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Packers put substance ahead of style on defense

Packers put substance ahead of style on defense

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The Green Bay Packers could have filled an entire highlight reel with their interceptions last year.

Good thing, because the rest of their defense wasn't worth watching.

A year after finishing with the NFL's worst defense, the Packers have traded the excitement of those big turnovers for consistency. And the change could be the difference between another early exit from the playoffs and a deep run that could last all the way to the Super Bowl.

``I'd prefer our defense this year to last year's,'' defensive coordinator Dom Capers said.

The Packers (12-5) play at San Francisco (11-4-1) on Saturday night in an NFC divisional game.

Green Bay rolled through the regular season in 2011 with a defense every bit as explosive as its high-powered offense. The Packers led the league with 31 interceptions, and no quarterback - rookie or veteran - was safe from their sticky hands. Four of the picks were returned for touchdowns.

Even as the Packers cruised to a 15-1 record and the NFC's No. 1 seed, however, there were signs of trouble with the defense. Green Bay ranked dead last in the NFL in both yardage (almost 412 per game) and yards passing (almost 300). Their 6,585 yards allowed was the worst in team history, as were the pass attempts (637), completions (390) and yards passing (4,796).

And all those flaws were exposed when Green Bay played the New York Giants in the divisional round. Eli Manning threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns and Hakeem Nicks had seven catches for 165 yards as the Giants tossed the defending Super Bowl champions out of the playoffs with a 37-20 win.

The Packers don't have nearly as many takeaways this time - they finished the regular season with 18 - but they're no longer pushovers, either. They jumped to 11th in total defense, and their average of 337 yards allowed per game is a 75-yard improvement. Opponents passed for an average of 218 yards against Green Bay, also 11th best in the NFL.

They ranked in the top half of the NFC in every defensive category except run defense. And you can thank Adrian Peterson for that.

``I don't know what the answer is,'' B.J. Raji said. ``I just know we left last year in the past and took the approach that this is a different year and we wanted to improve our ranking.''

The Packers have done all this despite losing Charles Woodson for half the season with a broken right collarbone. Clay Matthews (hamstring) and C.J. Wilson (knee) also missed four games each.

But the injuries also forced Green Bay to play its young guys, and their speed and athleticism has turned out to be a boon for the Packers.

``We're just a more consistent, more multiple defense this year,'' Capers said. ``I think we can attack you in different ways. I think we've got more athletic ability on our defense this year than we had. I think these young guys have given us more athletic ability, more speed, more pass rush ability.

``You look at our sack numbers in terms of from last year to this year, there's a big difference,'' Capers added. ``And our style of play, we need to do that.''

Only Denver and St. Louis (52 each) and Cincinnati (51) had more sacks than Green Bay (47), and it's a good bet the Packers would have led the league had Matthews not been hurt.

Even with missing four games, Matthews finished with 13 sacks, a half-sack off his career high. Only the 49ers' Aldon Smith had more in the NFC.

``They're just playing good defense,'' San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. ``Sound defense, good team defense, not allowing the big plays that showed up last year.''

Now, just because this Green Bay defense is sound doesn't mean it's stodgy or boring.

Quite the contrary.

Rookie Casey Hayward tied for fifth in the NFL with six interceptions. Jay Cutler is no doubt thrilled he's got at least seven months before he has to see a Packers defensive back.

But substance matters as much as style, and Green Bay has it this year.

``No doubt about it,'' cornerback Tramon Williams said. ``I'm pretty sure that's not hard to see that we're a better defense from last year.''

Notes: WR Randall Cobb returned to practice Thursday despite still feeling under the weather. ``He's going to go,'' coach Mike McCarthy said. ``I don't have any questions about that.'' ... McCarthy described the Packers' last practice before they leave for San Francisco as ``very spirited, to say the least. They have too much energy and I think that's common for this time of year,'' he said. ``I feel very good the way the last three days of practice have gone.'' ... The Packers aren't concerned with the state of Candlestick Park, where the field is dry and patchy in some spots, soggy in others. ``A lot of the grass fields are that way toward the end of the season. It'll be the same for everyone,'' Jordy Nelson said. ``You just have to feel it out. In pregame, make sure you have the right cleats on, what you feel comfortable in.'' ... WR Jarrett Boykin (ankle) is improving but won't be ready to play this week.

