Nationals

Capital gain: Redskins win NFC East

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Capital gain: Redskins win NFC East

Here's something new: The Washington Redskins are champions of the NFC East.

And something old: The Dallas Cowboys couldn't grab the title in a season finale for the third time in five years.

Led by rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and rookie halfback Alfred Morris, the Redskins won their first division crown since 1999, beating the archrival Cowboys 28-18 Sunday night.

First-round pick Griffin ran for 63 yards and a touchdown, and Morris, a sixth-rounder from Florida Atlantic, ran for 200 and three scores. He set the franchise single-season rushing record for the Redskins (10-6), who won seven straight after their bye week. They are the first NFL team to rally from 3-6 to make the playoffs since the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1996.

``It's just a mindset change,'' Griffin said. ``When you have all these guys coming to work every day, putting it on the line, we knew we couldn't afford to lose one game, we made sure we didn't.''

So the wild-card round will begin Saturday afternoon with Cincinnati (10-6) at Houston (12-4), which fell from No. 1 to third in the AFC seedings when it lost to Indianapolis 28-16.

Saturday night will be a rematch of the finale between Minnesota and Green Bay, won 37-34 by the Vikings. This time, they will meet at Lambeau Field.

On Sunday, Indianapolis is at Houston, followed by Seattle at Washington.

Atlanta and San Francisco have byes in the NFC, Denver and New England in the AFC.

Also Sunday, it was Denver 38, Kansas City 3; New England 28, Miami 0; San Francisco 27, Arizona 13; Seattle 20, St. Louis 13; Cincinnati 23, Baltimore 17; Chicago 26, Detroit 24; the New York Giants 42, Philadelphia 7; Tampa Bay 22, Atlanta 17; Carolina 44, New Orleans 38; Pittsburgh 24, Cleveland 10; Tennessee 38, Jacksonville 20; Buffalo 28, the New York Jets 9; and San Diego 24, Oakland 21.

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COLTS 28, TEXANS 16

At Indianapolis, the Colts (11-5) made Chuck Pagano a winner in his return to the sideline.

Andrew Luck threw for two touchdowns and Deji Karim swung the game with a 101-yard kickoff return in the third quarter. It was Pagano's first game back as coach since starting treatment for leukemia Sept. 26.

``Guys really did not want to lose in his first game back and heading into the playoffs,'' the rookie Luck said. ``To get a win, I think means the world to him.''

Slumping Houston (12-4) lost three of the last four games, and J.J. Watt failed to break Michael Strahan's single-season sacks record.

The game turned on two big plays: Karim's kickoff return, which wiped out a 16-14 Houston lead, and Luck's 70-yard TD pass to T.Y. Hilton.

VIKINGS 37, PACKERS 34

At Minneapolis, Adrian Peterson came within 9 yards of breaking Eric Dickerson's rushing record, finishing with 199 yards and powering Minnesota into the playoffs.

``It wasn't meant to happen, or it would've happened. Not to say it doesn't hurt, because it does,'' Peterson said of Dickerson's 28-year-old record. ``But we came in here tonight and accomplished the ultimate goal, and that was getting a win and punching our ticket to the playoffs.''

Peterson rushed for 36 yards on the last drive, plenty for rookie Blair Walsh's 29-yard field goal as time expired to put the Vikings (10-6) in the postseason. The Packers (11-5) fell to the NFC's No. 3 seed.

Aaron Rodgers completed 28 of 40 passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns and no turnovers, connecting with Jordy Nelson from 2 yards to tie the game with 2:54 remaining. But Christian Ponder threw for three scores, including one to Peterson.

BRONCOS 38, CHIEFS 3

At Denver, Peyton Manning threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns to lift Denver into the No. 1 seed.

Manning finished the season with 4,659 yards, 41 short of his career high. He had 37 touchdown passes.

``It's been a gratifying regular season,'' Manning said. ``I will admit that. It is certainly more than I expected. I'm grateful and humble for it.''

Denver (13-3) won its 11th straight.

The Chiefs gained only 119 yards all day and finished their season 2-14. They will get the top pick in April's draft.

PATRIOTS 28, DOLPHINS 0

At Foxborough, Mass., Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes, Stevan Ridley ran for two scores as the Patriots (12-4) used a ball-control offense and a defense that racked up a season-high seven sacks.

Now, seeded second in the AFC, they have an extra week to savor the win and prepare for their postseason opener.

The Dolphins (7-9) finished with a losing record for the fourth straight season.

49ERS 27, CARDINALS 13

At San Francisco, Michael Crabtree caught touchdown passes of 49 and 7 yards as the 49ers won a second straight NFC West title.

Colin Kaepernick threw for a career-best 276 yards and two TDs for the Niners (11-4-1). Frank Gore ran for a 2-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter for his franchise-best 51st touchdown rushing.

Brian Hoyer went 19 of 34 for 225 yards and a late TD toss in his first career NFL start as the Cardinals (5-11) lost for the 11th time in their last 12 games in what might have been Ken Whisenhunt's final game as coach.

