Redskins

Russell Wilson soars as Seahawks rout Bills 50-17

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Russell Wilson soars as Seahawks rout Bills 50-17

TORONTO (AP) Seattle Seahawks tight end Zach Miller breaks into a big chuckle when reminded about how many NFL teams passed up on drafting Russell Wilson.

``Yeah,'' Miller said. ``Good for us.''

Make room, RGIII and Andrew Luck. Wilson, the third-round draft pick out of Wisconsin, is making a case to be included in the rookie of the year conversation. And he's bringing the Seahawks along with them on a remarkable ride as part of a late-season playoff surge in which they've won five of six.

Wilson had a near-perfect first half in which he ran for three touchdowns and threw for another in leading the Seahawks to their latest blowout victory, a 50-17 rout of the Bills in Buffalo's annual game in Toronto on Sunday.

Coming off a 58-0 win at home over Arizona last week, the Seahawks became the NFL's third team to score 50 points in consecutive weeks, joining the Los Angeles Rams and New York Giants, who both did it in 1950, according to STATS LLC. And Seattle's 108 combined points matched the third-best total, which had been set by the New England Patriots only last month.

``I'm blessed to be a Seahawk. This is the team that I wanted to come to,'' said Wilson, the Wisconsin product who had to wait until the 75th pick in the draft to be selected. ``So it's a pretty great situation for me.''

The Seahawks (9-5) are in the thick of the playoff race. And they're still in the running to challenge for the NFC West title, preparing to head home for a showdown against division rival San Francisco next weekend.

Wilson directed five straight scoring drives in helping the Seahawks build a 31-7 lead. And then the defense took over by forcing three consecutive turnovers to start the second half, including safety Earl Thomas scoring on 57-yard interception return.

The Bills (5-9) bumbled their way out of playoff contention for a 13th straight year, and extend the NFL's longest active playoff drought.

And questions about coach Chan Gailey's job security are once again being raised.

``We played poorly and we looked extremely bad,'' Gailey said. ``When you don't play well, the buck stops with me. I understand that.''

The Bills' defense had a meltdown. After Buffalo had allowed its past four opponents 254.25 yards offense and 16.75 points, the Seahawks had bettered that by halftime, when they scored 31 points and racked up 329 yards.

The offense wasn't much better.

Down 31-17 at the half, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick opened the third quarter by turning the ball over on the Bills first three possessions - two interceptions and a lost fumble.

``It went downhill from there fast,'' said Fitzpatrick, who worried how the performance would reflect on Gailey. ``We played poorly and it reflects poorly on him. It just eats me up.''

Fitzpatrick went 21 of 38 for 217 yards with a 20-yard touchdown to Stevie Johnson. C.J. Spiller had 103 yards rushing and scored on a 14-yard run.

It wasn't lost on the Bills' critics that they passed up three chances to draft Wilson in April.

Gailey acknowledged he had shown interest in Wilson, but was concerned that, at 5-foot-11 and 206 pounds, he might be too small to succeed at the NFL level.

Turns out that hasn't been a problem.

Wilson's 4-yard touchdown pass to Zach Miller was his 21st of the season. That ties Cam Newton (2011) for the second-most by an NFL rookie, and is five behind the record set by Peyton Manning in 1998.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is so impressed by how quickly Wilson's grasped the offense, that he's giving the quarterback a freer rein.

``I'm just thrilled that he's been able to continue to grow,'' Carroll said. ``For a time, we were just trying to get the offense going and not screw it up and make sure he could keep growing. Well, we're past that now.''

Running back Marshawn Lynch had 113 yards rushing and scored on a 13-yard run in his first game against his former team. Defensive end Chris Clemons had 2 1/2 of Seattle's three sacks.

The Bills dropped to 1-4 in regular-season games at Toronto since the series began in 2008.

The Bills and Toronto-based Rogers Communications are closing in on a deal to extend the series, which expired after this game.

Torontonians might want to reconsider after this. With 5:20 left, fans in one end zone began chanting ``Let's Go Blue Jays!''

NOTES: Korean pop star PSY performed his hit ``Gangnam Style'' at midfield during halftime. ... The announced crowd of 40,770 was well below the downtown domed Rogers Centre's capacity of 54,000. ... Spiller reached 1,000 yards rushing for the first time in his career, and needed only 154 carries to get there. That's the third fewest carries of any player to reach 1,000 since 1991, according to STATS. Then-Falcons QB Michael Vick reached that plateau on 117 carries in 2006, while Tennessee RB Chris Johnson needed 151 carries in 2009. ... The Seahawks wore their third uniforms - ``wolf grey'' jerseys and pants with green numbers and names - for the first time since introducing them this offseason.

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The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

No matter how you break it down — by quarter, by month, by time of day, by location, by whether the opponent has an animal mascot or a human mascot — the numbers show that the Redskins have a really ineffective offense. Currently, they're last in the NFL in points per game and yards per game.

They're bad all the time, honestly.

However, they're downright atrocious when it comes to their opening drives.

In Week 1 against the Eagles, the Redskins scored a touchdown on their opening possession. It was fun. The players had fun. The fans had fun. Everybody had fun.

But since then, they haven't notched a single TD on a first drive. In fact, they haven't converted a field goal, either.

Overall, in their 13 game-opening possessions on the year, Washington has that single end zone trip to go along with a missed kick, seven punts, two fumbles and two interceptions (one of which was taken back for a score).

