Capitals

For the Jets, this has to be rock bottom

901387.jpg

For the Jets, this has to be rock bottom

From Comcast SportsNetEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The San Francisco 49ers were coming off a stunning road loss, angry and missing home.They headed back with an impressive win and looked again as though they're one of the NFL's elite teams.Carlos Rogers returned a fumble 51 yards for a touchdown, and Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick -- on a wildcat-style option -- all ran for scores as the 49ers cruised to a 34-0 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday."After the last game," linebacker Aldon Smith said of San Francisco's 24-13 loss at Minnesota last week, "some people were questioning us and we knew what we were capable of."Rex Ryan's Jets, meanwhile, have plenty to answer for right now, which is why he sent his players home for two days to do some soul searching."I apologize for my language," said Ryan, so angry that he had trouble even getting started. "I was going to say we got our butt kicked, but really ... there's no two ways, in or outs about it."San Francisco (3-1) used a solid running game that gained 245 yards, a smothering defense, a little bit of the wildcat-style offense and even blocked a punt to improve to 4-0 following losses under coach Jim Harbaugh.Instead of heading back to the West Coast last Sunday, Harbaugh had his team stay in eastern Ohio and practice at Youngstown State all week. It worked last season, when they followed a win at Cincinnati with a victory at Philadelphia. Well, the 49ers might have a new home away from home."I think the whole week we had more edge," quarterback Alex Smith said. "We had a bad taste in our mouth the whole week. I don't think that goes away after a day. There's no 24-hour rule. The loss sits around and you talk about it."And, the 49ers figured out how to put it way behind them."This is more the way we are accustomed to playing," Harbaugh said.Ryan took no solace from the Jets (2-2) losing to one of the NFL's best. After all, San Francisco plays the way Ryan wishes his team did."It's obviously unacceptable," Ryan said. "It starts with the coaches. The players ... they've got to dig deep, look down at themselves."It was San Francisco's first shutout since beating the St. Louis Rams 26-0 last December. New York's last shutout loss was 9-0 to Green Bay on Oct. 31, 2010, and it was the Jets' biggest home shutout loss since falling 37-0 to Buffalo in 1989.Meanwhile, the Jets lost top wide receiver Santonio Holmes to what appeared to be a serious left foot injury. If Holmes misses significant time, the Jets would be without their two biggest playmakers after All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis was likely lost for the season with a torn ligament in his left knee last week at Miami."We've got to play with who we've got," quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "None of those guys are going to get better overnight."On the first play of the fourth quarter, Holmes caught a pass from Sanchez for 4 yards, but his left leg appeared to go out on him. The ball flew out of his hands, and Rogers picked it up and returned it for a score.Holmes left the stadium in a golf cart, holding crutches, his left foot in a boot.Ryan said Friday that the Jets would wait to put Revis on injured reserve until he has surgery in a few weeks, keeping him available in case New York goes to the Super Bowl. If the Jets play like this the rest of the way, getting to the playoffs will be a tall task.The struggles on offense have also started many to wonder if it's time to let Tebow play more at quarterback -- or maybe even start instead of Sanchez."I don't think that's the answer," Ryan said. "I think Mark's the answer at quarterback."But he added: "Again, time will tell."Sanchez had another poor game, going 13 of 29 for 103 yards and an interception. New York also finished with just 45 yards rushing. Tebow, meanwhile, had a limited role again, rushing twice for no yards, but completed his first pass with the Jets: a 9-yard toss to Dedrick Epps, who injured his right knee on the play."I'm ready to do whatever they ask me to," Tebow said.Alex Smith was efficient, going 12 of 21 for 143 yards and no touchdowns, but more importantly, no interceptions.The wildcat-style offense worked early -- but for the 49ers and not Tebow and the Jets.Instead, it was Kaepernick who put the 49ers up 7-0 early in the second quarter, taking a direct snap and running untouched off left end for a 7-yard touchdown. Kaepernick also had a 17-yard run earlier in the game, and a 30-yard scamper late.With just over a minute left in the first half, the 49ers were aggressive despite starting the drive at their 26. A 23-yard catch by Vernon Davis on first down got things rolling, and San Francisco ended the half on David Akers' 36-yard field goal.Boos and some chants of "Tee-boww! Tee-boww!" rang out as the Jets went three-and-out for the second straight possession in the second half. It never got any better for New York."Guys are just upset and frustrated," Sanchez said. "This is not the way we imagined this game going."NOTES:Mario Manningham, a Super Bowl hero with Giants before joining the Niners as free agent, returned to the Meadowlands and had three catches for 47 yards, plus a 28-yard gain on an end-around. ... Akers also missed from 55 and 40 yards wide right. ... New York lost fullback John Conner with a hamstring injury. ... San Francisco got 62 yards rushing from Gore, 56 from Hunter and 50 from Kaepernick.

Quick Links

Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: Are the stars aligning for another Capitals Cup run?

Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: Are the stars aligning for another Capitals Cup run?

Let’s get one thing straight: There are no easy roads to a Stanley Cup. Capitals fans know that better than most after seeing their team dominate the regular season just to get upset in the first or second round of the playoffs for several years. Having said that, seeing Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Calgary and Winnipeg all lose in the first round, it seems like things are setting up very nicely for Washington.

The Caps should have one thing and one thing only on their minds on Monday and that is the Carolina Hurricanes. Washington still needs one more win to advance and they should not catch themselves looking ahead to possible future matchups.

But we can look ahead.

The top seeds in both conferences have been eliminated in the first round for the first time. Long-time nemesis Pittsburgh is out. Either Boston or Toronto will soon be joining them plus there is a possibility that both Nashville and San Jose could still lose as well.

This is not meant to discount any of the teams the Caps could still play. Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders swept the Penguins and earned a spot in the second round. He has proven his worth as a coach and his team is going to be incredibly tough for anyone to score on, let alone beat. The Columbus Blue Jackets jumped out to a 2-0 series lead on Washington last season and got better this year as they showed Tampa Bay with a four-game sweep. Whoever comes out of the West no doubt will be a great team as well.

But if you were to draw up the best-case scenario for the Caps through the first round, having Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Calgary and Winnipeg all lose would likely be part of that scenario.

The Cup is truly up for grabs. This is true every year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it is especially true this year. If the Hurricanes find a way to win Game 6 and shock the Caps in Game 7, we are going to look back at this season as a missed opportunity considering the number of contenders ousted in the first round.

SEE THIS WEEK’S STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF POWER RANKINGS HERE

Here are a few recent observations and thoughts on the Caps.

  • The Caps are, at their core, a physical team. That is how they ultimately find success and they went away from that earlier in the series, especially in Games 3 and 4. When they reestablished it in Game 5, they blew the Hurricanes away. Any team can play well for one game. Any team can respond after losing a really good player for one game. The real test is to see how they play in Raleigh where they were beaten so thoroughly and the offense was held to only a single power play goal and zero 5-on-5 production.
  • If you want to know why physical play still matters in today’s NHL, watch Brett Connolly’s Game 5 goal again. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton is in a footrace with Alex Ovechkin to get the puck behind Carolina’s net and he completely gives up on the play. He does not go into the boards and put himself in a position to get checked by Ovechkin. It looked like he thought the play would be called icing, but if you’re not 100-percent sure you need to get to that puck even if it means taking a hit. Hamilton looked like he wanted no part of that which allowed Ovechkin to get the puck and set up a goal.
  • The Caps may finally have settled on defensive pairings. The defense has been a work in progress ever since Michal Kempny’s injury, but Todd Reirden may have finally found three pairs he can stick with. After making his playoff debut in Game 4, Jonas Siegenthaler played on the top defensive pair with John Carlson on Saturday. We have seen Reirden mix and match his defensive pairs throughout games, but things stuck in Game 5 as Siegenthaler and Carlson played 11:19 together at 5-on-5. The most Carlson played with any other defenseman at 5-on-5 during the game was 51 seconds. I asked Reirden afterward if he felt he had found his top defensive pair and he remained non-committal saying he still would mix and match as needed depending on the situation, but the numbers speak for themselves. Siegenthaler is a defensively responsible player, he has not looked rattled at all by the forecheck and, perhaps most importantly, he’s a left-handed shot allowing Carlson to play on his natural right side. I like the look of this pair a lot.
  • Nick Jensen has had a rough series. In fact, it looks like it has been a rough transition from Detroit to Washington since he was acquired. That’s OK. Sometimes players take time to adjust to a new team and a new system, but because of that, it benefits the Caps more to have him play on the third pair than the top, especially if moving him up means playing with Carlson on the left. That’s a lot to ask. With Siegenthaler up top, Jensen moved back down to the third pair on Saturday and it was easily his best game of the series. Pairing him with Brooks Orpik allows Jensen to step more into the offense, an area of the game in which his skills are greatly underrated. Jensen looked good on both ends of the ice in Game 5 and was particularly strong on the penalty kill. He can be a top-four defenseman, but I am not sure he is ready for that type of role in Washington yet. He is a definite asset on the third pair, however, and he showed that on Saturday.

The Caps are one win away from advancing to the second round. Here is where they stand among the other playoff teams in this week’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: 

Quick Links

Baltimore Ravens Roundup: 20 prospects linked to Baltimore at No. 22

Baltimore Ravens Roundup: 20 prospects linked to Baltimore at No. 22

We've made in to NFL draft week. Here's the latest Baltimore Ravens news.

Player/Team Notes: 

1. The 2019 NFL Draft is Thursday night in Nashville, Tn. While the chances of pundits predicting each team's first-round pick accurately is about the same as picking the Powerball numbers, we can't seem to stop ourselves from looking at them. Here's a look at 20 prospects mocked to the Ravens at No. 22, courtesy of the Ravens' website.  


2. One of the many exciting parts of the NFL draft is waiting to hear which organizations trade forward or backwards to acquire a pick. Just last year, the Ravens traded back from their No. 16 pick several times to select Hayden Hurst at No. 25, before trading back into the first-round to pick Lamar Jackson at No. 32. But which trade in Ravens history was the most impactful? ESPN's Jamison Hensley selected the Ravens' trade for running back Jamal Lewis.


"In 1999, the Ravens traded their second-round pick (No. 43) for Atlanta's first-round pick in 2000, which they used to land running back Jamal Lewis," Hensley wrote. "The Falcons selected tight end Reggie Kelly, and the Ravens got what turned into the No. 5 overall pick in the 2000 draft. Baltimore drafted Lewis, who carried the offense during the team's 2000 Super Bowl championship season and recorded the NFL's fifth 2,000-yard season in 2003."


3. As Marlon Humphrey enters his third year in the league, the cornerback will not only be expected to take on a leadership role within the Ravens' new look defense, but top his impressive sophomore season. In 2018, Humphrey contested 35% of targets thrown into his coverage marking the second-best rate in all the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. 


Looking Ahead:

April 25-27: 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville, Tn.

May 3-6 or May 10-13: Potential three-day rookie mini camp

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get long-term deal done with designated franchise tag player

The 2019 NFL schedule is set!  See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

MORE RAVENS NEWS: