Redskins

Chargers pull even at 4-4 at midpoint of season

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Chargers pull even at 4-4 at midpoint of season

SAN DIEGO (AP) Norv Turner is still coaching the Chargers, perhaps to the chagrin of some fans, as San Diego pulled to 4-4 at the season's midpoint.

The Chargers were able to call off the hounds howling for Turner's job - at least for now - by beating the Kansas City Chiefs 31-13 Thursday night.

San Diego rediscovered the end zone, took advantage of four more turnovers by the sad-sack Chiefs and snapped a three-game losing streak that had riled up the paying customers to the point that the Chargers needed corporate support to lift the local TV blackout. Still, there were an estimated 15,000 empty seats.

Pregame speculation about his job security didn't seem to faze Turner, who's heard such talk for practically his entire Chargers tenure, which started in 2007.

``The one thing that's different now than I guess, I don't know, when this all started, but if someone says something on the radio or TV, or in an interview, that it becomes fact,'' Turner said. ``Sometimes it's fact and sometimes it isn't. That was not my concern going into the game.''

As for the person who started the speculation about Turner's possible firing if the Chargers lost Thursday, ``There's a chance that he's wrong,'' the coach said pointedly.

Did the win save Turner's job?

``I don't think that was the case,'' he said. ``Obviously there's no evidence to say that it was, and I go on my relationship, my understanding of what we're doing. That's was not the issue for me.''

The team refused to make team President Dean Spanos available during a three-game losing streak that included the Chargers blowing double-digit, second-half leads in losses at New Orleans and at home to Denver. San Diego then lost 7-6 at Cleveland.

The Chargers broke a streak of six straight quarters without a touchdown when Antonio Gates caught a 14-yard scoring pass from Philip Rivers to cap the game's first drive Thursday night.

Half of San Diego's wins are against Kansas City (1-7). The Chiefs committed 10 of their NFL-high 29 turnovers in their two games against the Chargers.

San Diego has yet to beat a team with a winning record.

Running back Ronnie Brown said the Chargers didn't feel like they were playing for Turner's job.

``That wasn't even an option,'' he said. ``Like losing yesterday, when we were talking in the locker room, nobody wanted to deal with that feeling we've had with the last few weeks. We all just wanted to do whatever it took to get another win. That's all we talked about during the week. Fortunately, we were able to carry that over into the game.''

At halftime, some fans in one end zone unfurled a big yellow banner that read: ``Mr. Spanos, please fire A.J. & Norv.''

Spanos decided in January to bring back both Turner and general manager A.J. Smith even though the Chargers missed the playoffs for the second straight year and have only one postseason win in four seasons.

Brown said players hear the fans talk about wanting Turner and Smith fired.

``Definitely. That's something, just being here and being in San Diego, being around the media, you're going to see it, you're going to hear it, no matter how much you try to avoid it,'' he said. ``You really can't listen to it. One of the things when we signed up, when everybody signed their contracts to be a San Diego Charger, we all took the responsibility to make sure you look out for one another and try to make sure that within that locker room, we were all trying to support each other no matter what we were going through or no matter what kind of adversity we were facing. It's was tough to be in the situation we were the last few weeks knowing that we have the potential and the people on the team to win, but for some odd reason we didn't get it done the last few weeks. Everybody had the same mentality, same focus and same goal in mind, to get that fourth win.''

Are the Chargers happy to be 4-4?

``You know the answer to that,'' Turner said. ``Obviously getting the win was big. I'm disappointed in the fact that the games I've mentioned, that we played at a high level through extended periods of the game, but were not able to finish games or made the big mistakes that kept us from winning games.''

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Redskins fans and players can both be right about FedEx Field frustrations

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USA Today Sports

Redskins fans and players can both be right about FedEx Field frustrations

The Redskins moved to 6-3 on Sunday by beating the Buccaneers in Tampa, and now sit two games clear in first place in the NFC East. 

That should be the biggest football story inside the Beltway. But it isn't. 

