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Browns' Richardson, Weeden questionable

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Browns' Richardson, Weeden questionable

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Though two of his star players got hurt, Browns coach Pat Shurmur defended playing his regulars late in a blowout loss in Denver.

Shurmur said he was just trying to win when prized rookies Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden were injured in the second half of the 34-12 loss.

``What do we do, just stop playing?'' Shurmur said Monday. ``So you just run the ball and get out of there, warm up the buses? Is that what? We're trying to do what we can to move the football. At that time it was a three-score game. Typically that means throw it.''

Facing a defense that knew he had to pass, backup Colt McCoy was sacked four times during his brief relief appearance for Weeden.

``I was just trying to not get knocked out,'' said McCoy, whose 2011 season ended when he sustained a concussion in Pittsburgh. He hadn't thrown a pass since then in a regular-season game until a wobbly Weeden went out Sunday.

``We were pretty far behind at that point when I got in, so I assumed we would start throwing,'' McCoy said. ``It took a couple series getting used to the pocket - hadn't had any reps, hadn't sat back there in a while - so getting a feel for how those guys were playing, I maybe missed a couple throws early.

``A couple times I just threw the ball in the dirt to let those guys (teammates) rest. We were throwing the ball down the field and those guys were tired.''

Shurmur said he was unaware of McCoy's comments. He did know about kick returner Josh Cribbs' profane postgame tweet to fans and did not approve.

``That's not acceptable,'' Shurmur said. ``I don't like that and he shouldn't do that. I think he's remorseful. But he shouldn't be reading tweets after a game. Emotions are raw when you don't win. It is important we use good judgment.''

Bitter fans have questioned Shurmur's decisions all year. Their latest outburst came after Weeden was hurt on a third-quarter sack and Richardson went down when McCoy rolled up on the back of his leg after being hit on Cleveland's second-to-last offensive play.

``We don't want to get anybody hurt,'' Shurmur. ``Anybody on the field is exposed to injury.''

Shurmur remains hopeful Weeden and Richardson can play in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

``I wouldn't rule them out yet,'' he said. ``We're still evaluating those injuries. In the case of Trent, it involved his ankle. The X-rays didn't show a break. He was actually feeling better today. Brandon, it was his right shoulder. At this point it's a sprain.

``I think it's important if guys are physically able to play, they play. That's the competitive nature of this game.''

Richardson has set Browns rookie rushing records of 950 yards and 11 touchdowns. Though Weeden has 17 interceptions to 14 touchdown passes, his 3,385 yards are 10th in team history.

The Browns (5-10) probably need a good game from both of their ailing first-round draft picks to beat the Steelers (7-8) and avoid going 5-11 for the third time in four years. A victory would put them two games ahead of Shurmur's first season in Cleveland a year ago - but might not be enough to guarantee him a third chance.

New owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner have said only that they are evaluating all aspects of the organization. Sweeping changes are expected after Cleveland's 12th losing season in 14 years.

Having so many injuries hasn't helped. Still, Shurmur expects his young replacements to battle.

``Those are excuses,'' Shurmur said of utilizing second- and third-stringers. ``The next guy up has to play well.''

Shurmur believes rookies getting thrown into the fray has helped the young Browns become more competitive. He termed the loss in Denver disappointing but not discouraging, and sees progress.

``I feel like we're much improved,'' Shurmur said. ``I believe we're a better football team, more ready to make the next jump than we were last year.''

NOTES: WR Mohamed Massaquoi, who missed Sunday's game with a knee injury, was placed on injured reserve. The Browns also promoted QB Thad Lewis from the practice squad. He could serve as McCoy's backup if Weeden sits against the Steelers. Massaquoi had 17 catches for 245 yards and made five starts. His contract expires in March and this may have been the former second-round pick's final season in Cleveland. ... DB Sheldon Brown sustained a concussion when hit by Broncos WR Brandon Stokley, who was penalized for an illegal hit. Shurmur didn't think Stokley was intentionally trying to hurt Brown, but that the penalty was warranted. ... Shurmur thinks OL John Greco (thumb), ``will be OK.'' ... Cribbs called out fans only a few days after thanking them for voting for him for the Pro Bowl.

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Wizards fall flat in battle with young Grizzlies

Wizards fall flat in battle with young Grizzlies

The Washington Wizards lost to the Memphis Grizzlies 128-111 on Saturday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. It was just over a week ago the Wizards had their best win of the season against the Sixers. Saturday night was one of their worst.

They went into Memphis to play an emerging, but struggling team and got their you-know-whats handed to them. The Wizards jumped out to a 13-6 lead in the first, then lost the momentum and never got it back.

By halftime the Wizards were down 15. That deficit grew to 24 in the second half.

The Wizards ended up losing by 17, but it wasn't as close as the score would suggest. It was Washington's seventh loss in eight games.

Maybe it was the three-day layoff. Perhaps they weren't sharp. Whatever the reason, that was a bad one.

2. As this game went on, it became very obvious that Memphis' gameplan was to make sure Davis Bertans didn't beat them. They swarmed the Latvian Laser on the perimeter and guarded him well beyond the three-point line.

Bertans was held to nine points on 2-for-9 shooting and 1-for-6 from three. His one three was a quick release shot from about 27 feet out. Soon after that, the defense was picking him up at halfcourt.

 

This type of treatment was inevitable for Bertans, who has been the biggest surprise of the Wizards' season so far. He has turned into one of the league's best three-point shooters and the second-best scorer on the team. Teams now know it.

