Nationals

Peterson gets Vikings out quick in win over Bears

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Peterson gets Vikings out quick in win over Bears

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Metrodome roof held up just fine during Minnesota's latest heavy snowstorm.

It's the Chicago Bears who seem to be collapsing under the weight of December football.

Adrian Peterson rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns and Harrison Smith returned an interception for a score to lead the Vikings to a 21-14 victory over the freefalling Bears on Sunday.

Almost two years to the day that a huge snowstorm felled the big white dome and forced the Bears-Vikings game to move across town to the University of Minnesota's stadium, another dose of wet snow came down as the Vikings prepared to host their division rivals. No problem this time around, for the roof or Peterson. The resilient running back ripped off a 51-yard run on the first play of the game and got the Vikings (7-6) out to a 14-0 lead before the first quarter was half over en route to a desperately needed victory.

``I think they'll look at the standings tomorrow and see that we're still right in the thick of it, just like we were when this week began,'' Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. ``For us, every game following will be like a playoff game.''

When the Bears (8-5) look at the standings on Monday, they will be a game behind the Packers, who beat Detroit, but still be ahead of Minnesota. It just didn't feel that way when they hobbled out of the stadium on Sunday afternoon. They were 7-1 and in prime position to win the NFC North at the season's midpoint, but have lost four of their last five games and seem to get a different key player injured every week.

This time it was quarterback Jay Cutler, who was crunched on a high-low hit by Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen in the fourth quarter. He finished the drive, but did not return for the final four minutes because of a neck injury. He was 22 of 44 for 260 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

With Brian Urlacher out indefinitely with an injured right hamstring and cornerback Tim Jennings missing the game because of a shoulder injury, the Bears are bruised and battered, to go along with beaten.

``Everybody has injuries. That's part of this league,'' defensive end Julius Peppers said. ``We're going to have to play through that. But obviously some of our better players are down. We need guys to step up and play.''

Few have rebounded from an injury the way Peterson has. The relentless runner tore the ACL in his left knee late last season, yet somehow has been able to comeback better than ever. He topped 100 yards for the seventh straight game to give him 1,600 yards this season - putting that hallowed 2,000 yard mark well within reach with three games to go.

More importantly for the Vikings, he carried the ball a season-high 31 times, the kind of broad-shouldered performance the offense desperately needed with quarterback Christian Ponder continuing to struggle in the passing game. Ponder was 11 of 17 for just 91 yards and one ugly interception, a back-footed throw into triple coverage that Major Wright easily snagged just before halftime.

No matter. The beleaguered quarterback had Peterson and an opportunistic defense to lean on. Rookie cornerback Josh Robinson picked off Cutler in the first quarter and returned it 44 yards to set up Peterson's second touchdown of the day. Smith gave them some much-needed breathing room in the third quarter when Cutler floated a pass over Brandon Marshall's head and into Smith's arms. The rookie took it back 56 yards for a 21-7 lead that held up.

``In the situation we're in, we have to win out,'' said Peterson, whose Vikings finish up with games at St. Louis, at Houston and home against Green Bay. ``That's the focus we have.

Jason Campbell came on in relief of Cutler and threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall late in the game, but it was a little too late for the Bears, who trail the Packers by a game heading into a showdown with the division leaders in Chicago next week. The Bears then finish up on the road at Arizona and Detroit. Their margin for error is getting smaller by the day.

``It's frustrating,'' safety Chris Conte said. ``We've had some injuries, but ultimately we have to come out and play better.''

Marshall had 10 catches for 160 yards, Alshon Jeffery had three catches for 57 yards and a touchdown and Matt Forte rushed for 85 yards on 13 carries for the Bears.

The late-season swoon is a familiar one under coach Lovie Smith, who fell to 15-18 in the final four games of a season. Last season, they lost five straight games after a 7-3 start and finished 8-8 to miss the playoffs.

``I'm just thinking about us getting back on a winning streak next week,'' Smith said. ``We're disappointed in how some of those games have gone, all of the games, really. We're disappointed in this game, but when you're disappointed like that and you have your rival coming up back at home, we have to rally. We'll feel bad, but then it's all on Green Bay.''

NOTES: Jennings, the NFL leader in interceptions, said he thinks there's a chance he can play against the Packers. ``Later in the week, it was getting better each and every day,'' he said, ``but the coaches decided to let it heal, which is smart because I still have a little soreness.'' ... The Vikings had more yards from interception returns (100), than they did in passing offense (91). ... Adam Podlesh handled the kickoff duties for K Robbie Gould, who strained his left calf in warm-ups. Gould did kick the two extra points.

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How to entice Bryce Harper in to re-signing with the Nationals? With food, of course!

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How to entice Bryce Harper in to re-signing with the Nationals? With food, of course!

