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Romo's five picks doom Cowboys vs. Bears

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Romo's five picks doom Cowboys vs. Bears

From Comcast SportsNet

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Charles Tillman had the ball thrown right into his hands. All the Chicago Bears cornerback had to do was grab it and run 25 yards untouched down the sideline for a touchdown.

Lance Briggs had to go three times farther and sidestep a few Dallas Cowboys on his way to the end zone.

The interception returns by Tillman and Briggs, who are among the five 30-something starters on Chicago's defense, came in a 34-18 win over the Cowboys on Monday night when Tony Romo matched his career high with five picks.

"I think Lance's was better. He juked a couple of people. His was longer, so by far I think he had the play of the game," Tillman said. "Mine was simple and boring. His was exciting."

Briggs' interception came in a wild two-play exchange of turnovers midway through the third quarter, and put the Bears up 24-7.

The first fumble of the season for Chicago (3-1) came when Jay Cutler was sacked by DeMarcus Ware to set Dallas up at the Bears 27. It was the third forced fumble already for Ware, the Pro Bowl linebacker who turned 30 during training camp.

On the very next play, Romo was trying to escape pressure when he was hit from behind by Henry Melton. The ball popped forward into the air to Briggs.

"Just outstanding play by our defense," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "It seemed like everybody had a say in it. How about Lance Briggs? You guys didn't know he could run that fast."

Despite his fumble, Cutler was nearly flawless after halftime, completing 11 of 12 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns. He was 18 of 24 overall for 275 yards. A 34-yard TD pass to Devin Hester started the half and there was later a 31-yarder to Brandon Marshall, who had seven catches for 138 yards.

The Cowboys (2-2) are a .500 team again, alternating wins and losses this season. Since the start of the 1997 season, Dallas is 122-122 in regular-season games with one playoff victory.

"This has to be a wakeup call for us. I don't say that nonchalantly. It has to be," said Jason Witten, the Cowboys' 10th-year tight end. "You can't bounce back and forth like this and try to compete come December-time. You can't do it. We have been in that situation before. You cannot do it. And we know that, and we'll get better."

Making things worse for the Cowboys, they now head into their bye week. And their next game is Oct. 14 at Baltimore, starting a stretch of playing four of five on the road.

"These next two weeks are going to be very long," running back DeMarco Murray said. "They're going to seem like forever."

Dallas owner Jerry Jones, however, called it a "timely bye" and a chance to reassess things for his team that opened the season by winning at the New York Giants. The defending Super Bowl champions are the next team to visit Cowboys Stadium, on Oct. 28.

"I know it's the same makeup of the team. Same personnel," Jones said. "We've seen this team play well and we can play a lot better. ... We have a lot of work to do."

Chicago scored first on Robbie Gould's 43-yard field goal with just over 4 minutes left in the first half. Three plays later, Romo threw a ball right at Tillman when intended receiver Dez Bryant kept running down the field instead of cutting toward the sideline.

"We were just seeing how the corner played," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. ""Tony saw it one way. Dez saw it another way."

Romo finished 31 of 43 for 307 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown to Miles Austin just before halftime.

Chicago opened the second half with a 73-yard drive capped with the TD by Hester, who sprinted by rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne and had to make a lunging catch at the goal line -- a play upheld after a replay review.

That was one of three plays reviewed by referee Walt Anderson and his crew. The regular refs were back to work a week after that disputed Monday night ending in which Seattle won at home against Green Bay.

Romo was picked off again when his short pass deflected off receiver Kevin Ogletree and was caught by Major Wright. The Bears ran only two plays before the teams traded turnovers on consecutive snaps with Briggs' first interception return for a score since 2005.

"We have a ton of athletes, a great mixture of old and young, a great core," Briggs said. "All of the talk coming into training camp about the offense. The defense, we've got a lot of pride. We want to be consistent. We want to get turnovers. We want to get after the passer. We want to shut down the run."

The Bears did all of that against the Cowboys, who had only 41 yards rushing.

Murray had 131 yards rushing in the Cowboys' season-opening victory at the Giants. He has only 106 in the last three games, including 24 on 11 carries Monday night with an 11-yard run.

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Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball. More will be known about him once he plays for their summer league team in July.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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