Nationals

Bears overwhelm Jaguars with defense, win 41-3

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Bears overwhelm Jaguars with defense, win 41-3

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs have scored more touchdowns than Matt Forte this season.

And the Chicago Bears aren't complaining.

Tillman and Briggs returned interceptions for touchdowns - their second in six days - and the Bears used stifling defense to overwhelm the Jacksonville Jaguars 41-3 Sunday. Tillman and Briggs became the first teammates in NFL history to return interceptions for touchdowns in consecutive weeks.

``This one was an easier catch,'' Tillman said. ``Last week, it was, `Is he really throwing me the ball?' This week was normal. This one was easier. It came at a good time. We needed a lift, and that score got us rolling to the point the offense started putting up points after that.''

The Bears (4-1) scored 38 unanswered points in the second half to win their third consecutive game.

The streak has everything to do with defense. Chicago has returned five interceptions for touchdowns in those games.

Tillman and Briggs returned two of the team's five INTs for scores in Monday night's 34-18 victory at Dallas. Major Wright returned one the previous week against St. Louis.

Tillman's second of the season - a 36-yarder in the third quarter - proved to be the decisive play in a game that saw as many punts (six) as points in the first half.

What prompted Chicago's turnaround? Players credited coach Lovie Smith's halftime message.

``He basically cursed us out without cursing,'' Tillman said. ``He raised his voice and gave us that mean, surly, stern look and we responded to that. He put a little spark in our rear end. We started getting to the quarterback in the second half. We were a little flat in the first half and came out with a sense of urgency.''

The Bears finished with 501 yards of offense, 309 in the second half, and held Jacksonville to 45 yards after the break. The Jaguars ran just four plays in the third quarter.

``It's been the same thing for five years,'' Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. ``Obviously, we're not working hard enough. I don't know. We're just not playing well right now. We have to figure something out. No one here is going to save us. It's the guys in this locker room. There's no one we can bring in to help. We got to look man to man at each other and figure out what we're going to do.''

The Jaguars (1-4) never recovered from Tillman's touchdown and played the final quarter amid a chorus of boos. Jacksonville now heads into its bye week with serious questions about what direction the team is headed under general manager Gene Smith, quarterback Blaine Gabbert and maybe even first-year coach Mike Mularkey.

With Smith assembling the roster, the Jaguars have lost 18 of their last 24 games.

They have been downright pathetic in three home games this season. They managed 117 yards in the home opener against Houston, 212 last week against Cincinnati and 189 Sunday.

``I can talk up here all night about what we did, but that's not going to cure anything,'' Gabbert said. ``We've got to come out in the second half and play better football. It starts with me. When you throw two Pick 6's in a half, that's awful. I've got to find a way to fix that and get this offense going a little bit.''

Gabbert completed 17 of 33 passes for 142 yards, with the two interceptions. The Bears stacked the line of scrimmage, clearly wanting to shut down Jones-Drew. It worked, as Jones-Drew finished with 56 yards on 12 carries.

Following Tillman's score, the Jaguars allowed consecutive scoring drives after playing stout defense in the first half.

Jay Cutler hooked up with rookie Alshon Jeffery for a 10-yard score on the first play of the fourth quarter and found Brandon Marshall for a 24-yarder with 8:37 remaining in the game.

Briggs' score came after that, a 36-yard return that made it 34-3.

``The defense put up some points again,'' Cutler said. ``We're never really out of a game with those guys on defense. They play such good football. They hold teams to few yards and a lot of punts.''

Cutler completed 23 of 39 passes for 292 yards, with two TDs and an interception before giving way to backup Jason Campbell.

Marshall caught 12 passes for 144 yards. Forte, who has one touchdown this season, ran 22 times for 107 yards.

Few outsiders gave the Jaguars a chance before the game. The only thing that seemingly was in Jacksonville's favor was catching Chicago on a short week. The Bears got home from Dallas early Tuesday and were back on a plane Saturday.

That may have contributed to Chicago's slow start. But it mattered little in the second half - thanks mostly to the interceptions.

``I know they know how important it is to take the ball away,'' Smith said. ``There is an emphasis on it. And after a while, you see one guy doing it, you want to join in on that action. It's discouraging to the offense. We normally win when we score one time, and it's probably safe to say we haven't lost when we score a couple times on the defensive side.''

NOTES: Tillman became the franchise's all-time leader in defensive touchdowns with eight. ... Jeffery left the game with a hand injury. ... Jaguars PK Josh Scobee tied Mike Hollis for the most FGs (175) in franchise history. ... Jones-Drew became the third player in team history to eclipse 12,000 all-purpose yards, joining Fred Taylor and Jimmy Smith.

