Nationals

Numb Cowboys beat Bengals 20-19 on last-second FG

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Numb Cowboys beat Bengals 20-19 on last-second FG

CINCINNATI (AP) Dan Bailey's 40-yard kick went straight through the uprights. The Dallas Cowboys had won an important game on a last-second field goal.

They weren't sure how to react.

Numb. Grieving. Distracted. The Cowboys were all those things on Sunday, dealing with the death of one teammate and the tribulations of another.

Winners, too, though they hardly felt like it.

Bailey's kick gave Dallas a 20-19 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals that ended a tough afternoon with the Cowboys' playoff chances enhanced and their heads full of so many thoughts.

``You think about everything,'' quarterback Tony Romo said. ``Like I said, it's a roller coaster of emotions. I don't know what's right; I don't know what's wrong. I don't know what you're supposed to feel.

``It's a hard, hard situation we're in. There's no playbook for this sort of thing in life.''

With a late comeback on Sunday, they got a momentary reprieve from their grieving.

The Cowboys overcame a nine-point deficit in the closing minutes behind Romo, who held his hand over his heart during a moment of silence to honor teammate Jerry Brown before the kickoff. The linebacker died in an auto accident early Saturday.

Defensive lineman Josh Brent, who was driving, was released from jail on Sunday in Texas about an hour after the game ended. He's charged with intoxication manslaughter.

The Cowboys (7-6) learned about Brown's death during their flight to Cincinnati on Saturday. Coach Jason Garrett told his team that the best way to honor him was to play well in a game with playoff implications for both teams.

One of the visitors' metal lockers at Paul Brown Stadium had a strip of white athletic tape with ``53 JERRY BROWN'' printed on it, a wooden stool inside sitting upside-down. Brown's No. 53 jersey was on the sideline during the game - defensive tackle Jason Hatcher held it up after Bailey's kick decided it.

There wasn't much of a celebration by an emotionally spent team.

``I don't remember crying this much other than maybe the day I was born,'' defensive lineman Marcus Spears said. ``With Josh's situation and Jerry being gone, you felt it.''

Players couldn't keep the tragedy out of their thoughts during the game, finding their minds wandering on the bench.

``I rarely let my emotions get the best of me,'' fullback Lawrence Vickers said. ``Today they did, but this was the place to do it.''

Owner Jerry Jones described his team as grieving when it took the field. It was the second consecutive week that an NFL team was playing a day after losing a teammate. Last Sunday, Kansas City beat Carolina 27-21 one day after linebacker Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend and then himself at the Chiefs' practice complex.

``There was a feeling of numbness on the field,'' Garrett said.

The Cowboys salvaged the game by scoring on their last two drives against the Bengals (7-6), who had won four in a row and had a chance to move into position for an AFC wild-card berth with a victory.

Romo threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant with 6:35 to go. Anthony Spencer's sack of Andy Dalton forced a punt, and Romo led the Cowboys in range for Bailey's winning kick. Romo finished 25 of 43 for 268 yards with a touchdown, an interception and three sacks.

Newcomer Josh Brown kicked field goals of 25, 33, 25 and 52 yards for Cincinnati, which wasted an opportunity to move ahead of Pittsburgh (7-6) for the second AFC wild card.

``They came here in an emotional situation, and you knew they were going to fight all the way,'' Bengals offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said. ``That game meant a lot to them. They played great.''

Dallas played a sloppy game until the closing minutes - nothing out of character there - and had a few especially bad moments.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan went onto the field and yelled at a Bengals player who had said something toward the Cowboys bench, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the third quarter. Dallas also was penalized for 12 men on the field during the drive, which ended with Brown's third field goal and a 16-10 Cincinnati lead.

In the end, a defense that has allowed only three touchdowns in the last four games couldn't hold on. And the Bengals made it tough on themselves by using all three of their timeouts early in the second half, leaving them unable to stop the clock on Dallas' final drive.

Dalton was 20 of 33 for 206 yards with five sacks, one touchdown and an interception that Brandon Carr returned 37 yards to set up DeMarco Murray's 1-yard touchdown dive in the second quarter.

NOTES: Bailey's game-winner was his second of the season. His 38-yarder beat Cleveland in overtime. It was Bailey's sixth game-winning FG, second in Cowboys history behind Rafael Septien's seven. ... Bryant caught four passes for 50 yards, leaving him with 1,028 yards for the season. It's his first 1,000-yard receiving season and the first by a Cowboy since 2009 (Miles Austin and Jason Witten). ... Bryant has caught a TD pass in five straight games, the longest streak of his career. ... Romo's 25 completions gave him a club-record 349 for the season. He completed his last 12 throws the previous game and his first five on Sunday, setting a club record with 17 straight completions. ... Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 89 yards on 12 carries, breaking his streak of three straight 100-yard games.

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Max Scherzer's return from hamstring injury was a battle, but one he won against the Mets

Max Scherzer's return from hamstring injury was a battle, but one he won against the Mets

Better. Though the bar was low.

Max Scherzer worked for six innings Tuesday night in New York. He made it through one roughshod inning during his last outing against the Mets because his hamstring “tweak” was enough of an alarm that he decided to stop pitching.

That was seven days prior to his start against the Mets, which the Nationals won, 2-1. Ostensibly, Scherzer had not pitched for 13 days. He lasted the one inning, needed to work his hamstring problem out, then find a way back to the mound.

