Capitals

Houston hopes offense improves against Indy

201212231427520794367-p2.jpeg

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.''

-----

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

Quick Links

Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

ap_18146636573129.jpg
AP Images

Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

The wait is finally over. 

After two decades, the Capitals are back in the Stanley Cup Final. 

After a convincing 4-0 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Capitals are in Vegas to take on the Golden Knights. They'll be facing off against a handful of familiar names, with former Caps GM George McPhee, fan favorite Nate Schmidt, and ex-Penguins goalie Marc Andre-Fluery are just a few of the names that'll be suiting up for Vegas. 

What will the X-factors in the series be? Who will be the unexpected heroes of Game 1? The action is almost underway, and here are all the details you need to know.

Game 1 Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Monday, May 28
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV.
TV Channel: NBCSN 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 FM)

WHEN IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES?

Game 1 of the Capitals-Golden Knights 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final takes place on Monday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

WHAT TV CHANNEL IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES ON?

The TV broadcast of Game 1 between the Capitals and Golden Knights is on NBC. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

5:00 p.m. — Caps Cup Preview
6:00 p.m. — Caps GameDay Live
6:30 p.m. — Caps Face Off
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Game 1 Capitals vs. Golden Knights
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1?

Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights is available for online stream on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the NBC Sports live stream page.

CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1 OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals digital producer JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.