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Chiefs waiting to hit bottom during 7-game skid

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Chiefs waiting to hit bottom during 7-game skid

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel laid out for his team Monday exactly what it will take to end their seven-game losing streak, then questioned whether the solution is even possible.

``We know we have to fight. We have to do everything in our power to be the best we can be, to be perfect,'' he said during a break in meetings. ``That's what I told them, we have to be perfect because that's the only way we have a chance.''

Later, Crennel admitted, ``Nobody is ever perfect, you know.''

That doesn't bode well for a team trying to reach mediocrity, much less perfection.

The Chiefs' 28-6 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday dropped them to 1-9 on the season, their lone victory requiring a franchise-record 18-point comeback at New Orleans.

They've been ravaged by injuries, lead the league in turnovers, can't settle on a quarterback and are now dealing with a full-fledged fan rebellion, which has resulted in people dressed in black occupying the seats at Arrowhead Stadium, and fliers calling for the general manager's job.

The Twitter account for a fan group known as ``Save Our Chiefs'' recently surpassed 80,000 followers, about 17,000 more than the announced crowd on Sunday and probably twice as many as actually found their way inside the stadium during another disheartening loss.

``We love Kansas City. We're not upset at our fans,'' linebacker Andy Studebaker said. ``They have a right to be upset. In the NFL, you have to create a home-field advantage. It doesn't just show up for you. It's a two-way street with us and the fans.''

Things certainly won't get any easier for Kansas City with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos visiting Sunday. After that comes a home date with Carolina that could help determine who has the overall No. 1 pick in the NFL draft next year.

Jacksonville is the only other team sitting at 1-9, while Carolina and Cleveland are 2-8. The Chiefs visit the Browns on Dec. 9.

``We understand the fan frustration,'' cornerback Brandon Flowers said. ``This is the team they love, and they love watching, and they ain't winning. Who wouldn't be upset?''

Crennel said he hasn't decided who will start at quarterback against the Broncos after lifting starter Matt Cassel for Brady Quinn at halftime of Sunday's loss to Cincinnati.

Cassel was the starter early in the season before sustaining a concussion against Baltimore, and then lost his job when he was cleared to return. Quinn was knocked out with his own concussion in his second start, and wasn't cleared to play until late last week.

That's why Cassel got the starting nod and Quinn was brought on in relief.

Things aren't much more settled on the injury front, where wide receivers Jon Baldwin and Dwayne Bowe are both dealing with head and neck injuries. It's uncertain either will be available this week, though Crennel sounded optimistic they will be cleared to play.

The offensive line also remains in flux.

Right guard Jon Asamoah is being fitted for a cast after having surgery on his thumb, and he could be back after missing a game. Left tackle Branden Albert has been dealing with back spasms, and center Ryan Lilja has an ankle injury that kept him out of Sunday's game.

``It's tough,'' right tackle Eric Winston said. ``My rookie year (with Houston), we were 6-10, and that was tough. To be honest with you, I don't know if we were even good enough to win that many games. But that was a different team. It was a young team, a ton of rookies playing, a new regime kind of thing. I've never been around something like this, to tell you the truth.''

The Chiefs have only led twice in a game this season, and they've been outscored 185-84 during their seven-game slide. They converted just one third down against Cincinnati, two fewer than the Bengals converted on fourth down, and were fortunate to only lose one of their three fumbles.

Things have been so bad this season that Crennel fired himself as defensive coordinator.

Now, he's wondering whether there are any other strings he can pull to engender change in a franchise floundering hopelessly out of control, or whether the best he can hope for is to be competitive enough down the stretch that he still has a job come January.

``It's all about the mentality that the players have, because when you lose, nobody is happy about losing,'' Crennel said. ``Everybody is frustrated about losing, you know? Players, coaches, fans, owners, everybody. What we want and what we need is to try to win a game to make us feel better, give us a little confidence, and then if you win one, maybe we can win another.''

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5 reasons the Caps beat the Avalanche

5 reasons the Caps beat the Avalanche

A shorthanded Capitals team marched into Colorado and took a 3-2 overtime win over the Avalanche on Friday.

Here are five reasons the Caps won.

A big glove save

With no T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov or Braden Holtby, the Caps were a bit shorthanded heading into the game. After the Avalanche took a 1-0 lead just 68 seconds in, it felt like it could be a very long night for Washington.

It could have been if not for an early breakaway save by Pheonix Copley.

Soon after the goal, Nathan MacKinnon grabbed the puck on a breakaway. MacKinnon is one of the best offensive players in the league and not the guy you want to see going in alone on Copley on a breakaway.

Copley, however, flashed the glove and made the save to keep the game at 1-0.

One year ago to the day, the Caps lost 6-2 in Colorado. With the injuries Washington was dealing with, it’s not a stretch to think this game could have gone off the rails quickly had the Avalanche jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

Tic-Tac-Toe

The Caps struggled through the first period to get any real penetration on Colorado’s defense and were kept largely on the perimeter with very few high-danger opportunities. The Avalanche defense got a bit more porous in the second and Washington took advantage.

Travis Boyd collected the puck in the offensive zone below the goal line. As he skated along the wall, he found himself face-to-face with four Colorado players who were all just following the puck. As far as defense goes, that’s not an ideal situation. Boyd found a wide-open Chandler Stephenson on the cross-ice pass, Stephenson goes back left to Devante Smith-Pelly who had an empty net to shoot on to get the Caps on the board and tie the game at one.


Game speed

After six seasons in Washington, Philipp Grubauer has faced literally thousands of shots from Alex Ovechkin in practice. But he never faced one of those shots in a game until Friday. Those shots come off the stick a bit faster when it counts as Grubauer learned.

