Redskins

Rookie DBs coming up big for Vikings

Rookie DBs coming up big for Vikings

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) In the biggest game of the season, the faces of the future for the Minnesota Vikings' defense were never more present.

Safety Harrison Smith and cornerback Josh Robinson, two rookies who are supposed to be learning the ropes and suffering through growing pains, made two of the most important plays of the game to help their team beat the Chicago Bears and stay in the playoff hunt.

They're growing up faster than anyone expected and are being counted on to keep producing even as they grind through the longest football season of their lives.

``We're pleased that both guys are not hurting you. And most rookies, when they do play, they hurt you,'' defensive coordinator Alan Williams said Thursday. ``Ours are not. They're actually helping us and contributing to us winning football games.''

Robinson intercepted a pass by Jay Cutler and returned it 44 yards to set up Adrian Peterson's second touchdown run of the first quarter, and Smith returned an interception 56 yards for a score in the third quarter to help the Vikings beat the Bears 21-14.

It's the kind of playmaking on the back end that has been sorely lacking in this defense for a few years now, and that's why the Vikings invested a first-round pick in Smith and a third-rounder in Robinson in April's draft. Smith has been a been a starter from the season opener while Robinson has been counted on more and more as other cornerbacks have gone down with injuries.

The Vikings (7-6) play at St. Louis on Sunday and believe they need to win their final three games to get into the playoffs. That puts plenty of pressure on a young secondary to play like veterans, but coach Leslie Frazier says these kids have earned his trust. Before the Bears game, he specifically addressed his rookies to try to push them through the wall that typically befalls young players this time of year.

``You can't hide behind the fact that you're a rookie anymore,'' Frazier said. ``You got 12 games into the league now, let's start playing like veterans in a lot of ways. We challenged some of our young guys last night to step it up and they did.''

The rookie wall may be a bit of a cliche, but Williams said it is something coaches have to deal with every season.

``Most rookies go through that. It is a real phenomenon in terms of guys getting tired or getting disinterested,'' Williams said. ``But both of those guys are coming along very well.''

Robinson doesn't necessarily buy into it.

``Nah, no wall,'' he said with a shrug. ``Haven't seen one.''

They have taken some pride in performing so well, especially after most observers looked at the youth in the secondary and figured it would be one of the team's downfalls this season. Like a proud older brother, 35-year-old Antoine Winfield has been pleasantly surprised by the way they've handled their first professional season.

``You never know what to expect out of young guys,'' Winfield said. ``These guys have worked hard. They're taking care of their bodies and studying that film and making plays.''

Smith has been pretty consistent for most of the year, but his tackling was a little sluggish over the past few weeks. He took the questions to heart and delivered one of his best performances of the season.

``Some people were saying we've fallen off the past couple of weeks,'' he said. ``We just wanted to go out and play ball and have fun. That's why we play. We play for each other.''

Jefferson is expected to be ready to play this week after getting cleared from a concussion that knocked him out of the Bears game and Cook could return before season's end from a broken arm. Either way, the experience Robinson has gained over the last 13 games has proven invaluable to him and the rest of the team.

``These young guys are starting to understand what this is about,'' defensive end Jared Allen said. ``They've got a good leader in their room with Antoine. He lets them know exactly what it is. We have a bunch of competitors on this team and it showed.''

NOTES: Peterson was held out of practice with an abdominal injury. Frazier said he expects the star running back to be ready for the Rams. ... Winfield was given the day off and Jefferson practiced on a limited basis.

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How to watch NBCSW's 'Predict The Game' broadcast of Redskins vs. Falcons

How to watch NBCSW's 'Predict The Game' broadcast of Redskins vs. Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons play host to the Washington Redskins in their penultimate preseason game.

The Redskins will be looking to solidify their lineup with Trent Williams still holding out over a new contract, and Case Keenum, Colt McCoy and Dwayne Haskins competing for the starting quarterback job.

This year during the preseason, Redskins fans can participate in a one-of-a-kind broadcast, Predict The Game, where fans can win cash prizes each quarter. This live viewing experience will be on NBC Sports Washington Plus with the regular game broadcast aired on NBC Sports Washington. 

PREDICT THE GAME HOW TO WATCH

What is this broadcast? Predict The Game is an easy-to-enter, free contest that allows fans to predict various game and player performance outcomes through a series of approximately 30 questions that will appear on screen during the alternate telecast on NBC Sports Washington Plus. Predict The Game leaderboards will be displayed at select times, and the winner of the contest will be revealed during NBC Sports Washington’s postgame coverage.

Where can I find it? Contest questions and leaderboards will be displayed on NBC Sports Washington Plus (Channel Finder).

Additionally, the broadcast can be streamed on desktopiOS and Android devices. 

How do I win? Fans will earn points for correct predictions, with the top eligible scorer at the end of the game earning or splitting the $500 prize. 

Fans must enter Predict The Game, which is open to join throughout the entire game, and submit their predictions at www.nbcsportswashington.com/predict.

REDSKINS at FALCONS HOW TO WATCH

What:  Washington Redskins at Atlanta Falcons, 2018-19 NFL Preseason Game 

Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA

When: Thursday, August 22, 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Redskins at Falcons game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder).

Live Stream: You can live stream Redskins at Falcons on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

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Washington D.C.'s XFL team unveiled as the Defenders

Washington D.C.'s XFL team unveiled as the Defenders

It's one of the most exciting components during the beginning of a new franchise or league: finding out the team names.

On Wednesday, the XFL finally revealed the names for their debut franchises.

Within the group is a team that's based out of a nation's capital. Sticking with that theme, they'll be known as the D.C. Defenders.

Whether you like the name or not, one thing is for sure: The defensive side better be stout or the jokes will fly.

In addition to the Defenders, the Seattle Dragons and Dallas Renegades are among the seven other teams in the league.

The XFL is preparing to launch in 2020, with Pep Hamilton in line to be the head coach of the Defenders. Hamilton last spent time at the University of Michigan as an assistant head coach during the 2017-18 season and carries with him a great deal of NFL coaching experience.

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