The story has become that two of the most high-profile members of the Washington defense said that they prefer playing road games to being in their home stadium. Why? Because on the road they can hear better and focus more since they don't have fans booing them. 

Seriously. 

"Home games, that’s some of the worst things I’ve seen. I’ve played on four different teams, never seen it that bad, with other team’s jerseys in the stands, the boos, whatever it may be," Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger said during an appearance on 106.7 the Fan's Grant and Danny program on Monday. 

"I’ve never been a part of nothing like that."

This freight train started moving on Sunday, when after the win in Tampa, Josh Norman said he likes playing on the road. Why? Because there aren't any boos.

"We go into the homestands, and it’s like an open bubble,” Norman said. “Like the other team’s turf or something. You hear more of them than you do us. Then if something bad happens, they suck. They sit back in their seat, and they boo."

There's a lot to unpack here. 

Norman and Swearinger are right. There are always a lot of visiting fans at FedEx Field. Some of that might be that Washington is a transient city, but some of it is also because other fans have determined that it's easy to get tickets at FedEx Field. 

Why is it easy for visiting fans to get tickets? Well, there's not much sizzle at FedEx Field.

The area doesn't have shopping or restaurants around it like many newer NFL stadiums. The traffic, like much of life in the D.C. area, is awful. The stadium itself is underwhelming; old and lacking character. 

The Redskins are working hard to overhaul the game day experience, and some of the efforts are alrady working. But the problem is some fans have soured on the idea of spending the day at FedEx Field, and that will take time to fix. Probably years. 

One obvious fix? A new stadium, preferably back in downtown D.C. That is a long way off though. 

Plenty of fans are bothered by Swearinger and Norman's comments, and they have reason for that, too. 

To start with, there are tens of thousands of fans at every home game, cheering on their club. Lifelong, loyal fans that pay good money to watch the Burgundy and Gold. 

Do some boo? Certainly. But they only boo when the team is bad. Play good, no boos. It's fairly simple.

And the boos aren't only about a specific game, or even a specific season. Many Redskins fans are just frustrated with the franchise in general for a litany of reasons. Things have been stable under Jay Gruden, but for a long time, they weren't. 

What isn't fair for Norman and Swearinger is they played zero part in the multi-decade erosion of the Redskins fan base. And some would argue the fan base hasn't actually eroded, just that fewer fans want to make the trek to the stadium and commit to the full day that is attending an NFL game.

For 20 years, Washington has played plenty of bad football at home. During that time, some fans simply decided they'd rather watch on television, or go for a walk, or do yard work, or hang with their family. 

The toughest part is that both Norman and Swearinger can be right, but the fans that are upset with the comments can be right as well. 

Are there good fans? Absolutely. Are there lots of visiting fans? Yep. 

It won't be fixed overnight. Winning is the best cure, however, as old fans will return and new fans will be created. 

Play well and there won't be any booing. Keep winning games and there won't be anything but burgundy in the stands. 

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Virginia, Virginia Tech each moved one spot in new top-25 poll but in opposite directions

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USA TODAY Sports

Virginia, Virginia Tech each moved one spot in new top-25 poll but in opposite directions

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Duke changed everything about who AP Top 25 voters considered to be the nation's best team with a single dominating performance against a marquee opponent.

It also gave the Blue Devils yet another milestone under Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski: a record number of appearances at No. 1.

The Blue Devils jumped from fourth to first Monday in the first regular-season poll, leapfrogging Kansas at the top after a blowout win against then-No. 2 Kentucky last week. That allowed Duke to set a record with its 135th week at No. 1, breaking a tie with UCLA for the most top rankings in poll history.

The 34-point win against the Wildcats in the Champions Classic to open the season marked the program's most lopsided win against a top-5 opponent. Duke was practically flawless behind star freshmen RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish, and that created a buzz about the team's already lofty potential being somehow even higher than anyone anticipated.

