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Rams' turnover slump at 5 games

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Rams' turnover slump at 5 games

ST. LOUIS (AP) An errant pass bounced off hands of the New York Jets' Joe McKnight on the sideline, tantalizingly soaring just out of the reach of St. Louis Rams safety Quintin Mikell and an easy touchdown return.

In the opening series of last week's loss, Mikell stripped Mark Sanchez, and the ball bounced right back into the quarterback's hands.

Those are just two of the latest frustrations for St. Louis, which hasn't forced a turnover the last five games - tied for the NFL's worst since 1950. Given turnovers are such momentum changers, it should come as no surprise that the Rams (3-6-1) are 0-4-1 during that stretch.

``We're stripping, the ball's flying around, it'll just happen,'' coach Jeff Fisher said. ``But I don't think I've been in a stretch before that long.''

In the last 62 years, only the Rams, the 2011 Indianapolis Colts and 2006 Washington Redskins have gone five games without a takeaway. They'll try to avoid setting a dubious record on Sunday at Arizona, which lost a fumble in Week 5 for the Rams' last turnover.

If they're tired of hearing about it, players realize it's on them. Take the ball away and it'll take the topic out of play.

``We've got to do something about it. You never get tired of preaching turnovers, that's one of the key factors in wins and losses,'' linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar said. ``I never get tired of taking about it, and I hope the guys don't get tired of it.

``We're getting them out, we're just not recovering them.''

After the first five games, the Rams had eight interceptions and a fumble recovery. They've had no takeaways since Week 5 when Robert Quinn forced a fumble that was recovered by fellow defensive end William Hayes in a 17-3 victory over the Cardinals, the team they'll be playing this week at Arizona.

Cornerback Cortland Finnegan had three interceptions the first three games, and has none since. Of course, teams learned early to pick on rookie Janoris Jenkins, instead.

``If you try to do too much, you hurt the team,'' Finnegan said. ``Turnovers are something you want to overemphasize in practice, but you never want to get out of your element in a game.''

The Jets fumbled twice without losing it last week, and the 49ers recovered all four fumbles a week earlier. Meanwhile, the Rams' turnovers were costly.

The Jets' Bart Scott had a 38-yard fumble return to set up the go-ahead touchdown after Muhammad Wilkerson stripped Sam Bradford. Rookie Daryl Richardson's lost fumble led to another touchdown that put New York up 27-7 midway through the fourth quarter.

``You win games when you turn it over,'' Fisher said. ``They strip-sack and they pick it up and run it 50 yards. We strip-sack and it falls on Sanchez's lap.''

It's not all just about the bounces, because sometimes there aren't any. In Weeks 7 and 8, the Packers and Patriots had no fumbles.

``Part of it's luck and part of it's creating your own luck and part of it's what we emphasize, and we've been emphasizing it a lot,'' defensive end Chris Long said.

What doesn't need to get emphasized, Long adds, is the streak itself.

``We can't get caught up in thinking, `Oh, this has been the longest streak or `Man, it's been this many weeks,'' Long said. ``Our opportunity is Sunday to get the ball out, so these past weeks are non-existent.''

There's enough pressure Sunday, given the Cardinals forced six turnovers last week in a 4-point loss at Atlanta.

Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis is still disappointed that in the first meeting against Arizona, Kevin Kolb threw 50 passes with no interceptions. On Sunday, they'll be trying to take it away from a team led by a rookie making his starting debut, Ryan Lindley.

``Turnovers really come into play, and we know firsthand that their defense is a ball-hawking defense,'' Laurinaitis said.

Though they're 0-4-1 during the turnover blackout, it could have been worse. They had just one turnover in a tie at San Francisco, one again while pressing the Packers in a 10-point loss and one in a 3-point loss at Miami that boiled down to special teams meltdowns.

``It's not like we're turning the ball over five or six times a game,'' Fisher said. ``We're just not getting the takeaways to get the extra drives.''

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE

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3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.