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Falcons overcome mistakes to beat Buccaneers 24-23

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Falcons overcome mistakes to beat Buccaneers 24-23

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Atlanta coach Mike Smith spoke highly of the Falcons' defense. Without its solid performance, Matt Ryan may not have had an opportunity to lead his latest game-winning drive.

The Falcons (10-1) held off Tampa Bay 24-23 Sunday, overcoming two turnovers by their star quarterback in part because the Buccaneers settled for a pair of field goals rather than touchdowns after Ryan threw a second-quarter interception and lost a fumble on a fourth-quarter sack.

``I thought our defense did an outstanding job again. They were put in some tough situations after turnovers,'' Smith said, adding that limiting Bucs rookie Doug Martin to 50 yards rushing on 21 carries was a key to the game as well.

``We knew it was going to be one of our `musts,' and I thought we did a nice job,'' Smith added. ``I thought we played the run extremely well, controlled the line of scrimmage. That is an outstanding running back.''

Ryan completed his first 10 passes and finished 26 of 32 for 353 yards and one touchdown, an 80-yarder to Julio Jones, who had nine receptions for 147 yards despite playing on a sore right ankle that limited him in practice.

Atlanta got a lift from the return of linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who was back after missing three games with an ankle injury.

Josh Freeman threw for 256 yards for Tampa Bay, however he was sacked twice and failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in 14 games. Martin scored both of his team's TDs on 1-yard runs and Connor Barth kicked three field goals.

``It's hard to win games by threes,'' coach Greg Schiano said. ``Sevens add up considerably quicker.''

The Falcons (10-1) kept pace with the Houston Texans for the NFL's best record and ended a four-game winning streak by the up-and-coming Bucs (6-5).

``They are playing with a lot of confidence,'' said Ryan, who has won seven of his past eight starts against the Bucs. ``It's always been a tough place for us to come play. They play with great effort, and I think they have a good football team.''

Ryan teamed with Jones on his long TD midway through the third quarter, but the Falcons found themselves trailing 23-17 after the Bucs marched to Martin's second TD, then used a sack-fumble to set up a field goal that left Atlanta needing another fourth-quarter comeback to win.

Ryan obliged by a leading a six-play, 64-yard march that Michael Turner finished with a 3-yard TD run that put the NFC South leaders ahead for good with 7:55 remaining.

Barth missed a 56-yard goal for Tampa Bay in the closing minutes, and the winning streak that's helped the Bucs climb back into playoff contention following a 1-3 start ended when Freeman's desperation pass fell incomplete in the Atlanta end zone with no time left on the clock.

``The last drive, that's something we've done before this season,'' Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez said. ``I really think that's a positive for us to be able to come up with plays like that when we have to like that. ... I'm really happy with the way we responded.''

It's getting to be a way of life. Ryan has also led late marches to beat Carolina, Washington, Oakland and Arizona this season and has put together 21 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime since entering the league in 2008 - four of them against the division rival Bucs.

The Falcons won't have long to celebrate this one. They host the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night in a rematch of the only game they've lost.

``Ten and 1 is great, but I'll tell you what I've said since the beginning of the season: We're just jockeying for position,'' Gonzalez said. ``We just want to put ourselves in the best position, playing the best football. Right around this time is when you want to start jelling as a team and take it on into the playoffs because that's the most important thing.''

The win stopped the Bucs, who've won five or seven following a 1-3 start, from tightening the NFC South standings. Turner also scored a fourth-quarter TD that helped the Falcons overcome six turnovers to beat Arizona 23-19 last week.

``It was a hard-fought game by both teams, a very physical game,'' Schiano said. ``But I do think missed opportunities were a big part of it. There were some chances both offensively and defensively, and in the kicking game.''

NOTES: Martin scored on a pair of 1-yard run for the Bucs. ... After throwing seven interceptions in Atlanta's first nine games, Ryan has thrown six the past two weeks. ... Falcons CBs Asante Samuel (shoulder) and Dunta Robinson (head) left the game with injuries in the third quarter, but returned.

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Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Aaron Holiday

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Aaron Holiday

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Aaron Holiday

School: UCLA
Position: Point guard
Age: 21 (turns 22 in Sept.)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 187
Wingspan: 6-8
Max vertical: 33

2017/18 stats: 20.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.2 bpg, 46.1 FG%, 42.9 3PT% (2.7 3PT/6.2 3PA), 82.8 FT%
Player comparison: Darren Collison
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 19th, NBADraft.net 24th, Bleacher Report 23rd, Sports Illustrated 23rd

5 things to know:

*Holiday played big minutes in all three seasons for the Bruins. As a junior, he broke out as an elite scorer, averaging 20.3 points while also dishing 5.8 assists per game. Holiday scored in a variety of ways, including at the free throw line where he averaged 5.8 attempts per game and knocked them down at 82.8 percent.