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How to watch Capitals vs. Sabres NHL 20 simulation

How to watch Capitals vs. Sabres NHL 20 simulation

Monday night was supposed to be another night of Capitals action with a game against the Buffalo Sabres. Unfortunately due to the NHL’s hold on the season in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the show can not go on as originally planned. 

However, with some minor adjustments to the presentation, there is still a way to keep things going. 

Monday night at 7 p.m. ET the Capitals will be taking the ice to play the Sabres as planned, only this time it will be virtual ice on an NHL 20 simulation. 

In partnership with Monumental Sports Network, NBC Sports Washington will be airing all Wizards and Capitals games in simulated NBA 2K20 and NHL 2K20 games. The format of these games includes watching the simulated versions of Caps games based on the existing schedule with the bonus of commentary from NBCSW’s experts. 

To make things even more fun, in between the simulation and the re-air of the simulation, there is a chance to relive a classic Caps game. So don’t forget to stick around and re-watch Dowd and the Capitals dominate the Penguins from earlier this season. 

Here's everything you need to know to watch. 

When: Monday, March 30 at 7 p.m. ET

Where:

  • NBC Sports Washington (channel finder
  • Any of our 24/7 authenticated streaming platforms
  • Monumental Sports Network via its website www.monumentalsportsnetwork.com or via any of its available apps on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, and Xbox.

Broadcast schedule: 

7:00 PM: NHL 20 Simulation: Capitals @ Buffalo Sabres (P)
8:00 PM: NHL Classics: Capitals @ Pittsburgh Penguins (R) 
10:30 PM: NHL 20 Simulation: Capitals @ Buffalo Sabres (R)

Starting lineups: 

Capitals: TBD
Sabres: TBD

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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LeBron James scores 36, Wizards still top Lakers in NBA 2K simulation

LeBron James scores 36, Wizards still top Lakers in NBA 2K simulation

These 2K simulations certainly do agree with the Wizards. Coming off a stunning victory over the Bucks Friday, Washington turned around on the second night of a back-to-back and beat the Lakers 73-66 at virtual Capital One Arena. 

LeBron James was a one-man wrecking crew for LA, Bradley Beal led the scoring attack for the Wizards and Thomas Bryant got revenge on the team that waived him. 

Here's how the Wizards picked up their fourth-straight 2K win. 

Offensive rebounds

The Lakers are one of the biggest teams in the NBA with James, Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard playing heavy minutes, but it was the Wizards who dominated the boards in this one. 

Bryant led the way for Washington on the glass with seven of his 13 rebounds coming on the offensive end. The Lakers shot the ball significantly better than the Wizards (47% to 39%) but Washington was simply overwhelming them on the glass to create more opportunities. 

Washington grabbed 18 offensive rebounds compared to the Lakers' eight, and it ended being the major difference in the result. 

LeBron's one-man show

The real-life Lakers' biggest weakness is their lack of playmaking outside of James. In a game where James had everything working for him, the Lakers struggled to get anything going whenever he didn't have the ball. 

Rajon Rondo struggled mightily despite tallying eight assists (2-11 FG) and Davis had a bad game relative to his standards (10 points, one rebound, three blocks).

I'd be curious to see what virtual LeBron would have to say about his teammates after this particular game. 

Thomas Bryant's revenge

As we stated before, Bryant was waived by the Lakers after his rookie season and his virtual self took it all out on his former team Saturday night. 

He dominated the boards and once again protected the paint in a way that would make Elvin Hayes proud. He finished with eight points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. 

With Bryant playing the way he has been the last few simulations, the Wizards' defense has been exceptional. Outside of defensive versatility, having a strong defensive center anchoring the defense is paramount to an effective unit. 

Other parting thoughts

Jerome Robinson continues to play well as a starter, scoring 13 points in 19 minutes. The Wizards didn't get that long of a look at Robinson before the NBA suspended its season.

After acquiring him at the trade deadline in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, it'd be another steal by Tommy Sheppard if Robinson can play like this consistently in real life. 

Instead of erupting in the fourth quarter to help the Wizards secure a win, Beal went off for 14 points in the third this time. He finished with 24 points and went 12-for-30 from the field.

Markieff Morris made a return to DC in this one. The Lakers uniform looks weird on him. 

It's hard to capture just how quick Ish Smith is in a video game, but this spin move came pretty close. 

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