Nationals

Cowboys' Rob Ryan ready for Cleveland reunion

Cowboys' Rob Ryan ready for Cleveland reunion

IRVING, Texas (AP) Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan doesn't pretend to ignore that the Cowboys are playing Cleveland for the first time since the Browns dumped him when they fired Eric Mangini two years ago.

Even when he's pretending.

``Honestly, I'm going to say no,'' Ryan said when asked if he had discussed this week's personal motivation with his players. ``Honestly, I haven't talked about it. Honestly, I don't know how that got out there.''

How about dishonestly?

``I've addressed a few things,'' said Ryan, the twin brother of New York Jets coach Rex Ryan.

Ryan says Sunday's game at Cowboys Stadium is personal for a pretty simple reason. He didn't think two years was enough to try to turn a franchise that has now missed the playoffs nine straight years and reached the postseason just twice since 1990.

To him, it doesn't really matter that Cleveland's ownership and front office changed in midseason, and that more changes are likely in the offseason.

``Anytime you pour everything you have into it and apparently management didn't see it as it was good enough, of course it's personal,'' Ryan said.

Ryan's animosity doesn't extend to his former players, though. He sounds like he wouldn't mind having some of them still on his side, particularly defensive backs T.J. Ward, Sheldon Brown and Joe Haden in a secondary that has Cleveland ranked sixth in the league with 10 interceptions.

``These are some of the best people I ever coached, so I still love those guys,'' Ryan said. ``But I plan on beating them.''

Ryan's first year in Dallas after the Cleveland firing was a little rough. The Cowboys had one of the worst pass defenses in franchise history and rarely made big plays when they needed them late in the year. Two late-season losses to the New York Giants essentially kept Dallas out of the playoffs, and the Cowboys didn't sack Eli Manning once in 47 pass attempts in the first game.

That's not exactly what Dallas had in mind when Ryan brought an attacking style to go with his boisterous and demonstrative sideline behavior, but this year has been better.

The Cowboys harassed Manning and held him to 190 passing yards despite losing 29-24 in the first game after defensive leader Sean Lee was lost to a season-ending toe injury. Dallas held Atlanta, unbeaten at the time, to 19 points in another close loss before the defense scored twice in the fourth quarter of last week's win over Philadelphia.

``We've been playing pretty well the last few weeks,'' Ryan said. ``I think we're hitting it at the right time. I think our guys are starting to go after it.''

Ryan has cut his hair and the size of his waistline since he was in Cleveland, but the Browns will probably be able to recognize him.

``He was a hoot,'' Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas said. ``He's really funny and he's a great defensive coordinator.''

Ryan will be out to prove it Sunday.

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Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter athttps://twitter.com/lschuylerd

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St. Louis therapy dog makes good on NLCS wager, reps Nationals gear

St. Louis therapy dog makes good on NLCS wager, reps Nationals gear

Friendly wagers are one of the best parts of sports. They're even more fun when they involve two very good boys. 

Thor, a black lab therapy dog from Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, challenged Tabby, a German Shepherd therapy dog at Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C., to a friendly bet on the Nats-Cardinals NLCS best of seven series. The bet was settled not too long after it began.

Since the Nationals swept the Cardinals, Thor had to wear a Nationals' bandana to work, courtesy of Tabby.

Thor does not look very amused, but at least he was a very good sport.

Hopefully, Thor will decide to cheer on the Nationals in their first-ever World Series against the Astros!

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The Redskins' inability to execute one of football's simplest plays is maddening and costly

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The Redskins' inability to execute one of football's simplest plays is maddening and costly

On the list of factors why the Redskins lost to the 49ers on Sunday, it's not as high up as Adrian Peterson's unfortunate second half fumble, Dustin Hopkins' early missed field goal or the passing game's immense struggles in some disgusting weather.

But Washington not being able to pick up a fourth-and-1 in the second quarter against San Francisco hurt quite a bit. Unfortunately, the Burgundy and Gold are seemingly incapable of executing one of the simplest plays in football, which prevented that 10-play drive from continuing and possibly prevented the game's end result from being different.

In recent seasons, when teams use a QB sneak on third- or fourth-and-1, they convert almost 90-percent of the time. When they opt to hand it off for an inside or outside zone run, meanwhile, they convert a little less than 70-percent of the time.

Yet against the Niners on that second quarter possession, Bill Callahan and Kevin O'Connell called for a Peterson run up the middle. Peterson was stuffed at San Fran's 29-yard line, ending what was one of their better chances at putting up points on a day where they'd ultimately be shut out.

Could that decision have been influenced by something that happened back in Week 3? It's possible.

In their Monday night matchup with the Bears, Case Keenum and the offense were trying to generate a late comeback and found themselves facing a fourth-and-1 at Chicago's 16. They were down 13 points and had seven minutes left. It was a long shot, yes, but they had a shot.

In that spot, thankfully, Jay Gruden and Co. chose to sneak it. However, Keenum tried to go over the top — which is basically an unheard of maneuver anywhere except the goal line — and he was stripped. It was a disastrous disaster.

Maybe that turnover affected the non-sneak versus the 49ers. Maybe it didn't. Either way, the Redskins botched a sneak once this year then went away from it in another key situation. It has now cost them twice already in seven contests. 

In case you forgot, here's a reminder: QB sneaks are successful almost 90-percent of the time when one yard is needed to move the chains. For some reason, Washington can't take advantage of those odds.

It's not exciting. It's not complex. But the QB sneak is as close to automatic as it gets in the NFL. The only thing more automatic these days, apparently, is the Redskins making the incorrect call when it matters most.

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