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McCarron has Heisman-like moment for No. 1 Alabama

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McCarron has Heisman-like moment for No. 1 Alabama

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) At Alabama, it will go down as a crimson version of ``The Drive.''

For AJ McCarron, it confirmed what the Tide already knew - this guy is a heck of a quarterback.

He saved the season on a Saturday night in Death Valley, and most likely propelled himself into the thick of the Heisman Trophy race.

When it was done, the tears flowed.

``Just so many emotions running through me,'' McCarron said after embracing his parents behind the end zone. ``Sometimes it can be a lot of pressure playing here at this university, especially with all the tradition of winning and everything.''

Alabama (9-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) remained perfect on the season and No. 1 in the rankings with a stirring 21-17 victory over LSU, clearing what looks to be its most difficult hurdle on the road back to the national championship game.

The Crimson Tide finally got a challenge after rolling through its first eight opponents.

Thanks to McCarron, Alabama passed with flying colors.

Down by a field goal and 72 yards from the end zone, with just 94 seconds remaining and no timeouts, the junior engineered a drive for the ages. Three straight completions to get into scoring position. Then a perfectly called screen pass to T.J. Yeldon when the Tigers blitzed. The result was a 28-yard touchdown that won it for the Tide.

McCarron needed all of 49 seconds to shred one of college football's toughest defenses, a unit that had totally shut him down for almost the entire second half.

``He was locked in,'' said Alabama running back Eddie Lacy. ``He's always locked in for every game, but it was something different this time, this drive. I mean, he knew he had to make plays. He got the plays in. He did exactly what he was supposed to do, made the right reads and made the right passes. You can't ask for any more from AJ McCarron.''

With the Heisman race a bit of a jumble, especially after Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein was injured in a victory over Oklahoma State, McCarron is moving up the charts with a bullet. He is the nation's third-rated passer, just behind Klein and Florida State's E.J. Manuel, with 19 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. McCarron extended his school-record streak without a pick to 289 passes.

His father, Tony McCarron, called that final possession the sort of signature moment that defines every Heisman winner.

``You know how they always say you have to have one?'' the elder McCarron said. ``There it is.''

He also scoffed at those who have described his son as more of a game manager than a star, a player whose main role is to make sure he doesn't do anything that gets the nation's most talented team beat.

``He wasn't much of a game manager there, was he?'' Tony McCarron said.

No reply required.

AJ struggled through much of the second half, having completed just 1 of 7 passes for 0 yards when he got the ball back for Alabama's final possession. But his confidence never wavered.

``I just love moments like that,'' he said ``I like having the ball in pressure situations. When you've got teammates like I have, it makes your job easy.''

McCarron went to Kevin Norwood for an 18-yard gain that stopped the clocked while the officials reset the chains. Then, two more completions to Norwood for 15 and 11 yards, both along the sidelines so he could get out of bounds. McCarron went looking for Norwood one more time, throwing it up in the end zone. But the receiver and defensive back got tangled up, sending them both to the Tiger Stadium turf. The ball fell harmlessly to the ground.

Deciding it couldn't sit back any longer, LSU called a corner blitz. McCarron saw it all the way, swinging a pass to Yeldon slipping out of the backfield. He slipped away from one would-be tackler, faked out another and raced to the end zone with 51 seconds remaining.

A perfect call. A perfect result.

``It was like clockwork,'' McCarron said. ``The whole offense just looked at each other and you could just tell in everybody's eyes it was like, `We do this every Thursday, so what's the difference here?'''

LSU, which had done such a good job against McCarron in the second half, was helpless against him with the game on the line.

``They were efficient throwing the football,'' Tigers coach Les Miles said. ``AJ McCarron played pretty well in that game.''

Slipping from fifth to ninth in The Associated Press rankings and likely eliminated from the national race, LSU (7-2, 3-2) seemed more disconsolate after this one than it was back in January, when Alabama romped to a 21-0 blowout in the BCS title game.

``This one hurts,'' Logan said. ``This one hurts more than the national championship game because we had this one. It was the little mistakes we made as a defensive unit that cost us this game and cost us the chance to reach a lot of our goals this season.''

For Alabama and McCarron, all the goals are still in play.

The Crimson Tide has essentially locked up the SEC West, pulling two games clear of the field with two conference games remaining. There's still some tough contests remaining, including next Saturday at home against No. 15 Texas A&M, plus a likely meeting with No. 5 Georgia in the league championship game. But if Alabama runs the table, it will definitely be headed to Miami with a shot at its second straight national title and third in four years.

McCarron might have to make a side trip to New York City on his way to South Beach.

This could have been his Heisman moment.

``He wasn't in rhythm the whole second half, and one last drive he doesn't miss,'' his father marveled. ``I don't even know where that comes from. He's been that way his whole life. The light switch clicks on.''

