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NFC East wide open after Redskins top Giants 17-16

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NFC East wide open after Redskins top Giants 17-16

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) There was the fumble by Robert Griffin III that turned into a Washington Redskins touchdown. There was the fumble by teammate Alfred Morris that led to a melee of leg-pulling followed by a kick to the midsection and something dangerously close to a stomp.

The quartet of flawed teams that make up the NFC East sure do make things interesting.

The division title that seemingly belonged to the New York Giants is up for grabs after their 17-16 loss Monday night to the Redskins, who are back in the running thanks to a rookie quarterback and a three-game winning streak.

``We had an opportunity here today,'' New York coach Tom Coughlin said. ``But now there's one team with seven and two teams with six wins. There's four games to go.''

That about sums it up.

Now that the Giants (7-5) have lost three of four, the Redskins (6-6) and Cowboys (6-6) are squarely in the hunt despite mediocre records. Washington has dispatched each of its division rivals - Philadelphia, Dallas and now New York - one by one over the last three weeks to recover from a 3-6 start that prompted coach Mike Shanahan to talk about evaluating players for future seasons.

``We know that our backs are against the wall,'' said Griffin, whose Redskins host Dallas in what they hope will be a meaningful season finale. ``And even though we won tonight, our backs are still against the wall.''

It'll be hard to count the Redskins out as long as Griffin is on the field. He completed 13 of 21 passes for 163 yards and a go-ahead, 8-yard touchdown to Pierre Garcon in the fourth quarter to finish with a 101.9 passer rating. He also ran for 72 yards to get to 714 for the season, breaking Cam Newton's NFL record for a rookie quarterback.

It was his sixth game with a 100-plus passer rating, his eighth without an interception - and his second in which one of his fumbles turned into a Redskins score.

On the way to the turf after a 12-yard run, Griffin was stripped by Stevie Brown - but the ball flew right to teammate Joshua Morgan 3 yards upfield. Morgan then ran 13 yards for a first-quarter touchdown no one would ever diagram on a whiteboard.

``We didn't run it in practice because we wanted to save it for the game,'' Griffin said with a grin. ``I knew he was going to be there for it. ... Joshua did a good job being in the spot where he was supposed to be.''

The game's other fumble was just as chaotic - and a little scary. After Morris was stripped during a third-quarter run, New York defensive tackle Linval Joseph yanked at Redskins center Will Montgomery's leg while players were fighting for the ball in the pile.

Montgomery kicked out in response, a swipe that Joseph said hit him in the groin.

``I was just trying to get my leg loose,'' Montgomery said.

Joseph then stomped at Montgomery, appearing to pull back at the last second but still making contact.

``It took me everything not to kick him back because I didn't want hurt the team, and I didn't want to get fined and none of that,'' Joseph said. ``I started, then I stopped.''

Joseph and a Redskins player were whistled for offsetting unnecessary roughness penalties.

Morris finished with 124 yards, reaching 1,106 for the season to break Reggie Brooks' franchise rookie rushing record of 1,063, set in 1993. Garcon caught eight passes for 106 yards, showing no signs of the painful toe injury that forced him to miss six of the season's first nine games.

Eli Manning completed 20 of 33 passes for 280 yards and a touchdown, and Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 103 yards on 24 carries for the Giants. Victor Cruz, who caught the game-winning score when the teams met in the Meadowlands in October, had five catches for 104 yards.

The Giants moved the ball well, but they only managed three field goals by Lawrence Tynes and one touchdown - Manning's 4-yard pass to Martellus Bennett late in the second quarter.

Tynes also missed a 43-yard field goal, and the Giants were uncharacteristically penalty-prone, getting flagged nine times for 73 yards. New York led 13-10 at the half, but scored only three more points.

``This is not real complicated. I don't know what happened in the second half,'' Coughlin said. ``We certainly didn't come out and play. Penalties. Sloppy football.''

NOTES: The Giants had won 26 in a row on the road when holding a halftime lead. They last failed to finish the job in 2006 against Tennessee. ... The Redskins snapped a 10-game home losing streak in Monday night games. ... Shanahan got his 171st win (regular and postseason), tying him with Redskins' Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs for 12th all time. ... New York S Tyler Sash left the game with a hamstring injury, and RT Sean Locklear was carted off in the fourth quarter with a knee injury.

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Jeff Green lifts Wizards as fellow Hoya Otto Porter watches late again

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USA Today Sports

Jeff Green lifts Wizards as fellow Hoya Otto Porter watches late again

The Wizards’ 117-109 win over the Orlando Magic Monday night was the tale of two Hoyas.

Washington brought Jeff Green back home this summer to help anchor the second unit with his defensive versatility and scoring spurts. Both aspects were on display in the fourth quarter, as the Wizards finally broke free from the Magic.

Another former Georgetown star, Otto Porter, was nowhere to be found in the fourth. Zero minutes for a third consecutive game for the Wizards’ highest-paid player, thus adding another layer of weird to his season.

The why is a topic. For a team that registered its first winning streak of the season after a 2-9 start, all that matters is finding success. That was the postgame message from Scott Brooks.

There’s no detective work required as to why Green turned into a late-game staple.

After his 19-point outing in Saturday’s win at Miami, the streaky scorer had 10 of his 18 in the final period against Orlando with four 3-pointers. Defensively the 6-foot-9 forward offers Brooks an option the roster lacked last season: a versatile player capable of guarding on the perimeter and, as was the case against Orlando center Nik Vucevic, inside against bigger players.