Granted, it was one game. And Duke (2-0) didn't look nearly so dazzling Sunday at home against Army. But that one performance caused a major voting shift, even with now-No. 2 Kansas earning a quality win of its own against then-No. 10 Michigan State in the first game of the Champions Classic.

Kansas was a solid preseason No. 1 by earning 37 of 65 first-place votes, followed by 19 for Kentucky and four for Duke. But Duke now has 48 first-place votes, claiming the top spot for all 19 voters who had Kentucky as preseason No. 1 while also causing 23 voters to switch from Kansas in the preseason Duke this week.

Duke also prompted switches from the lone voters who had Gonzaga and Villanova at No. 1 in the preseason.

The hype probably won't slow anytime soon, either. The Blue Devils have everyone's attention.

"Part of becoming good is keeping the noise out of your locker room," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the Army win. "And when something good happens and you have the start of the season ... there's a lot of noise. And for us, it's not always good noise, but in this case, it was exceptional noise. Exceptional noise.

"When you have four freshmen and we don't have veterans, you have to be more mature about listening to that."

COMPLETE MEN'S BASKETBALL TOP-25 RANKINGS WEEK 2

1. Duke 2-0 (48 votes, No. 4 last week)

2. Kansas 1-0 (14 votes, No. 1 last week)

3. Gonzaga 2-0 (No. 3 last week)

4. Virginia 2-0 (2 votes, No. 5 last week)

5. Tennessee 2-0 (1 vote, No. 6 last week)

6. Nevada 2-0 (No. 7 last week)

7. North Carolina 2-0 (No. 8 last week)

8. Villanova 2-0 (No. 9 last week)

9. Auburn 2-0 (No. 11 last week)

10. Kentucky 1-1 (No. 2 last week)

11. Michigan State (No. 10 last week)

12. Kansas State 1-0 (No. 12 last week)

13. Oregon 2-0 (No. 14 last week)

14. Florida State 2-0 (No. 17 last week)

15. Syracuse 2-0 (No. 16 last week)

16. Virginia Tech 1-0 (No. 15 last week)

17. Mississippi State 2-0 (No. 18 last week)

18. Michigan 2-0 (No. 19 last week)

19. Clemson 2-0 (No. 22 last week)

20. UCLA 2-0 (No. 21 last week)

21. TCU 2-0 (No. 20 last week)

22. LSU 2-0 (No. 23 last week)

23. Purdue 2-0 (No. 24 last week)

24. Marquette 2-0 (Not ranked last week)

25. Buffalo 2-0 (Not ranked last week)

AT THE TOP

Gonzaga stayed at No. 3, followed by Virginia and Tennessee each climbing a spot to round out the top 5. Nevada, North Carolina, reigning national champion Villanova and Auburn were next, while Kentucky slid eight spots to No. 10.

TOP RISERS

There weren't any dramatic climbs beyond the Duke-Kansas change at the top. In all, 16 teams moved up this week poll, with No. 14 Florida State and No. 19 Clemson matching Duke's three-spot jump for the biggest of the week.

Twelve of the gains were merely one spot.

LONGEST SLIDES

Kentucky's fall was the biggest for any team that stayed in the poll. The others were all modest, with four teams -- Kansas, No. 11 Michigan State, No. 16 Virginia Tech and No. 21 TCU -- falling one spot each.

NEWCOMERS

There were two new teams in the poll with No. 24 Marquette and No. 25 Buffalo.

It's the first appearance for Marquette in nearly five years since last appearing at No. 25 in November 2013.

As for Buffalo, it's the first AP Top 25 appearance in program history. It comes after the Bulls got 43 points and 14 rebounds from CJ Massinburg to beat then-No. 13 West Virginia on the road -- another marquee upset for a team that beat Arizona and eventual No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Deandre Ayton in the first round of last year's NCAA Tournament.

SLIDING OUT

The Mountaineers slid all the way out after losing to the Bulls, which marked their first loss in a home opener since November 2003. Washington fell out from No. 25 after a loss to Auburn.

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