Nationals

49ers pounding opponents with ground game

49ers pounding opponents with ground game

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers are beating up opponents with a power rushing attack, and nobody's enjoying it more than the big bodies leading the way up front.

A physical offensive line featuring 2010 first-round draft picks Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis has established itself as a force in the trenches, opening holes for a ground game that ranks second in the NFL in yards rushing and first in rushing average.

Seattle entered last week's game with the NFL's second-ranked rushing defense, but the 49ers blasted through the Seahawks for 175 yards to highlight a 13-6 slugfest victory that put San Francisco alone atop the NFC West at 5-2.

That kind of performance has become typical for the 49ers, who have rushed for 175 yards or more four times already this season and look to do it again Monday night at Arizona in another key divisional game.

San Francisco's line is expecting another physical battle against an Arizona defensive front that features Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell, who said earlier this week that the 49ers are a team that both he and Dockett ``really hate with a passion.''

The Niners have held the upper hand in several of those kinds of battles this season. San Francisco's five offensive line starters average 6-foot-5 and 317 pounds, and they pack a punch.

``We're big guys leaning on you all game,'' Davis said Friday. ``We just do our job, and it wears you out. It's just natural it happens like that. It's just one will against another, and some guys are tougher than other guys.''

Davis and Iupati have started every game for the 49ers since they were drafted, becoming in 2010 just the third pair of rookie offensive linemen to start every game since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978. Since then, they have set the tone of physicality for San Francisco's line.

Particularly Iupati.

A bruiser at left guard, Iupati has gained a reputation as one of the top run-blocking guards in the league. Second-year offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Iupati ``had the best game since I've been here'' during the win against Seattle.

``He just played lights out,'' Roman said. ``He was just dominating people. He's an athletic, explosive guy and he enjoys it. He's got some physical tools that are rare, and they were on display.''

One of San Francisco's signature offensive plays is called ``power,'' a running play during which Iupati pulls to the right and either trap blocks or leads through a hole.

Iupati has been running that play since his college days, and nobody was able to stop it then, either.

``That's my game,'' Iupati said. ``I love power. Power is one physical play. It's just one of those plays that's smashmouth football. It's fun, man. That's one of my best plays, and I've always loved pulling and trapping. With the line blocking, Frank (Gore) can read those holes easily, and Frank's one of the best running backs out there playing the game.''

Gore has had a lot of success on that play, and the three-time Pro Bowler is enjoying one of his finest seasons despite carrying the ball fewer times than at this point in previous years.

Gore ranks fifth in the NFL with 601 yards rushing, and his 5.8 average per carry is a yard better than any of the four backs ahead of him. Kendall Hunter, Gore's backup, has 258 yards rushing and averages 5.2 yards a carry. The 49ers are averaging 5.9 yards per carry as a team after averaging 4.1 last season.

The 49ers also have been getting strong play up front from center Jonathan Goodwin, Pro Bowl tackle Joe Staley and right guard Alex Boone, who has been impressive in his first season as a starter.

``They've just been playing great, and they really set the tone for us more than anything with the way they go out there,'' quarterback Alex Smith said. ``Everything kind of starts with them. The last few weeks, really hats off to them the way they've been getting things done, especially last Thursday in the run game.''

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Nationals set to bring back Matt Adams

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USA TODAY Sports

Nationals set to bring back Matt Adams

The Nationals just checked another box.

They have reached an agreement to bring back first baseman Matt Adams, pending a physical, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed.

It’s unclear if the deal is for strictly one year or a year with an option. Either way, Adams will be part of the 2019 roster once he passes a physical.

Adams flourished last season with the Nationals when he delivered an .842 OPS as a part-time player. He was crucial since Ryan Zimmerman spent the middle of the season on the disabled list.

The Nationals later flipped Adams to the St. Louis Cardinals for “cash considerations”, which made him little more than a waiver claim for St. Louis. The Nationals just saved the remainder he was owed on his contract following the Aug. 21 transaction.

Adams, a quiet professional, fit well in the clubhouse. One on-field tear earned him a T-shirt homage to his nickname: “Big City doing Big City things” that several of his teammates wore pregame.

His role will be the same as last season: insurance for Zimmerman, as well as a power left-handed bat off the bench who will receive the occasional start if Zimmerman is healthy.

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John Wall, Bradley Beal react to Trevor Ariza trade that sent Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers to Suns

John Wall, Bradley Beal react to Trevor Ariza trade that sent Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers to Suns

From the front office's perspective, the timing of the Wizards' trade for Trevor Ariza could not have been better. They secured the player they wanted as early as he could be traded, on Dec. 15.

From the players' perspective, the timing could not have been worse. They had just lost a game to the Brooklyn Nets and were in the locker room when reports began surfacing on social media. Those involved, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers, had to address reporters, not knowing where they would be moving to the coming days.

Then, as the trade saga took on new forms, they rode the bus and then on the plane with the Wizards, surrounded by those they would soon call former teammates. Their phones were buzzing with messages from people asking what was going on, when they themselves didn't know.

John Wall has seen plenty over the course of his nine NBA seasons, including Kirk Hinrich getting traded at halftime back in 2011. But he hadn't seen this.

"It was kind of weird and kind of difficult," Wall said. "[We] go into the locker room and we're about to shower and stuff and we don't understand who is about to get traded, who's been traded. It was kind of a tough situation. I give those guys a lot of credit. They handled that stuff like professionals. A lot of guys could have reacted in different ways, which I have seen in the past."

As NBA Twitter did backflips over the absurdity playing out in real time, how the deal was originally supposed to have three teams and it fell through allegedly because of a mixup over which 'Brooks' was getting traded from Memphis, the Wizards were following along, on the bus and with two parties involved sitting nearby. 

"You don't see that a lot. I feel for Kelly and Austin who were put on that trip back here and not knowing what was going on," Bradley Beal said.

Like with most trades, the players offered a mixed reaction with teammates leaving, but help also coming in. They know Ariza well from his days in Washington back in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons and believe he will bring defense and three-point shooting, two things the Wizards currently need.

There was a human element of seeing Oubre and Rivers go, though, that both Wall and Beal felt. Oubre, in particular, had become woven into the fabric of the organization over the past three-plus years. He arrived as a first round pick in 2015 and grew up in their system.

"It is kind of devastating for those guys who came in and tried to give it everything they have," Wall said. "Especially K.O., being here four years, watching him develop from his rookie year not getting any minutes and coming into his own and being an X-factor for our team the last couple of years, it's sad to see him go."

Wall continued to say he wishes both players the best with the Phoenix Suns. The Wizards happen to play Phoenix in a week, on Dec. 22 in Washington.

Ultimately, the trade served a reminder to Wall, Beal and others that the Wizards have some urgency to turn things around. They are in the luxury tax with the sixth-highest payroll in the NBA. An 11-18 record after 29 games just isn't good enough to justify the resources being committed.

Wall explained in detail how he believes money was a consideration.

"The only thing I really can think of from my standpoint is that Trevor makes $15 [million], I think. Austin made [$12.65 million] and Kelly makes [$3.21 million] this year," he said.

"It was a situation where we were in a tough bind. We have three guys that are paid pretty high. And then understanding what Kelly is going to receive or ask for this summer, I don't think we have the money to match it. So, I think that's the reason why we made that trade."

This is the third trade the Wizards have made already this season. All three deals have saved them money, but this one has the highest likelihood to make a difference on the court.

The players are optimistic Ariza can prove the missing piece.

"We needed a change," Beal said. "Hopefully this is the change that sparks some energy out of us, some life out of us, that will get us to play the way we know we're capable of playing."

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