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Jaguars locked into franchise's worst season

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Jaguars locked into franchise's worst season

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) There's nothing the Jacksonville Jaguars can do to prevent the worst season in franchise history.

It's on coach Mike Mularkey's resume now.

It also could lead to his ouster, along with general manager Gene Smith.

The Jaguars (2-12) clinched their spot in history with a 24-3 loss at Miami on Sunday, the team's seventh defeat by 16 points or more this season.

Not even Jacksonville's inaugural team in 1995 - a group comprised of mostly rookies and street free agents - was overmatched as often. Coach Tom Coughlin's rag-tag bunch finished 4-12 back then, losing four games by at least 16 points. The 4-12 record is the worst in franchise history.

The Jaguars would have to win out to get that many victories in 2012. More likely is another lopsided loss Sunday when New England (10-4) brings the league's most prolific offense to town.

``No one thought we'd be in this situation with only having two wins this late in the year,'' linebacker Paul Posluszny said Monday. ``I think we have too many guys who can make plays and do things the right way. But for whatever reason, we haven't been able to bring it all together to win.''

The Jaguars have dropped 10 of their last 11 games, setting the stage for changes under first-year owner Shad Khan.

Smith, the team's architect the last four seasons, is likely gone. Jacksonville is 22-40 during Smith's tenure, failing to draft or acquire a single Pro Bowl player. He seemingly whiffed with defensive tackle Tyson Alualu in 2010 and quarterback Blaine Gabbert in 2011.

Former owner Wayne Weaver convinced Khan to keep Smith last year, and Khan allowed Smith to lead the search for a new coaching staff. So Smith was the one who suggested Mularkey and was the driving force behind decisions to keep several assistants from the previous regime.

All of them could be gone in two weeks.

``Like I said to the players, if you do everything the right way and you do it the best you can, you'll be successful here and wherever else that will be,'' Mularkey said. ``That's the only thing I will go by or anybody else that's going to be in this building is going to go by. We're going to just do the best we can.''

Mularkey and his players insist no one is quitting, although the Jaguars have been outscored 26-0 in the third quarter of the last three games and gashed on the ground in the second half of those losses. They allowed 139 yards rushing against the Dolphins after intermission, following poor performances against the New York Jets (116 yards in the second half) and Buffalo (158 yards in the second half).

``Who would (quit)? That's what losers do,'' said running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who is questionable to return from a sprained foot this week. ``We have a losing record, but there are no losers in here. We get paid to do our job and we're going to give everything we've got to do it. A loser is going to be the one who gives up and doesn't care. Effort has never been the case with this team.''

A lack of talent is the real issue.

No doubt, injuries have taken a toll on Jacksonville. Between Jones-Drew, Gabbert, guard Will Rackley and linebackers Daryl Smith and Clint Session, the Jaguars have had their share of missed starts, but every team in the league deals with injuries. The good ones have enough depth to overcome those setbacks.

The Jaguars, though, seem a long way off.

Against the Dolphins, they had two touchdowns taken off the scoreboard and got stopped three times on fourth down. They finished with 10 penalties, none more costly than an illegal substitution called against offensive tackle Guy Whimper that nullified a TD and proved to be the catalyst in the latest one-sided affair.

``This year didn't go the way anyone wanted, but we'd like to build on the coaches and players that are here,'' Posluszny said. ``(Changing coaches), that's not the winning formula. You look at winning organizations throughout the league and they don't go through things like that. Three head coaches in three years would not be a positive thing.''

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3 stars of the game: Caps save their season in physical win over Lightning

3 stars of the game: Caps save their season in physical win over Lightning

This one is going to go the distance.

The Washington Capitals staved off elimination on Monday with a 3-0 Game 6 win to force a Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Andrei Vasilevskiy looked unbeatable for much of the game, but T.J. Oshie finally got one past the Lightning netminder on the Caps' first power play since the second period of Game 4. Devante Smith-Pelly finished them off with a third-period tally.

Game 7 will be on Wednesday with a spot in the Stanley Cup Final on the line.

Here are the three stars of Game 6.

1.  T.J. Oshie: Oshie scored the goal that saved Washington's season.

The Caps were doing everything right, but they just could not get one past Vasilevskiy. Finally, Oshie struck with a one-timer from the high-slot that just managed to beat Vasilevskiy.

Oshie also added an empty-netter to ice the game away.

We will never know how close frustration came to really wearing down Washington, but it probably came closer than you think. Just seconds before Oshie's goal, John Carlson rang a blistering slap shot off the inside of the post. It was so close, the horn went off briefly, but play continued. Had Washington not been able to finish off the power play, would they have recovered or would Vasilevskiy officially have Halaked them?

2. Andrei Vasilevskiy: Don't let the score fool you, Vasilevskiy was absolutely brilliant. He really stood out in the first period when he denied great chances again and again to keep the score locked at 0-0. You knew he was on his game when he denied a great chance from Alex Ovechkin from the slot with the blocker. His best save, however, was saved for Evgeny Kuznetsov when he was on the ice and desperately extended the arm just in time to deny Kuznetsov.

Vasilevskity made a total of 32 saves in the losing effort.

3. Braden Holtby: Though he was not tested as much as his counterpart, Holtby was equally as brilliant in his 24 save performance for his fifth career playoff shutout.

The Lightning made a real push in the second and third period and some key saves by Holtby ensured the Caps did not give up the first goal or the game-tying one. The most critical save came on Anthony Cirelli in the second period with the game still tied at 0-0. A Lightning 2-on-1 resulted with Cirelli coming in all alone on Holtby, but the Caps' netminder just managed to extend the toe for the save.

Smith-Pelly had seven goals in the regular season. he has four in the playoffs. Smith-Pelly put the exclamation point on the game with his third period goal to extend the Caps' lead to 2-0.  He was set up by a phenomenal pass by Chandler Stephenson.

It was clear from the outset that the Caps wanted to be very physical in this game and Smith-Pelly really took that message to heart with 

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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

Juan Soto, the highly-regarded 19-year-old Nationals' prospect, got his first major league start of his career tonight. 

How did it go, you ask? Surely it would take Soto - who was in Single-A less than two weeks ago - some time to adjust? 

What were you doing at 19??

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.