Nationals

Lions WR Johnson living up to $132 million deal

Lions WR Johnson living up to $132 million deal

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) The Detroit Lions have gotten quite a return on the $132 million, eight-year investment they made in Calvin Johnson nine months ago.

``He's not trying to live up to a contract,'' Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said Sunday. ``Personal records are great, and we certainly celebrate the season Calvin that has had, but it hasn't translated to enough wins.

``We need more help around him.''

That's a fact.

The Lions (4-11) have lost seven straight, the league's longest active skid, after reaching .500 at the midway mark of a disappointing season.

During the losing streak, Johnson has been perhaps Detroit's only bright spot.

He broke Jerry Rice's single-season yards receiving record of 1,848 in Saturday night's 31-18 loss to Atlanta.

``It's an accomplishment that took a lot of work,'' Johnson said. ``You can't take that thing away.''

Schwartz said Johnson hasn't racked up yards in blowouts because Detroit hasn't had many of them in a season filled with closely contested losses. He does acknowledge that the team's record doesn't let Johnson's accomplishment ring as true as anyone would like.

``It's hollow in the fact that we only have four wins,'' he said. ``You'd like for that production to translate to wins and you'd like to be able to celebrate that production with wins.''

In the win, the Falcons tried to take Johnson away as an option for Matthew Stafford in the passing game and couldn't do it.

With 11 receptions for 225 yards against Atlanta, he also became the only player in NFL history with 100 yards receiving in eight straight games and with 10-plus receptions in four games in a row. He had seven receptions of 20-plus yards for the second time in his career, a feat no other player in the league has done since at least 1991, according to STATS LLC.

Johnson, who has tied another league single-season mark with 100 yards receiving in 11 games, can add to his record total of 1,892 yards receiving in Detroit's finale Dec. 30 at home against Chicago and could reach the 2,000-yard mark.

Johnson's 10th catch Sunday night was for a 26-yard gain with 2:57 left in the game. After breaking the record with that catch, he jogged over to the sideline to give the football to his father, Calvin Johnson Sr., and told him not to let it go.

Not even if someone from the Pro Football Hall of Fame wants it?

``Oh no,'' he said. ``That's my ball.''

Stafford has done a good job of getting the ball to Johnson despite every team trying to stunt their connections and not having to worry about other playmakers because of Detroit's injury-depleted receiving corps.

Stafford threw for 443 yards against the Falcons, setting an NFL record for the most yards passing in a game without a touchdown. With 4,695 yards passing and a game to go against the Bears, he and New Orleans' Drew Brees could become the first two NFL players to throw for 5,000-plus yards in consecutive seasons.

``I'd love to be able to be able to do it again,'' Stafford said. ``But I'd love for it to come with a win.''

Stafford, who thrown the ball 685 times this season, is seven attempts away from breaking the NFL single-season record for attempts set by Drew Bledsoe with New England in 1994.

Johnson and Stafford have not been able to overcome the team's minus-12 turnover ratio this season that ranks among the NFL's worst in perhaps the statistical category that is tied most to winning and losing.

Against Atlanta, the Lions turned the ball over three times and their defense didn't recover a fumble or make an interception.

``We lose by 13 and 17 points come off turnovers,'' Schwartz said. ``We need to do a better job of taking care of the football. And also on defense, we need to come up with some.''

Detroit's comeback hopes were definitely dashed after getting a safety with 1:21 left to pull within 13 points only to have Stefan Logan take a knee at his 4 on a free kick.

``That's probably the first time I've seen somebody concede a punt in the field of play,'' Schwartz said. ``It was a poor decision. Part of a returner's job is to know where he is on the field. Saying, `I didn't know where I was. I thought I was in the end zone,' is not a valid excuse.

``When that error was made,'' Schwartz added, ``it made it very, very difficult for the team to come back.''

NOTES: The Lions are hopeful TE Brandon Pettigrew will play against Chicago after missing the last previous two games with a sprained left ankle. ... Lions DT Sammie Hill was scheduled to have a foot injury examined, Schwartz said.

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How will MLB's new extra inning with a runner on second rule work strategically?

How will MLB's new extra inning with a runner on second rule work strategically?

Major League Baseball is going to be bizarre in 2020. A 60-game schedule. The designated hitter in the National League. No fans.

But the change a lot of baseball fans might have the toughest getting used to is the tweak to extra innings. Each team will begin each extra inning with a man on second base. The crew from the Nationals Talk podcast had differing opinions on the new rule.

“I absolutely love it,” NBC Sports Washington's Nick Ashooh said.

Team reporter Todd Dybas did not agree.

“The rule is dumb. It goes against everything that baseball is about.”

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Chase Hughes broke the tie. “I’m a no on the rule too. I’m with Todd.”

What about the strategy of starting with a man on second base? Could team's exploit or alter the ending of the previous frame to set up a new inning? 

The rule states: “The runner placed on second base at the start of each half-inning shall be the player (or a substitute for such player) in the batting order immediately preceding that half-inning’s leadoff hitter.”

Dybas wondered if it would be wise to end the previous inning on purpose if a speedster is at the plate with two outs.

“Would it behoove [Giants'] Billy Hamilton to make the final out? So the next inning he would start at second base?” Hamilton is a career .242 hitting but has 299 stolen bases in 809 games played. 

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Frustration will also be inevitable. “I can’t wait to hear from the players on the first team to lose by that rule,” Hughes said. “What are they going to say?” 

2020 has already thrown us plenty of curveballs, the changes to baseball will just be a couple more the sports world will have to adjust to. 

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Charles Barkley jokingly admits he doesn't know anyone on the Wizards besides John Wall and Bradley Beal

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Without John Wall, Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans, Washington's three best players, the Wizards hopes of making the playoffs in the NBA's Orlando restart have taken a hit.

On Thursday, Wizards coach Scott Brooks joined the Inside the NBA team on TNT, where Charles Barkley genuinely asked him who has to step up for the team when the games begin.

Brooks' response was unexpected, yet also hilarious. Here was the exchange:

Barkley: "Obviously, without John and Bradley, your two best players, give us two names that really need to step up for you guys."

Brooks: "Well, I think we should play that game where you name two guys on our team besides those two guys." 

Barkley: "Let me tell you something, I don't know anybody on your team! So I want you to tell us two players on your team."

To Barkley's credit, much of the national media has not paid any attention to the Wizards this season. The team only had one game on national TV this season, a November clash with the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers.

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When basketball does resume, the Wizards are six games back of the Orlando Magic for the eighth spot in the East. Washington needs to make up two games over the final eight contests in order to force a play-in game for the conference's final playoff spot.

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