Wizards

Brady throws 4 TDs, Patriots top Texans 42-14

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Brady throws 4 TDs, Patriots top Texans 42-14

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Just another game for the New England Patriots. Just a wire-to-wire domination of the team with the NFL's best record.

So when their 42-14 Monday night rout of the Houston Texans was complete, there were few big smiles and no loud music in the Patriots locker room.

They've been here before - many times.

``We've played in a countless number of big games,'' said guard Logan Mankins, a veteran of two of the Patriots five Super Bowls in the past 11 seasons. ``We know what it takes to prepare for one and not over-hype the game.''

Not exactly the way some Texans viewed it coming in - ``the biggest game in the history of this franchise,'' wide receiver Andre Johnson had said.

Houston certainly didn't play like it, falling behind 21-0 early in the second quarter on three touchdown passes by Tom Brady. It was 28-0 on his fourth scoring toss just over five minutes into the third quarter and, with a strong showing by an improving Patriots defense, the Texans had little hope of coming back.

``If we do what we want,'' safety Devin McCourty said, ``we can't predict the score but we know we can dominate games.''

Starting with Brady.

He threw four touchdown passes for the 18th time, passing Johnny Unitas and moving into fourth place all time. In the Patriots seven-game winning streak - four by a margin of at least 28 points - he's thrown for 19 touchdowns and just one interception.

But Monday night's performance was his first as a father of three, capping off a stretch in which his wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, gave birth to Vivian Lake on Wednesday.

``She is doing very well,'' Brady said. ``It's been a great week, a great way to end it.''

The Patriots (10-3) tied the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos for the second best record in the conference and already have clinched the AFC East title. The Texans (11-2) still hold the top spot in the conference, and have locked up at least a wild-card berth, but two of their remaining three games are against Indianapolis, which trails them by two games in the AFC South.

``We know how important this game was to us,'' Johnson said after the Texans six-game winning streak ended. ``We have to respond next week'' against the Colts.

Wes Welker had only three catches and remains five short of becoming the first player with five 100-reception seasons. But his 31-yard punt return and 25-yard catch - the 107th straight game he's had at least one - led to the first of Aaron Hernandez's two touchdowns, a 7-yard score that gave Brady 45 consecutive games with a scoring pass, the third longest streak in NFL history.

Houston came right back, marching to the Patriots 21-yard line. But Matt Schaub forced the ball into double coverage on the next play and McCourty intercepted in the end zone.

It was the farthest the Texans would get until their second series of the third quarter that ended with Arian Foster's 1-yard scoring run that did little to shift the momentum.

``We just got outplayed in all aspects of the game,'' Foster said. ``It's hard to come back from a deficit when you are playing a team of that caliber.''

By the time he had scored, the Patriots had built a 28-0 lead on the 7-yard pass to Hernandez, a 37-yarder to Brandon Lloyd, a 4-yarder to Hernandez and a 63-yarder to Donte' Stallworth, who had been cut in training camp but re-signed last week after wide receiver Julian Edelman was injured.

``That particular play is something we had worked on, even in the spring,'' Stallworth said.

That helped New England to its 20th successive home win in December dating to a loss in 2002 to the New York Jets.

``It is always good to play in Foxborough in December,'' linebacker Jerod Mayo said. ``When you go out and perform the way you do, I think Foxborough is going to be a tough place for anyone to come and play.''

It certainly was for Houston, no longer the only team to be unbeaten on the road, falling to 6-1.

Brady nearly had a fifth touchdown pass when Danny Woodhead broke free on a screen pass early in the fourth quarter. Defensive end J.J. Watt, who was pretty much invisible otherwise, forced a fumble, but the ball soared 11 yards into the end zone, where Lloyd fell on it for a 35-7 lead.

Stevan Ridley made it 42-7 with a 14-yard run. Texans backup quarterback T.J. Yates scored on a 1-yard run with 2:00 remaining to close the scoring.

``We got our tails kicked,'' Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. ``I've got to get their chins up and get ready to go play again.''

Notes: Watt, who leads the AFC with 16 1/2 sacks, had none against the Patriots. ... New England CB Aqib Talib hurt his hip in the second quarter. CB Alfonzo Dennard injured his hamstring. ... Brady completed 21 of 35 passes for 296 yards. Schaub went 19 for 32 for 232 yards. ... New England has won 10 games in each of the last 10 seasons. The record is 16 by San Francisco (1983-98).

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John Wall and Bradley Beal trade rumors show Wizards are exploring all options

John Wall and Bradley Beal trade rumors show Wizards are exploring all options

The mounting losses and the hapless nature of those defeats has the 5-11 Washington Wizards entering new territory, a place the franchise has not been in years. The team's steadfast plan of building around John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. may be nearing its end. 

The time has come to at least consider something drastic.

That means, at least according to ESPN, essentially everyone on the Wizards’ roster is available in trades. That includes both Wall and Beal, two All-Stars who are just 28 and 25, respectively.

This would be a departure from their recent stance of withholding Beal, in particular, in talks for available stars like Jimmy Butler. But sensing the current roster may have run its course, the Wizards are exploring their options.

There is added urgency in the money they have committed. The Wizards have the sixth-highest payroll in the NBA and are due to pay about $12.4 million in luxury tax, according to Spotrac.com.

The Wizards’ thoughts of trading either Wall or Beal are very preliminary, according to a person familiar with the situation. This being out there simply lets other teams know they will listen.

Despite the whirlwind of reports, any major deal would likely take a long time to orchestrate. The Wizards would likely take months to lay the groundwork, even if matters get worse on the court. 

When you have two players as good as Wall or Beal, a good return needs to be guaranteed in a trade. Plus, both players have demonstrated over the years they can put on a good face through times of turmoil.

It’s also worth pointing out that this does not mean a rebuild is imminent. They aren’t close to being there yet. 

With two All-Stars in their 20s, the Wizards would first try to retool around them. And if they do trade one, that doesn’t mean they are also trading the other. Reactionary moves are not in the Wizards' nature.

As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski notes, the Wizards would prefer to first trade others on the roster, but so far have not received enticing offers for Porter, Kelly Oubre Jr., Markieff Morris and the like. The ideal option would be to trade one of them and give the new-look roster time to adjust before next steps are taken. They have forward depth and could replace any of those three in the short-term.

Porter, though, has a sizable contract. He’s owed about $81 million over the next three seasons. Though he’s only 25 and one of the game’s best three-point shooters, that is a lot of money to take on for a player who has yet to make an All-Star team.

Morris, meanwhile, is struggling this season. Oubre is having a solid year, but is due to hit free agency after this season and won’t be cheap to re-sign.

Beal is by far the Wizards’ most attractive trade asset, given he’s a young All-Star and due $81 million the next three seasons, a relatively modest price given his ability and today’s market.

Wall, on the other hand, has a supermax extension worth $169 million that doesn’t kick in until next year. He is set to become one of the highest-paid players in the NBA and will be owed $40 million-plus per season into his 30s.

That doesn’t mean Wall couldn’t be traded, if the Wizards choose that route. Several teams in particular stand out as logical fits. There are the Lakers, who will need to give LeBron James some better teammates at some point to compete for his fourth championship ring.

Wall has the same agent as James and would add a second All-Star to the Lakers’ rebuild. If they pulled in a third star, like Kawhi Leonard or Anthony Davis, they would be in business.

Two other teams that make sense, if the Wizards decide to trade Wall, would be the Phoenix Suns and the Orlando Magic. Both have stacked top draft picks in recent years, but are in desperate need of a point guard.

Beal could conceivably field offers from half the league. An All-Star at his age and at his price is something most teams could use. He has zero character concerns and his game is compatible with anyone. He hits threes, is effective off-the-ball and plays defense.

The biggest question through all of this is how the Wizards’ front office would factor in. If they want to make wholesale changes, owner Ted Leonsis has to first determine who will be making those decisions. If shuffling the front office is at all an option he’s considering, that has to be weighed in the timing of any major moves.

The Wizards are a ways away from pulling the trigger on a major trade, but the seeds are being planted in case their situation gets even worse.

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Bradley Beal tired of the off-court drama: 'All I do is come in here and work'

Bradley Beal tired of the off-court drama: 'All I do is come in here and work'

WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal held court with reporters following Monday’s practice and hours after a report emerged on ESPN about the sliding Wizards are perhaps open for trade discussions involving all their players. Washington fell to 5-11 Sunday after an “embarrassing” loss. The team hoped by now the skid would stop. It hasn’t.
Neither would the use of a power tool near the Wizards practice court where Beal tried answering questions about the report and offering explanations for this shocking season. With rumors swirling – including one about a highly emotional practice - and highly caffeinated opinions everywhere, a significant question is how the Wizards handle such buzz.

“I’m not going to sit here and say I’m mad or frustrated or angry by it,” Beal said of the report. “All I can do is control what I can control, and that’s totally out of my control. I’ll allow [Wizards team president] Ernie [Grunfeld] and my agent [Mark Bartelstein] to deal with that. All I do is come in here and work, work my tail off every day and make sure we’re better and try to win ball games.”

