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Panthers come from behind to beat Saints 44-38

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Panthers come from behind to beat Saints 44-38

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Even as Drew Brees and the Saints walked out of the Superdome disappointed by another loss that sealed their worst record since 2007, they could look forward with certainty to the return of Sean Payton and the opportunity to leave behind the bounty scandal that overshadowed a difficult season.

The Carolina Panthers, by contrast, could not be sure who their coach might be next season, even though they celebrated a fourth-straight victory and fifth in six games.

If Ron Rivera does not return as Carolina's coach after a second straight losing season, he can at least take pride in the fact this his players never quit on him, even rallying from 11-points down, on the road, in a low-stakes season finale, to beat the Saints 44-38 on Sunday.

``I tip my hat off to everybody that played and coach for the last month and a half,'' Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said, adding that it would have been ``easy for a lot of people to just give up and tap out and say, `Well, we are not playing for anything.'''

Rivera clearly appreciated the effort. His eyes were red after he stood by the locker room door and exchanged hugs with players walking off the field.

``I'm proud of the fact that those guys showed up every day and worked, did the things we asked and did them very well,'' Rivera said. ``This is a good group of men.''

Rivera said he wants to be back and expects to meet with Panthers owner Jerry Richardson in Charlotte in the next couple days.

``Mr. Richardson has been fair and I appreciate the opportunity he has given me, and we will see how things unfold,'' Rivera said.

DeAngelo Williams rushed for a career-high 210 yards, including touchdown runs of 54 and 12 yards, for Carolina (7-9). His 65-yard gain set up the first of three 1-yard scoring runs by Mike Tolbert. Cam Newton added 248 yards passing and Graham Gano kicked field goals of 20, 31 and 42 yards. The Panthers finished with 530 yards, which doomed the Saints' defense to a dubious distinction in their first season under coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

The Saints (7-9) gave up 7,042 yards this season, breaking the old record of 6,793 allowed by the 1981 Baltimore Colts.

``You get what you deserve,'' Saints linebacker and defensive captain Jon Vilma said of the record yardage total. ``You don't play good defense, that's what's going to happen. Be a man and suck it up.''

Brees continued to make history of a more flattering kind.

He passed for 396 yards, giving him 5,177 this season, the third most in league history behind the 2011 totals of himself (5,476) and New England's Tom Brady (5,235). Brees became the first player to eclipse 5,000 yards three times (none of the other three QBs to hit 5,000 - Dan Marino, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford - have done it more than once). Brees' four TD passes gave him 43 in 2012, and he's the first player with 40 TD passes in consecutive seasons.

Brees was still perturbed that his 19th interception, which wound up tying with Dallas' Tony Romo for the most in the NFL, led to the score that put the Panthers ahead to stay in the third quarter.

Brees predicted Payton, who was suspended this season in connection with the NFL's bounty probe, will return this winter with ideas of how to clean up the errors that doomed the Saints this season.

``It's going to be an eye-opener for some people, I'm sure, as it should be, because this is not our standard, what happened this year,'' Brees said. ``Sean's going to come in chomping at the bit and we're going to have to be ready to roll. This offseason can't come fast enough.''

Payton, who agreed to a contract extension through 2017, is expected to return to work after the Super Bowl is played in New Orleans on Feb. 3.

Although the Saints' defense had a rough day, the unit gave New Orleans its first lead, 14-10, when Vilma intercepted Newton and ran 18 yards for a touchdown. The Superdome crowd roared in support of Vilma, a central figure in the bounty scandal who initially had been suspended the whole season. He never served one game of the ban after he, defensive end Will Smith, and former Saints Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove fought successfully to have their suspensions of various lengths overturned.

Leading 24-13, the Saints looked ready to seize control in the third quarter. Panthers tight end Greg Olsen fumbled along the sideline in Carolina territory, and defensive back Johnny Patrick appeared to recover. Initially, the play was blown dead and Olsen ruled down. Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt challenged the call, and the play was ruled a fumble, but Patrick's right foot was so close to the sideline that referee Al Riveron could not determine if the Saints took possession.

The ball remained with the Panthers, and Williams ran for his long TD soon afterward.

Two of Brees' scoring passes went to Marques Colston for 7 and 9 yards. He also hit tight end Jimmy Graham for a 19-yard score and Darren Sproles for a 33-yard TD in the fourth quarter as the Saints, who trailed 41-24 with 8:23 left, nearly mounted a late comeback.

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Redskins roster hopefuls get an added boost on special teams

Redskins roster hopefuls get an added boost on special teams

Deshazor Everett exited the Redskins locker room this week after another preseason practice under a brutal August sun. 
 
In brief small talk as the backup safety departed, a reporter casually mentioned special teams, that unglamorous part of NFL life that can determine jobs, games and careers far beyond its limited scope during games. 
 
Everett cursed, shook his head and walked away. If his reaction was purposefully dramatic and at least part in jest, it was still telling. Few NFL players want to be pegged as specialists. Yet it was special teams that helped Everett win and keep a roster spot with Washington during training camp in 2015. He has plenty of current teammates facing that same scenario this season. 
 
“That’s always an issue. You come down to the fourth, fifth receiver, which one is the best on special teams?” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “Fifth, sixth corner, special teams. The outside linebacker, special teams. The middle linebacker, they’ve got to be able to play [special] teams. Tight end, third tight end has to be able to play some [special] teams. Ideally, you’d like one of your running backs to play [special] teams. That may not be the case this year, we’ll wait and see.”
 
An undrafted free agent from Texas A&M, Everett worked to become a quality special teams player because it was a ticket to stay in the league. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut him early in training camp in 2015, but the Redskins sustained a rash of injuries in the secondary that summer and quickly signed Everett. They needed depth at cornerback and safety, but also liked what Everett brought to the table on special teams. 
 
Later that first year, Everett made a pair of special teams tackles in the NFC East-clinching victory against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16. He only took snaps on defense in four games in 2015, but played in 11. In 2016, Everett played in all 16 games, but again only took defensive snaps in four of them. But by 2017 he started eight of 14 games and was limited to special teams duty just twice. You can forgive Everett if he doesn’t want to go back to a special-teams only role. 
 
Jehu Chesson knows the feeling. A fourth-round pick in 2017 by the Kansas City Chiefs, Chesson had two catches as a rookie, but was cut by the Chiefs last summer at the end of training camp and signed by the Redskins. He bounced between the active roster and the practice squad and had just one catch, but he appeared in 12 games on special teams and drew attention for his work there. On a roster crowded with young receivers, Chesson’s play on special teams could earn him a spot this time. It will be close.  
 
That’s not necessarily the way he’d want it. Chesson was drafted in the middle rounds, after all, and had 114 catches and 12 touchdowns in four years at Michigan. But, for now, it’s a way to stick just like Everett did. And special teams success can carry over onto the field of play. 
 
“If you go down on kickoff and make a big tackle and then the defense goes three-and-out and you’re back out there on punt return and you punish the gunner, it definitely carries over,” Chesson said. “If you get back out there on offense after that, you’re already going. It’s positive momentum.”
 
Compare Chesson to fellow wide receiver Darvin Kidsy, who is making his own case for a job, but will likely do so without special teams as a factor. Kidsy played 32 snaps against Cleveland on offense earlier this month in the first preseason game and 26 more against Cincinnati, but didn’t take a snap on special teams in either game.  
 
Chesson, meanwhile, had 21 snaps on offense against the Browns and 15 against the Bengals, but also played on 21 of 56 special-teams snaps in those games. Kidsy knows the value added from a big play on special teams. As a sophomore at North Texas, he proudly said he was the No. 1 play on SportsCenter’s Top 10 on Sept. 22, 2014 with a jaw-dropping 75-yard punt return for a touchdown against Nicholls State. It matters.  
 
“It plays a big part,” tight end Jeremy Sprinkle said. “Make a big play there you stand out, you get recognition from coaches.”
 
Sprinkle learned as a rookie watching former Redskins tight end Niles Paul, who was a special teams captain for years with Washington, but also had a 39-catch season in 2014 and forged a role on offense until he left via free agency after the 2017 season. Sprinkle, even if his roster spot is secure, is trying to make that same leap. And every little bit helps.  
 
“I’m watching special teams everyday on tape and games, finding out who’s good, who’s struggling,” Gruden said. “If it’s close, we’re going to err on the side of special teams." 

 

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Devils Backbone Brewing Co. partners with Wizards to create new ‘Full Court Press’ hard lemonade

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NBA.com/Wizards

Devils Backbone Brewing Co. partners with Wizards to create new ‘Full Court Press’ hard lemonade

Excited for the upcoming NBA season? A new beverage is making its way to Capital One Arena.

The Washington Wizards have announced they will be partnering with the award-winning brewer, Devils Backbone Brewing Company for the upcoming NBA season. 

Fans will now be able to purchase the Full Court Press Hard Cherry Lemonade exclusively at Wizards home games, located on the 400 level near section 429/430. The new Wizards-branded cherry hard lemonade will be available on draft and in 16 oz. cans. 

The Full Court Press will feature the Devils Backbone and Wizards logos, in addition to the team’s colors. The design will also include hash marks, a half-court circle to replicate a basketball court, and three stars to honor the District of Columbia. In an effort to generate excitement among Wizards fans, the lemonade's tagline is “Rep The District.” 

Devils Backbone Brewing Company has quite a reputation around the district. In the past, the brewery partnered with the Washington Redskins to create the #ATTR Ale at FedEx Field and this September it will launch the Capi-tale India Pale Ale with the Capitals. 

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