Redskins

McCarthy stresses positives after loss to Vikings

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McCarthy stresses positives after loss to Vikings

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) As disappointing as their loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday had been - especially since it cost them the NFC's No. 2 seed and a first-round playoff bye - the Green Bay Packers had no time to feel sorry for themselves.

With those same Vikings coming to Lambeau Field on Saturday night for an NFC wild card game, the work week is already underway. And coach Mike McCarthy as already stressing the positives.

``I mean, there's nothing but positives right now,'' McCarthy said at a 7:45 a.m. press conference, on a day when players were technically off but could come to the stadium if they wanted to.

``This is playoff football, and really, yes, we had every intention of winning the game in Minnesota (Sunday). OK, it didn't work. I'm not just fluffing it by, but you have to, because the door is open for the playoffs to begin.

``It's the playoffs. It doesn't matter who we play, where we play them. We feel confident that we're going to get it done and do whatever we need to get it done.''

While the onward-and-upward theme was predictable - ``We have no choice at this point,'' defensive tackle B.J. Raji correctly pointed out - it was also necessary with the shortened work week.

McCarthy said the team would practice Tuesday afternoon, then Wednesday and Thursday mornings, doing all of its normal installations. The players will have a mandatory weightlifting session Tuesday morning, and the team will gather at noon to officially kick off their week.

``We've been through some adversity this year, more so than probably in the past, and I felt like we dealt with it very well throughout the year,'' left guard T.J. Lang said. ``Knowing these guys, these players, these coaches, we're going to be ready to go - get this game out of our minds and get ready to prepare for them next week.''

It will help that the Packers will be prepping for the Vikings for the third time in a month. The Packers won at Lambeau Field, 23-14, on Dec. 2 before Sunday night's 37-34 loss.

``We know who our opponent is. The preparation for our opponent should be pretty clean,'' McCarthy said.

Whether or not the rematch is a good thing was a matter of opinion. In the visitors' locker room at the Metrodome, opinion had been mixed.

``We're in the playoffs now, so you play who you are seeded against. The road got a little tougher having to play on opening weekend, but we've got a home game and that's why you win the division,'' quarterback Aaron Rodgers replied when asked if he wanted a rematch. ``You get to go back home and the game will be a different type of game. They won't have the home-crowd advantage and hopefully that will make a difference.''

Others were anxious to get another shot at the Vikings and running back Adrian Peterson, who followed up a 210-yard effort on Dec. 2 with a 199-yard effort Sunday, which left him eight yards short of Eric Dickerson's 1984 NFL single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards.

``As long as we're in the playoffs, it really don't matter who we play. Obviously, it's a team we play twice a year so it's going to be a lot of recognition out there,'' cornerback Tramon Williams said. ``We've got the Vikings next week, (so) bring them on. Bring them on. Obviously, they have to go to Lambeau and hopefully we can go out and put together a better performance that we did.''

This isn't the first time the Packers have faced their Week 17 opponent the following week in the opening round of the playoffs. At the end of the 2009 season, the Packers went to Arizona for the regular-season finale and knew before kickoff that there would be a postseason rematch the following week. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt pulled his starters while McCarthy played his, and the Packers won the game that didn't matter. The next week, the Cardinals won in dramatic fashion, advancing with a 51-45 overtime victory.

It's also not the first time the Packers have faced an NFC North opponent in the postseason. In 2004, the Packers swept the Vikings in regular-season play but lost in the wild card round at Lambeau. And in 2010, the Packers split their regular-season series with the Chicago Bears before beating them in the NFC Championship Game to advance to Super Bowl XLV.

In that instance, the Bears could have kept the Packers out of the playoffs by beating them in Week 17 at Lambeau Field. Instead, the Packers won, and the Bears lived to regret it. McCarthy's task is to make sure the Vikings don't return the favor.

``It's different because there's a familiarity. There's a lot more tape. You're watching it over and over and over again. You can call out the plays just as soon as they start,'' McCarthy said. ``Those are the things you have to be cautious of, but at the end of the day playoff football is about fundamentals.

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The Redskins need these three to be at their best in Week 2 against the Cowboys

The Redskins need these three to be at their best in Week 2 against the Cowboys

Come about four o'clock on Sunday afternoon, the Redskins and their fans will either be feeling quite good with a 1-1 record or the exact opposite of quite good thanks to an 0-2 start.

Washington will of course need Case Keenum to try and come close to replicating what he did in the opener against the Eagles and could really use a vintage Adrian Peterson Performance. 

Beyond them, though, who needs to be on point for the Redskins? These three absolutely qualify.

Ryan Kerrigan

The Burgundy and Gold's defensive line is down two players already and will be relying upon a couple of guys who basically just arrived. They may have trouble generating pressure up the middle thanks to that, meaning Kerrigan better be ready to do so on the edge.

If the home team allows Dak Prescott to stand in the pocket and pat the ball like Carson Wentz did in Week 1, then it'll be another long day for the entire unit. But if Kerrigan, who plays especially well against division foes, can be a constant threat to Prescott, then that'll make a big difference.

In 2018, Kerrigan forced a game-changing fumble at FedEx Field when facing Dallas. Hopefully he can follow that up with another productive outing this year.

Paul Richardson

Richardson had a fine stat line versus the Eagles, but he did have one drive-killing drop and didn't come up with any of the deep catches he's being counted on to create. Terry McLaurin was clearly the star of the receiving corps, while Richardson played more of a supporting role.

Now, perhaps McLaurin will shine again. Even if he does, Jay Gruden would still love for Richardson to also contribute with a splash play or two. Keenum showed he's willing to take chances downfield, so Richardson will need to use his speed and give Keenum a target for those chances.

