Shanahan: Redskins have reached 'must-win' stage


Shanahan: Redskins have reached 'must-win' stage

WASHINGTON (AP) Mike Shanahan called the next game a ``must-win'' and swore at himself for putting Robert Griffin III in harm's way on a trick play. The coach said injuries were largely to blame for having the worst pass defense in the NFL and gave reasons why the outlook for the Washington Redskins should improve.

Shanahan was in a more candid mood than usual on Monday.

Maybe it was because Hurricane Sandy forced Shanahan to hold his news conference over the telephone instead of in an auditorium. Or possibly because his team is 3-5 and seemingly can't stop anybody. Then again, it could have possibly been because a loss to the bottom-of-the-NFC Carolina Panthers would indeed signal that the Redskins are destined to be out of the running early once again.

``Everybody knows it's a must-win game when you're 3-5. ... If you have any chance at the playoffs, everybody understands at the midway point that you've got to start playing your best football or you're eliminated awful quick,'' Shanahan said.

The struggling Panthers (1-6) are good to have as a ``must-win'' opponent, assuming the Redskins players aren't looking ahead to the bye week that follows. The schedule gets tough afterward, with three consecutive NFC East games and the Baltimore Ravens next on the docket.

Whether the Redskins can break their playoff drought - and a string of four straight last-place division finishes - will depend largely on the 52 players who aren't nicknamed RG3. Rookie quarterback Griffin has been disproportionately responsible for whatever success the team has had this season, but, as Shanahan said after Sunday's 27-12 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers: ``He's got to have some help.''

Against the Steelers, the Redskins dropped some 10 passes, committed seven penalties and allowed Pittsburgh to score on five of its first six possessions in Washington's first lopsided defeat of the season. Griffin has his worst statistical day so far - 16 for 34 for 177 yards - but he was playing catch-up all afternoon and lost his NFL lead in completion percentage because of all those drops.

The defense bears much of the responsibility and remains on pace to become the first team in NFL history to allow 5,000 yards passing. Shanahan said he thought the defense was going to be the strength of the team, but it's not the same unit he expected because of injuries to starters Brian Orakpo, Adam Carriker, Brandon Meriweather and some backups, as well as Tanard Jackson's season-long suspension for failing a drug test.

``That doesn't mean that we're not going to improve in the second half of the season,'' Shanahan said. ``I think we've got some guys playing in a couple of positions that hadn't played there, and we'll work as hard as we can to change it up for the positive. When you do change six, seven people that would normally be dressing, you're not the same team.''

Despite Shanahan's vow that the Redskins would be among the NFL's disciplined teams, they instead remain one of the most penalized - third in the league in both penalties and penalty yards. Sunday marked the third time this season they have been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct in the final minutes of a loss. Shanahan has cited mitigating circumstances each time.

This week's culprit was cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who was ejected after taking off his helmet and berating an official. Hall is scheduled to meet with Commissioner Roger Goodell and could possibly be suspended. Shanahan said the episode wouldn't have escalated if officials had flagged Pittsburgh receiver Emmanuel Sanders for what the coach said was a ``full nelson'' wrestling move that put Hall on the ground.

``There's no question about it being a foul'' on Sanders, the coach said.

Still, Shanahan didn't rule out some kind of team punishment for Hall, pending whatever the commissioner does.

``If there is something that occurs, you've got to be strong enough to stay away from it,'' Shanahan said. ``That's part of being a good leader and a very smart football player.''

Shanahan declared himself not very smart on another matter, using an unprintable word to describe how he felt when he watched the replay of the hard hit on Griffin after the quarterback went out to try to catch a pass from receiver Joshua Morgan. He said it's a play he has run successfully with John Elway and Steve Young, but the Steelers had the correct defense called to stop it and that he should have told Morgan to throw the ball only if Griffin was ``wide open.''

Despite all that happened, the Redskins might have had a chance against the Steelers had it not been for the dropped passes, which were spread among the receivers and running backs.

``I think everybody can count on having a bad day,'' Shanahan said. ``But not everybody together.''

