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Bucs' running game sputters during 2-game skid

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Bucs' running game sputters during 2-game skid

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Tampa Bay's running game has slowed down during a two-game losing streak, and the Buccaneers know they need to get rookie Doug Martin going again to remain in playoff contention.

Nevertheless, coach Greg Schiano said Monday he's not overly concerned that Atlanta and Denver were able to contain the budding young star, who's third in the NFL in rushing and second in total yards from scrimmage despite not finding much room to run lately.

Schiano said Martin appeared to be on his way to a nice day against the Broncos before Peyton Manning threw a couple of touchdown passes and Von Miller returned an interception for a touchdown in the third quarter to force Tampa Bay (6-6) to become one-dimensional on offense during a 31-23 loss on Sunday.

``He had 48 yards at the half. ... Usually if the game remains close, those runs only get more - they don't get less - as you wear people down,'' Schiano said. ``I thought he was right on stride to have a really good production day, but then we got behind by three scores. ... So you take away, really, the prime real estate for rushing the football, and that's the fourth quarter when people are worn out.''

Martin carried three times for 8 yards after halftime, finishing with 56 yards on 18 attempts. The Falcons limited him to 50 yards on 21 attempts - a season-low 2.4 yards per carry - in a 24-23 Atlanta victory two weeks ago.

``Overall, I thought Doug ran the ball well. And if we had been able to continue to do that ... I think we would have had a good day,'' Schiano said. ``So, I think we'll be fine there.''

With Martin bursting onto the scene with a 251-yard, four-touchdown rushing effort against Oakland on Nov. 4, the Bucs averaged 171 yards rushing per game during a four-week stretch in which they turned their season around following a 1-3 start.

Now, they've rushed for fewer than 100 yards in three of the past four games.

Tampa Bay led 10-7 at halftime Sunday. But after throwing a first-quarter TD pass to Dallas Clark, Josh Freeman couldn't get the Bucs into the end zone again until late in the fourth quarter.

``It's just when you are behind, your whole game plan turns one-dimensional,'' said receiver Mike Williams, who caught Freeman's second TD. ``We know we are a two-dimensional team. We know Doug is a valuable part of our offense. When we are behind like that and we turn ... one-dimensional, it's going to be hard.''

Only Adrian Peterson (1,446) and Marshawn Lynch (1,138) have rushed for more yards this season than Martin, who's closing in on Tampa Bay's rookie record with 1,106 yards. He's second behind Peterson (1,641) with 1,480 total yards from scrimmage.

Martin, who's also closing in on Warrick Dunn's Bucs rookie record for yards from scrimmage, is confident the team will be able to get the running game back on track.

The rookie attributed his 3.1 yards per carry average Sunday to the Denver defense playing up to its billing as one of the league's best.

He also felt the Bucs showed something by finding a way to get 13 fourth-quarter points and make the score respectable at the end.

``That's the thing about us, we got a lot of fighters on the team. We have a lot of competitors that want to win and will give it their all to win the game,'' Martin after the game. ``That's something that I personally appreciate about this team, that we have a lot of fighters and competitors.''

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Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

You know what’s fun? Winning Metropolitan Division titles. 

No, it’s not as good as the big prize. The Capitals will never top their 2018 Stanley Cup championship. But winning a competitive division against their biggest rivals five years in a row? Pretty, pretty good. 

Washington took its fifth in a row officially on Tuesday when the NHL announced that the regular season had concluded thanks to the ongoing coronavirus. The Capitals just outlasted the Philadelphia Flyers with 90 standings points to 89. The difference over 69 games? One extra Caps game going into overtime for a single point. 

Credit to the Flyers for making a late run. No one was playing better in the NHL than Philadelphia just before the season was halted. Whether that carries over into the Stanley Cup Playoffs remains to be seen. 

But the Capitals should take pride in that streak. It’s hard to do in an age of parity. They play in a division where the Pittsburgh Penguins won two Stanley Cups in the previous four seasons. The two teams slugged it out three times in the second round. That’s the luck of the draw, and so four straight division titles -- and two Presidents’ Trophies -- meant just one Cup for Washington. 

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It’s also rare to dominate a division the way the Capitals have for five years. The Anaheim Ducks won the Pacific Division title every year from 2013 to 2017. Prior to that, the Detroit Red Wings won the Central Division an astounding eight times from 2001 to 2009. It doesn’t get you a championship -- Washington won the expired Southeast Division from 2008 to 2011 -- but it does mean you played great hockey year after year.

And to do it in the reconstituted Patrick Division, where long-time rivals like the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers, Islanders and Devils joined with newer rivals Carolina and Columbus, makes it even sweeter. Add another banner to the rafters at Capital One Arena. The Caps are the class of the Metropolitan Division yet again. 

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Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

The Washington Nationals decided to use “partial furloughs” to keep their baseball and business employees at work through the end of their contracts or the calendar year.

The road map works like this:

All full-time business and baseball employees will receive a reduction in pay and hours ranging from 10 to 30 percent. If the employee’s contract runs to the end of baseball season -- typically Oct. 31 -- then these parameters apply from now until then. If the employee is not on contract, these reductions persist until Dec. 31.

No full-time employee is being laid off because of the economic impact from coronavirus.

An example: If a person works a 40-hour week, and has the 10 percent reduction in pay and hours, they are down to a 36-hour week at 10 percent pay cut.

The reduction scale slides. The highest-paid employees, like Mike Rizzo, are taking the largest reduction in pay. Then on down the line.

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The Nationals deciding to do this now allows their staff to know what the future holds as opposed to wondering month-to-month what decision the organization will make in regard to their job status.

Major League Baseball organizations remain uneasy about their financial future in 2020 since the season has stalled. The league and its team owners are in the midst of negotiations with the MLBPA while attempting to find a safe, revenue-satisfactory path back to the field.

Meanwhile, teams across the league are assessing their non-player finances, and the approach varies. For instance, the Anaheim Angels decided last week to furlough some non-playing employees.

In Washington, no full-time employee will be laid off because of this salary adjustment.

USA Today was first to report the Nationals’ overall decision.

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