Redskins

Packers atop division after 23-14 win over Vikes

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Packers atop division after 23-14 win over Vikes

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The Green Bay Packers are back atop the NFC North, and they have a very unlikely source to thank.

Minutes after the Packers wrapped up their 23-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon, Seattle beat Chicago in overtime to drop the Bears back into a tie with Green Bay for the division lead.

Yes, that would be the same Seattle team that stole a win from the Packers (8-4) earlier this season with the Inaccurate Reception.

``I can't say there are many Seattle fans in the locker room,'' Aaron Rodgers said, ``but we appreciate the help.''

The Packers and Bears each play three of their last four against NFC North opponents, including a Dec. 16 matchup at Soldier Field that might well decide the division title.

``Everything's right in front of us,'' Rodgers said. ``We've got to go win our home games and get a couple wins on the road.''

The Vikings (6-6), meanwhile, have ground to make up after falling a game behind Seattle in the race for the second NFC wild card. Not even a monster day by Adrian Peterson was enough to lift the Vikings, who lost for the fourth time in five games.

Peterson had a career-long 82-yard touchdown run and finished with 210 yards rushing, his most since tearing his ACL almost a year ago. But Morgan Burnett picked off Christian Ponder twice in the red zone in the second half, and Minnesota went scoreless after taking a 14-10 lead into halftime.

``He ran for 210 yards - that's important - but it's not as important to him as the fact that we didn't win the game. That's the beauty of Adrian Peterson. He's a total team guy,'' Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said. ``It's just disappointing that we couldn't win when he had such a great day in this environment.

``You want to see him celebrate, but it's hard to celebrate after today's loss.''

Ponder's job appears secure despite the loss. Frazier said he didn't consider making a switch during the game and he doesn't plan to this week, either.

``We can win with the personnel that we have,'' Frazier said. ``We've shown that we can. We just have to do a few things better. There's no reason to panic.''

With Green Bay's offense trying to find its rhythm after injuries to No. 2 receiver Jordy Nelson (hamstring) and offensive lineman T.J. Lang (ankle), Peterson's 82-yard run gave the Vikings a 14-10 lead at halftime. He put the Vikings in great position to pad that lead, ripping off a 48-yarder on the first play of the second half that gave Minnesota the ball at the Green Bay 12.

But two plays later, Ponder got flushed out of the pocket. Rather than take the sack or run out of bounds, he heaved the ball into the end zone -right into Burnett's hands.

``I'd seen it was a pretty spiral, and I made sure I got my paws on it,'' Burnett said.

Rodgers overthrew Jarrett Boykin in the end zone on third-and-7 from the 29, and the Packers looked as if they were going to go for it. But after a Minnesota timeout, McCarthy sent out Mason Crosby, who had missed six of his last 11, including one from 53 yards just before the half.

This one was good, however, the kick wobbling through the uprights.

Rodgers was picked off on a trick play, but the Packers defense bailed him out, stuffing Peterson for no gain on third-and-1. A tipped Chris Kluwe punt gave the Packers the ball at their own 49 and, four plays later, James Starks bolted 22 yards for the score and the 20-14 lead, Green Bay's first since the second quarter.

Another long run by Peterson and a 15-yard penalty on the Packers put the Vikings deep in Green Bay territory. Once again, though, Burnett was there, stepping in front of Kyle Rudolph and snatching the ball at the 13.

``This one definitely hurts,'' Ponder said. ``For what this game means to the team, to this state, it's disappointing - especially with the way Adrian played - to go out and throw two interceptions.''

The Packers ground out an 11-minute drive before Crosby sealed the win with his third field goal of the day, a 31-yarder. Rodgers made three big third-down conversions to keep the drive alive, running for one and finding Greg Jennings (8 yards), back in the lineup for the first time since Sept. 30, and Randall Cobb (33 yards) on the others.

``It definitely was a gut check for us at halftime,'' Rodgers said ``The thing you can say about our guys, there was no panic. ... When we had to have it there in the fourth quarter, we were able to put something together. That said a lot about the kind of guys we've got and the leadership we have.''

NOTES: Green Bay has won a franchise-high 10 straight against NFC North opponents. ... Burnett's two interceptions matched his single-game career high. He also had two last year against the Bears. ... With 1 1/2 sacks Sunday, Jared Allen now has 14 of Rodgers. ... Peterson's 21 carries gives him 1,640 for his career, topping the previous Vikings record of 1,627.

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5 questions facing the Redskins as the Case Keenum/Dwayne Haskins QB battle begins

5 questions facing the Redskins as the Case Keenum/Dwayne Haskins QB battle begins

The Redskins have a quarterback battle. Repeat, the Redskins have a quarterback battle. This is not a drill. It is an open competition. 

When the team gathers in Ashburn on Monday for offseason training activities, it will be the first time that veteran passer Case Keenum and first-round rookie Dwayne Haskins will be on the field at the same time. Incumbent backup QB Colt McCoy should be present as well, but not active as he works back from multiple leg surgeries this offseason. 

The team has plenty of questions for the 2019 season, and the answers will start coming as early as this week. No question is bigger than the signal caller though.

