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Houston hopes offense improves against Indy

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Houston hopes offense improves against Indy

HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Texans didn't score a touchdown for the first time in more than six years and had their fewest yards of the season in a loss to the Vikings.

They must get their offense going for Sunday's game against the Colts. They need a win to secure a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

The offense is struggling at a time when it should be peaking. The unit failed to score a touchdown for the first time since Oct. 15, 2006, a span of 106 games.

Matt Schaub said he knows everyone has to do their jobs for the offense to click, but he takes more responsibility for the group as the quarterback.

``There's plenty of stuff from the game that I can correct from my own play and I've got to do that first , and then look to other places to help the group as a whole do that,'' he said. ``You take it upon yourself to correct what you personally did wrong, and if everyone does that together and is on the same page that is the recipe for success.''

The Texans believe better execution and keeping third downs manageable will be keys to success this week in Indianapolis, a place they've never won.

Houston was 1 of 11 on third downs against the Vikings. Some of the trouble came from plays in the running game with negative yardage on earlier downs, but they were also slowed by nine penalties for 60 yards.

Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison is focused on cleaning things up and eliminating the penalties this week. He's also talked to his team about the importance of putting together long drives. Seven of Houston's possessions against the Vikings ended after five plays or less.

``Staying on the ball is, I think, for anybody the key to winning in the NFL,'' Dennison said. ``Just continuous drives. Not only does it wear their defense down, it secures points ... and helps your defense get a chance to rest. It is a momentum and confidence builder if you're on the field for longer drives.''

A major component to doing that will be getting the running game going again. In Houston's three losses this season the team has averaged 3.8 yards or less a carry, and the Texans managed a season-low 2.1 against Minnesota. Those numbers aren't acceptable to left tackle Duane Brown.

``I don't think we've performed up to par at all,'' Brown said. ``We've had some moments where we've broken out some big runs, but consistently we haven't done our jobs good enough to get to where we need to be. Averaging two or three yards a carry is not going to cut it for us. It's not going to cut it this week, and it's not going to cut it in the postseason.''

Coach Gary Kubiak was very unhappy with Houston's work against the Vikings and hopes his players are just as upset.

``Anybody who is worth their salt from the standpoint of competing, when you don't succeed or you don't play the way you expect yourself to compete, then of course you're bothered,'' he said.

Veteran receiver Andre Johnson is encouraging the team not to dwell on its mistakes from last week, but rather learn from them and move on. He said they must establish themselves early to be successful against the Colts.

``We just need to go out and get off to a fast start and get into a rhythm,'' he said. ``The biggest thing is just going out and making plays. That's something we didn't do last week, we didn't make any plays.''

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Redrafting the 2003 draft: Patrice Bergeron could have been a Penguin

Redrafting the 2003 draft: Patrice Bergeron could have been a Penguin

It takes years to determine who the best players in any given draft are. How would past NHL drafts look if they were redrafted today? Let's look back at the 2003 draft and see how it shaped today's NHL.

Here's a look at the first round of 2003 redrafted.

The draft was a total bust for Washington

In the real draft, the Caps took Eric Fehr 18th overall. He played in 652 NHL games. The remaining five players the team drafted combined for one single NHL game. Yikes.

Phaneuf to the Caps?

In the redraft, I had defenseman Dion Phaneuf going to Washington. Before you groan, let's not forget that he played in over 1,000 NHL games and, while he was with Calgary, he looked absolutely dominant. I don't think there are any questions that he struggled handling the pressure as captain of Toronto. Almost every stat takes a precipitous decline when you compare his Calgary numbers to when he was with the Maple Leafs. I don't think that would have been a problem in Washington as just one year after this draft, the Caps selected a guy by the name of Alex Ovechkin who took all the attention. If Phaneuf had been in a city where he could just play, he would have been a top-pair defenseman for most of his career.

This also would have affected the 2004 draft for Washington. The Caps had three first-round picks. They used one on Ovechkin then took Jeff Schultz and Mike Green late in the round. Do they go both defense at that point if they had taken Phaneuf the year before? I'm not so sure.

Would Bergeron have helped Pittsburgh?

Patrice Bergeron was the best player in the 2003 draft. He went with the 45th overall pick to the Boston Bruins. The Pittsburgh Penguins had the No.1 overall pick that year and selected goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. That is not a bad pick by any stretch, but with one of the best two-way forwards of all-time available to them, would Pittsburgh have been able to pass him up knowing how good he really was?

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The interesting thing about this is that if Pittsburgh had taken arguably the better player in Bergeron, it may have cost them in the long run. Fleury was the backstop of three Stanley Cup runs for the Penguins. OK, so he only played in two playoff games in 2016 and yielded the crease to Matt Murray, but he retook the No. 1 job in 2017 when again Pittsburgh won the Cup. Also, just two years after the 2003 draft, the Penguins ended up with a pretty decent two-way center by the name of Sidney Crosby. The idea of a team with both Crosby and Bergeron on it is daunting, but its two players of the same position and they would have still needed a goalie.

The Penguins may not have ended up with the better player overall, but they did get exactly the player they needed in Fleury.

Fleury to Columbus?

In the redraft, Fleury dops from first to fourth and is snagged by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Would Fleury have been able to get Columbus over the playoff hump sooner? That's a tough question to answer.

Goaltending has not been a major weakness for Columbus. Yes, he could have given the team a boost, but the roster was awful there for several years after the expansion draft. When the team did finally make the playoffs for the first time in 2009, it was off the back of an incredible rookie season from goalie Steve Mason. They also had a pretty good netminder in Sergei Bobrovsky from 2013 to 2019, or at least he was pretty good in the regular season.

Correction: regular season goaltending has not been a major weakness for Columbus. Actually, Bobrovsky was terrible in the playoffs for much of his career. Perhaps there is some validity to the argument that better netminding from Fleury -- who is a strong postseason performer -- could have potentially changed the trajectory of the franchise.

See the first round of 2003 redrafted here.

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Redskins Superlatives: Two tremendous leaders earn the Most Likely to Become President Award

Redskins Superlatives: Two tremendous leaders earn the Most Likely to Become President Award

This week, JP Finlay and Pete Hailey will be handing out Redskins Superlatives as they continue to preview the 2020 season.

Next up: They give their Most Likely to Become President Award to a fan favorite and the franchise's newest leader.

JP's pick: Terry McLaurin

There is nothing Terry McLaurin can't do and he's got my vote for president should he ever decide to run. Beyond the breakout rookie year, the precise route running and his blazing speed, McLaurin talks like a 10-year veteran.

This offseason has been hard for everyone, but McLaurin explained things better than most: "Football is what I love to do. I can’t think of a better blessing in my life to be playing the game that I love. When you get through the course of such a long NFL season and you get to the end, it’s like man, I’m ready for that break. That burning desire is still inside of you to continue to get better and continue to improve. Now with us having a new staff, we’re just all looking forward to being on the field again. I feel like sports is something that this country needs as well. The camaraderie of it, the togetherness that it brings."

Put McLaurin on the ballot — but ideally after a 15-year career with a whole lot of postseason success.

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Pete's pick: Ron Rivera

JP and I didn't go to school together — that's because he's a LOT OLDER than me — but if we did, it would've been a surprise if we ever got an A-plus on the same assignment. In fact, it would've been a huge surprise, and perhaps an impossibility.

But in this instance, we're both getting an A-plus. He nailed his pick, and I'm nailing mine. 

Ron Rivera hasn't been with the Redskins long, and due to this unusual offseason, the media hasn't gotten to hang around him much in person, aside from his introductory press conference in January and some time at the Combine. 

Even so, we have still talked to him plenty on Zoom, and in all of those instances, I've been floored by his leadership, his intelligence and his perspective on everything, both football-related topics and topics that relate more to life overall. 

RELATED: RIVERA ON NOT SIGNING CAM NEWTON

At this point, I'm pretty much convinced every company or group in the world would be better with Rivera involved. He's fair, he's level-headed and he simultaneously gives and commands respect. 

For now, Rivera's just in the running for an NFC East title, but if he ever sets his sights on running for office, he'll have one mediocre blogger on his side.

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