Wizards

Motivated Indy gets past Dolphins 23-20

201211041221445130602-p2.jpeg

Motivated Indy gets past Dolphins 23-20

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Andrew Luck was sensational.

Ryan Tannehill was pretty darn good, too.

All that really mattered to the Colts was that Chuck Pagano was there to see a great duel between the rookie quarterbacks.

In a game that will be remembered for the quarterbacks' head-to-head matchup, Indianapolis gave Pagano an unforgettable memory in his first trip back to Lucas Oil Stadium since being diagnosed with a form of leukemia on Sept. 26. Luck threw for a rookie record 433 yards and two touchdowns, leading the surprising Colts past Miami 23-20.

``I don't think there was anybody in this locker room that wasn't not wanting to give everything to get a `W' today for him,'' receiver Reggie Wayne said of his longtime friend and coach. ``When he walked in after this victory it was tough, it was hard to hold everything back. You saw a bunch of teary eyes and everything. It was a big win for us, and it took everything we had just to get it done. It was even sweeter just to have him here to enjoy it.''

Clearly, Indy (5-3) wanted Pagano around to partake in the fun and the growing talk about playoff possibilities.

And Pagano wanted to be there because, well, his team is playing his way.

The Colts traded jab for jab with the Dolphins (4-4), closing the game out in a manner befitting of Pagano's style - with two big defensive stops and Vick Ballard's 19-yard run for the game-sealing first down.

But the emotions on the field went far deeper than football.

After making an acrobatic catch for a 9-yard TD, Wayne celebrated by high-fiving fans in the back of the south end zone - right above the (hashtag)Chuckstrong sign. Interim coach Bruce Arians also showed a hint of emotion when he talked about Pagano coming back.

Pagano, meanwhile, provided the inspiration with his pregame and postgame speeches along with some perspective on the games themselves.

``I've got circumstances. You guys understand it, I understand it,'' Pagano told the team as it gathered around after the win. ``It's already beat. It's already beat. My vision that I'm living is to see two more daughters get married, dance at their weddings and then lift the Lombardi Trophy several times. I'm dancing at two more weddings and we're hoisting that trophy together, men. Congratulations, I love all of you.''

The timing couldn't have been better for Pagano, who is scheduled to begin a second round of chemotherapy later this week.

But players got their own morale boost from seeing their coach.

``I don't think I heard the first couple of sentences that came out of his mouth,'' Luck said. ``I was just excited to see him there because that's the head coach talking.''

Nobody was better than Luck on Sunday.

He completed 30 of 48 passes, converted 13 of 19 third-down chances and remained under control even when he started moving around in the pocket. He topped Cam Newton's year-old record of 432 yards and tied another record by becoming the NFLs' second rookie quarterback to produce four 300-yard games in a season. The other: Peyton Manning, the quarterback he replaced.

It was an uncanny performance. In addition to Wayne's big catch, rookie T.Y. Hilton made a leaping 36-yard TD catch that Luck threw into double coverage, and no matter what the Dolphins did, they couldn't stop Luck or the inspired Colts.

``We knew we'd have to disrupt him (Luck) a little bit. But we weren't detailed enough, we weren't disciplined enough on our rush,'' Miami coach Joe Philbin said. ``When you have the No. 1 defense on third down, and when a team converts 69 percent of the time on third down, it's a different feel.''

The difference was Luck just made more big plays.

``The kid, he continues to amaze,'' Wayne said after catching seven passes for 78 yards. ``Hopefully I can help, you know, add on to his legacy that he's about to build.''

About to? He's already well on his way.

With the Colts trailing 17-13, Luck hooked up with Hilton on the leaping grab to make it 20-17 with 1:49 left in the third quarter.

Miami got a slicing-and-dicing 18-yard TD run in the first half from Reggie Bush, a play that rekindled images of his college days, and the Dolphins eventually tied the score on Dan Carpenter's 31-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.

But Luck answered immediately with a 13-play, 69-yard drive to set up Adam Vinatieri's decisive 43-yard field goal with 5:58 to go and the Colts wound up celebrating.

``I mentioned before the game that you guys were living in a vision, and you weren't living in circumstances,'' Pagano said. ``You know where they had us in the beginning, every last one of them. But you refused to live in circumstances and you decided consciously as a team and as a family to live in a vision, and that's why you bring things home like what you bring home today. That's why you're already champions and well on your way.''

NOTES: Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon, the reigning AFC Special Teams player of the week, was credited with blocking Vinatieri's 54-yard field goal Sunday. ... Colts defensive end Robert Mathis sacked Tannehill in the first quarter, giving him a sack in his eighth straight game. ... Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake recorded a sack in his fifth consecutive game. ... The Colts had a long postgame injury list that included cornerback Jerraud Powers (toe), right tackle Winston Justice (knee), running back Donald Brown (knee), receiver Donnie Avery (hip), outside linebacker Robert Mathis (back) and center Samson Satele (back). ... Miami linebacker Kevin Burnett, cornerback Nolan Carroll and defensive tackle Paul Soliai all sustained undisclosed injuries.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

Five observations from Wizards' 125-118 win over the L.A. Clippers, their best comeback of the season so far

john-wall-usat.jpg
USA Today Sports

Five observations from Wizards' 125-118 win over the L.A. Clippers, their best comeback of the season so far

The Washington Wizards beat the L.A. Clippers 125-118 on Tuesday night.

Here are five observations from the game...