Nicklas Backstrom entered the offensive zone with the puck and backhanded it to Ovechkin. Backstrom kept driving to the net drawing the defense with him except for Tyson Barrie. Backstrom’s passed to the left, but Ovechkin collected it going right which caught Barrie flatfooted. Ovehckin easily skated around Barrie to find an open shooting lane, then snapped a shot past Grubauer to put the Caps up 2-1. Ovechkin’s celebration was almost instantaneous, he knew he had Grubauer beat.


A late penalty

The referees really put away the whistles in the third period. They even missed a clear high-stick to Dmitry Orlov that drew blood and should have been a double-minor. Colorado came back to tie the game, but Smith-Pelly finally drew a blatant holding penalty from Ian Cole with just over a minute left to go in regulation.

The Avalanche survived to force overtime, but Nicklas Backstrom scored the game-winner on the power play just 22 seconds in for the win.

Tom Wilson making a Tom Wilson play

Space is important in hockey. That’s what makes a four-on-three power play harder to cover than a five-on-four power play. You know what’s even better? A three-on-two.

The Caps entered overtime on a power play which gave them a four-on-three to start. Tom Wilson had the puck on the wall and took a hit from Carl Soderberg. He saw the hit coming and took it so he could make the pass to Backstrom. He won the board battle and the hit took Soderberg out of the play, giving the Caps a three-on-two in the offensive zone to work with. Backstrom passed to John Carlson who passed back to Backstrom. He had all day to fire the game-winner and it was all thanks to a tremendous play from Wilson that most people would not have noticed.

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Wizards try maintaining focus yet cannot shake inconsistencies

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USA Today Sports

Wizards try maintaining focus yet cannot shake inconsistencies

 

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- The Washington Wizards were finally feeling better after that 2-9 start to the regular season. Three wins in a row with three games remaining on the homestand starting with the Brooklyn Nets Friday night. They didn’t conquer all of their problems. But at least they could breathe a bit easier, smile more natural. Heck, they were only 1 ½ games out of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and three back of third place.

“And we’ve been playing terrible," John Wall said to NBC Sports Washington Thursday night at the point guard’s annual turkey giveaway.  “That’s how shaky it is. You never know how it’s going to go, but we can’t look at that aspect. ... Have to take it one game at a time. Our focus is on Brooklyn right now. Try to win to make it four in a row.”

Last season Brooklyn was one of those non-contending teams that flummoxed the Wizards. Brooklyn finished 28-54, yet won two of three over Washington. While the current momentum was compelling, the reporter told Wall he’s heard such focus talk before and witnessed mixed results. The point guard nodded in acknowledgment.

“You put yourself in that situation, you have to answer (questions) and [reporters] have to ask," Wall said.

Another batch of questions came at Wall and the Wizards Friday. Brooklyn, a try-hard squad lacking high-end talent, dumped Washington 115-104.

The Nets, who lost leading scorer Caris Levert to a nasty ankle injury this week, turned a 56-54 halftime lead into a 19-point margin in the fourth quarter. They also converted 13 Washington turnovers into 19 points.

The Wizards, now 5-10, finished 3 of 17 on 3-pointers. Their defense lacked oomph at the point of attack.

“They were more aggressive than we were, offense and defense,” Bradley Beal said. “They forced us to turn the ball over. We couldn’t make shots [and] we definitely couldn’t guard them. Our one-on-one defense was suspect.”

Wizards coach Scott Brooks echoed the defensive struggles.

“The problem was that we couldn’t stay in front of the basketball tonight,” said Brooks, addressing a broad topic he largely could skip during the recent winning. 

Washington no longer ranks last in scoring defense thanks to the woeful Atlanta Hawks, but the 116.9 points allowed per game serves as a reminder that Friday’s struggles were no one-off.

Brooklyn had its own defensive woes during a three-game skid entering Friday. Second-year center Jarrett Allen, the player the Nets selected 22nd overall in the 2017 NBA Draft with the pick acquired from Washington in the Bojan Bogdanovic trade, missed the previous two contests. His return fueled an interior turnaround.

Those stops led to Brooklyn’s generating offense. The Nets, who often used no more than one traditional big man, outscored the Wizards 13-2 in fast-break points. They hit 13 of 15 free throws in the third quarter and finished 30 of 38.

“I thought because we got stops, (we) got into transition, got easy buckets,” Nets forward and ex-Wizard Jared Dudley told NBC Sports Washington. “I thought they were fouling so much we were on our drives. We kept attacking. … I thought defense opened up our offense.”

Wall opened up the postgame Q&A session with reporters in Washington’s locker room. He noted Brooklyn’s constant use of pick-and-rolls with the Wizards switching one through four didn’t work. “Just about every time they drove, they got a foul.”

Wall lives a fishbowl existence. People pay good money to watch him work. That means they witness the highs and lows, the advancement and the learning. Teammates also have eyes on him. All observe the five-time All-Star reacting to some whistles or non-calls he deems incorrect, or his body language during a tough loss.

Wall, 28, acknowledges his role as the team leader. He accepts that fishbowl reality and knows when those frustrations show, everyone can see.

“It’s fun. It’s a challenge," Wall said of being a leader to NBC Sports Washington Thursday. "Every day you have to be perfect. Nobody is perfect, but you have to be good every day. You can’t take a bad day or dwell on something. You have to let that slide because when it gets bad or gets shaky, everybody is looking at you. If your head is down, everybody else’s head is down. That’s something I have to learn."

Despite the streak-busting setback Friday night, Wall stuck with his big picture, no panic approach.

“They just came out and played better tonight. That’s all it is,” Wall told NBC Sports Washington. “We didn’t make shots. We didn’t do a great job of executing. They attacked us defensively. We lost one game. We have to get past and prepare for Sunday with a good team in Portland coming in.”

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