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49ers linebacker Bowman gets 5-year extension

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49ers linebacker Bowman gets 5-year extension

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) NaVorro Bowman had to tell someone about his hefty new contract before it became public. And there was pal Patrick Willis first thing Tuesday before they began their morning workout.

``He was excited as soon as I told him, when I wasn't supposed to,'' Bowman said about Willis, the godfather of Bowman's twin girls born earlier this year. ``I couldn't keep it from him. I think he has lot to do with this, helping me out.''

The 49ers' inside linebacker pair of Bowman and Willis will be lining up together on San Francisco's talented defense well into the future if all goes as planned.

On Tuesday, Bowman reached agreement on a five-year contract extension through the 2018 season - a deal worth $45.25 million, with $25.5 million in guaranteed money.

``Any time you get a chance to get a deal done and it sounds great and everybody's comfortable with it, why not?'' Bowman said. ``It shows the trust the organization has in me.''

With Bowman's new deal, it keeps one of the best and most-feared linebacking tandems in the NFL together for the long haul - as Willis is signed through 2016.

The 24-year-old Bowman, a third-round draft pick in 2010 out of Penn State, has 100 tackles, two sacks and an interception this season as a second-year starter for the NFC West-leading Niners (8-2-1). As a rookie, his 20 special-teams tackles ranked third in the NFL.

He was an All-Pro pick alongside Willis last season, and was selected as a Pro Bowl alternate.

``That's good, a young guy, a good guy, Pro Bowl, All-Pro guy to be around here another five years,'' cornerback Carlos Rogers said.

In addition to Bowman and Willis, the team's other two starting linebackers are signed at least for the next three seasons - Ahmad Brooks through 2017 and Aldon Smith through 2015.

``We have a chance to do something really special, with all four linebackers being here for the next three years,'' Bowman said. ``We can make a statement for ourselves and leave a legacy for this defense.''

Bowman's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said he began talking about a new deal with the 49ers in the offseason but the sides were ``pretty far apart'' at that stage.

``It's a very special accomplishment. I take my hat off to the Niners and to NaVorro,'' Rosenhaus said. ``I think only the most proactive teams get it done. I think this perhaps the most talented team in the NFL. If you want to keep all your good players, you have to get deals done now. You can't let guys get to free agency. You can't keep everybody.''

Bowman has credited his rapid development to the guidance he received from Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary, who was fired as San Francisco's head coach after a loss at St. Louis in the second-to-last week of 2010.

``NaVorro epitomizes what we look for in a 49er,'' 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. ``We are excited that the All Pro tandem of Willis and Bowman will be together in red and gold for years to come.''

While Bowman has never been one to set goals for statistics or accolades, anyone around the 49ers will be quick to acknowledge how much his improved play in 2011 meant to the franchise in getting back to the playoffs after an eight-year absence in coach Jim Harbaugh's first year.

Bowman is a big reason San Francisco has been so strong stopping the run the past two years. The 49ers rank No. 2 in total defense this week, fourth against the run.

``It's a good group of linebackers, probably the best in the league,'' Rogers said. ``If not, they're right there at the top.''

Willis, for one, is counting on a ``super nice'' dinner from Bowman.

``A medium-plus steak with probably a lobster tail, so a little surf-n-turf deal, with some good mashed potatoes and some vegetables, yeah,'' Willis said. ``And some ice cream for dessert - vanilla.''

Bowman is certain to oblige. Both of these two are more determined to get San Francisco to a Super Bowl than start comparing their paychecks (Willis still earns more).

``At the end of the day it's not really about money,'' Bowman said. ``We all play this game and we get paid a good amount of money, but all in all, people remember you for the wins and remember you for the team that you're a part of.''

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5 reasons the Caps beat the Avalanche

5 reasons the Caps beat the Avalanche

A shorthanded Capitals team marched into Colorado and took a 3-2 overtime win over the Avalanche on Friday.

Here are five reasons the Caps won.

A big glove save

With no T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov or Braden Holtby, the Caps were a bit shorthanded heading into the game. After the Avalanche took a 1-0 lead just 68 seconds in, it felt like it could be a very long night for Washington.

It could have been if not for an early breakaway save by Pheonix Copley.

Soon after the goal, Nathan MacKinnon grabbed the puck on a breakaway. MacKinnon is one of the best offensive players in the league and not the guy you want to see going in alone on Copley on a breakaway.

Copley, however, flashed the glove and made the save to keep the game at 1-0.

One year ago to the day, the Caps lost 6-2 in Colorado. With the injuries Washington was dealing with, it’s not a stretch to think this game could have gone off the rails quickly had the Avalanche jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

Tic-Tac-Toe

The Caps struggled through the first period to get any real penetration on Colorado’s defense and were kept largely on the perimeter with very few high-danger opportunities. The Avalanche defense got a bit more porous in the second and Washington took advantage.

Travis Boyd collected the puck in the offensive zone below the goal line. As he skated along the wall, he found himself face-to-face with four Colorado players who were all just following the puck. As far as defense goes, that’s not an ideal situation. Boyd found a wide-open Chandler Stephenson on the cross-ice pass, Stephenson goes back left to Devante Smith-Pelly who had an empty net to shoot on to get the Caps on the board and tie the game at one.


Game speed

After six seasons in Washington, Philipp Grubauer has faced literally thousands of shots from Alex Ovechkin in practice. But he never faced one of those shots in a game until Friday. Those shots come off the stick a bit faster when it counts as Grubauer learned.

