Nationals

DeCoud sets pace for Falcons with 6 interceptions

201212161443530291765-p2.jpeg

DeCoud sets pace for Falcons with 6 interceptions

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) After Asante Samuel intercepted Eli Manning's first pass on Sunday, the cornerback approached Falcons teammate Thomas DeCoud, who leads the team in interceptions.

DeCoud says Samuel joked ```I'm about to catch you.'''

Not so fast.

``I said `OK, but just wait,''' DeCoud said. ``I ended up getting mine. We can joke about it like that.''

DeCoud, a safety, added to his team lead with his sixth interception later in the Falcons' 34-0 win over the Giants.

Samuel has three interceptions but is trailing both Atlanta safeties. William Moore has picked off four passes, giving the Falcons the NFL's only tandem at the safety positions to each have four or more interceptions.

Falcons coach Mike Smith said DeCoud and Moore should be considered one of the league's top pair of safeties.

``I think our two safeties have played as well as any tandem in the league,'' Smith said after Tuesday's practice for Saturday night's game at Detroit. ``They're making a lot of plays on the ball. ... They've been very productive and when their opportunities have come, they have not missed.''

DeCoud was a third-round pick in 2008. Moore was a second-round pick in 2009.

Smith said the two safeties ``are really coming into their own in terms of their maturation processes, Thomas in his fifth year and William in his fourth.''

Another key has been first-year defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's scheme, which gives the defensive backs more freedom to create big plays.

``It's kind of a combination of the new scheme and the reins being loosened a little bit, and also the kind of work we did in the offseason,'' DeCoud said. ``Both William and I paid a lot of time, a lot of attention, to our ball skills and our ability to get the ball when it's in the air and make plays on it.''

Moore's four interceptions, one shy of his career high set in 2010, have come in only 12 games. He has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury and his status is uncertain for the game at Detroit.

Moore ran on the side but did not practice on Tuesday. Veteran Chris Hope started the last two games as Moore's replacement.

Hope, in his 11th season, is an authority on top safety tandems. He began his career with four seasons in Pittsburgh, including two seasons starting alongside Troy Polamalu. Hope then played six seasons with Tennessee, where he was paired with Michael Griffin at safety.

Hope, 32, said DeCoud and Moore deserve to be mentioned with the elite players at the position.

``It's been a blessing to sit back and watch those young guys mature into what I think are two of the best safeties in the league,'' Hope said. ``I've had the opportunity to form two of the best safety tandems in the league myself. To see those two guys come in and play at the level they've played all season has been good.''

Moore is third on the team with 75 tackles and has two forced fumbles. DeCoud has 64 tackles.

``Those guys are flying around back there,'' said linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. ``They're making plays. They're covering guys. A lot of safeties sit back in the middle of the field and make the plays. Those guys do a lot. Mike Nolan has a great plan for them to get down in the box and they do a good job with their disguises. That's one of the biggest things a lot of people don't see.''

DeCoud said the safeties would receive more recognition if the Falcons (12-2) can win in the playoffs. Atlanta can clinch home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs if they beat Detroit.

``I think we're right up there at the top, but until we can get a little hardware on our hands, that has yet to be proven,'' DeCoud said.

NOTES: Backup OL Joe Hawley returned Tuesday from a four-game suspension after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Smith said the Falcons have a one-week roster exemption before they must make a move to clear a spot for Hawley, who was center Todd McClure's top backup before the suspension.

Quick Links

3 things to watch when the .500 Nationals head to Colorado

natswin.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

3 things to watch when the .500 Nationals head to Colorado

The Nationals face the Rockies at Coors Field for the first half of this work week. Here are three things to watch for:

  1. Can the Nationals stay above .500? Stephen Strasburg’s impressive start along with Ryan Zimmerman’s two homers and two RBI kept Washington from being swept by the lowly Marlins.

  2. Who will produce with Anthony Rendon out? While the Nats 3B was sidelined with an elbow injury after being hit by a pitch in Saturday’s outing against the Marlins, Howie Kendrick started in his place. Kendrick went 1-for-3 vs Miami with one RBI and one strikeout. In terms of replacing Rendon’s hitting prowess, Victor Robles has started a streak of his own. The youngster is hot on a seven game hit streak, including a bunt over the infield Sunday.

  3. Will the Nationals ever sure up their end game? Yesterday’s ninth inning was on the brink of disaster. Kyle Barraclough allowed back-to-back walks, then Sean Doolittle loaded the bases. Luckily for the Nats, crisis averted.

Download the MyTeams app (https://www.nbcsports.com/washington/myteams-nbc-sports ) for even more Nationals content, and check out the latest episode of the Racing Presidents podcast below.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

 

Quick Links

NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Blues eliminate Jets, Stars and Capitals pull ahead 3-2

NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Blues eliminate Jets, Stars and Capitals pull ahead 3-2

Friday saw the Toronto Maple Leafs pull ahead 3-2 and the Colorado Avalanche eliminate the favored Calgary Flames. Saturday provided another elimination game and two teams pulled ahead 3-2 in their series.

Here are the results from Saturday.

St. Louis Blues eliminate Winnipeg Jets with 3-2 win

The Blues return to the second round of the playoffs after they were eliminated in the first round last season.

The Blues rally started 23 seconds into the game, when Jaden Schwartz put home a Brayden Schenn rebound.

Schwartz followed with two more goals, completing the hat trick. It's the second natural hat trick in a playoff series clinching game since Geoff Courtnall in 1992.

The Blues await the winner of the Nashville-Dallas series.

Dallas Stars pull ahead of Nashville Predators in 5-3 victory

The Stars were able to steal one from the Predators at Bridgestone Arena thanks to Jason Dickinson and Alexander Radulov's two goal performances.

Tyler Seguin added a goal of his own to pull the Stars ahead 4-2 at the end of the second period, and Ben Bishop recorded 30 saves.

The Stars have a chance to close the series at home Monday night.

Washington Capitals take upperhand on Carolina Hurricanes with 6-0 shutout

After dropping Game 4 in Carolina 2-1, the Caps exploded for six goals against the Hurricanes in a 6-0 win.

Nicklas Backstrom scored the opening two goals. He leads the Capitals in playoff goals with five and had a four point night.

The Caps also got production from their bottom six with Brett Connolly's goal and Nic Dowd's converted penalty shot. It's the first penalty shot a Caps player has successfully made in the playoffs.

Braden Holtby's shutout gave him seven in the playoffs, surpassing Olaf Kolzig's six for the franchise lead. The Caps have a chance to win the series in Carolina Monday night.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: