Nationals

Bucs beat Chargers 34-24 for 3rd win in a row

201211111224446607636-p2.jpeg

Bucs beat Chargers 34-24 for 3rd win in a row

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Leonard Johnson was as surprised as anyone when Philip Rivers' ill-advised pass wound up in his hands.

``The ball came right to me,'' Tampa Bay's rookie cornerback said Sunday. ``I was just so excited. I grabbed it and just went to running.''

Up the sideline, breaking through the grasp of a would-be tackler near midfield and outrunning the remainder of the pursuit for an 83-yard interception return for a touchdown that helped the surging Buccaneers beat the Chargers 34-24.

``I was shocked that I caught the ball first of all, with my hands instead of my body,'' said Johnson, who redeemed himself for missing a tackle on a short reception that San Diego's Danario Alexander turned into an 80-yard TD on the Chargers' third offensive play of the game.

By the time Johnson's first touchdown since high school extended Tampa Bay's lead to 31-21 early in the fourth quarter, the undrafted rookie from Iowa State said he had forgotten about the mistake that put the Bucs in an early hole.

``When you've got guys around you that consistently tell you `next play, next play,' it's kind of easy, you know, to just put the play behind you, knowing that it's a long game to play,'' Johnson said. ``All the guys in the secondary came back to me, kept me uplifted. I moved on and continued to play the game.''

Josh Freeman threw two touchdown passes and the Bucs also scored on a blocked punt en route to their third straight win.

Freeman has thrown 13 TDs passes with just one interception in his past five games, helping the Bucs (5-4) win four times to climb over .500 following a 1-3 start.

Known for playing stingy defense but sputtering offensively, Tampa Bay has scored 28 or more points in five consecutive games for the first time.

The Bucs also got help from linebacker Adam Heyward, who scooped up a punt blocked by Dekoda Watson and ran 29 yards for a second-quarter touchdown.

``Maybe we didn't have our fastball today in every area, but what we did is we played off each other in all three phases,'' Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. ``Guys made plays when they needed to make them.''

Rivers threw for 337 yards and three TDs for San Diego. However, he was intercepted twice in the fourth quarter to ruin any chance of the Chargers (4-5) rallying for the win.

San Diego outgained the Bucs 426 yards to 279, had 23 first downs to Tampa Bay's 12 and finished with more than a 13-minute advantage in time of possession yet lost for the fourth time in five games.

``It's not acceptable to play hard and not win, and that's what happened,'' Chargers coach Norv Turner said in response to a question about his team's effort.

``Is it acceptable? No, it's not acceptable. Is it acceptable having a blocked punt and an interception for a touchdown? No,'' Turner added. ``That's not what we're trying to accomplish out there. We're trying to go win games, and those things are keeping us from winning.''

Bucs linebacker Quincy Black was hospitalized because of a neck injury after tackling running back Ryan Mathews for a 1-yard loss late in the third quarter.

The Bucs did not release specific details about the injury, but Schiano said the sixth-year pro is expected to be OK.

Trainers worked over Black for several minutes before immobilizing his neck and back on a stretcher.

``He's at the hospital for observation. We think he's going to be OK, but he's got to work through some things,'' Schiano said after the game.

Schiano was the head coach at Rutgers when former Scarlet Knights player Eric LeGrand broke two vertebrae and suffered a serious spinal cord injury in October 2010 during a kickoff return against Army.

He said thoughts of the paralyzed defensive lineman went through his mind when Black remained on the ground.

``I thought about it immediately. When a guy goes down and he's still,'' Schiano said before stopping abruptly. ``The good thing was Quincy immediately moved his right arm, so that was a relief.''

Freeman threw scoring passes of 3 yards to Dallas Clark and 15 to Tiquan Underwood, the latter set up by the quarterback's 4-yard run on fourth-and-inches, and a 31-yard completion to Vincent Jackson. The former Chargers receiver had five receptions for 59 yards in his first game against his old team.

Connor Barth kicked two field goals for Tampa Bay, including a 45-yarder that clinched the game after Rivers threw his second interception with San Diego trailing 31-24.

In addition to Alexander's 80-yard TD, Rivers had scoring passes of 13 yards to Antonio Gates and 3 yards to Malcom Floyd.

But the quarterback made a big mistake on his first interception, releasing the pass that went straight to Johnson as he was scampering out of bounds to avoid a sack.

Rivers said he was hoping to get the ball over Johnson's head to intended receiver Eddie Royal.

``In hindsight, not only do I wish I was throwing it over his head, I probably shouldn't have thrown the ball, period,'' Rivers said.

``It's a humbling game because it shows how one play, essentially one play, can ruin a game,'' Rivers added. ``We killed ourselves on the interception for touchdown. We were rolling pretty good most of the game.''

Notes: Gates has 80 career TD receptions, one behind Hall of Famer Lance Alworth for San Diego's franchise record. ... The Bucs beat the Chargers for only the second time in 10 meetings all time.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

This time, closer Sean Doolittle costs the Nationals a game

scherzer-mets-5-22.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

This time, closer Sean Doolittle costs the Nationals a game

NEW YORK -- The Washington Nationals lost to the New York Mets, 6-1, Wednesday to drop their record to 19-30. Here are five observations from the game…

1.  What to say when the only person to trust can’t deliver?

That’s the status for these Washington Nationals, now 11 games under .500 after Sean Doolittle's worst outing since arriving in Washington, sliding further and further away, unable to stumble into wins and only capable of hunting down ways to lose.

A night after curious bullpen usage, manager Davey Martinez dispatched his knee-quaking posse of relievers in superior fashion.