Notes: Shanahan revealed that P Sav Rocca, who shanked a 12-yard punt Sunday, is playing with a torn meniscus in the right knee, Rocca's kicking leg. ``Doctors told him it couldn't get any worse, and he decided to keep on punting,'' the coach said. ... Shanahan said K Kai Forbath was to blame for the blocked extra point in the first half because the kick was too low. ... Shanahan said he cut the usual Monday player meetings ``a little short'' because of the hurricane. He was also asked whether the team's new practice bubble can withstand the storm. ``I'm hoping that when I come to work tomorrow morning, that it's still up,'' he said.


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Game 6 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 6 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

After three straight wins, the Caps now sit just one win away from closing out the Columbus Blue Jackets. They will get their shot to finish the series Monday in Game 6.

Nicklas Backstrom was the hero in Game 5 for Washington with three points including the overtime winner. Who will step up in Game 6? The Caps will need to make sure it's not Artemi Panarin who has been held without a point in two straight games. Washington will also need to make sure their penalty kill stays hot as they have killed off 13 straight power plays for the Blue Jackets.

The Pittsburgh Penguins await the winner of this series after closing out the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. Will the Caps close out Columbus and set up the rematch?

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 6

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 6 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 6 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.


The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 6 on Monday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Washington currently leads the series 3-2.


Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 6 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30


Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 6, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.


Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jakub Vrana -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.



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Need to Know: Setting the final odds on the Redskins first-round draft pick

Need to Know: Setting the final odds on the Redskins first-round draft pick

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, April 23, three days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

Setting the odds on the Redskins’ top pick

We have just three days left until the draft and it’s time to make the final predictions. For the last time before this draft, we’re going to break out the $100 in imaginary poker chips and see who is the favorite to be the Redskins’ top pick. 

Before we get started, all of these odds are set with the Redskins staying at No. 13. With a separate stack of chips, I’ll put $20 on them trading down, $80 on them staying put. There just isn’t an obvious team to deal with or a player that would be on the board to make a team want to move up. 

DT Vita Vea, $30—I would have this a little higher but I’m becoming less confident that he’ll be on the board when the Redskins draft at 13. Normally nose tackle isn’t a high-value position, but this is an odd draft and Vea is a freakish talent. He has to get past the Raiders picking tenth and the Dolphins at No. 11 and I’m not sure they will. 

S Derwin James, $20—If Vea is gone then there is a good chance that James will be there at 13, assuming that the four quarterbacks everybody thinks will go in the top 12 are indeed selected. Although the Redskins have D.J. Swearinger and Montae Nicholson at safety, the versatile James could find snaps all over the field, as a third safety to cover tight ends and perhaps even at slot corner. 

DT Da’Ron Payne, $15—It’s starting to look like he’ll be a reach at 13; his real value lays more in the late teens or early twenties. But the analysts’ consensus doesn’t necessarily match up with what the Redskins think. If they believe that Jim Tomsula can coach some pass rushing ability out of him, they could well have him graded high enough to go ahead and fill the need with the first-round pick. 

LB Roquan Smith, $10—His size may concern enough teams to leave him on the board until the Redskins are on the clock. I’m not sure that the Redskins would take him because they just re-signed Mason Foster and Zach Brown. But he is fast, hard hitting, and he may be too good to pass up. 

DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, $10—Many project him to be a slot corner in the NFL. A few years ago, many teams would hesitate to take a nickel corner in the first-round. But today, with teams lining up with three or more wide receivers on 63 percent of the snaps a slot corner is much more than a role player. Add Fitzpatrick’s ability to move back to safety and you have a player the Redskins should covet if he drops to 13. 

CB Denzel Ward, $10—I don’t give much of a chance of being on the board when the Redskins pick but stranger things have happened. He would be a steal at 13.

RB Derrius Guice, $5—I don’t think that this will happen, but I can’t look at all of the attention the Redskins have given to him and believe that there is a zero chance of them taking a running back this high in an RB-rich draft.  

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

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Days until:

—Rookie minicamp (5/11) 18
—OTAs start (5/22) 29
—Training camp starts (7/26) 94

The Redskins last played a game 113 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 139 days. 

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