What's the opposite of coming out hot? The 2019 Redskins' offense.

"I'm tired of the slow starts, our guys are, too," Bill Callahan said Wednesday. "That's the goal of the first drive of the game — try to jump ahead, get ahead, find a way to get on the board early. We haven't succeeded at that." 

The issue is registering with Dwayne Haskins, too. So, what can they possibly do to try to improve?

"Just trying to figure out a way we can move the ball early, not getting behind the chains, finding lanes and getting the ball out fast," the quarterback said. "It helps our defense when we come off fast and move the ball down the field and not put them in a tough scenario with having a short field."

Many have complained about the offense's run-first approach being too predictable under Callahan, and that's something that could be plaguing them at the beginning of their contests. Since he took over as interim coach, for example, the offense has run the ball on their first snap in six-of-eight matchups, including four-out-of-five with Haskins under center.

Of course, this is an area where Jay Gruden struggled as well, but his tendencies weren't as obvious. Plus, and yes, this is minutiae now, he did call two play-action shots in Weeks 2 and 4 that schemed up wide-open receivers that Case Keenum simply missed. He was also in charge for that lone touchdown in Philly.

The most obvious explanation for the problem, however, is one that can explain a lot of things this season: an overall lack of talent. As mentioned at the start of the story, it's not like the offense gets into a rhythm at any point, so their numbers will be underwhelming in any situation or sample.

That said, even with an inexperienced and undermanned group, there should be more production than one TD in 13 chances. Callahan told the media that "we put a lot of thought, focus and concentration" into the early-game plan. Clearly, it's not paying off.

In many ways, the Redskins have fallen behind the rest of the NFL over the past few months. The stats above show that, at least in one way, that's literally very true.  

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Nationals leave Winter Meetings with new fight against complacency underway

Nationals leave Winter Meetings with new fight against complacency underway

SAN DIEGO -- Quiet finally settled over the downtown Hyatt in San Diego on Thursday morning. The baseball industry packed, then left, leaving behind every imaginable facet of the pro machine. Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke Wednesday and a report trying to explain fluctuations with the baseball was delivered. All 30 managers held media sessions across the three days. Recent graduates hunted starts to front office futures. Clubhouse attendants held a meeting of their brethren. Everyone was perpetually stuck in the slow-moving elevators.

In essence, the Nationals’ defense of their World Series title started in southern California while these events transpired around them. They made an enormous move by signing Stephen Strasburg. They continued to manage the third base market, watching warily as they tried to figure out how not to be left short after Anthony Rendon signed a long-term contract with Anaheim and the frenzy for Josh Donaldson began. The Nationals also still need bullpen help.

In addition, a new battle against complacency exists. What’s happening for the Nationals is an offseason unlike any other because they won, and its fresh dynamics include convincing someone full he is still hungry. Ways to do that? Subtle changed mixed with standard procedures. They hope.

Next season always comes calling, loaded with the same 162-game grind, even for those teams who were still pitching on Halloween. Recent champions -- in particular the Nationals -- deployed their starting pitchers differently in the postseason en route to a title. Patrick Corbin made three postseason starts and came out of the bullpen five times. An injection coupled with a chiropractic rescue enabled Max Scherzer’s Game 7 start. Stephen Strasburg threw more pitches than anyone in baseball. 

Boston eased its pitchers into the 2019 season and appeared to pay for it. Their starters rarely threw in spring training games after winning a championship. Three of them threw seven innings or fewer in games during the Grapefruit season. Scherzer threw 26 and 26 ⅔ innings, respectively, the last two spring trainings. So, Mike Rizzo expects standard programming in West Palm Beach, not additional rest.

“I just think that we remind them what we do this stuff for and the elation that we had I think is still going to be with us and for us to feel that way again, we know what it takes to get there,” Rizzo said. “It’s a long hard road and it’s a lot of work. It starts Day 1 spring training and ends the last game. That’s going to be our outlook. We’re going to prepare for spring training like we have every other year. We’re not going to be complacent because we played an extra month of baseball. We’re not going to make any adjustments for preparation of our pitchers.”

Davey Martinez made adjustments. He swung his coaching staff around, moving Bob Henley to first base, Chip Hale to third and Tim Bogar to bench coach. Why? In part to reboot the holdover staff before they begin working with the players.

“Complacency,” Martinez said. “Everybody talks about those World Series blues, and that’s one thing we don’t want. We don’t want to be complacent. There’s going to be a target on our back, so we’ve got to come out and be ready to play from day one. We want these guys to understand that. We’re not just going to sit around and say: ‘Well, we’ve got plenty of time.’ No, the time is from day one. We’re going to get ready for the season, and hopefully do it again.”

Martinez will work with the same premise at spring training: go 1-0. He can still ride other sayings -- like “win your day” -- but the large white flag which said “Conquer” in red letters and traveled with the team is probably due for retirement. “Stay in the fight” fell with the end of the regular season. “Fight finished” isn’t phrasing which can carry to a new season.

“The message is going to be clear: Hey, we're not going to sneak up on anybody this year, that's for sure,” Martinez said. “So we've got to be ready to go from day one. With that being said, I want them to understand, hey, we're going to do business like we've done in the past, and we're just going to try to go 1-0 every day. Why change something that works?”

Why change? That’s the question, and the answer for the defending champions seems to be they don’t want to. Get ready. Stay ready. Try to do it again as if it never happened.

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