What a comeback

Against the Clippers on Tuesday, they appeared headed towards another epic beatdown. They allowed 40 points in the first quarter, 73 by halftime and trailed by as many as 24.

But they rallied and somehow stole a victory away from the scorching-hot Clippers to stop a two-game skid and momentarily end all the jokes and proclamations that the John Wall era is over.

It was only one game, but head coach Scott Brooks has to be happy with how his team responded to a tough few days.

Lineup changes

After two-plus seasons of rolling out chalk lineups, Brooks made some adjustments for Tuesday's game that went further than anything he's done since taking the job in Washington.

With Dwight Howard out due to injury, he promoted Thomas Bryant and not Ian Mahinmi to the starting lineup. Brooks also moved Kelly Oubre Jr. in to replace Morris. The idea was to add some youthful bounce to the starting lineup, and it sort of worked.

Bryant gave them a boost early. He threw down an alley-oop for Wizards' first basket. Soon after that, he blocked Marcin Gortat and finished with a layup on the other end.

Bryant was solid with seven points, three rebounds and a block. Morris didn't necessarily respond to getting demoted, as he shot 3-for-11, but he made some nice plays at the end.

Oubre got into early foul trouble and was held to three points in 12 minutes.

Brooks' changes can't be judged by one game, but the fact he made them speaks volumes about where this team is at right now.

Satoransky making some noise

Brooks fluctuating his lineups is going to create opportunities for others to take advantage. So far, in recent games, Tomas Satoransky has stepped up to fill the void.

He helped key the near comeback on Sunday against the Blazers and he was on the floor for the Wizards' best stretches against the Clippers. 

Satoransky is usually good for several things that the Wizards need right now. They need effort on defense, which he provides. And they need guys to pass and move without the ball on offense, which he does.

Satoransky ended up with 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists. The numbers may not pop in the box score, but his impact was clearly felt in this one. The guy deserves more playing time at this point.

Green was also good

The Wizards wouldn't have made this a game without Jeff Green, who continues to outperform his role and his contract.

The veteran forward got hot in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 of his 20 points in the frame. He hit back-to-back threes in the fourth that put the Wizards within striking distance.

The Wizards' front office has made some missteps with their bench free agent signings. But when it comes to backup power forwards, they are batting 1.000 the past two years. They found Mike Scott last season and Green for this season, both on bargain, one-year deals. Scott, ironically, now plays for the Clippers.

Howard out again

As mentioned above, Howard missed this game. He had a setback with his piriformis injury and it's not clear when he will return. Brooks said he is considered day-to-day, but that's what the Wizards said for weeks, all through training camp and into the regular season.

Surely, there could have been some intentional misdirection along the way. But the injury seems entirely unpredictable. It would not be a surprise of Howard missed more games. And the longer he's shut down, the longer it will take to get him back up to speed to return.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

The Yankees have so much money, they are thinking about paying Bryce Harper to not play outfield

The Yankees have so much money, they are thinking about paying Bryce Harper to not play outfield

It won’t surprise anyone to hear that the Yankees might have interest in Bryce Harper this offseason. The Harper-to-the-Yankees narrative has been ongoing for years, going back to Harper’s high school years. It’s also driven by a long and storied history of New York flexing their financial might over the rest of the baseball world.

What is surprising, however, is hearing that the Yankees might have interest in Harper as a first baseman.

Would a potential $300 million contract be worth it just to have Bryce Harper play first base? New York seems to think so. 

Harper mostly played catcher in high school, though his prodigious bat made a position switch a long-term inevitability. Outfield was the natural landing spot, as it’s considered to be the easiest position to learn and would allow Harper to focus on realizing his vast potential at the plate.

In his seven seasons in the big leagues, Harper has played more innings in right field than every other position combined, and the overwhelming majority of his other defensive innings have been in left and center. He is credited with one career game at first base, coming in 2018, though the inning count there is zero.

If he is going to head to the Bronx, however, another position switch might be a necessity. The Yankees are one of the few teams in baseball who already have two power-hitting behemoths in the outfield, in Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. 

Either Judge, Stanton or Harper would be miscast in center field, especially considering Harper’s extreme defensive struggles in right last season.

Plus, it would take away at-bats for 2018 breakout Aaron Hicks and potential 2019 breakout Clint Frazier. Additionally, Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are still hanging around.

There’s always the option of using one of three as the designated hitter, but the Yankees already have too many power hitters to find at-bats for, and not everyone responds well to not playing in the field.

The one position where the Yankees don’t seem to have a clear answer is first base, hence the recent speculation. Most fans haven’t quite bought in on Luke Voit’s out-of-nowhere 2018 season, and Greg Bird has never been able to put together a full, healthy season.

First base is generally considered to be even easier than the outfield. At the very least, it requires less range, which could be beneficial to Harper as he enters his prime and starts to slow down. It would fill a hole for the Yankees, both in the field and in the lineup, as the bulk of their power comes from right-handed hitters.

Obviously, this speculation is very preliminary, though the prospect of Harper taking aim at the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium is enough to excite any New York fan and haunt the nightmares of fans of the other 29 teams.

At the end of the day, the Yankees may end up interested in Harper playing first base, and in fact, they definitely should be interested in it. But it will come down to what Harper is interested in. If he really wants to wear the pinstripes, he may not have a choice. 

Much like 2018’s other mega free agent, Manny Machado, Harper will have to weigh the idea of playing in New York versus moving off his favored position. If the Yankees can pull it off, then Major League Baseball will have a new superteam to deal with.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: