won seven straight since losing 24-23 at the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 14. They had a streak of 20 consecutive home victories in December, dating back to 2002, snapped. And they had won 21 games in a row in the second half of the schedule starting at the midpoint in 2010.

But, for coach Bill Belichick, Monday was just another day to wrap up the Patriots' latest effort and look ahead to the next one.

``I'd say we pretty much do the same thing we always do,'' he said. ``We'll look and talk about the game. We'll talk about the things that we did right and reinforce those. We'll talk about the things we did wrong and correct those. Once that's over with, we'll put this game to rest and move on to Jacksonville.''

Ah, Jacksonville.

The Jaguars (2-12) are far less formidable than the 49ers (10-3-1). Their 24-3 loss to Miami on Sunday was their seventh by at least 16 points, and guaranteed that they would have at least a tie for the worst record in franchise history (1995, 4-12).

The Patriots finish the regular season a week later against the Dolphins (6-8). If New England wins its remaining games, Denver (11-3) would have to lose one of its games - against struggling Cleveland (5-9) or Kansas City (2-12) - for the Patriots to take the No. 2 spot.

The Texans (12-2) lead the AFC and have games left vs. Minnesota (8-6) and Indianapolis (9-5).

``The seeding and all that will play out how it plays out,'' safety Steve Gregory said. ``We've still got a few games left here, so we'll just grind away and get on to the next game.''

The last one was memorable, even if the Patriots lost.

One week after routing the Texans, 42-14, the Patriots were on the other end of a lopsided score, trailing 31-3 five minutes into the third quarter. Then they scored 28 points in just over 14 minutes, a stunning comeback that tied the game at 31-31 with 6:43 left.

Only one team had won a regular-season game after trailing by 28 points and it was the 49ers. They overcame a 35-7 halftime deficit and beat New Orleans, 38-35, on Dec. 7, 1980.

But today's 49ers needed just two plays on Sunday - a 62-yard kickoff return by LaMichael James and a 38-yard touchdown pass from Colin Kaepernick to Michael Crabtree - to take the lead for good.

``The way we played, we can't beat anybody,'' New England defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. ``We played a brutal first half and then, all of a sudden, in one quarter we came out and everything clicked. So we just have to be more consistent.''

And more careful. The Patriots had an NFL-low 10 giveaways going into the game but committed four against the 49ers.

``We did enough things to make it a competitive game in the end,'' Belichick said, ``but we had too many things that weren't good enough.''

The Patriots did show an ability to rally from a huge deficit, though. They may need to show that skill again, later on.

``I love the way that we fought the whole game and, again, you can't put yourself in a hole like we did early in the game and expect to win those games,'' Ninkovich said. ``Obviously, you don't want to have that feeling of a loss, but, again, I just go back to taking this as a learning experience.''

Of course, it might come at the expense of a bye.

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After getting little rest during All-Star break, Bradley Beal aims to be smart in second half

After getting little rest during All-Star break, Bradley Beal aims to be smart in second half

If anyone on the Wizards deserves some time off to rest it's Bradley Beal, who currently ranks fifth in the NBA in total minutes played. While his teammates were off on vacation, many of them at relaxing beaches far away, Beal was making appearance after appearance in Los Angeles as part of All-Star weekend.

The one drawback of Beal being selected as an All-Star and a contestant in the three-point contest was that he got little rest in the past week. He only made it one round in the three-point contest and played 16 minutes in the All-Star Game, but all of it was enough to soak up much of the free time he's used to getting this time of the year.

"Not as much as I needed to," Beal said when asked if he got any rest over the break. "I guess that's one of the downfalls of being an All-Star."

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

The workload has really added up for Beal. He leads the Wizards in minutes (36.4/g) and is one of two players on the team who hasn't missed a game all season.

Beal did have Monday and Tuesday off, but that was after a crosscountry flight and a whirlwind of a weekend. He called the media and sponsorship appearances "overwhelming." Many All-Stars have been there before and know what to expect, but Beal was a first-time participant.

Beal and the Wizards will be given no breaks with their upcoming schedule. They have four back-to-back sets in the next three weeks and begin with a stretch of five games in seven days. Those games will feature the Cavs, Warriors, Bucks, Sixers and the Hornets. Charlotte is the only team of that bunch currently out of the playoff picture, but they have already beaten the Wizards twice this season.

RELATED: WIZARDS HAVE BIG QUESTIONS TO ANSWER IN SECOND HALF

For Beal, it will be extra important to get any rest that he can.

"I will definitely be smart," he said. "I just gotta take care of my body. Listen to my body."

Beal says getting treatment from the Wizards' training staff in between games will be crucial. He also hopes to not over-exert himself in games by trusting his teammates and not trying to carry the load with John Wall out.

Though Beal may be tired from the weekend, he came out of it feeling pretty good about how he represented himself and the Wizards on the All-Star stage. He scored 14 points in 16 minutes in a game featuring the best players on the planet.

Beal now wants to make it an annual thing.

"I defintiely think it can push you more down the line. For me, it's just motivation to continue geting better," he said.

RELATED: 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT HAS LOADED CLASS

 

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Miami tagged Jarvis Landry, but what does that mean for the Redskins?

Miami tagged Jarvis Landry, but what does that mean for the Redskins?

Everything in the NFL feels like a powder keg, but the reality of Tuesday's opening of the franchise and transition tag period will play out as much more of a slow burn.

Few teams ever actually make moves on the opening day of the tag period, though the Dolphins bucked that conventional wisdom and used the non-exclusive franchise designation on wide receiver Jarvis Landry. 

Astute Redskins fans know the tag system all too well. Landry can now sign a one-year, fully guaranteed contract with the Dolphins worth more than $16 million, the average of the top-five paid receivers in the NFL. They can also trade Landry and the compensation discussion with a non-exclusive tag begins at two first-round draft picks, though it can eventually be settled for much less. 

What, if anything, does Miami's move mean for the Redskins? Let's take a look:

  1. Not gonna work here - Landry never really seemed like a great fit for the Redskins as a free agent, and that was before the franchise tag. He's a really good slot WR, but Washington already has that in Jamison Crowder. Whether or not Landry actually gets a deal done with the Dolphins or gets traded, it seems highly unlikely the Redskins are his next team. 
  2. "Spirit of the tag" - Miami putting the tag on Landry so early in the process signals that the team might be trying to trade him instead of actually trying to sign him. If that's the case, and plenty of people are suggesting just that, it would seem to be in contrast with the "spirit of the tag." The idea is that a franchise or transition tag is supposed to be used as a tool by an NFL franchise to get a long-term deal done with one of their own players facing free agency. Using the tag as a mechanism to pull of a trade seems very different. Why does any of this matter for Redskins fans? As reports emerged that Washington might look to use a tag on Kirk Cousins and work to trade him, the Cousins camp has made clear they would file a grievance against that technique. Why? Because it would violate the spirit of the tag. Well, it sure looks like Miami is doing the same thing, and as of now, nobody has complained. The situations aren't identical; few resemble the Redskins long, slow, awkward dance with Cousins. But it's certainly worth monitoring. 
  3. Wide Receiver$ - The Redskins could use a veteran wideout to help their young group of Crowder and Josh Doctson. Well, with Landry getting tagged, the price tag just went up. The player that seems to make the most sense in Washington would be Jaguars wideout Allen Robinson. Coming off a knee injury in 2017, some thought Robinson could be signed on a somewhat team-friendly deal. If Landry can get franchised after a season where he didn't even get to 1,000 yards receiving, any thought of a team-friendly deal for Robinson is dead. Make no mistake, Landry and Robinson are good players, but the ever-increasing NFL salary cap will make both young receivers very well paid. 

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