Texans tied for NFL's best mark

Texans tied for NFL's best mark

HOUSTON (AP) It wasn't pretty, but the Houston Texans found a way to beat the Bears and escape Chicago tied for the best record in the NFL.

Now the Texans (8-1) are preparing for one of the NFL's worst teams in Jacksonville, focused on improving as they inch closer to their goal of reaching the Super Bowl.

Houston coach Gary Kubiak believes Sunday's win will help his team in the future.

``The more ways you find to win in this league, you get more confidence,'' he said. ``Things like that give you a chance to be a great team. There will be nothing false about what we are when we get there at the end because we've been in some tough situations. And the more we handle them, the better we get.''

He said winning a tough game on the road was particularly important with games at New England and Indianapolis coming up in the second half of the season.

Kubiak sees the Texans maturing, and knows that will be key if they hope to become a championship team. He talks to his team often about getting to that goal.

``Can you be a good enough football team or a good enough organization to win a championship,'' he said he asks his team. ``I think there are different levels and we're trying to work our way toward that mindset.''

The Texans got the 13-6 victory on Sunday by forcing four turnovers and grinding out the win with their running game led by Arian Foster's 102 yards rushing and the game's only touchdown on a 2-yard reception.

Foster is third in the NFL with 872 yards rushing. Kubiak has been pleased with him all season, but thought his work on Sunday night was particularly impressive.

``I would say that was about the toughest 102 yards a man could get,'' Kubiak said. ``If you look at some of the great games he's had, I don't think there's anything bigger than last night because we were running against eight-, nine- man fronts all night. Everybody and their brother knew who was getting the ball and he still found a way to keep us on track.''

Houston's line led by end J.J. Watt, usually leads the way defensively. But against the Bears, it was the secondary that came up big. Safety Danieal Manning, a former Bear, led the way with an interception and a forced fumble.

But that wasn't the only way he contributed to the win.

``He did a really good job with our team the night before the game, just talking about what it was going to take to win in that place,'' Kubiak said. ``He's a leader on this team and a fine player. I thought he did an exceptional job with the rest of his teammates this week letting them know what it was going to be like, how we were going to have to play to win that game.''

Cornerback Kareem Jackson also had an interception for the Texans. Jackson has shaken off a slow start to his career to emerge as a solid member of Houston's defense in his third season.

``We all know what Kareem's been through,'' Kubiak said. ``Good pros, they go through tough times early in their career, but then when they come out of it, they're consistent and good for a long, long time. I think that's what you're seeing from Kareem.''

The Texans could get a boost this week with the return of a trio of injured players. Running back Ben Tate, who has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, has been running with trainers and could play on Sunday.

Nose tackle Shaun Cody (ribs) and tight end Owen Daniels (back), who sat out Sunday, are also better and should return to practice this week. Cody will go through what Kubiak called a trial run on Wednesday.

``If he's able to work through that situation I think you could see him on the field probably Thursday or Friday,'' Kubiak said of Cody. ``We're heading toward him being back active and being a part of it.''

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We have ourselves a goalie rotation in Washington


We have ourselves a goalie rotation in Washington

It’s happened. The Caps no longer seem to have a No. 1 goalie anymore, they have a No. 1 and 1a.

That’s right, we have a goalie rotation in Washington.

“There's no sense riding one,” Barry Trotz said after practice on Monday. “[Braden Holtby] is coming back and looking better every game and [Philipp Grubauer] played pretty well for a long stretch so why not have both of them going?”

Grubauer got the start Sunday in Philadelphia and Holtby is slated to get the start Tuesday against the Dallas Stars. After that we will have to wait and see.


Trotz has no layout for which goalie he wants to start and when in the remaining ten games. He is not thinking about each goalie splitting five games or which one he wants to use more.

Nope. Trotz has just one thing on his mind. It is all about who starts the next game, that’s it.

“I think you just go with a guy that's hot at the time and your team feels comfortable with and go from there,” Trotz said.

So where does this leave the goaltending situation when it comes to the playoffs? A goalie rotation is all well and good in the regular season, but he has to have one starter for the postseason, right?

Not necessarily.


When Trotz was asked if he philosophically believed in having one starter for the playoffs, Trotz initially said he would not answer, but then said, “Why don't you ask Mike Sullivan what he thinks.”

Sullivan, of course, is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins who has led his team to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons despite turning to both goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in both seasons.

While Pittsburgh’s goalie rotation was largely based on injury, however, it still provides an example of how using both goalies can work in the playoffs and that seems to be the path the Caps are headed on at the moment.

Said Trotz, “You just have to go with your gut who you think is going to get the job done.”

UMBC's NCAA Tournament hopes end vs. Kansas State, but its Cinderella run was unforgettable


UMBC's NCAA Tournament hopes end vs. Kansas State, but its Cinderella run was unforgettable

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — UMBC's improbable run through the NCAA Tournament was brief. The statement the Retrievers made and their place in history is forever.

For one weekend in March, the tiny commuter school from Baltimore known for its academics and championship-winning chess team captured the hearts of the college basketball world and beyond. UMBC became the first No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 in March Madness, a victory over Virginia that made the Retrievers the ultimate Cinderella.

The fairytale came to an end Sunday night in a 50-43 loss to No. 9 Kansas State -- heartbreaking because it was a game UMBC could have won, but still satisfying because the Retrievers touched so many people by accomplishing what many thought was impossible.

"We put our name on the map. We gave hope to teams that come to the tournament with lower seeds," said senior guard K.J. Maura. "I think we gave hope to guys that are not even that tall like me. People that feel like they are underdogs in their life, I think we gave hope to everything they want to do in life."


Stephen Curry noticed the team and sent UMBC the sneakers the team wore against Kansas State. The Golden State Warriors had his Curry 5s, which are in limited release, and other swag sent to the team. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams declared the Retrievers "Surgeon General approved" and posted a photo of himself on Facebook wearing a sweatshirt from his alma mater.

NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers tweeted to UMBC guard Joe Sherburne, who claims to be Rodgers' biggest fan. And for a team addicted to the video game "Fortnite," their dreams were made when Ninja, a popular gamer who recently played against rapper Drake and JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers, FaceTimed with the team early Sunday.

"They play with passion, they play with heart, they play together," coach Ryan Odom said. "We do things together for one another, and obviously when you have a big win like that (over Virginia) and it's so shocking, you know, people love to see that. They love to see the upset.

"And our guys handled it with grace and understood the circumstances. They weren't pounding their chests or anything. They expected to be here and expected to compete."

When UMBC returned to the locker room following its ouster, Odom had written just one word on the whiteboard. The Retrievers needed a buzzer-beating 3 against Vermont to win their conference title and make the NCAA Tournament, but they showed up believing they could beat Virginia, and the same about Kansas State.


So Odom simply penned "Proud" on the board for his players.

"Just very proud of these kids and what they've been able to do as the representatives that they are for our university," Odom said. "Just captured our country and beyond, to be honest, from a sporting perspective and it's really, really neat to see."

Sherburne said Odom relayed stories from friends who had texted or called from outside the country to rave about UMBC. Near tears after an 0-for-9 shooting night, Sherburne found consolation in the joy UMBC brought to so many.

"From when we beat Vermont until the last two hours were the greatest time of my life," Sherburne said. "What we did, everyone in here, it's the greatest time of our lives."

Odom arrived at UMBC two years ago and inherited a team accustomed to losing. He told them he was going to get them to .500 that first year; they thought he was joking. But slowly the culture changed and the Retrievers did everything Odom told them they could accomplish.

And then some.

"When I got here, first we were a four-win team that year, and then the next year we went on to win seven games," said graduate student Jairus Lyles. "Then Coach Odom and his staff came in, we won 21 games and this year we had a tremendous season."

Odom doesn't know how far the UMBC program can grow. Those four letters are now synonymous with the biggest upset in college basketball history, but it's a long way from becoming a basketball school.

"UMBC is a unique place -- lot of high achieving kids on campus," Odom said. "We want guys that want to be great from a basketball perspective and want to play after college. But, at the same time, we want folks that are highly motivated academically that want to do great things past basketball. Because the air goes out of the ball at some point for everybody."