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Manning now the all-time comeback king

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Manning now the all-time comeback king

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) It was early November in Cincinnati. The Broncos quarterback dropped back to pass, found a receiver open for a 30-yard gain.

Four plays later, Denver scored the winning touchdown and John Elway, in his 16th and final season, had the 39th game-winning drive of the 40 he would engineer in the fourth quarter or overtime.

Fast forward 15 years to another November day in Cincinnati. Elway runs the team from the front office and the quarterback he brought to Denver, Peyton Manning, directs a five-play, 80-yard drive that gives the Broncos the lead in the fourth quarter. It's his 48th game-winning drive. Manning now holds the NFL record in a category Elway once defined.

``I think he thrives on it,'' Broncos coach John Fox said. ``I think most competitors do. They want the ball in their hands.''

He could have been speaking about Elway. In this case, he was speaking about Manning.

The quarterback's latest escape act, which included four completions, including one of his three scoring passes against the Bengals, was more efficient than dramatic, more just another touchdown drive than, say, The Drive.

Yet for all the gaudy numbers Manning is putting up this season - 2,404 yards, 20 touchdowns, the 108.6 passer rating - it's the three fourth-quarter game-winning drives, against Pittsburgh, San Diego and Cincinnati, that show what he's really all about.

``I think all football players, when the fourth quarter comes around, that's when the pressure's on, that's when you want to rely on your fundamentals and techniques,'' Manning said. ``I think we can draw on this type of game.''

Though any NFL quarterback will take what Manning got Sunday - a win - it will not go down as one of his best statistical performances, mainly because of the two interceptions he threw, both of which contributed to a 14-point lead turning into a three-point deficit early in the fourth quarter.

There was no sense of panic, said tight end Jacob Tamme, who played with Manning for three years in Indianapolis.

``He takes responsibility when he does something he feels wasn't good enough and we all take responsibility when we do something we feel wasn't good enough,'' Tamme said. ``That's how we operate as an offense. It was just kind of a sense of, let's go out there and do our job a little bit better and we'll win.''

They did. Eight minutes later, with the help of a Champ Bailey interception, Manning led another touchdown drive to make it 31-20. The Bengals kicked a field goal but didn't recover the ensuing onside kick.

``If you run into an adverse situation, it's no reason to get down,'' Bailey said. ``You just keep playing ball. Keep going out and doing your job because you know you're going to have a chance. You see other players doing that on this team. There are a lot of leaders on this team.''

Top on the list: Manning.

After the slow start so many predicted for both the team and the quarterback, coming onto a new team and after missing a year while his surgically repaired neck healed, Manning is playing as well as he ever has.

Denver's schedule, meanwhile, has eased. Games against Houston, Atlanta and New England are in the rearview mirror. Only one team with a winning record remains on the schedule.

The Broncos head into the second half of the season on a three-game winning streak. They lead the AFC West at 5-3. Manning leads the NFL in completion percentage (69.5), average gain per attempt (8.23) and with that passer rating of more than 108. That last stat, loosely translated, means he's playing quarterback better than anyone in the NFL right now.

``In his case, every time he goes out there, he's got a chance to do something special,'' Fox said.

He's making memories in the fourth quarter - a time that used to belong to Elway in this city.

It was against the Colts in 1983 that Elway made his first comeback. From 19-0 down to a 21-19 win, with all the touchdowns coming in the fourth quarter.

After another particularly impressive comeback - two touchdowns over the last two minutes to beat the Chiefs 20-19 in 1992 - Elway said he never gave up, no matter how dire the situation: ``No. When I think we've lost is when the game is over,'' he said.

With Manning at the helm, the impossible seems possible again in Denver. A 24-point deficit in San Diego turns into a 35-24 win that goes down as the first time a team has won by double digits after trailing by so much. A blown lead in Cincinnati turns into a 31-23 win that, somehow, feels routine.

Of course, nobody goes into a game hoping to need a comeback. But when things play out this way, Manning said, it's not such a bad thing.

``The more you can go through it as a unit, the more you can draw on it later in the season,'' he said. ``Anytime you can win going through those scenarios, that's a plus.''

NOTES: Fox said there was no update on OL Chris Kuper, who left the game with an injured left ankle. ``No fracture involved,'' Fox said. ``There'll be some rehab.'' ... Tamme, who left the game briefly with an injury, said he tweaked a nerve in his elbow when he hit it on the turf and it felt OK on Monday. ... The Broncos gave no update on CB Tracy Porter, who missed his third straight game because of problems related to a seizure over the summer. ... The Broncos lost two turnovers and picked up only one against Cincinnati, falling to minus-4 for the season, 23rd in the league.

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: John Wall goes 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, celebrity softball and the Summer League

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: John Wall goes 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, celebrity softball and the Summer League

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, John Wall went 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, the celebrity softball game and the Summer League.

Chase Hughes and Chris Miller broke down the parallels between Wall and Harper and why Wall has chosen to stay loyal to Washington in his own contract decisions. Plus, can the Wizards really tone down the talking this season?

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Outside linebackers

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Outside linebackers

Redskins Training camp opens next week, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope.

Between now and the start of camp, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Additions: Pernell McPhee (free agent)
Departures: Junior Galette (free agent)

Starters: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith
Other roster locks: Ryan Anderson, McPhee
On the bubble: Pete Robertson

How the outside linebackers compare

To the rest of the NFL: By any measure, the Redskins had a top-10 pass rush last year. They were tied for seventh with 42 sacks and they got a sack on 7.3 percent of pass attempts, also seventh in the league. Looking forward to this year, Pro Football Focus has them ranked as the sixth-best pass rushing team for 2018. Ryan Kerrigan is showing no signs of slowing down as he approaches age 30 and Preston Smith is about to hit his prime. After the departure of Galette, the depth is questionable, and we’ll deal with that next. Even without Galette, it’s still one of the best units in the NFL. 

To the 2017 Redskins: Some downplay the decision to let Galette walk in free agency, saying he had just three sacks. But his value went beyond that. He had 9 QB hits and 25 hurries, both second-most on the team, in just 258 pass rush snaps. Someone will have to step up and replace that pressure. The spotlight will be on Anderson, who had no sacks after being a second-round pick. He will need to step up for this year’s Redskins pass rush to be as good as last year’s. 

2018 outside linebacker outlook

Biggest upside: Since the 2015 season, only one NFL player has at least 20 sacks, four forced fumbles, and three interceptions and it’s Preston Smith. His consistency is an issue but even when he is going for a few weeks between sacks he is getting pressure on the quarterback. Still, there is more ability there. Smith could set himself up for a big payday by breaking through with a double-digit sack season while continuing to make big plays in his contract year.

Most to prove: To be fair, Anderson did not get a whole lot of chances to rush the passer last year, playing just 81 pass rush snaps. Still, there are reasons to be concerned about how much he can produce after a zero-sack, one-hit, three-hurries 2017 debut season. Anderson was not expected to make a splash as a rookie, but more was anticipated. He was drafted where he was in part because of his work ethic. The Redskins hope he will work his way into a significant second-year leap. 

Rookie watch: There are no rookie outside linebackers on the roster. 

Bottom line: The main concern about the Redskins’ defense this year revolves around the cornerback spot following the departures of Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland. The best way to manage problematic cornerbacks is by getting a strong pass rush. The Redskins need to Smith to have a true breakout season and for Anderson or McPhee to be a strong contributor off the bench. Along with the improved defensive line, the pass rush could transform the defensive line into a quality unit in 2018. 

2018 Redskins Position Outlook Series