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Titans try to regroup after missed opportunity

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Titans try to regroup after missed opportunity

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans are trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces after adding another disappointing first to their resume.

Instead of getting a win to stay close in the playoff chase, the Titans turned in a familiar-looking flat performance against Jacksonville.

It was reminiscent of last season's effort against Indianapolis when Tennessee became the first team to lose to the previously winless Colts. This time, the Titans became the first team to lose to the Jaguars in Jacksonville this season.

Now they have to find motivation for their final five games of the season starting Sunday when they host the Houston Texans (10-1).

Coach Mike Munchak is taking the approach that anything is possible until the NFL tells the Titans they're officially out of contention for the team's first postseason berth since 2008.

``Other teams are struggling a lot like we are,'' Munchak said Monday.

``No doubt we made it very hard on ourselves to be real excited at this point,'' he said. ``We have to find a way to beat a great football team this weekend at home. So we got our hands full. We'll worry about this week first because like you always say because that's all you can control, and hopefully a big win in this game will change our options with the last four.''

The AFC may be jumbled, but the Titans find themselves tied with three other teams at 4-7 and trailing Indianapolis (7-4), Pittsburgh (6-5), Cincinnati (6-5) and Miami (5-6) for the final two wild cards. The Titans had their chance to put themselves in the middle of that mix only to make a handful of mistakes in the 24-19 loss to Jacksonville.

Munchak made sure his Titans watched the film Monday to see all the plays they could have made but didn't. They went late enough looking at the film that Munchak's usual afternoon news conference was moved from the team auditorium to their indoor practice field.

The Titans did many things right. They outgained Jacksonville 360-321 in total offense, won the time of possession and even had seven sacks - most in a game since Sept. 7, 2008, also against the Jaguars.

But five times the Titans got to the Jacksonville 24 or closer only to settle for field goals. Rob Bironas was four of five on his field goal attempts, missing a 42-yarder, and the defense also gave up eight plays of 21 yards or longer.

Nate Washington let a defender get an arm in to break up a would-be touchdown pass late in the third quarter and also failed to get both feet in for a catch on the sideline on another drive. Cook dropped a pass that hit his hands, and Damian Williams thought he had a 15-yard TD catch early in the fourth quarter overturned by an official ruling his second foot out.

``We got to regroup,'' tight end Jared Cook said. ``We got five weeks left so we got to do our best. In terms of inconsistency, I don't know. We're a lot better offense than this I know. I know we're a better team than this ... You can only do what you can do. I mean it's only five weeks left. You can only do what you can these five weeks and make it the best season you can.''

A defense criticized heavily all season forced Jacksonville three-and-out to turn the ball back over to the offense with 3:28 trailing 21-19 when Jake Locker threw too early to Cook on a ball tipped by a linebacker to Jaguars safety Dwight Lowery for an interception. Munchak said Locker played well and helped keep other drives alive by running.

``If you want to be in the playoffs, those are the drives you have to finish,'' Munchak said.

A 51-20 loss to Chicago on Nov. 4 had owner Bud Adams putting the entire franchise on notice, and the Titans bounced back with a big win at Miami. This team has not won three straight since Munchak's first month as head coach last season. And it won't be easy to do the final month of this season with road trips to the Colts (7-4) and Green Bay (7-4).

``Reality's kind of set in for a lot of guys,'' Cook said. ``It's just tough. Like I said, we know we're a lot better team than this, and we're not putting that out on film at all. So the best thing you can do is pick up your head and move on.''

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Redskins draft countdown: Georgia RB Sony Michel

Redskins draft countdown: Georgia RB Sony Michel

Redskins draft countdown

Sony Michel

Running back
Georgia

Sony Michel is a solid north-south runner who also can bounce outside and pick up yardage. He shared playing time with Nick Chubb last year and still ran for 1,277 yards, averaging 7.9 yards per carry, and scored 16 touchdowns against SEC competition. Michel also showed his bona fides in the passing game, catching 64 career passes and showing that he can handle pass protection. 

Height: 5-11
Weight: 220
40-yard dash:4.54

Projected draft round:2

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins have made no secret of their desire to draft an upgrade at running back. They would prefer one who can catch passes out of the backfield and gain yardage between the tackles. Sony Michel can do both as well as pop for yardage on the outside. There is a good chance that he will be on the board when the Redskins draft in the second round. Since they don’t have a third-round pick, this may be the last chance to get an upgrade in this draft. 

Film review: vs. Notre Dame, vs. Alabama

—The first thing to say here is that the Bulldogs had a quality run-blocking offensive line. Michel frequently had big holes to run through. For his part, Michel maximized his gains when he had a big opening, hitting it quickly and working north-south. 

