Capitals

Getting to Brady could be key for 49ers

Getting to Brady could be key for 49ers

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) As Aldon Smith chases down the NFL record for sacks, his specialty becomes of particular significance this week when the San Francisco 49ers face New England and the NFL's top-ranked offense.

The Patriots have been vulnerable most often when opponents put quarterback Tom Brady on his back.

Nobody in the league has been better at that this season than Smith. The NFL leader with 19 1/2 sacks, he enters Sunday night's game three sacks short of Michael Strahan's single-season record after recording at least one in seven consecutive games and 14 in San Francisco's past six games.

Brady has been sacked seven times in New England's three losses and only 13 times in the team's 10 wins. How much pressure Smith and San Francisco's second-ranked defense can put on Brady could be the key to ending the Patriots' seven-game winning streak.

That hasn't been an easy thing to do for most opponents. Only once during New England's past eight games has Brady been sacked more than once. He wasn't sacked at all in three of those games.

``It's a big challenge to put pressure on Tom Brady when he's so good with every detail of his game,'' 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said Friday. ``Everything is so refined. There's not a lot of tips you can get or clues even when he's in the shotgun. So it's a big task and that's something that we would like to get done. I think we're up for it.''

Smith has been up for practically every pass-rushing challenge over the past two months, particularly in prime-time games.

He had a career-high 5 1/2 sacks the last time the 49ers played a night game Nov. 19 against the Chicago Bears. Three weeks before that, Smith had two sacks during a Monday night rout of Arizona. In six career games played in prime time, the second-year pro has produced 12 1/2 sacks.

``It's just that feeling that you get again, being in the spotlight,'' Smith said. ``Being back under the lights, that's when everybody got their real love for football. Back in high school under the lights, Friday night lights, you knew it was show time. Everybody just gets up for it.''

The spotlight has been shining bright on Smith as he approaches Strahan's league record set in 2001. Smith is the first player in NFL history to record 14 or more sacks in his first two seasons, and his 33 1/2 career sacks are the most ever by a player in his first two years.

Smith is eager to add to those totals Sunday against a familiar opponent. The No. 7 overall selection in the 2011 NFL draft, Smith will line up in base defensive formations across from New England left tackle Nate Solder, the No. 17 pick in last year's draft.

Smith and Solder faced each other in college when Smith was at Missouri and Solder at Colorado in 2009. As a redshirt freshman, Smith had a college career-high three sacks and four tackles behind the line of scrimmage in that game, a 36-17 Missouri victory.

``I faced (Solder) in college and I was able to beat him,'' Smith said. ``I'm sure he improved, and they do a really good job working well with each other, working as an O-line to protect the quarterback. (Brady) does a good job getting rid of the ball, so getting pressure on him and confusing him and making his job a lot harder are things we have to do.''

The San Francisco defense relies on Smith's impact from the edge to make those things happen.

``It's going to take a lot of pressure, Aldon and those guys getting to Brady,'' cornerback Carlos Rogers said. ``They need to mix up their looks and get him off his spot so he's not sitting back there baking a cake and picking us apart.''

New England is the NFL's highest-scoring team, averaging 36.3 points per game, and in the six games the Patriots have won by more than 10 points this season, Brady has been sacked only three times. In New England's seven other games, Brady has been sacked 17 times and the Patriots are 4-3.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio understands the correlation between getting pressure on Brady and having success against the Patriots.

``Every week's a challenge in this league, but this week it's more of a challenge because of Brady and their offense,'' Fangio said. ``There is no one way to defend Brady, which to me is the definition of a great quarterback. Do you want to pressure him some? Yeah. Do you want to rush three, five, six? Yes. But you've got to do a little bit of everything, because he's really good.''

Smith will be coming with everything he has as he attempts to bring down Brady and break the sacks record.

``It's one of the goals I have,'' Smith said, ``and just have to really keep it going, see if I can make that number even better.''

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Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

With their 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, the Capitals' playoff future is starting to come into focus. Washington has only one game remaining and can finish in either third or fourth in the round robin standings. That limits the number of possible playoff opponents for the Caps when the games really start to matter.

First, before talking about who the Caps may play, it is important to remember why. Under the NHL's regular format, a normal year would see teams advance in a bracket, meaning each team knows going in they will be playing the winner of a specific matchup if they advance. This year, the NHL is going back to its old format of re-seeding after each round. This makes determining matchups a bit harder to figure out.

Here's what we know. The Caps are going to finish in the bottom half of the round robin meaning they will play one of the highest two seeded teams coming out of the qualifying round. The Carolina Hurricanes swept their qualifying round series against the New York Rangers. As the No. 6 seed coming in, Carolina is going to be one of the top two qualifying round teams.

RELATED: DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWNS AND MORE FROM CAPS LOSS TO FLYERS

Washington's final seed will be determined by Sunday's game against the Boston Bruins. A win in regulation, overtime or a shootout will mean the Caps are No. 3, while a loss in any fashion will bump them down to No. 4.

The simplest scenario for Washington is that If the Pittsburgh Penguins rally to win their series against the Montreal Canadiens, the Caps are guaranteed to play either Pittsburgh or Carolina as the No. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively. It gets a little trickier if the Penguins lose. If that happens, the Hurricanes become the top qualifying team and will play No. 4. The top team behind them then becomes No. 6 which, as of now, could be the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs or the Columbus Blue Jackets.

So a rematch with the Hurricanes is a definite possibility for the Caps, as is a matchup with the rival Penguins.

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Report: Derrius Guice's attorney denies client's domestic abuse allegations

Report: Derrius Guice's attorney denies client's domestic abuse allegations

Derrius Guice's representation has released a statement that says the Washington Football Team running back "adamantly denies" the charges that he was arrested for on Friday

Guice turned himself into the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office facing one count of strangulation, three counts of assault and battery, and one count destruction of property.

The following statement from Peter Greenspun was obtained by Ben Standig of The Athletic. 

"Mr. Guice will not be commenting on these charges, which he adamantly denies. We ask that the media respect Mr. Guice's privacy," the statement read. 

"Unfortunately, the investigators did not seek a statement or any input for Derrius before the warrants were issued. The failure to fully investigate allegations of events, which allegedly took place months ago is inexplicable."

Greenspun, who has a historic career and most notably was a defense attorney in the 'D.C. Sniper trial,' called the charges of his client "unsubstantiated." He also called out the football franchise for releasing Guice prematurely without inquiring about the investigation. 

"... a full vetting of the allegations will take place, in contrast to actions by local law enforcement and the Washington Football Team that assumed the worst, directly contradicting every sense of fairness and due process," the statement concluded.

The Washington Football Team released Guice less than an hour after his arrest became public. The move came through as a part of the culture Ron Rivera has vowed to instill during his first few months as head coach. This is also not the first time Guice has faced issues for off-the-field behavior. He fell to the team back in the 2018 draft due to issues he had while with LSU.

In his short tenure, Rivera has dealt with a tumultuous series of issues arising from the franchise including current and former players facing other serious allegations, a monumental name change, and serious allegations of the culture within the team's executives.

Despite injuries mounting in two years for the 23-year-old back, it was expected that Guice would become the leading rusher in the backfield this season. Still, he had yet to prove to be a consistent contributor with only 42 carries for 245 yards and two touchdowns entering his third season.

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