Beal continued, as did the maintenance work.

“I mean, I’m not going to be naïve to it, you know,” Beal said of the report. “I have a phone just like everybody else does. There were rumors weeks ago. Then, I didn’t buy into them. Now, I’m still not going to buy into them because if that’s my main priority and focus then I’m going to be messed up on the floor.”

On cue, the power tool erupted. Beal, nodding in the direction of the worker joked, “I can’t control him.”

Opponents have largely controlled Washington, which ranks 29th in scoring defense. The Wizards entered this season something of an all-or-nothing team. There were reasons for optimism, namely Beal and fellow All-Star guard John Wall along with improved depth. This bunch also drew numerous skeptics following a frustrating 2017-18 campaign where team chemistry concerns mushroomed.

Experience from other slow starts since he joined Washington in 2012 helps Beal navigate such rough waters. There was a difference this time, an evident change in outlook provided by his son. “A different type of dribbling,” Beal told NBC Sports Washington in Orlando earlier this month.

“[He] makes me realize basketball isn’t my life. I’ll drop basketball right now to take care of my son. That’s a no-brainer. It’s definitely put a lot of things into perspective for me.”

Beal, 25, led Washington in scoring last season while playing all 82 regular season games for the first time in his career. His work led to more national recognition, eyes opening around the league. New reality kicked in from all angles with the family’s new arrival.

“I think the biggest thing for me is embracing. Embracing who I am as a player. The position I’m in. The years I’ve put in. Being an All-Star. Being one of the best [players] and being a father now. Just embracing what all of that entails, good and bad,” Beal said.

The bad is now a daily headline. Monday it was the possibility of a team teardown. Most often, what’s wrong with the Wizards. Beal is here for now and perhaps the entire length of his career, though he grasps professional basketball is a business. Worlds may change overnight. Beal is trying to figure out how to fix things immediately.

Monday Beal cited past Wizards teams that stopped responding during slides. “You know what that feels like when you just show up every day and go through the motions. We don’t have that [now],” he said. What they have isn’t attitudinally enough even compared to last season’s frustrations.

“Last year we kind of had a little more sense of urgency,” Beal told NBC Sports Washington in Orlando. “This year we’re a little too lax. We need to be more pissed off.”

Beal’s annoyance popped publically following a 116-112 loss at Sacramento on Oct. 26 by saying players on the court were letting personal “agendas” take over. The take wasn’t surprising, but Beal told NBC Sports Washington he wishes he could have skipped airing grievances through the media. 

The real takeaway from that moment was the recognition of a problem just five games into the season. The fix remains elusive. Beal leads Washington in scoring (21.5) and handles his business often, but like others at times can get caught up with watching on defense and making bad choices when the offense stagnates.

Finding solutions isn’t up to Beal alone yet he’s one of the clear team leaders. Part of Beal’s dilemma: How to lead when you’re not the only influential voice in the locker room.

“I’ve been struggling with that,” Beal told NBC Sports Washington in Orlando. “It’s not about scoring points. … It’s like, OK, what more can I do to help us win? What am I not doing enough of? I don’t even point at my teammates necessarily first even if I’ve had a great game. It’s like what could I have done more? If that’s what I need to do than I have to do it.

“It is a little confusing. I’m still trying to figure it out, honestly. … It’s not just one thing. The biggest problem if you want to call it a problem is how do you turn around? Win. How do you win? You defend, you rebound, you play your style of basketball. I put a lot of that on my shoulders. If there’s more I can do I’m going to go do it.
It’s definitely something I’m in the process of figuring it out.”

That process is ongoing. The Wizards enter Thanksgiving week in unwanted territory. The new report of potential trades adds another element to the potentially combustible scene.

Beal understands the core group that reached the playoffs in four of the past five seasons might be broken up. He knows there’s little he can do other than play his game, practice with passion and, when home, raise his son with joy. The drama and the outside noise isn’t for him.

“All the behind the scenes stuff, I don’t like worrying about it,” Beal said Monday. “I don’t like consuming my energy with it because basketball is my muse. This is my place of peace, my happy place. If that’s going to be taken away from me, then I’ll be totally messed up. I can’t allow rumors and the possibility of [changes] affect what I do on the floor. At the end of the day, it is a business. [Ernie] has a job. He’s protecting himself. He’s protecting the organization. Nobody can be mad at that.”

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