“We need his all-around play,” Brooks said. “He can guard just about everybody on the floor. … I thought [Jeff] did a pretty good job on the big fellow.”

Green and Markieff Morris handled the interior spots the entire fourth quarter. When the forwards can match up with opposing four’s and five’s on defense, it typically means their scoring presence opens the court for penetrating guards John Wall and Bradley Beal on the other end.

Green sinking bombs throughout the game helped as well. He finished four of five from deep with two coming in the fourth. The career 33 percent 3-point shooter is 9 of 13 from beyond the arc overall during the last four games, and 21 of 28 overall.

“He's starting to get a little bit of rhythm from the three-point line, and we need that from him,” Brooks said.

Maybe Green isn’t the ideal athletic-4 Wall called for in recent years, but the on-court connection between the power forward and point guard is evident. During the decisive 14-4 run, the two hooked up for an alley-oop lob that's turned into a go-to play for Washington.

With shooters surrounding the duo, Wall dribbles toward the left elbow, taking all eyes with him. Green immediately turns down an open lane and rolls to the rim before rising high to meet the toss.

“We have shooters, we have guys that have to [be] respected,” Green said of the play. “It keeps [defenders] at bay, and with John’s speed, to get downhill at the rim, you have to help (on him).”

Wall passed on offering any keys to the play’s success (“We just tweaked a little bit of the play. I can’t tell you about, but it’s kind of working for us.”), but he praised Green’s performance with ease.

“That’s what we got Jeff for,” Wall said.

The Wizards matched that massive four-year, $106.5 million restricted offer sheet Porter signed with Brooklyn in 2017 for all kinds of reasons. Among them, he’s an instinct-rich player who makes winning plays and ranks among the most accurate 3-point shooters in the league. Those traits haven’t kept Porter on the court late in games recently in part because they haven’t shown in full-throated ways.

The term “benching” is harsh, though the situation is odd. Morris sat out the final periods at Orlando and Miami. Dwight Howard didn’t enter the fourth Monday despite finishing with 17 points and eight rebounds. Only Porter’s sit streak reached three games.

The small forward played a strong defensive game in Saturday’s win at Miami, but Brooks rode with a group that gained momentum as Washington surged past the Heat.

Porter is 9 of 16 on 3-pointers over the last four games. That’s only one aspect of the game. Brooks is looking for more. Porter took only one shot attempt in the first half Monday, lacked vigor defensively, and scored six points in 21 minutes. Kelly Oubre Jr., Porter's primary backup, played the entire fourth quarter instead despite finishing 0 for 5 from the floor.

"I mean, it's trying to find a blend of guys that are going to compete and going to play hard,” Brooks said of his lineup choices.

Asked specifically about Porter, Brooks said, “It’s just the way it is. Some games Otto is not going to have good games. Tonight isn’t one of them. He’ll bounce back. The guy is a winner. He knows how to play.”

Green and Porter honed their games at Georgetown under coach John Thompson III and turned into top-5 NBA Draft selections. The program is mostly closed off to the outside world, but a strong bond between the players exists regardless of when they played. The two forwards never joined forces until this season. Green knows Porter, enough to tell whether a helpful chat is required. This isn’t one of those times. 

“Otto is a pro, man,” Green told NBC Sports Washington. “I don’t have to say anything to Otto. He’s a team-first guy. He’s a guy who’s going to make sure whenever his name is called he’s going to be ready. He’s not worried about if he’s playing. I’m sure he’d like to be playing. He’s doing whatever it takes it to make sure the team is in a place to win.”

So is Scott Brooks. For now, that includes one former Georgetown star in the fourth quarter. It’s just not the obvious one.

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' 117-109 win over Magic, including Bradley Beal's big dunk

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USA Today Sports

5 must-see moments from Wizards' 117-109 win over Magic, including Bradley Beal's big dunk

The Washington Wizards topped the Orlando Magic 117-109 on Monday night. Here are five plays or moments worth revisiting...

1. Like most games the Wizards have played this season, on Monday they started out scorching on offense while defense appeared optional. 

This play was an exception. Bradley Beal, whom you will see plenty more from in this post, got a steal that led to a three for Otto Porter Jr. on the other end:

Though the Wizards won, Porter was held to just six points in 22 minutes of action.

2. Back to Beal. Though that first-half play was nice, he was quiet for much of this game. It wasn't until less than five minutes were remaining in the third quarter that he flipped a switch.

But when he did, there was nothing the Magic could do to stop him. This was one of the plays he made during his third quarter takeover. He used a nifty behind-the-back crossover to set up Dwight Howard for an and-1 bucket:

3. Beal accounted for 10 points in a three-minute stretch, capped off with this steal and dunk:

Beal started the game 3-for-13 from the field, but ended it with 21 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block.

4. John Wall (25 points, 10 assists) and Jeff Green (18 points, six rebounds) also had big nights. They connected on this alley-oop in the fourth quarter:

Green had 10 points in the fourth quarter and Wall had nine.

5. Wall kept it going late with this fadeaway jumper to force a Magic timeout. The way he toyed with the defense off the dribble was quite impressive:

Speaking of Wall, if you ask Beal, it was the media (and more specifically ESPN's Stephen A. Smith) that set the five-time All-Star off. Wall, Beal says, was playing with some extra motivation with Smith sitting courtside:

Don't question him. Just go with it.

The Wizards have now won two straight games. In a sign that it's still super early and probably not time to freak out about the big picture, the Wizards are now just 1 1/2 games out of the eighth seed in the East.

 

 

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