3. Rui Hachimura's college teammate stole the show in this one. Brandon Clarke, who played last year with Hachimura at Gonzaga, put on an impressive scoring display highlighted by a series of vicious dunks. He measured a max vertical of 40 1/2 inches and used every inch of it to dunk all over the Wizards.

He had 19 points in the first half, including an alley-oop where his head was level with the rim and a poster dunk on the fastbreak that nearly ended Ian Mahinmi's career.

 

Clarke had 25 points on 11-for-14 shooting with four rebounds. Coming out of the draft, he was considered a good defensive player but too old (he's 23) and too raw offensively without a three-point shot.

So far, he's looking like a major steal at the 21st overall pick. 

4. The Grizzlies might not be good, but they are fun to watch and have a nice young core with Clarke alongside Jaren Jackson Jr. and Morant. Jackson is a unicorn at 6-foot-11 with the ability to drive coast-to-coast and hit threes. Morant is a force of nature, able to play well above the rim despite being 6-foot-3.

Morant nearly pulled off one of the most disrespectful plays in basketball on Bradley Beal. He tried to pull a "Michael Jordan on Ron Mercer" by snatching the ball off the glass with two hands. But he clipped the rim and was called for goaltending. Still, it was impressive because of how high he got in the air.

Memphis has an exciting young team. They might contend for a playoff spot next year with a good offseason. If they were in the East, they could really make some noise.

5. The Wizards were without several key regulars once again. Isaiah Thomas missed his fifth straight game with a left calf strain and Moe Wagner was out with his left ankle sprain after playing in the past four games.

They did get back Garrison Mathews, though. The two-way guard played in his first game since Oct. 25 after sitting out due to a stress reaction in his right leg. It was Mathews' third professional game, but he made his first shot - a corner three. It happened to come in his home state of Tennessee. 

Mathews might actually get some minutes in the next few weeks because he is the second-best shooting guard on the roster with Jordan McRae out due to a finger injury.

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Samsonov shines, the bottom-six was the difference and time to Panik?

Samsonov shines, the bottom-six was the difference and time to Panik?

Ilya Samsonov had his best NHL performance on Saturday in a big 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Capitals got contributions from players all over the lineup in a big win.

Check out a recap of the game here.

Observations from the win

Everyone is pitching in

Look at Saturday's game and Wednesday's game. Whatever the Caps needed, they were able to get. Against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, they needed a key coach's challenge and the video coaches delivered. They needed someone to take over the game and T.J. Oshie delivered. They needed a big night from the penalty kill and Carl Hagelin and Co. delivered. They needed a response to Boston's tying goal and John Carlson delivered.

Now look at Saturday's game. Ilya Samsonov got the start and he delivered when the Caps had a slow start to the game. The fourth line settled everything down and Alex Ovechkin forced a turnover behind the net to give Washington the lead. The bottom-six scored twice to give Washington control, Oshie scored a quick response goal when Tampa Bay tried to battle back and the penalty kill delivered again.

The Caps are not being carried by Ovechkin, it's not a hot goalie or a dominant blue line, it is a complete team effort and it is extremely impressive to watch.

Samsonov had his best NHL game

We knew Samsonov and Braden Holtby were going to split the weekend's games for the dad's trip. I expected Holtby would get the tougher game in Tampa Bay, but instead Todd Reirden went with Samsonov. The rookie had three brilliant saves in the first five minutes of the game. Tampa Bay was the better team for the first two periods and Samsonov only gave up one goal in those 40 minutes. This was a big boy offense and some big boy hockey. Samsonov was up to the task.

Good penalty kill, too many penalties

The Lightning entered this game with the second-best power play in the NHL. Limiting penalties was a big key to the game for Washington and...they did not do that. The Caps gave up five power play opportunities to Tampa Bay, just daring the Lighting offense to take fire. Tampa Bay was only able to cash in only once.

On the one hand, it's great that the penalty kill is playing so well. On the other hand, the Caps must stop taking so many penalties.

Time to Panik?

I have stressed the importance of patience for Richard Panik who is not only adjusting to a new team, but who had an injury and missed 10 games on LTIR. Now, however, it seems like patience is starting to run out.

Panik played a team-low 8:10 on Saturday. Players who get that little ice time are usually either fourth line players or players who do not contribute to special teams. Panik is supposed to be a penalty killer, but despite five penalty kill opportunities, he registered only 14 seconds of shorthanded ice time.

Panik's offensive struggles have been well documented (he had an assist on Saturday), but if he is not contributing on the penalty kill either...well, that's an issue.

Turning point

Tampa Bay looked like the better team for the first 40 minutes. Thanks to Samsonov, the game was tied at 1 at the start of the third. These two teams boast some of the top offensive stars in the NHL, but it was Washington's bottom-six that gave them the edge as Lars Eller scored early in the third and Garnet Hathaway added a second goal just 45 seconds later.

Suddenly the Lightning were on their heels after looking in control for the majority of the game.

Play of the game

Just when the Caps took the one-goal lead, Hathaway came swooping in to make it 3-1.

Stat of the game

The Caps' PK had a success rate of only 78.9-percent last season. This is a dramatic improvement.

Quote of the game

John Hathaway, father or Garnet, stole the show between the first and second period:

"I think as parents, we try to teach them like two lessons as kids growing up. It's like, if you can dream it, you can do it and never, never, never give up. The dads are here tonight and I think they're not only so proud of their sons, but they're happy for their sons because they know that they had big dreams, they dared to dream big and they never gave up."

Fan predictions

Hey, two for two.

No Ovechkin goal, but you got the score right.

Eller with a big goal tonight assisted by Panik.

Backstrom had only two, but just a few games removed from returning from injury, he looks like he hasn't missed any time at all out there.

This bit will never get old to me.

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