SEAHAWKS 20, RAMS 13

At Seattle, Russell Wilson tied Peyton Manning's record for most touchdown passes by a rookie with 26, and his 1-yard TD run with 1:39 left allowed Seattle to finish as the only unbeaten team at home.

``It definitely gave us an example of what to expect in the playoffs,'' Seattle defensive end Red Bryant said of the tight game. ``I would have rather had a game like this in the regular season than to get in the playoffs and not be able to respond like we were able to respond today.''

The Rams (7-8-1) sacked Wilson six times, but couldn't come up with their first winning record since 2003.

BENGALS 23, RAVENS 17

At Cincinnati, Carlos Dunlap returned an interception 14 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

The Ravens (10-6) had already clinched their second straight AFC North title, and they will open the playoffs at home against Indianapolis. Cincinnati (10-6) will be at Houston.

``I think it will be good,'' said Bengals QB Andy Dalton, who grew up in suburban Houston. ``We played there last year (in a playoff loss) and know the atmosphere and what it's going to be like. The experience last year will definitely help us.''

BEARS 26, LIONS 24

At Detroit, Jay Cutler threw for 257 yards and a touchdown, but Chicago (10-6) needed a Minnesota loss to reach the postseason after starting 7-1.

The Lions (4-12) lost their last eight games and turned over the ball four times in the finale. Calvin Johnson fell short in his attempt to become the first player with 2,000 yards receiving in a season.

GIANTS 42, EAGLES 7

At East Rutherford, N.J., Eli Manning's career-high five touchdown passes weren't enough to keep the Giants (9-7) in the playoff hunt. The defending Super Bowl champions were eliminated by Chicago's win.

Eagles coach Andy Reid is out after 14 years at Philadelphia, three people familiar with the decision told The Associated Press. The official announcement could come Monday.

Philadelphia closed the season 4-12.

BUCCANEERS 22, FALCONS 17

At Atlanta, Josh Freeman threw a touchdown pass to Mike Williams and Doug Martin ran for 141 yards.

The Falcons (13-3) had little to play for as they already have home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs. The danger of coach Mike Smith's strategy to play hard was losing a top starter to an injury against Tampa Bay (6-10). Defensive end John Abraham, Atlanta's best pass rusher, left with an apparent left ankle injury in the fourth quarter. Cornerback Dunta Robinson suffered a head injury in the first quarter and did not return.

PANTHERS 44, SAINTS 38

At New Orleans, DeAngelo Williams rushed for 210 yards, including touchdown runs of 54 and 12 yards, for Carolina (7-9), which closed the season with four straight wins. His 65-yard gain set up the first of three 1-yard scoring runs by Mike Tolbert.

Drew Brees passed for 396 yards, giving him 5,177 this season, the first player to eclipse 5,000 yards three times. His four TD passes gave him 43 in 2012, and he's the first player with 40 TD passes in consecutive seasons.

The Saints (7-9) also gave up 530 yards, raising their season total to 7,042 to break the record of 6,793 allowed by the 1981 Baltimore Colts.

STEELERS 24, BROWNS 10

At Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger threw three short touchdown passes, and Pittsburgh avoided its first losing season in nearly a decade.

Antonio Brown, Leonard Pope and Plaxico Burress scored for the Steelers (8-8). Pittsburgh's top-ranked defense forced four turnovers.

The Browns (5-11) dropped their third straight in what was likely coach Pat Shurmur's final game.

TITANS 38, JAGUARS 20

At Nashville, Tennessee became the first NFL team with two players scoring twice on returns. Darius Reynaud scored on two punt returns and rookie linebacker Zach Brown returned two interceptions for touchdowns.

The Titans finished 6-10 and await owner Bud Adams' decision on whether to keep coach Mike Munchak, who has two years left on his contract.

The Jaguars (2-14) wrapped up their worst season with their 12th loss in 13 games, and now owner Shad Khan has to decide on the futures of general manager Gene Smith and first-year coach Mike Mularkey.

BILLS 28, JETS 9

At Orchard Park, N.Y., C.J. Spiller scored on a 66-yard catch and run in helping underachieving Buffalo, while Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez had two more turnovers.

Safety Bryan Scott also returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown for the Bills (6-10), who had not made the playoffs for 13 seasons.

Sanchez may have started his final game for the Jets (6-10), who closed the season with three consecutive losses amid all sorts of turmoil.

CHARGERS 24, RAIDERS 21

At San Diego, Micheal Spurlock returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown in what's expected to be Norv Turner's final game as Chargers coach.

Turner and general manager A.J. Smith are expected to be fired because the Chargers (7-9) missed the playoffs for the third straight season. The Raiders finished 4-12.

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Sean Doolittle on recent pitching woes: 'It was kind of of a helpless feeling'

Sean Doolittle on recent pitching woes: 'It was kind of of a helpless feeling'

When Sean Doolittle pitched Friday evening against the Milwaukee Brewers, he thought he'd made huge progress on his mechanics and felt good heading into Saturday's game.

But when things fell apart after Christian Yelich helped the Brewers rally to a 15-14 win in extra innings, Doolittle knew something was wrong.

"I thought I was every bit good enough to grind this out," Doolittle explained on Grant & Danny on 106.7 The Fan Tuesday morning.  "It was kind of a helpless feeling coming off the mound."

That helplessness led to him being placed on the injured list with a knee injury.

"I kinda battle a little bit of knee tendonitis regularly. It's something I've managed throughout my career," Doolittle said.

He thinks he tweaked it playing in San Diego early June. Since then, he believes his mechanics have suffered trying to alleviate the pain.

"Trying to compensate for it maybe favoring it a little bit subconsciously, my mechanics eroded," Doolittle noted. "It's just this beautiful chaotic circle we have to just pause, get the knee right."

Doolittle says he's going to take the time off to re-work his mechanics. Specifically, he wants to work on a toe-tap and slight hitch he has in his throwing motion, which he described as a subtler version of Clayton Kershaw's famous leg kick.

"I think there's some things I can do mechanically to get my body in a better position," Doolittle said. "This is an opportunity to get it right."

His big goal is to get his body in "better position over the rubber before the kick."

That way, he can have more momentum over the baseball, especially with a powerful four-seam fastball. "You're basically falling down the mound rather than driving and getting behind the ball." 

Throughout the season, he noted he's had good communication with manager Davey Martinez, and that blaming anybody would be a waste of time.

Since being placed on the IL, he's had a few days to rest before he started some light pitching activities Tuesday.

"It'll be a good break to get my body ready for September and October," he noted. "I'm throwing myself into this process and I'm not hanging my head."

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Former Penn State stars Trace McSorley and Miles Sanders catch up after joint practice

Former Penn State stars Trace McSorley and Miles Sanders catch up after joint practice

Things this time last year were a lot different for Ravens quarterback Trace McSorley and Eagles running back Miles Sanders.

McSorley was entering his final year at Penn State, and not highly sought after as an NFL QB prospect. Many draft 'experts' predicted McSorley would have to change positions in order to play at the highest level of the game.

But McSorley, was profiled in NBC Sports Washingtons' I Am The Prospect' series, stuck with quarterback, and early on, it's paid off. The Ravens selected Penn State's all-time passing yards and touchdown passes leader in the sixth-round, and thus far, McSorley has shown promise. 

Sanders, a rising junior at the time, had just 56 career carries and less than 400 rushing yards in his first two seasons with Penn State. While that was not a reflection on Sanders (after all, he was the backup to some guy named Saquon Barkley), the junior had little film to indicate to pro scouts that he would be ready for the jump just a year later.

But after being the Nittany Lions workhorse in 2018, where he rushed for just under 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns, Sanders immediately became on the league's radar. The 22-year-old earned his way to All-Big 10 second-team honors and showed enough at the combine for the Eagles to invest their second-round pick in him.

The Ravens are set to face the Eagles in their third preseason game on Thursday, but Baltimore has been in the City of Brotherly Love for the past two days, competing in joint practices with the Eagles. These practices have given the former Penn State teammates time to catch up before they play each other in a couple of days.

"I think it's cool, just thinking that we were at Penn State a year ago," Sanders said. "Now we're all living our dream, just on different teams. When we get together for times like this, it's pretty cool."

"It's really cool. Spending years together in college, now we're all on separate teams now, but it's cool," McSorley said, echoing his former running back. "We're rooting for these guys. Turning on one of [Miles] games and watch him run, rooting him on. it's cool to come out and be on the practice field with him again. Haven't seen him in a while, being able to say 'what's up,' it's pretty cool."

Very few people know each other's skillsets the way McSorley and Sanders do of one another. So who better to ask than each of them as to what their respective team can expect out of each?

"They're getting a dawg, man, " McSorley said on his former teammate. "They're starting to figure that out now. He's a special player and Philly is going to love him."

"Same with Baltimore. They got a dawg," Sanders said on McSorley. "He's been showing it in the preseason games. They said he's not a quarterback, but he's proving everybody wrong. That's just how Trace is."

Besides checking in regularly to see how Sanders is doing, McSorley has found another way to follow his former running back's rookie season.

"[I'm going to] try and get him on my fantasy team," McSorley said, getting quite the chuckle out of Sanders.

Besides the loyalty aspect, McSorley could end up getting significant production from Sanders on his fantasy squad. After an impressive performance in the Eagles second preseason game, NJ.com reported that "it is increasingly hard to project him as anything less than this team’s No. 1 running back." 

Sanders may be a more than viable fantasy option as a rookie, but he doesn't play the popular game himself. But if he did, he knows one player he would snag.

"I don't do the fantasy stuff, but if I did, I would definitely put my boy on there," Sanders said on McSorley. "Watching everyone I played with in college, looking at their stats each week and seeing them. Just grow and be better players each week. The way we do it here, it's the same mentality because we all went to the same school."

The two will get to see each other in person for the first time at the NFL level on Thursday. 

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