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Raiders earn day off after 2nd straight win

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Raiders earn day off after 2nd straight win

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The first convincing victory of the season was enough for coach Dennis Allen to give his Oakland Raiders players a welcome day off midway through the season.

The 26-16 victory in Kansas City gave the Raiders two straight wins following a narrow loss at undefeated Atlanta as they are showing signs of hitting their stride following a rough opening month.

The once-dormant running game has picked up, the penalties are way down and Oakland (3-4) is doing a much better job of generating, as well as preventing, big plays.

But Allen is still far from satisfied with his team's performance, seeing many areas for improvement. The most notable one is in the red zone, where the Raiders managed just one touchdown in six trips Sunday and are the second-worst team in the NFL at converting trips inside the 20 into touchdowns.

``There's a lot of things we weren't happy with yesterday,'' Allen said Monday. ``You can't look at the margin and say, well, because you won by more, you played better. We got to look at, we were able to win a football game. There's still a lot of things that we got to get better at, a lot of things we got to correct. We got a short time to get it done.''

Oakland's first two wins - in September against Pittsburgh and last week in overtime against Jacksonville - came on field goals on the final play of the game.

There was no such drama against the Chiefs as the Raiders broke out to a 14-point lead in the third quarter and were never threatened the rest of the way, which led Allen to reward his players with their first victory Monday of the season.

With the big lead, the Raiders were able to run the ball effectively late, gaining 95 yards in the fourth quarter after having just 110 yards rushing in the fourth quarter the first six games.

``There's times during the season where players need a mental break and a physical break,'' he said. ``I felt like, we had the bye, we've gone through three straight tough weeks, it was time to give them a little bit of a mental break as much as it was anything else. So, they'll be back in here Wednesday. There was a lot of them in here today already looking at the tape.''

A week after starting flat and needing to rally to beat a Jacksonville team missing star running back Maurice Jones-Drew and starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert for most of the game, the Raiders were in control most of the time against the Chiefs after Carson Palmer threw an interception on the first play from scrimmage.

Oakland didn't commit another turnover the rest of the way, capitalized on four giveaways by Kansas City, committed only two penalties for the first time in two years and held Chiefs big-play running back Jamaal Charles to 4 yards on five carries.

The biggest change the past three weeks since Oakland went into the bye with a 1-3 record has been a significant increase in big plays on offense, while limiting those same plays defensively.

Allen defines an ``explosive'' play as a run of at least 12 yards or a pass play of at least 16. After allowing two more explosive gains per game before the bye, the Raiders are plus-four per game since then.

``I think two of the most critical variables in winning football games are explosive plays, whether it be gaining explosive gains or eliminating explosive plays defensively, and then the turnover/takeaway ratio. We call that the double-positive,'' Allen said. ``If you win both those areas you generally win football games in the National Football League.''

NOTES: CB Ron Bartell, who broke his shoulder blade in the opener, will practice for the first time on Wednesday and is on schedule to be activated from short-term injured reserve Nov. 11 against Baltimore. ... Among the notable injuries from the game were a turf toe for RB Mike Goodson and ankle injury for C Stefen Wisniewski. .... LB Aaron Curry will practice again this week and could be activated from the physically unable to perform list for the game against Tampa Bay. He has to be activated by next Wednesday or he can't play for the Raiders this season.

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How former Capital Sergei Gonchar helped the Penguins win Game 1

How former Capital Sergei Gonchar helped the Penguins win Game 1

Hockey is a game of organized chaos.

Sure, pucks can take some unexpected bounces, but a lot of what you see on the ice doesn’t happen by accident.

Trailing 2-0 early in the third period of Game 1, Patric Hornqvist got the Pittsburgh Penguins on the board with a deflection that scuttled past Braden Holtby.

You may dismiss the play at first glance as a lucky deflection off a wide shot, but it actually was much more coordinated than that.

The play starts with defenseman Justin Schultz holding the puck at the blue line. He buys time, sees Hornqvist and fires a wrister at the net. The shot is not going on net, but the net isn’t the target.

You can see the play here:

Schultz is specifically aiming to put the puck in a position for Hornqvist to deflect it on goal.

“Justin does a great job just changing his angle, having some patience and just delivering pucks down to the net that gives our forwards an opportunity to get a stick on it,” head coach Mike Sullivan said after the game.

According to the coach, it is a play the Penguins practice daily and one that is reminiscent of former Capital Sergei Gonchar who routinely made smart plays from the blue line to set up his teammates.

Gonchar was one of the top offensive defensemen in the league over a playing career that spanned from 1994 to 2015. He recorded 811 points in his NHL career, 416 of which came during his 10 seasons with Washington.

Now, however, he serves as an assistant coach for the Penguins helping the defensemen practice plays just like the one Schultz made to set up Hornqvist.

“Sergei is so good at helping those guys with the subtleties of the game and just those little skill sets along the offensive blue line,” Sullivan said. "I don't know that there was anybody better in his generation than Sergei was and he does a great job at relaying some of those subtitles to our guys and those guys, they work at it daily.”

Deflections are obviously very difficult for a goalie to handle. It is nearly impossible to react to the puck’s mid-air change of direction. A goalie has to be positioned perfectly to make the save. It also gives shooters at the blue line more targets. Rather than shooting just at the 42x78 inches of the net, players can shoot on net or in the shooting lane of any of their teammates anywhere on the ice. Essentially, the entire offensive zone becomes a potential target.

There’s a reason the Penguins have been as good as they are for as long as they have. They are not getting lucky bounces, they are creating their own deflections thanks in part to the expertise of the former Cap.

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Da'Ron Payne's first reaction after being drafted No. 13 by the Redskins

Da'Ron Payne's first reaction after being drafted No. 13 by the Redskins

Many top draft choices chose to head to the NFL Draft, hear their name be called, and get the pomp and circumstance that comes with all that is the NFL Draft. 

The Washington Reskins' No. 13 pick Da'Ron Payne was not one of those prospects. 

Instead Payne watched the draft surronded by close friends and family.

The reaction was memorable: 

Some draft picks choose not to  come for fear of slidding down draft boards, or worse not being picked in the First Round. 

So he doesn't get to meet Roger Goodell. He doesn't get a Redskins' jersey on draft night.

But this video wouldn't exist if the defensive tackle from Alabama chose to go to Dallas, Texas on draft night. 

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