Nationals

In a rush: Vikings winning their own way

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In a rush: Vikings winning their own way

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) The Minnesota Vikings have already surpassed most external expectations for this supposed rebuilding season, winning games with a method that defies modern NFL convention.

This is the rare team right now that is stressing the need to become more balanced on offense by throwing the ball more rather than the other way around, but it's not about to apologize for its approach.

Despite Christian Ponder's paltry 58 yards passing, the Vikings were in control of Sunday's 21-14 win over Arizona from start to finish and improved to 5-2. That's more than half of the nine victories they accumulated over the last two years combined.

Thanks to Adrian Peterson's powerful running and a relentless pass rush by the defensive line, the Vikings are playing with momentum and confidence even if they're still struggling to complete the mid-range and long throws down the field.

``However way we do it, you just like to win,'' coach Leslie Frazier said. ``I do believe you want to be a balanced team. You want to be able to throw the ball as well as run the ball effectively, but there are times where something is being taken away you have to be good in other areas. Fortunately for us, we're at a point as a team where we can make up for deficiencies in other areas. There was a time where that would not have been the case. It shows that we're growing.''

Peterson had a season-high 153 yards on 23 carries, his comeback continuing to amaze the Vikings as well as the rest of the league. As long as he's been here, they've naturally been focused on featuring one of the best running backs of his generation, even during Brett Favre's remarkable un-retirement season in 2009.

On the other side, a formidable front seven that can keep the ground game in check and put pressure on the opposing passer has long been a hallmark of the Vikings, too. They tied for the NFL lead with 50 sacks last year even with a 3-13 record.

The twist on this season is the way they've been able to consistently apply an effective pass rush without blitzing. With Jared Allen and Brian Robison leading the way, the Vikings are third in the league with 22 sacks, but they've done it without sacrificing a linebacker, safety or cornerback in their pass coverage. That plus the healthy return of veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield and the addition of rookie safety Harrison Smith has resulted in a significantly improved secondary.

The Vikings have rarely been beaten by the long passes that crushed them so often last year or in the seasons before that, limiting Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald on Sunday just as they did Lions standout Calvin Johnson in a win at Detroit on Sept. 30.

``We really just focus on what we're going to go out and do, and if the offense puts up 40 points, that's great. If they don't, we're still going to try and play the same ball that we know how to play,'' Smith said.

The Vikings sacked Arizona's John Skelton seven times and forced him into two turnovers.

``I've missed a few this season already, so just to get close to him and get him on the ground was huge for me,'' defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. ``Hopefully they come in bunches.''

Interceptions have come in bunches for Ponder lately after going the first four games without one.

``I'm trying to do too many things. I'm getting out of the pocket and trying to force it to happen. I have to be a lot smarter and make better decisions, for sure,'' Ponder said, adding: ``We're definitely relying on our run game, and that's not a bad thing. We just need to keep making progress in the passing game.''

Frazier pinned much of Sunday's struggle on a tricky, tough Cardinals defense. He expressed no concern with Ponder, only confidence in how much more mature and better suited he is to handle the game than during his rookie year.

``I'm convinced of it, seen enough evidence of it in practice, even in games, where he's bounced back from some tough plays,'' Frazier said, ``and his teammates have seen it as well.''

NOTES: Peterson, who has been bothered more by a sprained left ankle than his surgically repaired left knee, was not as sore on Monday as he was a week ago, according to Frazier. ``So that's encouraging. We'll be smart tomorrow and get him ready to go on Thursday,'' the coach said. ... Backup TE John Carlson took a hit to the head and developed concussion-like symptoms and probably won't play against Tampa Bay with only three days to heal.

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Everything you need to know about the new and improved MLB Trade Deadline

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Everything you need to know about the new and improved MLB Trade Deadline

For a long time, Major League Baseball had the best, most exciting trade deadline among the four major sports. In recent seasons, that excitement has been eclipsed by the popularity of the NBA, but baseball still stands ahead of football and hockey in terms of in-season movement.

In an effort to shake things up a bit, baseball’s trade deadline underwent some changes in the offseason.

Notably, while July 31 has always been deadline day, in past years it was a bit of a misnomer. July 31 was technically just the Non-Waiver Trade Deadline in years past. The month of August has always allowed trades to be made as long as players pass through waivers. If a player is claimed off waivers, his team can either pull him back, let him go for nothing, or negotiate a deal with his claiming team only.

This obviously made for much more limited movement in August, but it was always an option. 

Not anymore. Now? July 31 the *only* deadline.

The August revocable waivers trade deadline was always a bit convoluted, and it never made much sense to have more than one deadline. So it’s logical to think the powers that be would want to simplify things for the league.

Reportedly, Major League Baseball is hoping the change will not only help simplify in-season moves, but also help jumpstart offseason activity. The thinking is if teams have even just one fewer option to improve their roster midseason, then contenders will be forced to get aggressive in the offseason.