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach… and if that leads us to Bryce Harper’s potential landing spot, then I present to you the yummiest reasons he should stay with the Washington Nationals.

In a video from TMZ, a paparazzi follows Harper to baggage claim and implores him for any hints toward where he is signing this offseason. The only true answer he got was that Harper likes a place called Steak 48 in Chicago. This surf-and-turf hot spot in the River North neighborhood of downtown Chicago has the audacity to serve “Maryland STYLE lump crab cakes.” Really, Bryce? Will the real thing convince you?!

On that note, let’s start off with the seafood we have to offer. This is the Mid-Atlantic, after all.

How can you work here April-September without eating local crabs in some form? I think that’s impossible. You can choose from hard shell or soft shell, but no shame in either game.

Live Chesapeake blue crabs can be bought at Captain White’s Seafood and other vendors on The Wharf off Maine Avenue. Otherwise, you can sit down and have them steamed for you at Quarterdeck, Ivy City Smokehouse, Bethesda Crab House or Captain Pell’s.

If Harper is more of a soft shell guy, all of those places also serve out-of-the-park crab cakes, but you can’t go wrong with Hank’s Oyster Bar, Old Ebbitt Grill, Chris’ Marketplace, or Clyde’s.

If the star really wants to dive in to local taste, he should eat Chesapeake Bay oysters from the largest estuary in America. My personal favorite selection is at Whaley’s (seafood tower on me, Bryce), but Rapphanock Oyster Bar, The Dabney, Pearl Dive Oyster Palace and Black’s Bar & Kitchen can’t be beat.

I find it hard to believe the team hasn't had an outing at The Salt Line, the lively seafood spot just a short throw from Nats Park where teammate Ryan Zimmerman is an investor and co-owner.

Now that we’ve satisfied Harper’s iron intake, let’s break down his protein. In order to keep the superstar here, I want to make sure he knows that D.C. cares about providing a well-rounded diet.

Barbecued meats in general around here are delectable. Sitting in juxtaposition between the north and south, D.C. restaurants bring a mash-up of styles of smoked and sauced meats. Favorites are Federalist Pig, Hill Country, Fat Pete’s and Hardy’s BBQ truck.

However, if Bryce Harper show he’s as invested in authentic Nationals fans as our season tickets are in him, he should really pick up a half-smoke, the district’s original recipe for a spicy, thicker pork and beef dog that’s aggressively seasoned and sometimes served with chili sauce.

Could you imagine Harper making his announcement to stay over a half-smoke at Ben’s Chili Bowl? I think even the panda statue would cry tears of joy.

Another hyper-local taste is mumbo sauce. While proven not originally from here, D.C. natives are enthusiastic about the special sauce. Yum’s is pretty well-known for carrying it.

Time for dessert! I think we can all agree that in the past 10 years, cupcakes have become iconic in the district with Georgetown Cupcakes, Baked & Wired and Sprinkles all having a home in Georgetown. To settle the debate, Baked & Wired is best. They are ranked #1 on Yelp if you don’t believe my own palette.

But what if it’s game night, you ask? D.C. has it’s hearty share of restaurants that are open even after extra innings. The Diner, Kramerbooks, Mandu, New Big Wong, Old Ebbitt Grill, Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, Amsterdam Falafelshop and Jumbo Slice are all here to keep you warm at night no matter what you’re craving post-victory. Need I go on?

Bryce reassured Nats fans and TMZ that he is “still a National right now.” Better eat these while you can, Bryce, or you’ll be sorry you didn't sign in one of the best food cities in the MLB.

Do you have any local food or restaurants you think will convince Bryce Harper to stay with the Washington Nationals this offseason? Send them to @NBCNationals or @rmhopmayer. Maybe we can throw together a friends-giving or holiday dinner for those that want him to stay our beloved Guest of Honor.

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Josh Norman wants to play 'early Santa,' will give away Redskins tickets

Josh Norman wants to play 'early Santa,' will give away Redskins tickets

Josh Norman caused quite a stir with his comments Sunday about the atmosphere at FedEx Field, and the Redskins cornerback made it clear he plans to do his part in making sure the stadium is packed for Sunday's game against the Texans. 

Norman told reporters Thursday he's going to be giving away "40 or 50" free tickets for the Houston game, online and perhaps even in person.

"Yes, I will be giving out free tickets," he said. "I'll be doing it on my socials as well, I think I'll probably post tonight or something about it."

"Who knows, you may see me coming out and being an early Santa somewhere in the mall or something, just handing out tickets."

And if you are one of the lucky fans who gets a ticket from "Santa Norman," he has specific instructions on how you should behave at Sunday's game:

"Whoever get(s) them, we want them loud and just obnoxious. Just really obnoxious."

Norman joins several Redskins players who have promised to give away tickets to the Texans game.

It may be November, but the Christmas spirit is alive and well at Redskins Park. 

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