—He also can pick up yards through just a small crease, again by hitting it with urgency and gaining momentum to drive for the final few yards. 

—Michel didn’t do a whole lot of pass protection in the plays I watched, but he was solid when he did. On one play against Notre Dame, he put a blitzing defensive back on the ground. Against Alabama, he got in the way of likely first-round pick Da’Ron Payne long enough to allow the quarterback to get off a deep pass. To be sure, he didn’t blow Payne away but his block was effective.

—Besides the O-line, Michel also got quality blocking from his receivers. Again, he took advantage, reading the blocks and maximizing the gain. 

—He also can get it done without much help. On third and 20 against the vaunted Alabama defense, he headed up the middle and quickly went outside when he saw no running room. He headed to the sideline with four Alabama defenders and no blockers in sight. Michel found another gear and accelerated down the sideline to convert the third and long.  

—He later converted a third and 10 on a draw play, quickly getting up to speed and zipping through traffic to move the sticks. 

Potential issues: Although he has decent speed, he’s not the home run threat you might want in a back taken in the second round. And Michel isn’t really a power back either, although he can fight for extra yards. 

Despite his limitations, there is chatter that Michel might be drafted early in the second round or perhaps even late in the first. It’s hard to separate the smoke and speculation from reality as we sit a week before the draft starts. But he’s a talented back and if Derrius Guice goes off the board earlier than most expect, a run on runners could include Michel. 

Bottom line: Saquon Barkley is the obvious top running back and he surely will be gone when the Redskins pick in the first round. After that, the Redskins have plenty of options. They like Guice but 13 may be too high for him and he is likely to be gone when their pick in the second is on the clock. Michel is one of a few possibilities there, a group that also would include Michel’s former teammate Nick Chubb, Ronald Jones of USC and others. Without a peek at the draft board in Ashburn, we will just have to wait and see. 

Redskins draft countdown

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

 

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Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

The biggest surprise of the Wizards-Raptors series through two games, at least from Washington's perspective, has to be the fact Ty Lawson has very quickly earned a prominent role in Scott Brooks' playoff rotation.

Lawson, 30, was signed the day after the regular season and after he played much of 2017-18 in China with the Shandong Golden Stars. He did not appear in one game with the Wizards or any other NBA team during the regular season, yet he was the first point guard off the bench in Game 2.

When John Wall picked up two quick fouls, it was Lawson who got the nod, not Tomas Satoransky. Lawson ended up playing 31 minutes, more than Satoransky and fellow backup point guard Tim Frazier have earned combined through two games.

Though the Wizards had three point guards on their bench behind Wall before Lawson even signed, he has apparently surpassed them all on the depth chart. Satoransky is the most surprising, given he played quite well during the regular season.

Satoransky averaged 7.2 points, 3.9 assists and shot a team-best 46.5 percent from three. He had the highest offensive rating (124) on the team.

Lawson, though, played quite well in Game 2. He put up 14 points, eight assists and three rebounds while shooting 4-for-5 from three.

Lawson outscored four of the Wizards' five starters. Not bad for his first game.

"He did everything I knew he was capable of doing," Brooks said. "I’ve seen him do it for many, many years. He’s tough, he’s a competitor. He competes and pushes the pace. He plays defense. I liked the spirit."

Lawson provided a noticeable spark. He is still quick and aggressive with the ball, not afraid to look for his own shot, and played physical defense against the Raptors. Lawson ended the night plus-8 in the box score in a game the Wizards lost by 11.

"It’s good to see him get into a game and be able to produce for us," guard Bradley Beal said.

Given the Wizards lost Game 2 and face an 0-2 deficit in their series, it is likely that Brooks continues to alter his rotation in the coming games. He could go back to Satoransky more often, knowing he had some solid games against Toronto in the regular season, including on March 2 when he had 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Satoransky could see more time at shooting guard or small forward and could play alongside Lawson. That might be Satoransky's best bet because Lawson did nothing in Game 2 to squander the opportunity.

For a team whose effort has been questioned by their head coach, Lawson's energy and urgency was noteworthy. He brought the edge of a guy playing for his NBA career, knowing a good playoff series could earn him a contract next season. 

Clearly, the way Lawson played was refreshing for Brooks given how long he kept him out on the floor. He may have come out of nowhere, but it looks like Lawson is here to stay.

MORE ON THE WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

WIZARDS NEED BEAL TO BE MUCH BETTER TO WIN

BROOKS MAY CHANGE STARTING LINEUP FOR GAME 3

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