It remains to be seen if that will come to fruition, but one forthcoming change does seem pretty obvious. The singular trade deadline should make for a much more active July.

Both buyers and sellers have to commit to a direction earlier in the season now. Last year, for example, the Nationals executed their mini-firesale in mid-August, once it had become clear they were not going to compete for the postseason. At the end of the July they were still undecided, which is why they held onto Bryce Harper.

Considering how long it can take major deals to come together, teams have to essentially decide by the All-Star break if they are in or out on competing for October. It will be especially difficult for teams to read the writing on the wall when they are hovering around .500.

As of this writing, there are 10 teams within six games of .500 in either direction, and that doesn’t include organizations like the Red Sox, Nationals and Athletics who have quality records but are way behind runaway division leaders. Will they want to trade away controllable assets for a shot at a one-game Wild Card berth?

General Managers who can forecast their team’s likelihood of competing, and respond accordingly, will be rewarded under the new system. Orioles GM Mike Elias already began his team’s sell-off, trading Andrew Cashner away weeks before the end of July. By contrast, in 2018 both Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman were moved by the Orioles with under an hour to go on deadline day.

It’s hard to perfectly predict all the ways rule changes can affect a sport, but in the case of the singular trade deadline, it’s obvious that teams are now required to commit earlier, with fewer games of information from which to work.

That’s exciting for a sport that could use some more player movement-related excitement.

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Summer Guide: The top restaurants and bars for before and after Baltimore Orioles games

Summer Guide: The top restaurants and bars for before and after Baltimore Orioles games

Last summer, NBC Sports Washington put together guides that detailed the best bars and restaurants to watch the Capitals' Stanley Cup run and FIFA World Cup. Earlier this summer we gave you some spots around Nationals Park too.

With summer 2019 halfway through and baseball in full swing, it's time to highlight the go-to spots to eat and drink around the ballpark that forever changed baseball. 

In no particular order, consider these: 

Pickles Pub, 520 Washington Blvd, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • Across the street from Oriole Park at Camden Yards
  • Always packed, it's the number one go-to bar for Orioles fans before and after the games 
  • A dozen beers on tap, both local and national brands
  • Great deals throughout baseball season

Sliders Bar and Grille, 504 Washington Blvd, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • Another bar adjacent to Camden Yards
  • Less crowded than Pickles, but just as good when it comes to snacks and drinks
  • Bottle, canned, and draft beer options
  • Gameday specials built around the Orioles season

Abbey Burger Bistro, 1041 Marshall St, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • A bit further (about a mile walk) but well worth it
  • Famous for, you guessed it, their wide selection of crafted hamburgers
  • Endorsed by Oriole legend Adam Jones, who even created a burger for their menu
  • Also make spiked milkshakes for adults looking to cool off with a tasty treat

The Yard, 110 S Eutaw St, Baltimore, MD 21201

  • Inside the Marriott Inner Harbor 
  • Quieter, less-crowded option compared to more popular pregame locations
  • Crab-based breakfast options for fans looking for an early start

Camden Pub, 647 W. Pratt St, Baltimore, MD 21201

  • Two blocks from Camden Yards
  • Special discounts with game tickets
  • Variety of food options, including well-known wings

Quigley's Half Irish Pub, 633 Portland St, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • Federal Hill location, a block away from the stadium
  • Another less-crowded option, with standard bar fare
  • Just as likely to host baseball fans and neighborhood regulars alike

Pratt Street Ale House, 206 W Pratt St, Baltimore, MD 21201

  • Three blocks from Oriole Park at Camden Yards 
  • Dozens of beer options, plus signature cocktails and wine choices aplenty
  • Well-known nightlife spot for postgame celebrations

Seafood Options:

L.P. Steamers, 1100 E Fort Ave, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • Have to drive instead of walk (9 minutes by car)
  • Considered a go-to spot for Maryland-style seafood 
  • Mentioned specifically by Manny Machado upon his return to Baltimore

Phillips Seafood, 601 E. Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

  • 20-minute walk to Camden Yards, right in the heart of the Inner Harbor
  • Huge letters outside the building a part of the local skyline
  • Famous for their crabcakes, but serve all kinds of seafood and non-seafood options

Rusty Scupper, 402 Key Highway, Inner Harbor Marina, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • Another slightly further, pricier option for local seafood
  • Beautiful view right on the water
  • Live patio entertainment
  • Happy hour from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. every Monday through Friday

Postgame Dessert Options:

Insomnia Cookies, Federal Hill, 1059 S Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • 20-minute walk from the stadium
  • Wide variety of deluxe cookie options, plus brownies, ice cream, cake and dessert sandwiches
  • Open until 3 a.m. every night

Polar Roll Creamery, 600 E Pratt St Suite 105, Baltimore, MD 21202

  • 20-minutes from Camden Yards, on the Inner Harbor 
  • Rolled ice cream
  • Watch yourserver roll the ice cream in front of you

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