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Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

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USA Today

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's two-run single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of the three-game series.

Anthony Rendon homered and doubled, Bryce Harper tied a career high with three doubles and Michael A. Taylor and Murphy each had three singles in a game that was delayed 38 minutes by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams homered for the Phillies, who had won three straight.

Pinch hitter Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk against Victor Arano. With one out, right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (1-2) came on to face Harper, who doubled to right, with Goodwin stopping at third.

After Rendon grounded out, Juan Soto was intentionally walked and Murphy lined a 1-2 pitch to shallow right. Taylor's single made it 8-6.

Ryan Madson (2-3) pitched the eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle finished it for his 21st save.

The Phillies took a 6-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run triple by Odubel Herrera and a two-run homer by Williams.

Washington pulled within a run at 6-5 in the sixth with four two-out hits, including an RBI triple by Trea Turner and RBI doubles by Harper and Rendon.

Nick Pivetta went five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the Phillies.

Washington starter Jefry Rodriguez was charged with four runs and five hits in four-plus innings.

The Phillies broke on top on Hoskins's two-run homer in the third.

Rendon made it 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. The next three hitters singled, tying the game, but with the rain intensifying, out came the tarp. When play resumed, Pivetta struck out three straight to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: C Andrew Knapp left in the seventh with a right knee contusion. ... 3B Maikel Franco slipped on first base and fell hard in the eighth. He stayed in to run, but left after the half-inning. ... INF Jesmuel Valent?n was placed on the paternity leave list and OF Dylan Cozens (left quadriceps strain) was reinstated from the 10-day DL.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings of a rehab start at Class A Potomac on Sunday. "I'm more concerned with the way he feels," manager Dave Martinez said, downplaying the results. "We'll go from there." ... RH reliever Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) threw a scoreless inning at Potomac. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) played catch on the field again. "We'll keep doing his throwing progression and figure out when he can actually throw from the mound," Martinez said.

UP NEXT

Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) starts the opener of a series against the Yankees on Monday. He is 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two games vs. New York.

Nationals: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08) opens a series at Tampa Bay on Monday. He is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in six games against the Rays.

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Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

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USA TODAY Sports

Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

As June minicamp concluded, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden pulled no punches when asked about expectations for new quarterback Alex Smith. 

"He has got to get it down by the first game," Gruden said of Smith. 

While that might not sound overly demanding, remember this is Smith's first season in Washington. The QB will be playing with new teammates and implementing new terminology. 

Still, Smith is a veteran with a lot of experience, and frankly, it seems like Gruden isn't worried about a transition period. 

"We are not in here to build the team around him, the team is built and he has to lead it like right now," the coach said. "This isn’t a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away."

Gruden made things quite clear. He expects the best from Smith, yesterday. 

Those comments created headlines, but there was something else the coach said about his passer that also stood out. Asked about Smith's veteran presence, Gruden talked about what the quarterback might mean for his teammates. 

"The whole job a quarterback has is obviously getting the most out of the people around you. That’s what I think he does as good as anybody," Gruden said. "He’ll get the most out of the tight ends. He’ll get the most out of the backs."

The coach continued, and things got a bit more interesting.

"He’ll get the most out of the receivers and offensive line because they’re going to want to play for him and they’re going to feel confident that he’s going to make something happen in a positive way or at least give it everything he’s got and take responsibility if something doesn’t work out."

Redskins fans are often a weirdly divided bunch. Many liked former QB Kirk Cousins but plenty did not think he was worth the type of money he was paid the last two seasons. Along the way, some fans will read Gruden's comments about making something happen and taking responsibility as a jab at Cousins. That's probably wrong. 

Remember, Trent Williams played through a serious knee injury last season. Asked why, Williams said he wanted to be out there to protect Cousins. Guys played for Cousins. 

The responsibility comment might mean something else, though. Their was a rather hostile back-and-forth last season between Gruden and Cousins last season, when the QB and coach disagreed about taking more risks with the football. A quick reminder of the scene: Cousins told a reporter that he would throw 20 interceptions if he played like Gruden wanted. The coach responded that while the interceptions might pile up, the QB would also throw 60 touchdowns. (Relive it here)

Throughout his career, Smith has thrown less interceptions than Cousins. But that doesn't mean Smith doesn't take risks or put his receivers in position to make plays. 

It's entirely possible Gruden simply expects Smith, a veteran, to be a responsible player and leader. And it's likely that comment had nothing to do with the Redskins previous quarterbacks. 

The bottom line is that Smith better be ready to go Week 1, and his coach made that clear. And if Smith isn't, Gruden expects his quarterback to take responsibility. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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