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Andrew Luck-led Colts rally to beat Lions 35-33

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Andrew Luck-led Colts rally to beat Lions 35-33

DETROIT (AP) Andrew Luck scrambled a bit to his right, saw nobody open in the end zone and decided to take his chances.

He flipped the ball to Donnie Avery and hoped his 5-foot-11 receiver could win a race to the end zone.

``I had no choice but to score,'' Avery said. ``It was the slowest 11 yards that I ever felt like I ran.''

It may have felt like it took forever, but Avery crossed the goal line standing up on the final play, giving Indianapolis a 35-33 win over Detroit on Sunday. The Colts scored two touchdowns in the final 2:39 to hand the Lions another excruciating loss.

``Some teams find ways to win,'' Indianapolis interim coach Bruce Arian said. ``Others don't.''

With the final seconds ticking away and the ball at the Detroit 14, Luck took the snap, moved up in the pocket and tossed a short pass to Avery, who made the catch around the 10. With Detroit's secondary focused on covering receivers in the end zone, Avery was scamper in.

``You always hesitate throwing the ball not in the end zone, for fear of the clock running out with a guy inbounds,'' Luck said. ``Took the calculated risk that Donnie could get there in the end zone, and he did.''

Luck has won more games (eight) than any rookie quarterback drafted No. 1 overall in the Super Bowl era.

The Colts (8-4) stayed in control of the AFC wild-card race by winning for the sixth time in seven games. Luck helped them move a step closer toward a 10th playoff berth in 11 seasons, this time without Peyton Manning.

Luck also threw a last-minute touchdown pass in October to beat Green Bay. His transition from Stanford to the NFL has looked pretty smooth so far.

Detroit, on the other hand, has regressed this season after an exciting playoff appearance a year ago. The Lions (4-8) became the first team since at least 1983 to lose three straight games - all at home - after leading each with 2:00 remaining in regulation, according to STATS, LLC.

The Lions are the third team since at least 1940 to lose three in a row - all at home - after leading each in the fourth quarter.

Detroit led 33-21 when Luck threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to LaVon Brazill with 2:39 left. On the ensuing possession, the Lions were facing third-and-5 near midfield and called a run, hoping to drain the clock if they didn't gain enough yards.

Mikel Leshoure was stopped, and punter Nick Harris failed to pin the Colts back. His 25-yard effort gave Indianapolis a manageable situation - the ball at its own 25 with 1:07 remaining.

``Terrible,'' Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. ``We had a chance to give them a long field, and we hit our worst punt of the game.''

The Colts made it to the Detroit 14 before three straight incompletions set up fourth down. Luck and Avery made the most of their final chance.

``If the pass rush does their job, he doesn't get free on the scramble and he never finds that receiver,'' Schwartz said. ``All game, we focused on taking away his step-up lanes, and then on the last play, we don't do it.''

Luck was 24 of 54 for 391 yards with four TD passes and three interceptions. He has thrown 13 of his 16 interceptions on the road.

Fellow rookie T.Y. Hilton had six receptions for 100 yards and Avery had five catches for 91 yards and two scores.

Calvin Johnson had a career-high 13 receptions for 171 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown that gave Detroit a 30-21 lead late in the third quarter. Johnson also made a one-handed grab that set up Leshoure's TD in the second quarter. Johnson had at least 125 yards receiving for the fifth straight game, matching an NFL record set in 1966 by Pat Studstill with the Lions.

``Calvin Johnson is always a bright spot,'' Schwartz said. ``Maybe I should have had him on defense for the last play.''

Matthew Stafford was 27 of 46 for 313 yards with two TDs and an interception for the Lions.

Stafford missed Johnson at times late in the game, including on the Lions' last scoring drive when he threw behind him in the end zone. That led to Jason Hanson's fourth field goal of the game, which gave Detroit a 33-21 lead with 8:41 left.

``You aren't going to score a touchdown every time, but we missed too many plays and ended up settling for three,'' Stafford said. ``Normally, you are happy if you put 33 on the board, but we made too many mistakes when we could have had touchdowns.''

NOTES: Lions WR Ryan Broyles (right knee) left the game, leaving the team thin at the position because it left Titus Young inactive because of his behavior and previously lost Nate Burleson to a season-ending knee injury. ... Colts OL Joe Reitz left in the first quarter and didn't return after undergoing a concussion evaluation. ... Indy rookie TE Coby Fleener, who missed the previous four games with a shoulder injury, made a twisting, 26-yard TD catch in the second quarter.

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Braden Holtby saved his best performance of the season for when the Caps needed it most

Braden Holtby saved his best performance of the season for when the Caps needed it most

Braden Holtby has been largely overshadowed in the headlines of the Eastern Conference Final by Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

After two games, Vasilevskiy was one of the bigger storylines for how poorly he played in giving up 10 goals in just five periods. The next three games after that, the storyline changed to how well he was suddenly playing and how he had helped the Lightning steal two wins in Washington and take a 3-2 series lead after Game 5.

Holtby was not mentioned much. His play was not the reason the Caps went up 2-0 or the reason they went down 3-2.

But if the Caps hoped to force a Game 7, they needed him to at least be a reason why they won Game 6.

Holtby responded in a big way. With his team facing elimination, Holtby registered his first shutout of both the regular season and the playoffs.