Nicklas Backstrom entered the offensive zone with the puck and backhanded it to Ovechkin. Backstrom kept driving to the net drawing the defense with him except for Tyson Barrie. Backstrom’s passed to the left, but Ovechkin collected it going right which caught Barrie flatfooted. Ovehckin easily skated around Barrie to find an open shooting lane, then snapped a shot past Grubauer to put the Caps up 2-1. Ovechkin’s celebration was almost instantaneous, he knew he had Grubauer beat.


A late penalty

The referees really put away the whistles in the third period. They even missed a clear high-stick to Dmitry Orlov that drew blood and should have been a double-minor. Colorado came back to tie the game, but Smith-Pelly finally drew a blatant holding penalty from Ian Cole with just over a minute left to go in regulation.

The Avalanche survived to force overtime, but Nicklas Backstrom scored the game-winner on the power play just 22 seconds in for the win.

Tom Wilson making a Tom Wilson play

Space is important in hockey. That’s what makes a four-on-three power play harder to cover than a five-on-four power play. You know what’s even better? A three-on-two.

The Caps entered overtime on a power play which gave them a four-on-three to start. Tom Wilson had the puck on the wall and took a hit from Carl Soderberg. He saw the hit coming and took it so he could make the pass to Backstrom. He won the board battle and the hit took Soderberg out of the play, giving the Caps a three-on-two in the offensive zone to work with. Backstrom passed to John Carlson who passed back to Backstrom. He had all day to fire the game-winner and it was all thanks to a tremendous play from Wilson that most people would not have noticed.

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Wizards try maintaining focus yet cannot shake inconsistencies

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USA Today Sports

Wizards try maintaining focus yet cannot shake inconsistencies

 

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- The Washington Wizards were finally feeling better after that 2-9 start to the regular season. Three wins in a row with three games remaining on the homestand starting with the Brooklyn Nets Friday night. They didn’t conquer all of their problems. But at least they could breathe a bit easier, smile more natural. Heck, they were only 1 ½ games out of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and three back of third place.

“And we’ve been playing terrible," John Wall said to NBC Sports Washington Thursday night at the point guard’s annual turkey giveaway.  “That’s how shaky it is. You never know how it’s going to go, but we can’t look at that aspect. ... Have to take it one game at a time. Our focus is on Brooklyn right now. Try to win to make it four in a row.”

Last season Brooklyn was one of those non-contending teams that flummoxed the Wizards. Brooklyn finished 28-54, yet won two of three over Washington. While the current momentum was compelling, the reporter told Wall he’s heard such focus talk before and witnessed mixed results. The point guard nodded in acknowledgment.

“You put yourself in that situation, you have to answer (questions) and [reporters] have to ask," Wall said.

Another batch of questions came at Wall and the Wizards Friday. Brooklyn, a try-hard squad lacking high-end talent, dumped Washington 115-104.

The Nets, who lost leading scorer Caris Levert to a nasty ankle injury this week, turned a 56-54 halftime lead into a 19-point margin in the fourth quarter. They also converted 13 Washington turnovers into 19 points.

The Wizards, now 5-10, finished 3 of 17 on 3-pointers. Their defense lacked oomph at the point of attack.

“They were more aggressive than we were, offense and defense,” Bradley Beal said. “They forced us to turn the ball over. We couldn’t make shots [and] we definitely couldn’t guard them. Our one-on-one defense was suspect.”

Wizards coach Scott Brooks echoed the defensive struggles.

“The problem was that we couldn’t stay in front of the basketball tonight,” said Brooks, addressing a broad topic he largely could skip during the recent winning. 

Washington no longer ranks last in scoring defense thanks to the woeful Atlanta Hawks, but the 116.9 points allowed per game serves as a reminder that Friday’s struggles were no one-off.

Brooklyn had its own defensive woes during a three-game skid entering Friday. Second-year center Jarrett Allen, the player the Nets selected 22nd overall in the 2017 NBA Draft with the pick acquired from Washington in the Bojan Bogdanovic trade, missed the previous two contests. His return fueled an interior turnaround.

Those stops led to Brooklyn’s generating offense. The Nets, who often used no more than one traditional big man, outscored the Wizards 13-2 in fast-break points. They hit 13 of 15 free throws in the third quarter and finished 30 of 38.

“I thought because we got stops, (we) got into transition, got easy buckets,” Nets forward and ex-Wizard Jared Dudley told NBC Sports Washington. “I thought they were fouling so much we were on our drives. We kept attacking. … I thought defense opened up our offense.”

Wall opened up the postgame Q&A session with reporters in Washington’s locker room. He noted Brooklyn’s constant use of pick-and-rolls with the Wizards switching one through four didn’t work. “Just about every time they drove, they got a foul.”

Wall lives a fishbowl existence. People pay good money to watch him work. That means they witness the highs and lows, the advancement and the learning. Teammates also have eyes on him. All observe the five-time All-Star reacting to some whistles or non-calls he deems incorrect, or his body language during a tough loss.

Wall, 28, acknowledges his role as the team leader. He accepts that fishbowl reality and knows when those frustrations show, everyone can see.

“It’s fun. It’s a challenge," Wall said of being a leader to NBC Sports Washington Thursday. "Every day you have to be perfect. Nobody is perfect, but you have to be good every day. You can’t take a bad day or dwell on something. You have to let that slide because when it gets bad or gets shaky, everybody is looking at you. If your head is down, everybody else’s head is down. That’s something I have to learn."

Despite the streak-busting setback Friday night, Wall stuck with his big picture, no panic approach.

“They just came out and played better tonight. That’s all it is,” Wall told NBC Sports Washington. “We didn’t make shots. We didn’t do a great job of executing. They attacked us defensively. We lost one game. We have to get past and prepare for Sunday with a good team in Portland coming in.”

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