Nationals

LSU's defense to test Tajh Boyd, Clemson offense

LSU's defense to test Tajh Boyd, Clemson offense

ATLANTA (AP) Tajh Boyd said it.

So did his coach.

Monday night's Chick-fil-A Bowl against LSU is a prime-time national stage for Boyd and Clemson's high-scoring offense.

His coaches and teammates see Boyd as the player destined to grab the bowl spotlight. The dual-threat quarterback led No. 14 Clemson (10-2) with 34 touchdown passes to tie Philip Rivers' Atlantic Coast Conference single-season record. He was honored as ACC player of the year.

A win over No. 9 LSU (10-2), one of the powerful Southeastern Conference's biggest names known for its strong defense, would be a big step for Boyd. It also could be the perfect setup for Clemson's 2013 season.

LSU ranks eighth in the nation in total defense and 11th in points allowed.

Boyd, a junior, could be playing his final college game. But he sounded as though he was making plans to return when he said this week the program ``is on the verge of something great'' and ``we want a national championship; it's in sight.''

Clemson needs to score 25 points against LSU to become the most prolific offense in ACC history. Boyd has led Clemson to 37 points or more in 10 of 12 games.

``We want to be the most explosive offense in the country,'' Boyd said. ``There's no better stage for that other than the one we're on right now, one of the best bowl games out there going against one of the best defenses.''

Clemson offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Chad Morris also spoke of the game as a chance for the nation to witness Boyd's brilliance.

``It's the stage that he's been looking for, and you can't ask for anything better than this,'' Morris said.

There will be no other bowl competing for the nation's attention when the Tigers from the SEC and the Tigers from the ACC play in the Georgia Dome.

Clemson's regular season ended with a disappointing 27-17 loss to in-state rival South Carolina. Clemson averages 42.3 points, but Boyd was held to 183 yards passing with one touchdown.

Clemson is known for its passing game, but senior running back Andre Ellington topped 1,000 yards rushing for the second straight season. Boyd had 492 yards rushing and nine touchdowns.

The loss to South Carolina raised new questions about the ability of the spread offense to dominate outside the ACC. Clemson's second-lowest points total also came against a team from the SEC, a 26-19 opening win over Auburn in the Georgia Dome.

Boyd said the motivation is ``just going out there and proving what type of team we are.''

``You know, we are getting a chance to play against one of the best,'' he said. ``But for us, it's more about the competition, the nature of the business, the nature of the game and going out there and proving who is best out there. That's what we pride ourselves on.''

LSU will counter with a power offense. Zach Mettenberger had only 11 touchdown passes with six interceptions.

Freshman Jeremy Hill leads LSU's balanced running game with 631 yards and 10 touchdowns. Kenny Hilliard, Michael Ford and Spencer Ware will share the carries.

While Mettenberger has not reached 300 yards passing this season, Boyd had more than 400 yards with five TD passes in wins over Wake Forest and N.C. State. Boyd passed for more than 400 yards in six games.

LSU coach Les Miles said his defense must mix its strategies against Boyd.

``There has to be a point in time where you keep him in the pocket and you play coverage and there's an opportunity to rush the passer with four guys,'' Miles said. ``I think anytime a quarterback can pull it down and go get yards, there's an added responsibility to those guys that are rushing the ball, rushing the passer. And so, again, it's something that you have to do with more than one strategy. You must rush the passer. You must contain him when you step back and let him throw it and to have coverage.''

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Howie Kendrick’s 6 best moments of the 2019 season

Howie Kendrick’s 6 best moments of the 2019 season

The Nationals took a significant step in building their roster for the 2020 season Friday when they reportedly re-signed Howie Kendrick to a one-year, $6.25 million deal with a mutual option for 2021.

Kendrick was limited to just 121 games during the regular season but played an important role for the team in the playoffs with some hits that will forever live in Nationals lore.

But Kendrick wasn’t just a clutch hitter in the playoffs. His 1.135 OPS in “late and close” situations—defined by Baseball-Reference as any situation in the seventh inning or later where a hitter’s team is either up by one, tied or the tying run is on deck—ranked second on the team among players with at least 30 such plate appearances last season.

Washington is bringing back the 36-year-old with hopes that he can continue to come through in key moments as his career winds down. But even if he doesn’t, Kendrick has cemented his Nationals legacy.

Here are six of his best moments from the 2019 season.

April 13 – Eaton, Kendrick spoil Archer’s big day

Chris Archer has had an up-and-down tenure with the Pittsburgh Pirates since being acquired in a blockbuster trade midway through the 2018 season. His best start of the year, however, came against the Nationals on April 13.

Archer held Washington one run on four hits over seven innings, handing the game over to the Pirates’ bullpen with a 2-1 lead. Reliever Richard Rodriguez retired the first two batters he faced in the eighth before Adam Eaton came to the plate.

That’s when the pendulum swung, as Eaton left the yard only for Kendrick to do so a few minutes later. Sean Doolittle closed the door in the top of the ninth and the Nationals moved to 7-6 on the year.

May 9 – Kendrick drives in four against the Dodgers

Patrick Corbin may have been the story in this one by blanking the Los Angeles Dodgers over seven strong frames, but it was also one of Kendrick’s best games of the year.

His big hit didn’t come late, however. Kendrick took Rich Hill deep for a three-run homer in the top of the first to set the tone early. He then hit an RBI single with two runners on in the eighth before the Nationals eventually won 6-0.

June 9 – Kendrick hits the first of four straight homers

It was a 1-1 game when Kendrick came to the plate in the top of the eighth against the San Diego Padres on June 9. So naturally he saw a curveball heading for the center of the plate and pulled it into the left field seats for a go-ahead home run.

What followed was absolute madness. Trea Tuner homered. Then Eaton did. Then Anthony Rendon. It was the second time the Nationals went back-to-back-to-back-to-back in team history and more than enough to give Washington the win.

NLDS Game 5 – The greatest moment in Nationals history, for a few weeks

“Do you believe it!?”

That was the radio call Dave Jageler made when Kendrick hit a go-ahead grand slam in the 10th inning. It was the moment that delivered the Nationals’ first postseason series winning, putting to bed a history of disappointment for the franchise.

It was the single-most important hit any Nationals player ever had. That is, until a certain World Series game a few weeks later…

NLCS Game 3 – Kendrick hits three doubles en route to NLCS MVP honors

There was no way a list like this could be put together without a nod toward Kendrick’s NLCS performance. He reached base seven times in the series, driving in four runs and scoring another four of his own. But by far his best game came in Game 3.

The Nationals returned to D.C. with a 2-0 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals and treated their fans to a blowout 8-1 win. Kendrick smacked three doubles, including a two-run, opposite-field gap plugger off Jack Flaherty in the bottom of the third that gave Washington a 4-0 lead.

World Series Game 7 – You know the one

When that ball clanked off the foul pole down the right field line, it changed the lives of D.C. sports fans forever. The magical run had one last bit of magic left, and of course it came courtesy of the man who gave the fan base real hope in the first place.

Kendrick is back for another run in 2020. The Nationals? They’re hoping his magic hasn’t run out just yet.

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How Ed Reed pulled off one of the best plays that Bill Belichick has ever seen

How Ed Reed pulled off one of the best plays that Bill Belichick has ever seen

Bill Belichick has seen a lot of football. A lot.

The New England Patriots head coach certainly knows what he's talking about and he didn't hold back when talking about Baltimore Ravens legend Ed Reed.

On a segment for NFL 100, Reed and Belichick recalled one of the former safety's interception against Manning, a play that Belichick called "one of the greatest plays I've ever seen."

Just listen to how giddy Belichick got talking about the play. 

Reed said he purposefully misplayed a certain coverage so that when Manning watched the film to prepare for the next game, Reed could fake him out the next time.

Manning became an all-time great because of his cerebral approach to football, so it's no hyperbole to say more men have walked on the moon than have outsmarted Peyton Manning on the gridiron. Reed is one of the few players to do so and became a Hall of Famer for playing that way his whole career.

Reed knew the entire time where the ball was going and made Manning look foolish for making that throw.

That's the stuff of legends.

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