  1. QB Battle - Every major factor in the Redskins organization has been clear that Haskins will get a chance to compete for the starting job. That means every throw between Keenum, the presumed starter after the 'Skins traded for him in February, and the Ohio State rookie will be over analyzed. If McCoy was healthy, he would have a jump start in the competition because he knows head coach Jay Gruden's offense. McCoy isn't healthy though, and that means more reps and work for Keenum and Haskins. This battle will be ongoing throughout the summer, but on Monday with the media present, it will be very interesting to see what player gets more work with the first-team offense.
  2. Who's still hurt - Speaking of the first-team offense, a number of players will be working back from offseason surgery. Will Paul Richardson be out there? Trent Williams? How healthy is Jordan Reed, and what about Derrius Guice? Brandon Scherff? There are a lot  of questions, and some of them will be answered simply by seeing guys run around. Second-year wideouts Cam Sims and Trey Quinn both finished the 2018 season on the injured reserve; will they be ready to go? There are a lot of people to watch out for. 
  3. STARTING DEFENSE (LATIMER VOICE*) - Landon Collins was the prize of free agency, and Monday he will be on the field barking directions at teammates. How will he fit in with Josh Norman, and how does Quinton Dunbar look? When Dunbar went down with a leg nerve injury last season, the Washington defense fell apart. If he is all the way back would be big news for Greg Manusky's defense. There's also Reuben Foster. This will be the first time for the media to see Foster on the field in a Redskins uniform after his controversial acquisition last November. Presumably Foster will answer questions after the OTA session, stay tuned for that.
  4. Camp is over for the rookies - Beyond Haskins, the Redskins have nine other draft picks taking part in OTAs. The rookies went through their own private minicamp last week, but this will be quite different. Rookie minicamp is about letting the new players get acclimated to the new facility and team; OTAs are about real work. Will Montez Sweat take the field with the Redskins first-team defense? What about the two rookie receivers in Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon? There will be hiccups for the rookies, that's inevitable, but now is the time to prove they belong. With all the injuries on the offensive line, Wes Martin has the inside track on a starting job. 
  5. Absent, but not hurt - Never forget that OTAs are voluntary for players, and usually a handful of guys don't show up. That will likely happen tomorrow and some fans might react negatively. Don't be one of them. 

* If you don't get that reference, go watch The Program. 

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Potential coaching staff changes rocket into discussion for Wizards

Potential coaching staff changes rocket into discussion for Wizards

We can begin free agent watch with the Washington Wizards way before July 1.

This isn’t about players. Coaching changes can happen whenever.

News broke Saturday out of Houston that the Rockets would not retain associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik. Considered one of the league’s top defensive minds, Bzdelik’s relationship with Scott Brooks along with comments made by the Wizards head coach at the NBA Combine makes this transaction interesting.

Bzdelik, 66, gave Brooks his first NBA coaching job when the then Denver Nuggets head coach hired the former player in 2003.

"I'm thankful for coach Bzdelik," Brooks told the Houston Chronicle in 2016.  "He gave me my first NBA coaching start. One of the best coaches I've ever been around. He has great understanding of the game, both ends of the floor.”

Fast forward to Thursday inside Chicago’s Quest Multisport facility. Amid 5-on-5 games involving 2019 draft prospects, players holding court with media members and the general convention vibe that comes with the NBA Combine, Brooks spent a few minutes chatting with reporters.

Among the non-draft or general manager search topics, whether any changes to the coaching staff were forthcoming.

"I’ve talked to Ted. I definitely talked Ted,” Brooks began his reply, referencing Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. “I have a lot of respect for our organization. I have to get better, first and foremost…Will the staff remain the same? Every year, staffs change. Every year staffs change. We're probably going to make some changes. I don't know if it's for sure. Everything is still up in the air.”

Brooks also noted change could come from members of his staff seeking opportunities elsewhere. Tony Brown, Brooks’ lead assistant during his three seasons with the Wizards, became a coaching free agent following Washington’s 32-50 season, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller.

Two days after Brooks’ comments came news of Bzdelik’s exit in Houston.

Bzdelik, a former Bullets assistant from 1988-94 and three-time college head coach, retired following the 2017-18 season. He returned to the Rockets in November following Houston’s slow start. The associate head coach is credited with guiding the team’s defensive improvement as the Rockets rose up the Western Conference standings.

The Houston Chronicle reported Bzdelik, whose contract expired after this season, remained uncommitted to returning. The Rockets announced Saturday they would not renew his deal.

The Wizards do not want a repeat of their defensive struggles. Only the Atlanta Hawks allowed more points per game than the 116.9 Washington surrendered last season. The Wizards ranked 28th in opponent field goal percentage (48.0) and 27th in 3-point shooting percentage (37.0).

It’s unclear how the Wizards fix those defensive concerns based solely on personnel. The current roster with five healthy players does not include any forwards or mobile big men. Point guard John Wall is expected to miss the majority of the upcoming season following February’s surgery for a ruptured Achilles. Wall, an erratic defensive presence in recent seasons, was previously selected to the NBA’s all-defensive team in 2015.

Coaching strategies could become the primary driver of change on the defensive end. The man who brought Brooks into the coaching fraternity would make for an obvious addition if both sides are interested.

"The accountability that [Jeff] taught me with the coaching staff and the players is second to none,” Brooks told the Chronicle in 2016. “I learned about work. I learned how to transfer my playing career into a coaching career with his help."

News of the next front office leader likely comes before coaching staff tweaks.

Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly was offered the same position with the Wizards Saturday after Denver granted Washington permission to meet. In the interim, the Wizards sent a contingent of scouting personnel along with Brooks to Chicago as the team conducted player interviews and watched scrimmages.

“Ted is going to make a decision and I trust that I going to be the best for the program moving forward,” Brooks said Thursday. “As of right now, (interim GM Tommy Sheppard) is doing a great job leading the group. We all feel comfortable with what’s going on. Hopefully, things work out and we move forward as an organization. We all have to get better, myself included.”

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