"It's a perfect time," Devante Smith-Pelly said after the game. "He's been great all year. Obviously an up-and-down year for him personally, but the way he's bounced back, he's been amazing all throughout the playoffs."

Holtby is now just the seventh goalie in NHL history to record his first shutout of the season in a game in which his team faced elimination.

Holtby, however, was not concerned with the stats or the shutout.

"The only reason it’s good is we won," Holtby said of his shutout performance. "Aside from that, it’s just good for [the media], I guess you can write about it. But for us it’s just that W."

Vasilevskiy made a number of jaw-dropping saves, especially in the first period, but Holtby matched him save for save as both teams battled for the first goal. With the score knotted at zero, Holtby made a toe save on Anthony Cirelli on a 2-on-1 opportunity to keep the Lightning off the board. He really upped his game in the third period as Tampa Bay made a late push to tie it. He turned aside 10 shots that frame including a nifty snag on Nikita Kucherov and a glorious glove save on Ondrej Palat.

Holtby's performance ensured the Caps would live to fight another day...for now.

As the series shifts back to Tampa Bay, Washington will again be facing elimination. This time, however, so will their opponents.

Anything can happen in a Game 7. In a winner-take-all game, it may come down to who has the better goalie on Wednesday and Holtby seems to be picking a good time to up his game.

"Braden has been the backbone of our hockey club," Barry Trotz said. "You can’t go anywhere without goaltending and he’s been solid. ... Braden is a true pro, he works on his game, he finds ways to make a difference and he does."

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Need to Know: Redskins player one-liners, defense

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Need to Know: Redskins player one-liners, defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, May 22, 66 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins player one-liners, defense

A few weeks ago, I did an early projection of the Redskins’ 53-man roster on offense and defense. As the team gets ready for OTAs here is a comment on each player expected to make the team on defense; the offense was up yesterday

Defensive line

—Even though he played just 159 snaps last year before getting injured, the experience that Jonathan Allen gained in the offseason and training camp last year will help him get off to a strong start this season. 

—​Daron Payne will improve as the season goes on but he should be of some help stopping the run, the team’s most glaring weakness, right off the bat. 

—​Matt Ioannidis could play his way into an early contract extension a year from now, something nobody saw coming a year ago. 

—Last year Anthony Lanier played a little over half a season’s worth of snaps and got 5.0 sacks so I’ll put his over/under for this year at 7.5. 

—I think many fans see “Redskins veteran free agent D-lineman” and associate “bust” but Stacy McGee played pretty well last year. 

—Will Tim Settle be in at nose tackle for the first snap in Week 1?

—The coaches would like to be able to keep Ziggy Hood on the roster, but injuries and other issues could make him a victim of the roster numbers game. 

Inside linebackers

—​Zach Brown struggled a bit before injuries forced him out of the last three games, but he still finished in the top 10 in the NFL in tackles. 

—The team re-signing Mason Foster in late January was a low-key but potentially very impactful move. 

—After getting cut and then returning in November last year, Zach Vigil probably will be employed with the Redskins for all of the 2018 season. 

—It will be interesting to see how much the Redskins try to get out of converted safety Josh Harvey-Clemons as a nickel linebacker this year. 

—The Redskins moved up in the sixth round to draft Shaun Dion Hamilton, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he has a regular role on defense before the season is out. 

Outside linebackers

—All Preston Smith needs to do to hit it big in free agency is add a few sacks to his 2017 total and get a few more takeaways. 

—​Ryan Kerrigan already got paid, he’s a few more good years away from making the Redskins Ring of Fame. 

—I predict that Ryan Anderson gets his first NFL sack in Week 2 against the Colts. 

—You usually think of outside linebackers rotating in when it’s the nickel defense, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Pernell McPhee be a regular in short-yardage situations. 

Cornerbacks

—I think Josh Norman will the dancing in the end zone at some point this season; he is long overdue to get a pick six (or a pick of any sort for that matter).

—The first time I noticed Quinton Dunbar playing cornerback was when he lined up against Odell Beckham in 2015. 

—The success of the Redskins’ decisions to trade Kendall Fuller and to let Bashaud Breeland leave as a free agent will hinge mostly on how well Fabian Moreau plays in his second year in the NFL.

—Realistically, the Redskins can hope to get 10 or 12 good games out of Orlando Scandrick

—And because Scandrick is unlikely to be healthy for 16 games, the ability of Josh Holsey to step in when needed will be critical. 

—If the Redskins can get a few good punt returns and 75 snaps at nickel corner from Greg Stroman he will be worth the seventh-round pick they used to draft him. 

Safeties

—With a year in the defense under his belt, D.J. Swearinger is a candidate to make his first Pro Bowl. 

—After Jay Gruden compared him to Jordan Reed, there is a lot of pressure on Montae Nicholson to stay on the field and perform well when he is out there. 

—Even though he started eight games last year I think the coaches view Deshazor Everett as more of a special teams guy and situational defender than a safety they want playing 70 snaps a game. 

—​Troy Apke has a lot to learn and it remains to be seen if he can go from being a fast guy to being a fast NFL football player.

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  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 21
—Training camp starts (7/26) 66
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 80

The Redskins last played a game 142 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 110 days. 

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