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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Jeff Green hopes recent playoff success can rub off on Wizards

Jeff Green hopes recent playoff success can rub off on Wizards

Jeff Green's basketball résumé got a significant boost this spring and summer as his Cleveland Cavaliers marched all the way to the NBA Finals before they were swept by the Golden State Warriors. It was Green's first time going past the second round of the playoffs and the experience, he says, was invaluable.

Green has come about as close to winning a championship without actually winning one and he certainly hopes to get back in that position. Green believes his new team, the Washington Wizards, have the tools to make a deep playoff run and it's one of the reasons why he signed a free agent deal to join them.

"Being there last year myself with Cleveland, I know it takes a lot. It takes a lot of pieces. I feel like this team has them," he said. "We can get back to that point. When I got the call, I felt like it was the best opportunity for myself to get there."

The Wizards' franchise has not been past the second round of the playoffs since 1979, when they were known as the Bullets. That was before anyone on their roster was born.

But Green pointed to the open Eastern Conference and the talent on the roster as reasons to believe they can accomplish some things that they haven't in decades. They may be capable, but putting it all together is easier said than done.

Green hopes to be one of the glue guys necessary for the Wizards to reach their potential, in part by sharing the lessons he learned.

"Never take it for granted. There are a lot of greats that have never been there," he said. "Getting to the Finals and being part of that was beyond amazing. With the experience and seeing what it took, I can bring that here and get everybody on the same page of knowing what it takes and the sacrifices that you have to do to get to that point."

Green over and over mentioned how it takes a collective effort to go to the conference finals and beyond, but he did show some self-awareness and a sense of humor about his own experience in Cleveland. All teams are different and the one he just left was a unique situation.

"You can’t get there individually. I mean, you can, we did last year. I mean, LeBron [James] carried us all the way there," he joked. "But there’s only one LeBron, but to get there you have to have team unity. You all have to be on the same page and sacrifice to make sure you’re doing what it takes to get the team there. I think that’s the biggest key. It’s not an individual thing… unless you’re LeBron."

If the Wizards are to reach their goals and go to the conference finals or the NBA Finals, they will have to do it differently than the Cavaliers did. They do not have a player on the level of James who can do much of it by himself. But Green said the process of imparting his wisdom has already started.

"I talked to John [Wall]," Green said. "Knowing that he wants to get to the Finals, I was just picking his brain and what he thinks is needed to get there. And me sharing my experience of getting to the Finals and what it takes."

The Wizards have reached a point as an organization where they have urgency to reach new heights. Green believes he can help them get there.

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Need to Know: The best pass rushers the Redskins will face in 2018

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Need to Know: The best pass rushers the Redskins will face in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, July 19, seven days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The five best pass rushers the Redskins will face in 2018

This week we’ll be looking at the best of what the Redskins will face during the 2018 season. Today the pass rushers are up. They are roughly ranked by Pro Football Focus’ pass rush productivity metric, although I did some juggling based on offseason moves and other factors. Prior to this we looked at the best teamsreceivers,running backs, and quarterbacks

1. Calais Campbell, Jaguars—If he gets a sack against the Redskins in Week 15, many fans will once again rue draft day in 2008 when the Redskins took both WR Devin Thomas and TE Fred Davis in the second round while Campbell was still on the board. He has been a consistent pass rusher since coming into the league, averaging eight sacks a season. Campbell is coming off of a career-high 14.5. 

2. Demarcus Lawrence, Cowboys—He had nine career sacks going into last year and then he broke out in a big way with 14.5. He got three sacks against the Redskins last year and has five in six career games. He actually ranked ahead of Campbell in the PFF pass rush metric, but I put Campbell ahead of him because we’re not sure if Lawrence is a great pass rusher or if he just peaked in his contract year. 

3. Chandler Jones, Cardinals—He posted double-digit sacks in four of the last five years including a league-leading 17 last season. His 2017 performance earned him first-team All-Pro honors for the first time in his career. Jones does more than get sacks. He has 16 career forced fumbles; only five players have forced more since he came into the league in 2012.

4. J.J. Watt, Texans—Injuries have limited him to eight games over the past two seasons. Even if the missed time has him beneath his peak years of 2012-2015, when he was first-team All-Pro every year and defensive player of the year three times, he will be difficult to deal with. 

5. Brian Orakpo, Titans—His career with the Redskins was a mixed bag, with two Pro Bowls and two seasons with double-digit sacks. After Orakpo missed 23 games from 2012-2015, the Redskins didn’t make him a competitive contract offer and he left to sign with the Titans. He hasn’t missed a game in three seasons in Tennessee and has averaged eight sacks per season. 

Best of the rest: Yannick Ngakoue, Jaguars; Clay Matthews, Packers; Vic Beasley, Falcons; Jason Pierre-Paul, Buccaneers; Cam Jordan, Saints

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline 

Redskins six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams was born on this date in 1988.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 7
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 21
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 44

The Redskins last played a game 200 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 52 days. 

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