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Bills WR Johnson questions play call in Pats loss

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Bills WR Johnson questions play call in Pats loss

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Two days later, receiver Stevie Johnson still can't get over how the Buffalo Bills botched their final play in a loss to the New England Patriots last weekend.

On Tuesday, Johnson second-guessed why a more experienced receiver wasn't targeted on a play that ended with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing an interception into the end zone to seal a 37-31 loss. And Johnson also came to T.J. Graham's defense, saying the rookie receiver shouldn't be faulted for running the wrong route because he had never attempted it in practice.

``I don't think it was the wrong play. But just the whole thing leading up to it,'' Johnson said, noting that he, receiver Donald Jones and tight end Scott Chandler were more familiar at running the route.

``We had people in positions where maybe they shouldn't have been. So who knows what would've happened if it was Donald, me or Scott there. So it's no blame on T.J. at all, because he's never run that route in practice or in a game.''

The play in question occurred with 28 seconds left and after the Bills marched 65 yards to the Patriots 15 with a chance to pull out a comeback victory, and end an 11-game losing streak at Foxborough, Mass.

Faking to his left, Fitzpatrick turned to his right and threw a pass intercepted by Devin McCourty in the end zone. Graham was the intended receiver, but made the mistake of running behind McCourty rather than in front of him.

Rather than looking ahead to hosting AFC East rival Miami (4-5) on Thursday night, the Bills (3-6) are still stuck on the recent past.

Johnson was particularly frustrated after the loss to New England, because the Bills squandered an opportunity to turn around their season.

``We talk a lot about turning the corner,'' Johnson said. ``You look at it on paper, and all that's great. But we're still getting losses.''

Coach Chan Gailey, on Monday, took the blame for what happened against New England by saying he should've called a different play.

Gailey added McCourty positioned himself in such a way that forced Graham to make a decision whether to go in front or behind him. And, Gailey added that Graham wasn't the first option on the play.

Graham took the blame for what happened immediately following the game and again on Tuesday, when informed of Johnson's comments.

``That's fine. I appreciate that,'' Graham said. ``But it was my fault. Somebody's got to take the blame for it.''

Graham added that he had indeed practiced the play, but not since training camp.

Johnson raised his concerns after being asked why the Bills have had difficulty making plays in the clutch.

After saying he didn't know, Johnson then said: ``You've got to go to the players that give you the best chance at winning the game. And if we don't make it, then we don't make it.''

The Bills have lost in many fashions this season. They squandered a 21-7 second half lead in a 52-28 loss to New England on Sept. 30. They followed that up with being blown out in a 45-3 loss at San Francisco a week later. Then there was their 35-34 loss to Tennessee on Oct. 21, when Fitzpatrick's interception in the final two minutes led to the Titans scoring their decisive touchdown.

Add it up, and the Bills have lost five of six and are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the 13th straight season.

And this marked the second straight week Gailey's been second-guessed, but the first time by his own player. Last week, several reporters questioned why Gailey ran the ball just five times in the second half of a 21-9 loss at Houston despite Buffalo having one of the NFL's top running attacks.

NOTES: DE Chris Kelsay (neck) did not practice Tuesday. Gailey said it's ``touch-and-go'' whether Kelsay will play Thursday. ... DT Marcell Dareus, already bothered by a shoulder injury, was limited in practice by a sore hamstring. ... WR David Nelson said his rehab is going on schedule since being placed on season-ending injured reserve after tearing a ligament in his right knee in the season opener. Nelson is working out in Dallas, and visited the Bills facility on Tuesday.

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The Kerrigans are having a baby and, WOW, this is all so very exciting

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@kerrigan91

The Kerrigans are having a baby and, WOW, this is all so very exciting

The Kerrigan family is about to make a big-time addition to its roster.

Ryan and his wife, Jessica, already have two very, VERY, very, very cute bulldogs in their household. 

But on Tuesday, the two announced in separate Instagram posts that Jessica is 18 weeks pregnant and that a third human Kerrigan will arrive in 2019.

"Can I eat dis sign aftur da picturr iz over?" George the bulldog said when reached for comment on the news.

"How did dey gett such a smawl jerzey for da baby alreddy?" Franklin the other bulldog added.

This is all very wonderful.

Come next March, the world is about to get a little precious-er.

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The Caps are a bad faceoff team, here’s what they’re doing about it

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USA Today Sports

The Caps are a bad faceoff team, here’s what they’re doing about it

Tuesday’s practice was a lot like every other for the Caps until the end. After working on the power play, the team gathered at one end of the ice and began working on faceoffs. It was not just the centers, but wingers and defensemen alike got into the action with every win celebrated by loud cheers from teammates.

It should could as no surprise to see faceoffs as a point of emphasis for Washington considering just how much the team has struggled with them in the early season. The Caps rank 30th in the league in faceoff win percentage at only 43.8-percent.

“Yeah, there's little details that can help our game,” Lars Eller told reporters after practice. “The more you have the puck, easier the game is gonna be for you. We have a little more time in between games than usual during the season here, so we have the time to work on something like that, which can be little things that makes the difference.”

The team as a whole watched video on faceoffs prior to practice and then worked as a five-man unit during the drill. The main point of emphasis head coach Todd Reirden wanted to drill into his players was that faceoffs are not simply the responsibility of the centers alone.

“The days of it just being center vs. center and a clean draw being won back are a rarity now so it's important to have all five guys helping, something we watched video on earlier today,” Reirden said.

“You ask any centerman if they have a good group of wingers that can help them out on draws, that makes a huge difference,” Nic Dowd said. “I've been lucky, I have [Devante Smith-Pelly] on my right and I'm a righty so I win all my draws my backhand side so a lot of pucks go his way and he wins a lot of draws for me. That's huge. You have a guy that's sitting over there that's sleeping, you could go easily from five wins to five losses and then that's your night. It makes a big difference.”

Faceoffs were always going to be more of a struggle for the Caps this season with the departure of Jay Beagle who was, by far, the team’s best faceoff man for several years. Whenever the team needed a big draw, Beagle was the player relied upon to win it. With him gone, it is no surprise to see the team struggle.

But the Caps don’t like the idea of keeping possession off a draw just 43.8-percent of the time.

“It's essentially like the ref is creating a 50-50 puck and you snap it back, you get possession, now you're forechecking and it makes a huge difference,” Dowd said. “You play against those top lines, they want to be in the O-zone. Well, if you lose the draw, now you're playing D-zone, you win the draw now you're playing O-zone. So effectively, you've shut down their shift.”

There is a school of thought suggesting that perhaps the importance of winning faceoffs is overrated and a team’s faceoff win percentage is not overly important. Eller himself admitted as much to reporters.

What no one can argue, however, is that while some faceoffs may not matter all that much, there are some that are hugely important in a game. The Caps recognize that. For them, being a strong faceoff team is not necessarily about improving the team’s win percentage, but more about being able to win those critical draws.

“It's something that for the most part the players understand and a neutral zone faceoff with 14 minutes to go in the first period is not nearly as important as one that's 5-on-6 at the end of the game,” Reirden said. “We all know that. It's important to put the right people on those situations and give them the best chance to have success.”

“A center ice draw, I could see where guys could make the argument, well you lose it you still will play hockey and stuff could still happen,” Dowd said. “But I think the game is such a possession game now that any opportunity you can win a 50-50 puck whether that's a faceoff or a board battle, it makes a huge difference.”

 

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