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Cardinals stick with QB Lindley while Kolb heals

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Cardinals stick with QB Lindley while Kolb heals

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals are sticking with rookie Ryan Lindley at quarterback, at least until Kevin Kolb is healthy enough to play.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said that while Lindley had three bad throws that resulted in interceptions, two of them returned for touchdowns, in his first NFL start on Sunday, the rookie did have other times when he was effective in the loss to the St. Louis Rams.

It was the Cardinals' seventh loss in a row and almost all of them can be largely attributed to the quarterback position, with Kolb injured, replacement John Skelton ineffective and now with Lindley showing his inexperience at the worst of times.

For the first time since he was hurt five games ago, Kolb was able to practice on a limited basis last week.

Kolb was the first player Whisenhunt mentioned when he was asked on Monday what he was going to do about quarterback this week, as the Cardinals prepare to play the New York Jets on the road.

``Well, I don't know where Kevin is health-wise,'' the coach said. ``He's making progress, but as far as being ready for a game yet, that is something that we can't determine until we see where he is Wednesday. Until he's healthy, I don't know where we are, where we are going to be until that point.''

What success Arizona has had this season came with Kolb at quarterback. He replaced the injured Skelton in the opener and directed the game-winning drive, then helped the team win its next three. But the Rams sacked him nine times in a Thursday night debacle in St. Louis, and he went down late at home against Buffalo the following week. A missed Jay Feely field goal sent that one into overtime, then Skelton's interception set up the Bills' game-winning field goal.

Assuming Kolb isn't ready, Whisenhunt said Lindley would be the quarterback.

``Let's start this thing off by saying you can't have those interceptions,'' Whisenhunt said, ``but in the first half I thought that he did a really nice job. He moved in the pocket, was decisive, managed it, and made some good throws.''

Whisenhunt seemed to accept the first ``pick six,'' when Lindley was fooled by Janoris Jenkins, who slipped in front of intended receiver LaRod Stephens-Howling, intercepted and ran untouched 36 yards for the score.

The second one was another matter. The Cardinals had worked all day, indeed all season, to figure out how to get the ball to their best player - Larry Fitzgerald - who had beaten Jenkins down the sidelines. But instead of stepping up and into the throw, Lindley let fly off his back foot. The ball was underthrown by 10 yards, right into Jenkins' hands, who returned this one 39 yards for the touchdown.

Another interception, in between those two, had Fitzgerald open, too, but again Lindley threw a bad pass into the hands of safety Craig Dahl. Only a holding penalty and missed field goal kept that turnover from producing St. Louis points.

``There is nobody more upset about it than him, especially after the game,'' Whisenhunt said. ``He was torn up because he knows he can't do that, but one of the things you have to learn about as a young quarterback is when you get into the heat of the moment type things, how you have to respond. What was he in the first half, 17 of 24? He responded well with that. The second half, he made two bad throws. He made a bad decision on the one interception, and then the second one that he threw a pick-six, that was off his back foot and late to that side. He tried to come back to it. You can't do that.''

Whisenhunt did not answer when asked if Kolb would start if he is healthy. That's not an issue yet, the coach said, because Kolb isn't healthy.

``He got better. He's feeling better. Once again it's more about when he physically can do it,'' Whisenhunt said. ``He threw the ball better, made some good throws, but he still had some soreness, and I think you have to weigh that with being able to take a hit in the pocket. That's going to happen in this league. Even when you get throws off, you're going to get hit and taken to the ground, and it has got to be a safety concern there as well.''

Fitzgerald is as politically correct as it comes, never publicly pointing fingers at those responsible for his diminished effectiveness in the game, a real comedown for one acknowledged to be among the best receivers in the game.

``It's football. Things happen,'' he said after the game. ``Assignments are missed. When I'm perfect, I can start calling people out on their flaws and mistakes, but I'm not. We have to do a better job offensively executing.''

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Redskins Talk hosts "Redskins On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

Redskins Talk hosts "Redskins On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

It's the moment we've all been waiting for: finding out who the Redskins are going to take as their No. 15 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

After much anticipation and countless mock drafts, Redskins fans will finally find out what's to come for the Burgundy and Gold in the upcoming NFL season. 

And we couldn't let you handle this news alone: So we've got the Redskins Talk crew hosting a special "Redskins on the Clock" live stream to address, analyze and hopefully rejoice over the 'Skins decision. 

<<CHECK OUT NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON'S LATEST NFL MOCK DRAFT>>

On Thursday, Apr. 25th, JP Finlay, Peter Hailey and Mitchell Tischler from the Redskins Talk Podcast, along with guests Travis Thomas and Trevor Matich, will be offering a live look into their thoughts and concerns surrounding both the Redskins' pick and all of Round 1. The live stream will be available on the MyTeams by NBC Sports App from approximately 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. 

And if you haven't already downloaded the MyTeams App, you can do so right now, RIGHT HERE.

Redskins Talk Podcast "Redskins on the Clock" Special

CLICK HERE to watch the daily live stream of the Redskins Talk Podcast

When: 8 p.m. - (approximately) 11 p.m. ET, Thursday, Apr. 25th 

Live Stream: Click to stream Redskins Talk Podcast Live every day this week

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How the Capitals went from 'chokers' to 'closers' in Game 6s

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USA TODAY Sports

How the Capitals went from 'chokers' to 'closers' in Game 6s

RALEIGH — There was a time when a Stanley Cup Playoff series lead of any kind produced nothing but stress and anxiety for the Capitals and their tortured fan base.

This is an organization, after all, that has blown a 3-1 playoff series lead five times – often in horrifying, heartbreaking fashion. That has only happened 28 times in NHL history, and Washington owns 18 percent of those epic collapses. But the league’s biggest chokers have put those demons to rest. And that trend started well before winning the Stanley Cup last year. 

Tonight, the Capitals have a chance to close out the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 6 of a first-round playoff series at PNC Arena. They lead 3-2. They know they always have another chance, if necessary, on Wednesday for Game 7 at Capital One Arena back home. 

But if ending a series on the road once seemed like a daunting task, it hasn’t fazed the franchise for a while now. Washington has won four Game 6s in a row when up 3-2 in a series.  

“When we play to our identity and force other teams to make mistakes and they’re in an elimination situation, then those mistakes become magnified,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “That team is already feeling the pressure of that being their last game. And if we play to our identity then it really seems to match up nicely for those elimination games.”

The Capitals were ahead 3-2 with road Game 6s in Philadelphia (2016), Toronto (2017), Columbus (2018) and Pittsburgh (2018) and won them all. They also put Vegas away last June up 3-1 in the series with Game 5 on the road and won the Stanley Cup that night. If the recent version of the Capitals has a chance to put a team away, the team has done it.

The last time they blew a lead with a chance to eliminate the opposition was 2015 when they coughed up a 3-1 advantage in a second-round exit to the New York Rangers. 

There are theories why.

A big, physical team with elite skill, Washington has been able to wear teams out the later a series goes. In 2017, the Maple Leafs put up a great fight against the Presidents’ Trophy winners in the first round. They won two overtime games. They took a 2-1 series lead and had a chance to go up 3-1 on the Capitals with Game 4 at home in Toronto. 

Washington, instead, won Game 4 by a 5-4 score and allowed just two goals in Games 5 and 6 to end the series.

The offense went dry in 2016 against Philadelphia in the first round and a 3-0 series lead suddenly was cut to 3-2 with the Flyers hosting Game 6. They had life. The old Capitals might have panicked. But they won that game 1-0. Philadelphia managed just four goals over the final three games of the series and had nothing left in Game 6. 

There is a mentality that goes into playing a game where the other team’s season is on the line and yours is not.   

"To ourselves, I think, to show that when we play that way, we're going to be real tough to beat,” goalie Braden Holtby said. “I don't think we put much emphasis on [Carolina]. We know they're going to prepare and play as if it's an elimination game for them. We know they're going to come hard, we know they're a good young team and they never shy away from anything. It's on us to play like that and take everything else out of it."

Last year against Columbus in the first round, Washington overcame a 2-0 deficit to tie the series. Game 4 on the road was a clinic with the frustrated Blue Jackets hardly able to get the puck through the neutral zone in a 4-1 Capitals win. Washington broke Columbus’ will with its relentless, physical play. It scored 10 goals in Games 5 and 6 to end the series.  

The same thing played out the next round against Pittsburgh. A dominating 6-3 win in Game 5 at home – much like the 6-0 win over Carolina on Saturday – set the stage for a classic road Game 6. Washington scored first. The Penguins tied it. But the Capitals were the team with enough juice left in overtime to take the series on Evgeny Kuznetsov’s game-winning goal. 

The best example of how the Capitals have worn down one opponent after another actually came last season in the Eastern Conference Final when they were down 3-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Washington didn’t allow a goal in Games 6 and 7 and advanced. 

“Our team likes being on the road, plays well on the road, enjoys spending that time with each other,” Reirden said. “When you want to have success on the road you have to have contributions from everybody throughout your lineup. That makes you a very difficult team to match up as the home coach. So by us having the seven 20-goal scorers, we were a difficult match.

"And now, we started to see a little bit more of our depth scoring [Saturday]. … It certainly becomes an easier road assignment for the coach -- I can tell you. That’s an advantage for us.”

The Lightning last May looked like a boxer that had taken too many blows to the head after the Capitals blitzed them in Game 6.

If you looked closely on Saturday, you saw elements of that when Carolina defenseman Dougie Hamilton raced back for a puck, knew Alex Ovechkin was steaming right behind him, and gave up on the play. Hamilton didn’t appear to want to pay the price for winning that race and instead Ovechkin took the puck away and fed Brett Connolly in front for the goal that put Washington up 3-0. 

Maybe Carolina regroups tonight. The Hurricanes are a young team, but with grizzled veterans like Jordan Staal and Justin Williams who have won multiple Stanley Cups between them. They won’t play scared. The crowd at PNC Arena will be a factor. They do not want their season to end.

But these Capitals are a different breed. Time and again the past three years they have grinded their opponents into dust so by the time the series reaches this point there isn’t enough fight left to them.     

“We’ve just got to regroup here and move forward,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “That was just a 3-2 lead. Toughest one is the last one. We haven’t been happy with the way we’ve played in Carolina so far. Let’s change that.”

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