Nationals

Saints learn how opposing defenses must've felt

Saints learn how opposing defenses must've felt

METAIRIE, La. (AP) The New Orleans Saints are learning how opposing defenses must've felt the past few years.

Picked apart.

Run over.

Beaten down.

The Saints' defense is on pace for a truly historic season, and that's not a good thing. They have already become the first team since at least 1950 - maybe ever - to give up more than 400 yards in seven straight games. On average, they've surrendered 50 yards more per game than the NFL's next-worst team. If this keeps up, the defending NFC South champions will obliterate the record for most yards allowed in a season.

Not surprisingly, the Saints (2-5) are in a truly desperate state heading into Monday night's game against Philadelphia (3-4), knowing they must turn things around - and quickly - if they want to have a shot at a fourth straight playoff appearance.

``It's very frustrating,'' linebacker Scott Shanle said Thursday. ``Everybody is trying to put their finger on what's wrong. How can we change it so we're more effective? You get millions of different people with millions of different suggestions, whether it be teammates, coaches, family, friends. Everybody thinks they have the answer.''

But don't expect a major overhaul. According to interim coach Joe Vitt, there's only so much the team can do to turn things around, and it's not exactly eye-catching stuff. Better tackling. Improved fundamentals. More awareness of what the other team is trying to do.

``If you have dramatic change, radical change, that's when the panic sets in,'' Vitt said. ``The players can smell the match burning before the match is ever lit. We've just got to play better, coach better, execute better.''

Those sort of comments can't be of much solace to a fan base that already was reeling from the bounty scandal that cost former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams his job and resulted in head coach Sean Payton being suspended for the entire year. Williams was replaced by Steve Spagnuolo, who has caught much of the blame for what's gone wrong this season.

And, boy, have things gone wrong.

In the very first game, rookie Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins ran wild in the Superdome, shredding the Saints for 459 yards in a 40-32 upset that was an ominous sign of what was to come.

The yards just kept on coming. Carolina and Kansas City won their only games against New Orleans, ripping off 463 and 510 respectively. Green Bay put up 421, San Diego 427. Tampa Bay - hardly an offensive juggernaut - tore through the Saints for 513. Last Sunday night, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos looked like they were going against a scout team, piling up 530 yards in 34-14 blowout.

That averages out to 474.7 yards per game, which is 50 yards more than the next-worst team on the list, the Buffalo Bills (424.6). The Saints are on pace to give up 7,595 yards for the season, which would easily take down the record of 6,793 set way back in 1981 by the Colts (when they were still in Baltimore).

STATS LLC, which has records dating back to 1950, says this is worst seven-game stretch that it can verify. Given the limited state of offenses before then, it's highly likely that no team in NFL history has ever been this bad.

All over the Big Easy, the Saints faithful are grumbling about Spagnuolo's scheme, which abandoned much of the blitzing that Williams did with such abandon, and berating a group that did its part the last three years in support of Drew Brees and a record-setting offense.

Sure, Brees was the star of the show, running up and down the field with opponents in futile pursuit, but there's no way the Saints go 37-11 during that span and win a Super Bowl championship without stopping the other team every now and then.

Just look what's happening now.

Brees and the Saints know they have to put up a bunch of points to have any chance of winning, and when the offense stumbles - as it did in Denver - things can get downright ugly.

``You get what you deserve,'' linebacker Jonathan Casillas said, referring to the criticism that has reached a fever pitch. ``It's going to keep coming if we don't improve. We are all are very prideful guys in here. We all want to do better. We don't want to be playing as bad as we're playing, both statistically and out there on the field.''

Brees and his offensive teammates are careful not to criticize the defense, always turning those sort of questions to look at their own shortcomings. The offense is certainly not without its faults, most notably an NFL-worst running game.

``Our job on offense is to score one more point than them,'' Brees said. ``We've won games around here 14-9. We've won games 40-to-30-something. The way I look at it is we're a 30-to-40-a-game offense. Regardless of what's happening on the defensive side of the ball ... we have the attitude on offense that we should score each time we get the ball. If we don't, it's not good enough.''

Certainly not the way the defense is playing now.

Notes: The Saints re-signed WR Greg Camarillo, who has been on and off the roster all season. They cleared a spot by waiving TE Daniel Graham, who missed last week's game with an injured left knee. ... RB Darren Sproles (hand) did not practice Thursday. WR Courtney Roby (left shoulder) was also out.

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Nationals Roundup: Late Victor Robles magic not enough as Braves walk-off Nats

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Nationals Roundup: Late Victor Robles magic not enough as Braves walk-off Nats

As you would expect a first-place NL East team to do, the Atlanta Braves bounced back to even the series with Washington Friday night inside SunTrust Park. Josh Donaldson erased Victor Robles' game-tying, two-run home run with his walk-off single in the ninth. Atlanta improved to 59-40 and increased its lead over the Nationals to 6.5 games with a 4-3 final. 

Consider these notes as Washington grinds through a pivotal series in Atlanta: 

Player Notes:

Washington's first-year lefty didn't have his best stuff going Friday night in Atlanta. Patrick Corbin tossed just five innings allowing eight hits, two runs, two walks on 100 pitches. He struck out five Braves on his 30th birthday. 

The Nationals' third baseman has brought new meaning to the word 'consistency' all year long in his first season as an All-Star. Two games into this four-game series in Atlanta, Anthony Rendon has five hits, a walk, and 2 RBI.  

Victor Robles brought the fireworks in the ninth at SunTrust Park. The 22-year-old delivered a game-tying, two-run home run off Luke Jackson. The long-ball traveled a whopping 446 feet. 

The Fernando Rodney experience was alive and well. Davey Martinez made the questionable decision to bring his 42-year-old back out in the ninth for a second consecutive inning. It backfired. Just 14 of his 32 pitches were thrown for strikes. 

Injuries: 

SP Max Scherzer: Back, Expected to be out until at least Jul 25

RP Jonny Venters: Back, Expected to be out until at least Jul 26

SP Jeremy Hellickson: Shoulder, Expected to be out until at least Jul 20

RP Justin Miller: Shoulder, Expected to be out until at least Jul 20

RP Koda Glover: Elbow, Expected to be out until at least Aug 7

RP Austen Williams: Shoulder, Expected to be out until at least Jul 26

Coming Up:

Saturday 7/20: Nationals at Braves, 7:20 p.m., SunTrust Park 

Sunday 7/21: Nationals at Braves, 7:20 p.m., SunTrust Park 

Monday 7/22: Nationals vs. Rockies, 7:05 p.m., Nationals Park 

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Prospect Joe Snively was cheering outside Capital One Arena when the Capitals won the Stanley Cup

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Prospect Joe Snively was cheering outside Capital One Arena when the Capitals won the Stanley Cup

There were many incredible aspects to the Capitals’ 2018 Stanley Cup run, but one of the best was how fans took over the streets in the Stanley Cup Final. Little did we know that a future Cap was among the faithful outside of Capital One Arena.

Forward prospect and Herndon, Va. native Joe Snively was signed as a college free agent in March 2019. He is an alum of the Little Capitals local youth hockey program and, not surprisingly given his background, he grew up as a Caps fan.

For all Washington fans, June 7, 2018, is a day that will never be forgotten as it was the day the team won its first Stanley Cup. We all have our own story of where we were that day and how we watched. Snively is no different.

“I was downtown DC outside the arena watching on the big screen,” he told Mike Vogel in an interview at the team’s development camp.

“It was a great feeling,” Snively continued. “At that time I didn’t know I’d have the opportunity to sign with the Capitals and it was an amazing feeling. I’ve been a Caps fan ever since I started watching hockey and it was great to see them after all those years in the playoffs to win the Cup. It was amazing.”

The Alex Ovechkin era is important to Washington hockey not just because he brought the city a Cup, but because of the increased interest at the youth level. Interest early on should increase the sport and the team’s popularity. That, in turn, should lead to more youth participation which should lead to a more competitive youth program and homegrown talent entering professional hockey. The increased interest from that should further boost hockey in the region thus repeating the cycle.

Snively is just the first example.

It kind of makes you wonder how many other future Caps were in that crowd watching the team win the Cup.

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