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Raiders earn day off after 2nd straight win

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Raiders earn day off after 2nd straight win

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The first convincing victory of the season was enough for coach Dennis Allen to give his Oakland Raiders players a welcome day off midway through the season.

The 26-16 victory in Kansas City gave the Raiders two straight wins following a narrow loss at undefeated Atlanta as they are showing signs of hitting their stride following a rough opening month.

The once-dormant running game has picked up, the penalties are way down and Oakland (3-4) is doing a much better job of generating, as well as preventing, big plays.

But Allen is still far from satisfied with his team's performance, seeing many areas for improvement. The most notable one is in the red zone, where the Raiders managed just one touchdown in six trips Sunday and are the second-worst team in the NFL at converting trips inside the 20 into touchdowns.

``There's a lot of things we weren't happy with yesterday,'' Allen said Monday. ``You can't look at the margin and say, well, because you won by more, you played better. We got to look at, we were able to win a football game. There's still a lot of things that we got to get better at, a lot of things we got to correct. We got a short time to get it done.''

Oakland's first two wins - in September against Pittsburgh and last week in overtime against Jacksonville - came on field goals on the final play of the game.

There was no such drama against the Chiefs as the Raiders broke out to a 14-point lead in the third quarter and were never threatened the rest of the way, which led Allen to reward his players with their first victory Monday of the season.

With the big lead, the Raiders were able to run the ball effectively late, gaining 95 yards in the fourth quarter after having just 110 yards rushing in the fourth quarter the first six games.

``There's times during the season where players need a mental break and a physical break,'' he said. ``I felt like, we had the bye, we've gone through three straight tough weeks, it was time to give them a little bit of a mental break as much as it was anything else. So, they'll be back in here Wednesday. There was a lot of them in here today already looking at the tape.''

A week after starting flat and needing to rally to beat a Jacksonville team missing star running back Maurice Jones-Drew and starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert for most of the game, the Raiders were in control most of the time against the Chiefs after Carson Palmer threw an interception on the first play from scrimmage.

Oakland didn't commit another turnover the rest of the way, capitalized on four giveaways by Kansas City, committed only two penalties for the first time in two years and held Chiefs big-play running back Jamaal Charles to 4 yards on five carries.

The biggest change the past three weeks since Oakland went into the bye with a 1-3 record has been a significant increase in big plays on offense, while limiting those same plays defensively.

Allen defines an ``explosive'' play as a run of at least 12 yards or a pass play of at least 16. After allowing two more explosive gains per game before the bye, the Raiders are plus-four per game since then.

``I think two of the most critical variables in winning football games are explosive plays, whether it be gaining explosive gains or eliminating explosive plays defensively, and then the turnover/takeaway ratio. We call that the double-positive,'' Allen said. ``If you win both those areas you generally win football games in the National Football League.''

NOTES: CB Ron Bartell, who broke his shoulder blade in the opener, will practice for the first time on Wednesday and is on schedule to be activated from short-term injured reserve Nov. 11 against Baltimore. ... Among the notable injuries from the game were a turf toe for RB Mike Goodson and ankle injury for C Stefen Wisniewski. .... LB Aaron Curry will practice again this week and could be activated from the physically unable to perform list for the game against Tampa Bay. He has to be activated by next Wednesday or he can't play for the Raiders this season.

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Devante Smith-Pelly named a starter in return to Chicago after ugly racial taunts

Devante Smith-Pelly named a starter in return to Chicago after ugly racial taunts

The top line for the Capitals on Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks is Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, but the starting lineup is Ovechkin, Backstrom and Devante Smith-Pelly. Why the change?

It all has to do with the last time the Caps visited Chicago nearly a year ago.

On Feb. 17, 2018, Washington went into the United Center and were obliterated by the Blackhawks 7-1. But that wasn’t the ugliest thing to happen that night.

While sitting in the penalty box, Devante Smith-Pelly faced racial taunts from some Chicago fans who began chanting “basketball, basketball” at him.

In the wake of the incident, Smith-Pelly handled himself about as gracefully as one could. So, in the team’s return to Chicago Sunday, head coach Todd Reirden felt he should be on the ice for the national anthem.

The starters traditionally stand on the ice for the anthem while the rest of the players stand at the bench.

Smith-Pelly has remained active against racism in the sport. He and teammate John Carlson invited a youth hockey team whose lone African-American player had faced racial taunts during a game to the Caps’ game on Monday.

Sunday’s move by Reirden is a classy tribute to Smith-Pelly who handled an ugly situation about as well as one could. 

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The Wizards refuse to tank, so be skeptical of those Bradley Beal trade rumors

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The Wizards refuse to tank, so be skeptical of those Bradley Beal trade rumors

Apparently Wizards owner Ted Leonsis could have been even more clear when he delivered the edict last week that his team will "never, ever tank."

Despite publicly stating the Wizards would not go through a rebuild, the trade rumors surrounding All-Star guard Bradley Beal have persisted. Bleacher Report created some buzz on Saturday with an extensive look at Beal's trade value and there will likely be many more stories written in the next several weeks leading up to the NBA trade deadline on Feb. 7.

What Leonsis said, however, should change how any rumors are viewed. He expressed firmly what team officials have been indicating for weeks, that if they are active at the trade deadline, it won't be with deals involving their main guys.

That means Beal is highly unlikely to be dealt. Otto Porter Jr. can be considered similarly and John Wall should go without saying given his current injury status and hefty trade kicker.

All of that doesn't mean the Wizards won't get calls. There are reasons why people are connecting the dots on Beal and Porter. The Wizards have underperformed this season and they are good, veteran players. That is generally the most basic formula for trade speculation.

Leonsis, though, made it clear that he doesn't want to go through a rebuild anytime soon and trading Beal would signify a reset. If the Wizards want to make the playoffs this season, as Leonsis said, they have a much better shot with Beal in the mix than without him.

So, for the Wizards to trade Beal, that would require a serious change of face and in a short period of time. Or, it would require someone in the organization with a differing opinion to overrule the owner. Neither scenario sounds realistic.

If the goal is to build on what they have rather than tear it down and start over, you could argue they would be crazy to trade Beal. He is 25, an All-Star who is still improving and he's under contract two more years. The roughly $56 million he's owed through 2020-21 is a relative bargain in this era of supermax contracts.

The Wizards can't 100 percent rule out a trade of any player, of course. No front office really can, with rare exceptions like MVPs or all-time greats in their prime. Generally, everyone has a price.

Nothing can be taken as a guarantee in these situations. But Leonsis' comments have made it about as clear as possible that Beal isn't going anywhere. Just keep that in mind when the rumors inevitably crop up in the next few weeks.

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