*He is a terrific three-point shooter, one of the best in this draft class based on his college numbers. He hit 42.9 percent of his shots and on 6.2 attempts per game. Holiday shot 42.2 percent from long range in his three-year college career and never shot below 41 percent in a season. He had some games where teams just couldn't stop him from long range. He made four threes or more in 13 college games. Twice he went 5-for-5 and he once made six threes against USC.

*Though he has the skillset to play off the ball as a shooting guard, his size will limit him at the NBA level. Holiday is just under 6-foot-1 in shoes and doesn't have the vertical leap to make up for it. He does, however, have a plus wingspan. At this point, Holiday seems to be solely a point guard, though as long as he's good at the position there is nothing wrong with that.

*Holiday worked out for the Wizards at Capital One Arena. He was part of their first week of predraft workouts and by all accounts had an impressive visit. He hit a lot of shots and fared well in the interview process.

*Holiday has two brothers currently in the NBA. Jrue is a former All-Star who starts at point guard for the New Orleans Pelicans. Justin is a shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls. His sister-in-law, Lauren, is a former member of the U.S. women's national soccer team.

Fit with Wizards: The Wizards already have a point guard in John Wall, so Holiday would have no long-term path to starting. That said, he would shore up a need the Wizards have been trying to address for years.

Backup point guard has been a real void for the Wizards for most of Wall's tenure. This past season they tried out all sorts of options between Tomas Satoransky, Tim Frazier, Ramon Sessions and Ty Lawson. Though Satoransky remains on the roster, the Wizards don't appear content with their depth at the position.

Holiday's ability to hit threes is very attractive to the Wizards who could conceivably play him off-the-ball alongside Wall, or even Satoransky. Given Wall (6-4) and Satoransky (6-7) are taller than most point guards, they could theoretically guard shooting guards on the other end.

Holiday would add smarts and shooting to the Wizards' bench in the short-term. In the long-term, he could help lengthen Wall's career by taking some of his workload away and also give the Wizards more options once Wall enters his 30s.

Best highlight video:

More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

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Need to Know: The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger

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Need to Know: The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 17, 39 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The best Redskins players 25 or younger

Here is a look at the best Redskins players who have played at least one season and will be 25 or younger as of Week 1 this year. 

WR Jamison Crowder, 25 as of Week 1—Crowder hit the ground running in his first year, with 59 receptions, a team rookie record, and gaining 604 yards. He has been very dependable in his three years, averaging 64 catches, 747 yards, and four receiving touchdowns per year. 

OLB Preston Smith, 25—Since he came into the league, no player but Smith has at least 20.5 sacks, three or more interceptions, and four or more forced fumbles. His sack numbers tend to be up and down from week to week, but Jay Gruden has said more than once that Smith is very consistent in getting pressure on the quarterback even if he doesn’t always get home for the sack. 

DL Matt Ioannidis, 24—A year ago it was thought that he would face an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster. Now goes into the season as a starter and key contributor. The 2016 fifth-round pick got much stronger between his first and second seasons and he took well to the coaching of new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. Only a broken hand that cost him two games and had him playing with an awkward cast for a few more kept him from threatening to make double-digit sacks. 

DL Jonathan Allen, 23—The Redskins were just starting to get a hint of what Allen could do early in the season. Pro Football Focus credited him with a total of three sacks in the Redskins third and fourth games. But in their fifth game, he suffered a foot injury that ended his season. Allen was a full go for the offseason program and there is no reason to think that he won’t pick back up right where he left off. 

S Montae Nicholson, 22—Like Allen, Nicholson’s rookie season was shortened due to injuries. He took advantage of the absence of anticipated starter Su’a Cravens and made an impact from the beginning. While the 2017 fourth-round pick and free-agent pickup D.J. Swearinger were in the lineup the decade-long struggles the Redskins have had at the safety position were suddenly gone. 

Best of the rest: WR Josh Doctson (25), C Chase Roullier (25)

It should be noted that DL Daron Payne turned 21 in May and RB Derrius Guice will the 21 later this month so they could be joining this list soon. Assuming those two start, the Redskins will have nine quality starters aged 25 or younger this year. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline  

Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder was born on this date in 1993. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 39
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 53
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 76

The Redskins last played a game 166 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 84 days. 

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