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Crabtree's 72-yard TD leads Packers to 31-17 win

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Crabtree's 72-yard TD leads Packers to 31-17 win

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The Green Bay Packers had a powerful incentive to beat the Arizona Cardinals.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy gave his banged-up team the whole week off after the Packers beat Arizona 31-17 Sunday. Less than a minute after Arizona kicked a 20-yard field goal to pare what had been a 17-point lead to a touchdown, Tom Crabtree chugged 72 yards for a late third-quarter score that sealed the victory.

``It's amazing what they'll do for an extra day off,'' McCarthy said. ``It's well deserved. I think it's important for us to just step away, so we'll have a week off.''

Green Bay (6-3) takes a four-game winning streak into the bye, which it desperately needs. Greg Jennings, Charles Woodson and Cedric Benson headline a laundry list of injured Packers, and three more got hurt against Arizona. Clay Matthews tweaked his hamstring, Bryan Bulaga hurt his hip and Jordy Nelson, who missed last week's game and much of practice this week with a bad hamstring, injured his ankle.

On the very first ball Aaron Rodgers threw him, no less.

``I like where we're at,'' Rodgers said. ``We've had some adversity early in the season, we've come together, we've taken some heat and it's brought us closer together. We went on the kind of run we need to go on with four big wins in a row to get to the bye week, and now we can get healthy, and hopefully we can get some of our guys back.

``We've got a lot of guys who, if we can have back in the mix, we can really take off.''

The Packers are second in the NFC North behind Chicago, with five of their last seven games against division opponents.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, limp back to Arizona for their bye week looking for a way to regroup. Arizona has dropped five straight after beginning the season with four wins.

John Skelton threw for more than 300 yards, and he was able to find enough holes in the Green Bay defense for big gains time and again. But the Packers did a good job bottling up Larry Fitzgerald, and Arizona's other receivers had too many drops. Early Doucet and Rob Housler were targeted 13 times and had just five catches.

``We've got to get back,'' defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. ``We've got seven more games to play. We'll get some guys back from injuries. This bye week is going to be very humbling and we need to take advantage of it.''

Criticized all year for their anemic efforts on the ground, the Packers broke free for 176 yards, their most since gaining 202 against Cleveland on Oct. 25, 2009. Four players - Rodgers, Randall Cobb, John Starks and Alex Green - had 25-plus yards rushing, the first time that's happened since 2003.

All that running must have left them tired, however, because the Packers came out sluggish in the second half. They failed to pick up a first down on any of their first four drives, and got only a 33-yard field goal from Mason Crosby despite getting the ball at their own 48, Arizona's 17 and midfield.

``We said at halftime, these are the kind of games where you can really put teams away if you play the way you want to play. We didn't do that in the second half,'' Rodgers said. ``We kind of gave them a reason to hang around and hang around.''

The Cardinals caught a break when LaRod Stephens-Howling was tripped up behind the line of scrimmage only to land on a Packer instead of the ground. He got up and kept going for a 5-yard gain, and the ruling was upheld on review because officials said only his wrist had hit the ground.

On the next play, Fitzgerald shook off tackles by Tramon Williams, M.D. Jennings and Dezman House for a 31-yard touchdown that cut Green Bay's lead to 24-14.

With Matthews in the locker room with a hamstring injury, Skelton went 7 of 9 as he moved the Cardinals 74 yards to the Green Bay 2. But Stephens-Howling was stuffed on third-and-1, forcing Arizona to settle for a 20-yard field goal that cut the lead to 24-17.

``Going back to last year, we always had rough starts but in the second half we always found a way to make the plays that we didn't make in the first half,'' Doucet said. ``When you get behind on a team like Green Bay at home, it is kind of tough to overcome.''

Sure enough, two plays later Crabtree caught the ball at the Green Bay 45 and rumbled up field, glancing over his shoulder to make sure Paris Lenon and William Gay weren't going to catch him.

They didn't - barely - and Crabtree tumbled into the end zone.

``Honestly, I'm still really tired,'' Crabtree said. ``I need to spend this bye week doing some gassers or something.''

Good thing he's got some extra time off.

NOTES: Green Bay has won 17 of its last 18 regular-season games at Lambeau Field. ... Green Bay's 39 rushing attempts also were its most in three years. ... The Packers had a season-low one penalty. ... After a career-best seven catches in each of his last two games, Arizona WR Andre Roberts had four for 86 yards. ... Arizona is oh-for-Wisconsin since 1949, losing its last nine road games against the Packers.

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These hidden factors could make Brandon Scherff less interested in an extension with the Redskins

These hidden factors could make Brandon Scherff less interested in an extension with the Redskins

In Brandon Scherff, the Redskins have a 27-year-old guard who has delivered on his first-round status, a lineman who has become one of the best in the league at his position and should have many more years of production and defender-mauling left.

Therefore, it's in the Redskins' best interest to extend Scherff this offseason, and the veteran confirmed on Monday there have been talks about getting that done

But during a discussion on the Redskins Talk podcast, J.I. Halsell, a salary cap expert and former agent, laid out something that could force those negotiations to stall.

"There are some things you have to take into consideration because 2020 is the final year of the collective bargaining agreement, so there are some things you have to work around when structuring the deal," Halsell said.

Not only is that deadline approaching, but another one is, too. In 2021 and 2022, the NFL's TV deals with Monday Night Football, FOX, CBS and NBC expire as well.

So, there's a very real possibility the league's salary cap could look much, much different in a few seasons. And that, according to Halsell, may make Scherff much less willing to accept an extension now.

"If you're Brandon Scherff, in 2021, with a new collective bargaining agreement, the salary cap might be $250 million or something crazy like that, with all the new revenue coming into the league," he explained. "And so why would I take a deal today and preclude myself of taking advantage of a very lucrative and larger revenue pie?"

Essentially, it comes down to whether Scherff wants to take a present risk that could pay off down the line (kind of like how Kirk Cousins did a few years back with the Burgundy and Gold). He could probably lock something in over the next few months — Halsell's projection was an agreement for five years, including $45 million guaranteed and a $14.5 million average per year — or step away from talks now and try to cash in later.

Haslell told Redskins Talk he'd probably advise the lineman to take the second route.

"You would say, 'Look, you're a former first-round pick. You've made a decent amount of money in your career thus far,'" he said. "You have the financial wherewithal to not take the bird in hand today that may not be as lucrative as what is out there in 2021. So, bet on yourself and play out the last year of your rookie deal, force them to tag you in 2020 and then see what this new NFL salary cap world looks like in 2021."

Now, who knows truly how much these factors will play into Scherff's back-and-forth with the 'Skins. Nevertheless, you can see why the Pro Bowler's next contract may not be as much of a no-brainer as previously thought.

"If the kid is willing to bet on himself," Haslell said, "then it could be very lucrative on the back end."

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Seven reasons you need to root for the Blues in the Stanley Cup Final

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Seven reasons you need to root for the Blues in the Stanley Cup Final

The St. Louis Blues defeated the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night to advance to the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final. The champions of the Western Conference will take on the Boston Bruins, the champions of the Eastern Conference, having swept the Carolina Hurricanes in four games.

With the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins squaring off in a rematch of the 1970 Stanley Cup Final, we've dug up the seven reasons why Capitals fans, and -- well -- all NHL fans should be rooting for the Blues to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup.

1: The Blues are like the Capitals of the West

A lot of fans think that the San Jose Sharks hold that title, but the Blues present an even stronger case.

The Blues Stanley Cup drought is currently at 51 seasons. And although they made the Stanley Cup Final three consecutive seasons from 1968-1970, they have yet to win a game in the Stanley Cup Final.

That should sound familiar to Caps fans. Before they won it all in 2018, Washington's Cup drought was 42 years, and when they made the Cup Final in 1998 they were swept by the dominant Detroit Red Wings.

The similarities don't stop there. Each team has a Russian sniper, a crop of promising rookies on offense and defense, and acquired depth pieces in free agency to build a consistent contender.

In the Blues case before this season, they couldn't make it past the Conference Finals, similar to how the Caps couldn't make it out of the second round.

Call it coincidence or fate, but the Blues are looking eerily similar to the Caps that won the Stanley Cup last year.

2: No More Boston Championships

The New England Patriots just won the Super Bowl. The Red Sox just won another World Series. The city of Boston has celebrated six major professional championships since 2010 and 12 since 2000, with each parade more frustrating to watch than the last.

Does Boston really need another championship after a drought since February?

3: Brad Marchand is the worst

A lot of people will complain about Tom Wilson's play. But Brad Marchand is the king of the subtle and overtly dirty play, especially in the playoffs where the rules relax.

In last year's playoffs, Marchand was told by the league to stop licking players after he brushed his tongue across Leo Komarov's face.

This postseason, he's punched players in the back of the head after a play's been blown dead.

He also baited Justin Williams into penalty minutes when he high-sticked him across the face. No penalty was given to Marchand on the play.

Marchand's put up 18 points through three rounds in addition to his antics.

4: TJ Oshie's old stomping grounds

The Caps acquired Oshie from the Blues in 2015 in exchange for Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley and Washington's third-round pick in 2016, and he's now a mainstay in the Caps top six. 

Oshie played over 400 games for the Blues, recording over 300 points for the organization that drafted him. Not only did he put up stellar numbers, but he was an alternate captain for the Blues and was beloved by fans in the area.

Who better to root for than for Oshbabe's old team?

5: Vladimir Tarasenko is tearing it up

If you've got Alex Ovechkin's endorsement as a game-changer, that's a good place to start.

Ovechkin took note of Tarasenko's skill in a 2014 game the Blues played against the Rangers and told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch "He just make great jump in his career and he’s carrying the team right now.”

In these playoffs, the Russian sniper has eight goals and five assists, including points in every game of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks.


6: Pam and Jim are facing off in an Office matchup

Actor John Krasinski, who played Jim Halpert in The Office,  is a Bruins fan. 

Jenna Fischer, who played Pam Beesly, Jim's love interest, is a Blues fan.

We have a house divided.

We tend to lean to Team Pam because if you take a closer look, Jim was a pretty awful colleague and despite his charm and boyish looks, he was kinda a bad person.

7: Washington helped St. Louis ascend the standings

On Jan. 2 the Blues were last in the league and posted a 15-18-4 record with 34 points.

But their fortunes started to turn on Jan. 3, when they faced the Caps at Enterprise Center in St. Louis. They beat the Caps 5-2, and turned their season around from that game going forward, including an 11 game winning streak.

So really, St. Louis has Washington to thank for transforming their season from one marred by losses to one where they made the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1970.

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