Capitals

49ers withstand comeback, top Patriots 41-34

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49ers withstand comeback, top Patriots 41-34

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) LaMichael James awaited the kickoff, determined to regain the momentum for the 49ers after they quickly lost all of a 28-point lead.

``We need a boost,'' he said. ``That's what I was thinking. I was thinking I got to take it to the house.''

He didn't get all the way there, but close enough to set up the decisive touchdown - going 62 yards before Colin Kaepernick's 38-yard pass to Michael Crabtree with 6:25 left - that helped San Francisco reach the playoffs with a 41-34 win over the New England Patriots on Sunday night.

``We faced adversity,'' James said. ``Nobody flinched.''

Now the 49ers have at least a wild-card berth with a 10-3-1 record, knowing a win against division rival Seattle (9-5) next Sunday clinches the AFC West title.

The Patriots (10-4) already had locked up first place in the AFC East with a chance to improve their chances for a first-round bye. They began the day in second place in the race for the two byes but fell behind the Denver Broncos (11-3). The Houston Texans (12-2) hold the top spot.

``We haven't thought about that yet,'' Tom Brady said. ``What's in our control is winning football games.''

Doing that on Sunday night seemed almost impossible after the 49ers rolled to a 31-3 lead on Kaepernick's 27-yard touchdown pass to Crabtree five minutes into the third quarter. Only one team in NFL history had won a regular-season game after trailing by 28 - a 38-35 win by the 49ers over the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 7, 1980.

But with 25 minutes left and Brady at quarterback, the 49ers weren't comfortable.

``Tom is a good quarterback and we knew some adversity was going to come and they were going to make plays sooner or later,'' linebacker NaVorro Bowman said.

They did - time after time - until they had tied the score at 31 on Danny Woodhead's second touchdown, a 1-yard run with 6:43 remaining.

Woodhead began the comeback with a 6-yard touchdown run, Brady scored on a 1-yard sneak on the first play of the fourth quarter and then threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez less than three minutes later. And when Woodhead scored again, the Patriots had their fourth touchdown in 14 minutes, 16 seconds.

But two plays later - James' kickoff return and Crabtree's catch - the 49ers were back on top. And this time they stayed there.

David Akers made it 41-31 with a 28-yard field goal with 1:56 to go, Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 41-yarder for New England with 38 seconds remaining and San Francisco sealed the win when Delanie Walker caught the onside kick.

``We just spotted them 28 points,'' Brady said. ``We fought hard, but you can't play poorly against a good team and expect to win. We can't miss plays that we have opportunities with.''

For Kaepernick, a second-year pro starting just his fifth game, it was a chance to remain calm even as the big lead disappeared. He finished with 14 completions in 25 attempts for 216 yards and a career-high four touchdowns.

``This is my 17th year of football,'' he said. ``I've been playing since I was eight years old. So, to me, I am going to go out there and I'm going to throw to the guy who is open and you try to keep football simple so your mind can be clear when you're on the field.''

It was clear enough for him to throw a short pass to Crabtree then watch him race by cornerback Kyle Arrington for the go-ahead touchdown. That gave the team that had allowed the fewest points this season enough to beat the team that had scored the most.

``We can win a shootout,'' said Crabtree, who had 107 yards receiving. ``Whatever it takes, that's our motto. ... We feel like we can do anything, sky's the limit.''

New England, which had won seven straight games, lost for the first time at home in December in 21 games. The Patriots also had won 21 in a row in the second half of the schedule before San Francisco somehow regrouped late in a game it seemingly had clinched long before.

The 49ers forced four turnovers, matching the number of giveaways the Patriots had at home all season.

``I don't think they faced a physical defense like us all season,'' said San Francisco cornerback Carlos Rogers, who intercepted Brady midway through the first quarter and ran 53 yards to the Patriots 5.

The 49ers were leading 7-0 at the time on Kaepernick's 24-yard touchdown pass to former Patriot Randy Moss. Gostkowski's 32-yard field goal made it 7-3, but San Francisco scored on Kaepernick's 34-yard pass to Walker and David Akers' 20-yard field goal for a 17-3 lead at intermission.

``Everything'' went wrong in the first half, Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker said. ``A lot of bad football.''

Frank Gore then recovered Kaepernick's fumble and ran 9 yards for a touchdown. Two plays later, Aldon Smith intercepted Brady's pass and Kaepernick struck on the next play with his 27-yard pass to Crabtree for a 31-3 lead with 10:21 remaining in the third quarter.

Still plenty of time for Brady.

``I had a feeling we'd be able to come back,'' he said.

But when the Patriots tied it, a poor job by the kickoff team proved costly.

``I did as much as I could to help the team win,'' James said.

It was just enough.

NOTES: The 49ers allowed 520 yards after entering the game second in the NFL in fewest yards allowed, 275.5 per game. ... Welker had five catches, giving him 100 and making him the first player in NFL history with that many in five seasons. ... Gore led all rushers with 83 yards on 21 carries. ... Brady was 36 for a career-high 65 for 443 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

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Capitals' victory celebration halted as a win suddenly turns into a loss

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Capitals' victory celebration halted as a win suddenly turns into a loss

WASHINGTON — The Capitals bounced up and down in celebration. They yelled. They screamed. They lost. 

Call it the win that wasn’t. Washington stole two points from the Arizona Coyotes on Monday night at Capital One Arena when T.J. Oshie scored in overtime. The up-and-down first two periods, all those big saves from Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta, a 3-0 deficit, all erased as the crowd roared and the players exalted. 

But old baseball writers have a term for what happened next: “Or so it seemed.” 

It’s the perfect phrase to describe a story that’s been written and now has to be deleted: You’re on deadline. One team is about to close out a win. Just waiting to hit send on the story. Then someone walks and then there’s a bloop hit and, oh my god did the third baseman just throw the ball into left field? Suddenly what seemed certain no longer is. Time to rewrite. 

That’s where the Capitals were when Oshie’s apparent game-winner was overturned on replay. Teammate Lars Eller had actually slipped and entered the offensive zone too soon. The play was deemed offside. 

“A bit of a buzzkill there,” Capitals forward Tom Wilson said. 

Somewhere, a guy sprinted from his seat after Oshie’s goal and was halfway to the Metro before they announced the goal didn’t count. Hopefully he finds out what happened. If not, then he’s going to be confused when the ticker says it was a 4-3 shootout loss. 

“Like coming back from the dead,” said Arizona coach Rick Tocchet.

Dmitry Orlov knocked Coyotes winger Clayton Keller off the puck a little over two minutes into 3-on-3 overtime. Orlov found Oshie streaking toward the middle of the ice, he gave it to Eller, who lost his balance, but pulled up inside the blueline when the linesman ruled he was onside and passed to Oshie.

 Arizona defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, one of the NHL’s best skaters, had no chance after an Oshie head fake. Neither did Raanta. Oshie went down to one knee in the slot and ripped the shot home. The crowd exploded. The Capitals poured off the bench to celebrate. The Coyotes skated off the ice. Washington had won. 

Or so it seemed. The Coyotes coaching staff started looking at the play on the tablets kept on the bench. Players started pointing up at the scoreboard, which was replaying the goal. Then the officials made their way over to the scorers’ box and referee Jake Brenk held out his hand. Linesman Darren Gibbs put the headset on to talk with the video review officials in Toronto. The Capitals figured their work might not be done.  

After a review that took almost four minutes, officials in Toronto decided Eller really was offsides. Halt the celebration. The game wasn’t over yet. It would be only after Arizona won in the shootout. The Capitals would settle for one hard-earned point, instead of two and that was probably a just result.    

“That was unfortunate, because it was a great move and it's a goal. But T.J. is pretty on top of things,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “He had a strong feeling it was gonna be offside."

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Brandon Scherff could very well ask for a contract that tops the one Brandon Brooks just signed

Brandon Scherff could very well ask for a contract that tops the one Brandon Brooks just signed

On Monday, one Brandon in the NFL signed a deal that another Brandon in the NFL absolutely noticed.

The first Brandon is Brandon Brooks, a guard whom the Eagles gave a four-year contract extension worth just more than $56 million that'll kick in starting in 2021. His current agreement with Philadelphia runs until 2020 and carries remaining base salaries of $8 million and $7.5 million.

The second Brandon is Brandon Scherff, also a guard and one who's scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in a few months. If Scherff truly gets a chance to negotiate with the Redskins or on the open market, he'll likely look for something very close to or even exceeding the numbers Brooks got from Philly.

Brooks' extension has a $14.05 million annual value, which slots just ahead of the Cowboys' Zach Martin when it comes to the highest-paid guards in the sport. Scherff absolutely deserves to ink something that puts him right next to those players, if not ahead of Brooks and all others at the position.

One thing that works in No. 75's favor is his age. Scherff is about to turn 28 years old. Brooks, meanwhile, is already 30. Washington's lineman should have plenty of productive campaigns in his future, wherever that future is. 

Another interesting similarity between Brooks and Scherff is their durability. Both have have returned from a significant injury they suffered in 2018 — Scherff tore his pectoral, while Brooks tore his Achilles — that look like outliers in otherwise reliable careers.  

Scherff is certainly in the same realm when it comes to talent and production as Brooks, too. They've each earned two Pro Bowl nods, and while Brooks may be thought of as the best guard in the league, Scherff isn't far behind.

Plus, as anyone who's followed NFL contracts this decade knows, it often doesn't really matter if the next elite guy to sign is truly better, it just matters that he's elite and he's next to sign.

Those are all factors Scherff could point to when it's time for him to cash in. When will that time come, though?

The Burgundy and Gold, who reportedly offered Scherff an extension worth $13 million a year this past September that didn't really do much for the 2015 first-rounder, could franchise tag him if they want. That move, of course, would be profitable for Scherff but limit his ability to negotiate. 

Now, whether the Redskins go that route or give him something more stable, it's hard to imagine them letting him get away. Trent Williams will very likely never suit up for Washington again, and having to roll out an offensive line in 2020 without Williams and Scherff would be a very unfortunate situation.

Scherff, however, will likely make the organization pay up to ensure that doesn't happen. He said in October he hopes to be a Redskin until he retires, but it doesn't appear he'll do that on a discount. With the way he's played and how his peers are being compensated, he shouldn't have to, either.

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