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Seahawks, 49ers tied 3-3 after 1st quarter

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Seahawks, 49ers tied 3-3 after 1st quarter

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Seattle's Steven Hauschka kicked a 52-yard field goal before San Francisco's David Akers answered with a 38-yarder, and the Seahawks and 49ers were tied 3-3 after the first quarter Thursday night with first place in the NFC West at stake.

On a relatively warm and windless night at Candlestick Park, Russell Wilson led Seattle on the 10-play, 62-yard drive that started from its own 4-yard line before settling for a field goal in a matchup of two of the league's top defenses. He completed 3 of 5 passes for 32 yards to help the Seahawks create some early separation.

Seattle has scored first in all seven of its games.

Michael Crabtree caught a 16-yard pass from Alex Smith on San Francisco's second drive, placing his hand on the ground to avoid going down and making three defenders miss along the sideline. The completion moved the 49ers to the Seattle 19 before the All-Pro Akers kicked the tying field goal late in the quarter.

San Francisco moved the ball into Seattle territory on the game's opening drive on a 14-yard catch by Randy Moss, whose repetitions increased with starter Mario Manningham inactive with a shoulder injury. Then Smith threw incomplete twice between a short run by Frank Gore and the 49ers were forced to punt.

The three-way tie atop the NFC West - with San Francisco, Seattle and Arizona all with 4-2 records - was set to be broken. The St. Louis Rams are 3-3.

Defense has been perhaps the biggest turnaround for a division some called the NFC Worst a couple of years ago. Seattle (15.3) and San Francisco (15.7) rank second and third, respectively, in points allowed per game.

San Francisco safety Dashon Goldson got a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for jawing with Marshawn Lynch during Seattle's scoring drive. Lynch, who ran for 107 yards in the last meeting as San Francisco's streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher ended at 36 games, had 17 yards on five carries in the first quarter.

San Francisco was looking to rebound from a 26-3 defeat at home last week to the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, the most lopsided loss under coach Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers are 4-0 after a loss in Harbaugh's tenure.

They also swept the season series against Seattle last year for the first time since 2006.

The brewing rivalry between the last two division champions only heated up when Harbaugh and Seattle's Pete Carroll were reunited on opposite sidelines last year. Harbaugh has won the last three against Carroll.

That streak goes back to Harbaugh's win at Stanford against Carroll's Southern California team in 2009, when the Cardinal routed the Trojans 55-21. Harbaugh even had his team attempt a late 2-point conversion with the game out of reach that prompted Carroll's infamous midfield confrontation afterward, asking Harbaugh, ``What's your deal?''

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With Burakovsky out, is Chandler Stephenson the next man up?

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USA TODAY Sports

With Burakovsky out, is Chandler Stephenson the next man up?

With Andre Burakovsky out for the remainder of the first round at least, someone will have to replace him in the top six. Originally, it looked like Jakub Vrana was the man for the job. Based on Game 4, however, it now looks like Chandler Stephenson is the "next man up" for the Caps.

While Vrana may have top-six skill and a high ceiling, it was Stephenson who stepped into the second-line role on Thursday playing alongside Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. Stephenson finished with two shots on goal in 17:28 of ice time. Vrana, meanwhile, played for only 6:40.

On Friday, Barry Trotz praised Stephenson's hockey IQ for allowing him to adjust to the top-six in a complementary role.

"[Stephenson's] an intelligent player," Trotz said. "He played with [Backstrom] a lot [Thursday]. If you talk with the real top-end guys, he has the ability to think like a top-end guy in terms of play with them. He’s a very intelligent player. He skates extremely well. He’s got some strength to his game. He can complement people. I think his ability to play those different roles and his hockey IQ when you play with those skill guys, he plays more of a give-and-go game than an individual game. When you play with those high skill guys, you’re able to compliment them very well."

Stephenson has spent the majority of the season on the fourth line. He was drafted as a natural center, but has played primarily wing since coming to the NHL. The ability to play both positions gives Stephenson more versatility than most forwards which Trotz credits for helping him see the game so well.

"The great thing about Chandler is he’s played multiple positions over the years. I think it’s allowed him to play a fourth-line role and with high-skill guys. At center-ice, you distribute the puck a little more.  He’s turning into a well-rounded player for us."

On the surface, having Stephenson on the fourth line over Vrana makes little sense. Vrana is highly skilled and has great speed, but he is also prone to giving up turnovers and his production can be inconsistent. Trotz has clearly put a premium on responsible play this postseason which gives Stephenson the edge.

But Game 4 was only one game. If you are going to get top-six minutes, Stephenson will be expected to produce offensively as well. Despite the limited ice time he has gotten, Vrana has shown he can have a major impact on games. In Game 1, he set up the team's only 5-on-5 goal and drew a penalty. In Game 3, he drew two penalties in less than two minutes, giving Washington a two-man advantage.

Stephenson had a fantastic game in Game 4 when he was given the chance to play in the top-six. The next step will be finding a way to have a bigger impact on the game.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 21, five days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington

Should the Redskins pursue Dez Bryant? This topic was one like a meteor, very hot for a short period of time before it quickly faded out. It started to heat up as soon as the Cowboys cut Dez (about a month too late) and when it was reported that he wanted to play against Dallas twice a year it really picked up steam. But then people started to actually think and figured out that signing Bryant didn’t make much sense for the Redskins. Add to that the reports that the Redskins had no interest and would not look into signing Dez in the future and the Redskins fans quickly lost enthusiasm for the topic.

Seven-round Redskins mock draft—I think that most Redskins fans would be happy with this mock. Well, I’ll say some Redskins fans, most is a pretty strong word in this case. 

Is the draft pool deep enough for the Redskins to trade back? There is plenty of talk about the Redskins trading down in the first round to recoup the third-round pick they gave up in the Alex Smith trade. But they need to be careful. Many consider the draft to be top heavy and they may lose their chance to pick up an impact player if they trade back too far. The question then becomes one of quality vs. quantity. 

Three questions as offseason workouts get underway—There will be plenty more questions that we can ask about this team. But we don’t really know what to ask before the draft, particularly when it comes to the defensive line and running back. One the personnel settle into place we will know what we don’t know. 

Tweet of the week

On Chris Cooley’s thought that the Redskins might try to trade back and get Da’Ron Payne in the draft and the use the assets obtained to move up to get Derrius Guice. 

This is related to the questions about trading back. On paper it looks like a good idea, assuming the Redskins want Payne. We’re pretty sure they would like to have Guice but we haven’t heard as much about the Alabama defensive lineman. 

I had many reply that Guice won’t be there in the second round. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, but you just don’t know. There was zero chance that Jonathan Allen would be there at No. 17 last year, right? 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 31
—Training camp starts (7/26) 96
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 141

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