Joe Ross opened the seventh with an out. Matt Grace followed with two. Six outs to go in a 1-0 game for the league’s worst bullpen.

Kyle Barraclough started the eighth. He struck out J.D. Davis. Adelny Hechavarria doubled, though the ball should have been caught by Juan Soto. Pete Alonso grounded out. Todd Frazier came to the plate and options arrived. A mound visit was followed by a four-pitch walk to Frazier. Doolittle entered the game to face light-hitting veteran Carlos Gomez. Stomach-churning chaos followed.

Doolittle hit him with his first pitch -- his first beaned batter of the year and first since May 29, 2018. Juan Lagares doubled two pitches later to clear the bases. Wilson Ramos was intentionally walked. Pinch-hitter Rajai Davis hit a three-run homer two pitches into his at-bat.

That was the end for Doolittle, who walked off the mound with a stunned look. The one reliable piece in the league’s worst bullpen had as disastrous a night as possible, flushing Max Scherzer’s start, throwing aside rare quality work from other relievers, sending the Nationals to their fourth consecutive loss in this can’t-get-right season.

2. Scherzer needed 109 pitches to make it through six innings. The most important of those was his final one. The 11-pitch sixth gave the Nationals three fewer outs to pawn off on the bullpen. Scherzer opened the inning at 98 pitches before briskly working through Todd Frazier, Carlos Gomez and Juan Lagares.

He allowed four hits, struck out nine and walked two. The night drove Scherzer’s ERA down to 3.41.

Why was Scherzer back to the mound after 98 pitches in five innings? Because of losses six weeks ago, three weeks ago, last week and this week. A team 10 games under .500 has to squeeze everything it can out of its ace on May 22. Time for a margin of error has eroded. What happened back then (losing series to Miami, for instance) piles up to have a grand influence on later.

3. Grace has been used as a matchup left-hander recently. He’s found that life more appealing.

Grace matched up with Cubs left-hander Anthony Rizzo and recorded an out Sunday. He faced Robinson Cano on Tuesday to pick up a ground out. Wednesday, Grace was brought in to face left-handed pinch-hitter Dominic Smith. Smith grounded out to first. Grace remained in to face Amed Rosario and recorded another ground ball out.

The Nationals are trying to put Grace in spots to get his feet back on the ground after a night as the punching bag at the end of a blowout loss against the Chicago Cubs last Friday (and a down season overall). So far, this role has been better.

4. Remember the extended minor-league assignments for after players were hurt? That’s gone. And the results are not great.

Matt Adams was activated Wednesday. Adrian Sanchez was sent to Double-A Harrisburg to make room on the 25-man roster.

Adams did all his rehabilitation work with the major-league team. He took batting practice on the field and in the batting cages before that. He also took ground balls and infield practice. What he didn’t do was go on a minor-league assignment despite not playing since May 3. The Nationals judged him ready to play because his swing looked in place against a pitching machine.

Wednesday, he made a crucial error in the first inning. Robinson Cano rolled a small ground ball to first, Adams fielded, pivoted and threw toward second base, where the runner on first was heading. The ball never came close to the bag. It went to the outfield instead, which presented the Mets with runners on second and third and one out instead of a runner on first and one out (or a chance at a longshot double play). It, most importantly, cost Scherzer more pitches.

Scherzer pitched his way out of it as he often has this season. He came into the game leading the league in FIP (fielding-independent pitching).

Trea Turner played just two games for Triple-A Potomac after missing seven weeks. Asked how many games he would have preferred to play there, Turner said one. He made two wayward throws his first game back with the Nationals.

So, instantly putting these guys back on the field -- which is every player’s preference and a spot the Nationals’ record has leveraged them into -- is not ideal.

5.  Kyle McGowin will start Friday. His visit to the rotation is expected to be temporary.

McGowin will pitch in Jeremy Hellickson’s spot. He was up to give length in the bullpen. Like Erick Fedde, he’ll be drawn away from the relievers to fill a rotation spot.

McGowin is a sinker-ball pitcher. He made one start at the end of last season. He also is currently suspended by the Pacific Coast League after a substance was found in his glove following an inspection by umpires during his last outing.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Redskins sign linebacker Jon Bostic to try and help make up for the loss of Reuben Foster

Redskins sign linebacker Jon Bostic to try and help make up for the loss of Reuben Foster

Two days after losing Reuben Foster for the year, the Redskins made a move to at least provide reinforcements to a weakened linebacker group.

On Wednesday, Washington announced that they have signed Jon Bostic, a six-year veteran. The 'Skins also officially placed Foster on injured reserve.

Bostic was a 2013 second-round pick of the Bears out of Florida. He's since bounced around to New England, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh, where he started 14 times for the Steelers in 2018 and posted 73 tackles. He's been traded twice in his career and missed all of 2016 with a foot injury. 

So, what does the move accomplish for the Redskins?

Well, Bostic — or any other free agent signing at this point — isn't going to have close to the level of talent and potential that Foster had. However, getting another option at linebacker was necessary for the Burgundy and Gold, and the 28-year-old has played in 30 contests over the past two years, so he's relatively established. 

Yes, he's far from a gamechanger, considering he has just one interception and 5.5 sacks as a pro. But he's regarded as a solid run defender and tackler and should at least push Mason Foster and Shaun Dion Hamilton. His presence also could alleviate some of the pressure that would've been on rookie Cole Holcomb. 

Signing a defender who's been with five franchises in six years isn't exactly inspiring, but Bostic has experience as a starter and could give the Redskins useful snaps on first and second down at a minimum. Now it's on him to take advantage of the opportunity he's been given.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS