Redskins

Cardinals beat Lions 38-10 to end 9-game skid

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Cardinals beat Lions 38-10 to end 9-game skid

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Not many NFL teams have accumulated fewer than 200 yards and still scored 38 points.

The embattled Arizona Cardinals managed just that on Sunday, turning three interceptions of Matthew Stafford's passes into touchdowns and converting another turnover into a TD in a 38-10 victory over the Detroit Lions.

Greg Toler brought one pick back a franchise-record 102 yards for a score after the Lions were threatening to cut the lead to a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Rashad Johnson returned another 53 yards for a score and Patrick Peterson's interception set up yet another TD.

Asked when the last time he'd run that far, Toler said, ``Oh man, probably in track in high school.''

The Cardinals (5-9) ended a nine-game losing streak.

``I'm just happy for everybody,'' he said. ``Everybody had everyone's back and we just played our scheme of defense.''

Arizona's first victory in 2 1/2 months came a week after a 58-0 loss in Seattle, the most one-sided defeat in the long history of the Cardinals franchise.

It was Arizona's first win since beating Miami on Sept. 30, and it sent the Lions (4-10) to their sixth straight loss.

``That's about as bad as I can play,'' Stafford said.

Detroit's Calvin Johnson became the first player in NFL history with consecutive 1,600-yard receiving seasons and tied an NFL record with his seventh straight 100-yard receiving game.

Johnson caught 10 passes for 121 yards. With two games to play, he needs 182 yards to break Jerry Rice's NFL single-season record of 1,848 set 17 years ago. Johnson's 3,348 yards receiving in the past two seasons are NFL record for consecutive years, one more than Rice's total in 1994-95.

But Johnson's big numbers were the only bright spots on an afternoon when the Lions' season turned from bad to worse.

Coach Jim Schwartz, whose team made the playoffs a year ago, was ``as mad as I've been for a long time.''

``This team, the Cardinals, they lost a game last week because of turnovers, because of eight turnovers,'' Schwartz said. ``We went into the game wanting to take care of the football, wanting to establish the run. We did a poor job of both of those.''

Arizona's Beanie Wells had touchdown runs of 5, 1 and 31 yards.

The Cardinals, who avoided tying the franchise record for consecutive losses in the season, had gone 11 quarters without a touchdown before getting three of them in the second quarter Sunday.

``There was a lot of talk about if our team had quit,'' Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. ``When it was 7-0 (Detroit) and we were punting the ball there, I didn't see any quit in our guys.''

On that punt, the return man Stefan Logan, trying to make a fair catch, had his feet knocked out from under him by teammate Pat Lee, who was trying to block Michael Adams. Adams chased the ball down at the Detroit 5, and Wells scored on the next play up the middle to tie it at 7 with 9:18 left in the half.

Two possessions later, a pair of false-start penalties pushed the Lions back to their 2-yard line. Stafford overthrew Johnson, and Peterson made a leaping interception, falling to his backside after he caught the ball. He scrambled to his feet and returned 29 yards to the Detroit 3. Two plays later, Wells scored from the 1 and the Lions led 14-7.

After a pair of incompletions and a false start, the Lions had it third-and-15 from their 43 when Stafford threw in the direction of Tony Scheffler. Rashad Johnson saw it all the way, intercepting it and running down the right sideline for the score to make it 21-7 with 30 seconds left in the half.

Jay Feely's 51-yard field goal that made it 24-7 with 9:19 left in the third quarter, then five minutes later Jason Hanson's 41-yarder cut the lead to 24-10.

A 30-yard pass to Calvin Johnson highlighted a drive that had Detroit threatening to cut the lead to a touchdown in the final quarter. A delay of game penalty negated a TD pass, then on fourth-and-2 from the 4, Stafford's pass into the end zone went right into the arms of Toler, who with a brigade of blockers ran the length of the field for the score that made it 31-10 with 5:07 to play.

``I knew Greg was going to make it all the way,'' Peterson said, laughing. ``He had no one in front of him but Matthew Stafford and five Cardinals, so if he didn't make it, that definitely would have been a shame.''

The Cardinals added a final touchdown on Wells' 31-yard run after the Lions had given the ball up on downs.

NOTES: Peterson has an interception in each of the last four games and seven for the season. ... With a fourth-quarter sack, Arizona's Adrian Wilson became the sixth player in NFL history with 25 sacks and 25 interceptions. ... Hanson tied Morten Andersen for most field goals of at least 40 yards (187). ... Ninety-one-year-old Charley Trippi, a star on the Cardinals' 1947 NFL championship team, was honored at halftime. Trippi, who played for the Cardinals from 1947 to 1955, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968. ... Detroit cornerback Jacob Lacy left in the first quarter with a knee injury. ... Arizona improved to 4-3 at home.

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Follow Bob Baum at www.twitter.com/Thebaumerphx

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The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

No matter how you break it down — by quarter, by month, by time of day, by location, by whether the opponent has an animal mascot or a human mascot — the numbers show that the Redskins have a really ineffective offense. Currently, they're last in the NFL in points per game and yards per game.

They're bad all the time, honestly.

However, they're downright atrocious when it comes to their opening drives.

In Week 1 against the Eagles, the Redskins scored a touchdown on their opening possession. It was fun. The players had fun. The fans had fun. Everybody had fun.

But since then, they haven't notched a single TD on a first drive. In fact, they haven't converted a field goal, either.

Overall, in their 13 game-opening possessions on the year, Washington has that single end zone trip to go along with a missed kick, seven punts, two fumbles and two interceptions (one of which was taken back for a score).

What's the opposite of coming out hot? The 2019 Redskins' offense.

"I'm tired of the slow starts, our guys are, too," Bill Callahan said Wednesday. "That's the goal of the first drive of the game — try to jump ahead, get ahead, find a way to get on the board early. We haven't succeeded at that." 

The issue is registering with Dwayne Haskins, too. So, what can they possibly do to try to improve?

"Just trying to figure out a way we can move the ball early, not getting behind the chains, finding lanes and getting the ball out fast," the quarterback said. "It helps our defense when we come off fast and move the ball down the field and not put them in a tough scenario with having a short field."

Many have complained about the offense's run-first approach being too predictable under Callahan, and that's something that could be plaguing them at the beginning of their contests. Since he took over as interim coach, for example, the offense has run the ball on their first snap in six-of-eight matchups, including four-out-of-five with Haskins under center.

Of course, this is an area where Jay Gruden struggled as well, but his tendencies weren't as obvious. Plus, and yes, this is minutiae now, he did call two play-action shots in Weeks 2 and 4 that schemed up wide-open receivers that Case Keenum simply missed. He was also in charge for that lone touchdown in Philly.

The most obvious explanation for the problem, however, is one that can explain a lot of things this season: an overall lack of talent. As mentioned at the start of the story, it's not like the offense gets into a rhythm at any point, so their numbers will be underwhelming in any situation or sample.

That said, even with an inexperienced and undermanned group, there should be more production than one TD in 13 chances. Callahan told the media that "we put a lot of thought, focus and concentration" into the early-game plan. Clearly, it's not paying off.

In many ways, the Redskins have fallen behind the rest of the NFL over the past few months. The stats above show that, at least in one way, that's literally very true.  

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Nationals leave Winter Meetings with new fight against complacency underway

Nationals leave Winter Meetings with new fight against complacency underway

SAN DIEGO -- Quiet finally settled over the downtown Hyatt in San Diego on Thursday morning. The baseball industry packed, then left, leaving behind every imaginable facet of the pro machine. Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke Wednesday and a report trying to explain fluctuations with the baseball was delivered. All 30 managers held media sessions across the three days. Recent graduates hunted starts to front office futures. Clubhouse attendants held a meeting of their brethren. Everyone was perpetually stuck in the slow-moving elevators.

In essence, the Nationals’ defense of their World Series title started in southern California while these events transpired around them. They made an enormous move by signing Stephen Strasburg. They continued to manage the third base market, watching warily as they tried to figure out how not to be left short after Anthony Rendon signed a long-term contract with Anaheim and the frenzy for Josh Donaldson began. The Nationals also still need bullpen help.

In addition, a new battle against complacency exists. What’s happening for the Nationals is an offseason unlike any other because they won, and its fresh dynamics include convincing someone full he is still hungry. Ways to do that? Subtle changed mixed with standard procedures. They hope.

Next season always comes calling, loaded with the same 162-game grind, even for those teams who were still pitching on Halloween. Recent champions -- in particular the Nationals -- deployed their starting pitchers differently in the postseason en route to a title. Patrick Corbin made three postseason starts and came out of the bullpen five times. An injection coupled with a chiropractic rescue enabled Max Scherzer’s Game 7 start. Stephen Strasburg threw more pitches than anyone in baseball. 

Boston eased its pitchers into the 2019 season and appeared to pay for it. Their starters rarely threw in spring training games after winning a championship. Three of them threw seven innings or fewer in games during the Grapefruit season. Scherzer threw 26 and 26 ⅔ innings, respectively, the last two spring trainings. So, Mike Rizzo expects standard programming in West Palm Beach, not additional rest.

“I just think that we remind them what we do this stuff for and the elation that we had I think is still going to be with us and for us to feel that way again, we know what it takes to get there,” Rizzo said. “It’s a long hard road and it’s a lot of work. It starts Day 1 spring training and ends the last game. That’s going to be our outlook. We’re going to prepare for spring training like we have every other year. We’re not going to be complacent because we played an extra month of baseball. We’re not going to make any adjustments for preparation of our pitchers.”

Davey Martinez made adjustments. He swung his coaching staff around, moving Bob Henley to first base, Chip Hale to third and Tim Bogar to bench coach. Why? In part to reboot the holdover staff before they begin working with the players.

“Complacency,” Martinez said. “Everybody talks about those World Series blues, and that’s one thing we don’t want. We don’t want to be complacent. There’s going to be a target on our back, so we’ve got to come out and be ready to play from day one. We want these guys to understand that. We’re not just going to sit around and say: ‘Well, we’ve got plenty of time.’ No, the time is from day one. We’re going to get ready for the season, and hopefully do it again.”

Martinez will work with the same premise at spring training: go 1-0. He can still ride other sayings -- like “win your day” -- but the large white flag which said “Conquer” in red letters and traveled with the team is probably due for retirement. “Stay in the fight” fell with the end of the regular season. “Fight finished” isn’t phrasing which can carry to a new season.

“The message is going to be clear: Hey, we're not going to sneak up on anybody this year, that's for sure,” Martinez said. “So we've got to be ready to go from day one. With that being said, I want them to understand, hey, we're going to do business like we've done in the past, and we're just going to try to go 1-0 every day. Why change something that works?”

Why change? That’s the question, and the answer for the defending champions seems to be they don’t want to. Get ready. Stay ready. Try to do it again as if it never happened.

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