Davey Martinez wanted him to stop sprinting -- the initial cause of the hamstring problem -- in between starts. Scherzer did not want to stop sprinting, so he continued to do so once he felt better. He also pitched twice from a mound in the days before the bottom of the first on Tuesday. Both times, he felt 100 percent when pushing and landing. The hamstring was fine. So much so, that he expected to throw the 105 pitches he did to hold off the Mets across the grinding innings they imposed on him.

“Took some shots there early, but didn’t break and found a way to execute pitches there later in the game,” Scherzer said.

RELATED: TREA TURNER'S SWING HAS TAKEN TIME TO ADJUST WITHOUT REPLAY ACCESS

He finished with seven strikeouts across the six innings. Just a run scored. But, there were eight baserunners and Scherzer was in severe trouble in both the first and second innings. Those were the issues as he hunted a path to better out-pitches and location.

“It honestly kind of reminded me of Game 7 of the World Series when he went out there and he couldn’t zone in on the strike zone,” Martinez said. “His stuff was good. His pitch count got high. Once he settled in, we started noticing he started getting through the ball a little better. Balls started coming down. Started throwing a lot more strikes.”

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“Even though my pitch count got out of control, I was just able to just stay with [Kurt Suzuki] and continue to pound the zone and find a way to get through six [Tuesday],” Scherzer said.

The good is clear: He is back on the mound, healthy, throwing 98 mph and 100-plus pitches. Stephen Strasburg returned two days prior, though he is not 100 percent. Scherzer is physically right, if slightly rusty. That combination was sufficient in his first start after the hamstring problem.

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With no access to in-game video, Trea Turner’s swing has taken time to adjust

With no access to in-game video, Trea Turner’s swing has taken time to adjust

Heading into the Nationals’ four-game series with the New York Mets this week, Trea Turner was hitting just .196 on the young season with one home run. The vaunted base stealer had been thrown out on the basepaths three times while having yet to swipe a bag successfully. In the field, he’d racked up three errors.

It was a frustrating start for the 27-year-old shortstop, who’s coming off a season in which he played with only nine fingers and still found a way to serve as a catalyst atop the Nationals’ lineup. Now fully healthy, Turner was expected to play a role in helping Washington absorb the loss of Anthony Rendon in the middle of its lineup.

Normally, poor at-bats would prompt Turner to head down to the replay room for a quick look at his mechanics. He goes into the clubhouse in between innings and examines his previous swings to see if he needs to make any adjustments. It’s a practice Turner has grown to rely on over the course of his major-league career.

But this season, Turner hasn’t had access to the replay room after MLB banned in-game video as part of its health protocols for playing in the middle of a pandemic. Instead, he’s had to wait until after each game before being able to break down his swing. It’s made for slower progress, but after going 5-for-9 with two home runs and four RBIs over the first two games of the series in New York, he feels that his adjustments have started to pay off.

“I felt good in the box and I feel like my approach was good but not having video is a little different and I feel like in years past I was pretty good at going back and just checking out the swing real quick and making the little adjustment I need to make in game,” Turner said in a Zoom press conference after Tuesday’s 2-1 win.

“Finally made the right adjustment a few games ago and started putting the barrel on the ball and feeling a little better. The last four or five games or so my contact has been a little bit stronger and it was just a matter of time for the hits to start to fall.”

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Turner hasn’t been the only member of the baseball community to express how the lack of video access has changed their approach. On Saturday, Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash told MLB Network Radio that he wasn’t pleased with MLB’s decision to ban something that had become an integral tool for coaches and players during games.

“Without being too controversial, I think it's absolutely ridiculous,” Cash said. “It's probably one of the worst things that I've seen Major League Baseball do in take video away from players. Video is what makes us good. It helps us learn, it helps us coach, it helps us attack. And it's been taken away from us because of one team, or a couple teams' stupid choices.”

“We can't even watch a game; we cannot watch our own game. Our players cannot come in and watch a game in the clubhouse. It is asinine. The entire protocol system, how they came up with that, it is wrong. They're doing an injustice to players.”

While it’s unknown whether the real reasoning behind MLB’s decision is related to health protocols or the sign-stealing scandals that surrounded the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox over the offseason, Turner isn’t making any excuses. In fact, the results are beginning to turn his way.

Entering play Tuesday, Turner had a hard-hit percentage of 40.9 percent, well above his career rate of 32.5. His batting average on balls in play was just .238 (league average is .300), indicating he had been getting unlucky on some well struck balls. In fact, his groundball rate is down five percentage points from his career average while his flyball rate is up 10 percent.

Then came his home run off Mets starter Rick Porcello in the first inning. Turner took a breaking ball high and away and hit it off his back foot on a line straight into the seats in right field.

It was only Turner’s second opposite-field homer of his career after he hit none all of last season. Yet even with the adjustments he’d been making to his swing, he said that he didn’t go into the at-bat looking to hit anything to right field against Porcello.

“I think it’s just swing path and pitch,” Turner said. “I’ve hit a few balls to right-center out in certain stadiums, mostly probably at home, and I don’t know if those are opposite field per se. They might be more center field but I just think when you’re facing righties, to hit an opposite-field home run is fairly tough. He tried going toward that backdoor sinker and I just felt like it was the right swing on the right pitch and just keeping it fair and not slicing the ball.”

Turner will continue tweaking away at his swing, hoping to produce results like he has so far in the New York. But with or without the video replay room, he doesn’t expect the opposite-field homer to be the start of a new trend.

“I don’t have necessarily that oppo power some of these big guys get,” Turner said. “I usually have to pull them but every once in a while, if you get the right pitch on the right swing, it sneaks out. So I’ll take it.”

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