The Redskins' most obvious path to a win Sunday will be to pound the ball with Peterson and control the clock as best as they can. That said, if Richardson can flip the field and help the offense score quickly instead of trying to string together 10-play drives, that'll make an upset more likely.

Greg Manusky

Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, after just one game in the role, is drawing comparisons to Sean McVay. He brings his offense loaded with playmakers to Landover for Week 2, and will be squaring off with Manusky's group. It's on Manusky to match Moore.

Manusky had a tumultuous offseason and the defense's Week 1 showing in Philadelphia didn't do much to improve his standing as defensive coordinator. And as mentioned earlier, he'll be rolling out a D-line that's missing some major talent as well as a secondary that has injury issues as well.

Those won't be viable excuses for another game in which his players can't get off the field on third downs or force any turnovers, though. His defenders simply have to play better, sure, but he's going to have to put them in positions to succeed as well, or else he'll be scrutinized even more. 

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Yan Gomes’ workload will continue to increase for the Nationals

Yan Gomes’ workload will continue to increase for the Nationals

WASHINGTON -- Friday afternoon grousing centered on what time the plane arrived. The Nationals’ charter returned to Dulles International Airport around 6 a.m. From there, players and staff scurried to their houses, some being caught in the morning commute.

Yan Gomes made it home in about 27 minutes. He needed to get to sleep. Friday night he would be catching his seventh consecutive game, a grind he had been through other times in his career, but complicated Friday by the late (or early) landing following a pre-dawn departure from Minneapolis.

Gomes figures he was asleep by 6:45 a.m., roughly 15-20 minutes after he walked through the door of his home. He woke up around 12:30 p.m. Then, he took the step so many do after first arising: the coffee was brewed, prompting midday to act as morning. Next was arriving at the park, where food and hydration were the priorities. Gomes, 32, needed to prepare his body for baseball’s hardest position and his brain for Max Scherzer’s outing.

“I don’t think people realize how much adrenaline we’re using [Friday],” Gomes said. “Just try to get through today. But the main thing is nobody is feeling bad for us we had a late night. Everyone’s kind of doing that. Scheduling this year has been kind of weird.”

Gomes crouching behind the plate again Friday was running him into an uncommon level of usage during his eight-year career -- and a level of work which is going to continue. Gomes, even when the primary catcher in Cleveland, caught seven or more games in a row (and never more than eight) six times. He had not handled such a stretch since 2016. Only once did such a streak occur in September, and that happened in 2014, Gomes’ second full season in the league.

“I’ve done scheduling like this before where I’ve had to catch night and day games a lot of times,” Gomes said. “I think when you get a certain age, you just have to pay more attention with the pregame stuff, postgame stuff. Body doesn’t recover as well. It’s one of those things where got to sack up and use some caffeine to get you through the day [Friday]. Drink as much as you can, as much as you can tolerate. Everyone’s tired. You just got to make sure you’re loose and ready to go so injuries don’t happen.”

Saturday he received a break. Rookie Raudy Read caught Austin Voth. However, the respite will be temporary.

Kurt Suzuki still has not thrown a baseball since injuring his right elbow Sept. 6. Inflammation continues to be an issue. He swung a bat in the batting cage Friday. Saturday, Suzuki pulled on his catching gear and went to the bullpen to practice blocking balls with bullpen coach Henry Blanco. Sprints followed. Throwing did not.

“Said he felt OK,” Davey Martinez said. “If he continues to do that, try to get him to hit on the field by early next week and we'll go from there. We miss him. We hope we can get him back soon. He's doing everything he can to try to get ready and play again as soon as possible.”

Read and Tres Barrera -- both rookies -- now comprise the backup catchers. The good news for Gomes is his prior experience as the full-time catcher and that he split time much of this season. Suzuki and Gomes were running close to a clean workload split before Suzuki’s injury. Gomes caught 71 games, Suzuki 68. So, he’s done this before and received rest earlier this season to position him well to do it again.

And, a hard decision was going to come in the postseason for Martinez. Suzuki’s offense is a clear plus over Gomes. However, his ability to throw out baserunners is almost non-existent this season, when Suzuki has thrown out five of 50 base-stealers. The 10 percent caught stealing rate is the lowest of his career and well below the 23 percent average during his 13 seasons in the major leagues. Those numbers are also influenced by pitchers, situations and official scorer rulings. However, Suzuki’s 10 percent is a stunningly low number and directly reflective of his struggles.

Martinez previously said an MRI of Suzuki’s elbow showed no structural damage. Inflammation remains the issue. Resolution of the inflammation remains tricky.

“Listening to the medical staff and listening to him, the biggest thing is getting the inflammation out of his elbow,” Martinez said. “Then we'll see how far we can push him to get him ready. But a lot is going to be determined on him, what he feels and how he feels.”

Washington’s system is without a top-tier catching prospect. Read is considered more of a hitter. He could well become a first baseman in the future. Barrera played this season at Double-A Harrisburg. He was a sixth-round pick in 2016. A preseason list of the organization’s top 30 prospects placed Barrera 18th despite turning 25 years old on Sunday.

The complication of limited options popped up Saturday. Washington put two runners with one out. Read was due up. The situation was primed for Suzuki to pinch-hit, then take over as catcher, if he was able. Or even giving Gomes a chance -- if he hadn’t caught for seven consecutive days. Read hit for himself and grounded into a double play.

The final month’s workload rests with Gomes. Of the 15 remaining games, he will likely catch up to 14 if Suzuki remains injured. There is one built-in off-day. A split day-night doubleheader against Philadelphia will require Read to make another appearance. Otherwise, it’s time to sleep, eat, stay hydrated and ride it out.

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