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Saints 'not playing smart,' playoff chances fade

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Saints 'not playing smart,' playoff chances fade

METAIRIE, La. (AP) Another mistake-filled loss has left the New Orleans Saints in a situation they've never dealt with since Drew Brees arrived in 2006 - playing for little more than pride in with three weeks still left in the regular season.

Although the 5-8 Saints aren't officially eliminated from the playoff race after falling 52-27 to the New York Giants on Sunday, they know it would take a miracle for them to have a postseason future. Four turnovers and horrendous kickoff coverage against the Giants essentially ended their final chance as they ran their turnover total to 11 in their last three games.

``In the National Football League you have to first keep from losing before you can ever win,'' assistant head coach Joe Vitt said Monday. ``Right now we're not playing very smart and we're not playing very disciplined, and it starts with me. I have to do a better job of making sure our team understands the critical factors that go into winning, and then we have to execute them on Sunday.''

The Saints missed the playoffs in 2007 and 2008, too, but this is the first time in seven years they won't be at least 7-7 after 14 games. Ten NFC teams have a better record than they do entering next Sunday's game with Tampa Bay in the Superdome. Instead of worrying about playoff seeding in the final three weeks, their only motivation is finishing .500 and ending on a positive note.

``We have a prideful group in this locker room,'' said running back Mark Ingram, the only player available for interviews on Monday. ``Our focus going forward is just getting better every single day and improving individually. We've had three straight losses. It would be nice to close the season with three straight wins.''

While Brees threw two more interceptions in the second half against the Giants - he had been picked off seven times in defeats to Atlanta and San Francisco the two previous weeks - the Saints also found two new ways to lose.

Their kickoff coverage, which had been among the NFL's best, allowed a franchise-worst 287 yards on six returns.

Giants rookie David Wilson returned the opening kickoff 58 yards to the New Orleans 44, then scored on a 97-yard return and ran one back 52 yards to the New Orleans 46 on his next two attempts. When Thomas Morstead began pooching his kicks in the second half, Jerrel Jernigan returned one 60 yards to the New Orleans 25.

Before Sunday, the longest kickoff return the Saints had allowed was 38 yards.

``If you're talking about kickoff coverage, lane integrity is the No. 1 thing and No. 2 is leverage,'' Vitt said. ``You have to leverage the football and not the blocker, and you have to make sure you're in the proper lanes and you can't piggyback one another. They broke down yesterday.''

Saints wide receiver Marques Colston and fullback Jed Collins fumbled after catches on consecutive first quarter possessions. Until then, New Orleans had not lost fumble on the road all year.

``We're pressing,'' Vitt said. ``We have to let it go and let it flow. Play hard, play smart and play together and do the things we do in practice every day.''

The litany of mistakes on offense and special teams gave the New Orleans defense almost no chance. The Giants started seven series inside Saints territory, including four from the 35 or closer.

Still, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said his group took a step back after playing better in the previous four weeks. He was particularly unhappy about a 2-minute drill at the end of the first half, when quarterback Eli Manning led a 69-yard touchdown drive that gave New York a 21-13 lead.

The Giants scored touchdowns four of the five times they got inside the New Orleans 20.

``We've had our struggles, but when other phases struggle we have to somehow find a way to rise up,'' Spagnuolo said. ``We have to make them kick field goals.''

After starting 0-4 without suspended coach Sean Payton, the Saints thought they had recovered from their bounty-related distractions when they climbed to 5-5. Three consecutive ugly losses to division-leading teams have proven them wrong.

``We knew we had a tough stretch ahead of us, but we knew we controlled our own (playoff) destiny at that point,'' Brees said Sunday. ``The most disappointing thing is just losing the way we have and doing some uncharacteristic things, doing all the things that get you beat.''

Notes: Vitt dismissed the idea of giving backups more playing time in the final three weeks, saying his goal was to win every game and he would put the most deserving players on the field. ... A year after setting the NFL offensive record for yards in a season, the Saints are still on pace to give up the most yards in NFL history, although the 394 yards they gave up to the Giants lowered their average to 436.9.

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How to watch Capitals vs. Sabres NHL 20 simulation

How to watch Capitals vs. Sabres NHL 20 simulation

Monday night was supposed to be another night of Capitals action with a game against the Buffalo Sabres. Unfortunately due to the NHL’s hold on the season in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the show can not go on as originally planned. 

However, with some minor adjustments to the presentation, there is still a way to keep things going. 

Monday night at 7 p.m. ET the Capitals will be taking the ice to play the Sabres as planned, only this time it will be virtual ice on an NHL 20 simulation. 

In partnership with Monumental Sports Network, NBC Sports Washington will be airing all Wizards and Capitals games in simulated NBA 2K20 and NHL 2K20 games. The format of these games includes watching the simulated versions of Caps games based on the existing schedule with the bonus of commentary from NBCSW’s experts. 

To make things even more fun, in between the simulation and the re-air of the simulation, there is a chance to relive a classic Caps game. So don’t forget to stick around and re-watch Dowd and the Capitals dominate the Penguins from earlier this season. 

Here's everything you need to know to watch. 

When: Monday, March 30 at 7 p.m. ET

Where:

  • NBC Sports Washington (channel finder
  • Any of our 24/7 authenticated streaming platforms
  • Monumental Sports Network via its website www.monumentalsportsnetwork.com or via any of its available apps on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, and Xbox.

Broadcast schedule: 

7:00 PM: NHL 20 Simulation: Capitals @ Buffalo Sabres (P)
8:00 PM: NHL Classics: Capitals @ Pittsburgh Penguins (R) 
10:30 PM: NHL 20 Simulation: Capitals @ Buffalo Sabres (R)

Starting lineups: 

Capitals: TBD
Sabres: TBD

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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LeBron James scores 36, Wizards still top Lakers in NBA 2K simulation

LeBron James scores 36, Wizards still top Lakers in NBA 2K simulation

These 2K simulations certainly do agree with the Wizards. Coming off a stunning victory over the Bucks Friday, Washington turned around on the second night of a back-to-back and beat the Lakers 73-66 at virtual Capital One Arena. 

LeBron James was a one-man wrecking crew for LA, Bradley Beal led the scoring attack for the Wizards and Thomas Bryant got revenge on the team that waived him. 

Here's how the Wizards picked up their fourth-straight 2K win. 

Offensive rebounds

The Lakers are one of the biggest teams in the NBA with James, Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard playing heavy minutes, but it was the Wizards who dominated the boards in this one. 

Bryant led the way for Washington on the glass with seven of his 13 rebounds coming on the offensive end. The Lakers shot the ball significantly better than the Wizards (47% to 39%) but Washington was simply overwhelming them on the glass to create more opportunities. 

Washington grabbed 18 offensive rebounds compared to the Lakers' eight, and it ended being the major difference in the result. 

LeBron's one-man show

The real-life Lakers' biggest weakness is their lack of playmaking outside of James. In a game where James had everything working for him, the Lakers struggled to get anything going whenever he didn't have the ball. 

Rajon Rondo struggled mightily despite tallying eight assists (2-11 FG) and Davis had a bad game relative to his standards (10 points, one rebound, three blocks).

I'd be curious to see what virtual LeBron would have to say about his teammates after this particular game. 

Thomas Bryant's revenge

As we stated before, Bryant was waived by the Lakers after his rookie season and his virtual self took it all out on his former team Saturday night. 

He dominated the boards and once again protected the paint in a way that would make Elvin Hayes proud. He finished with eight points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. 

With Bryant playing the way he has been the last few simulations, the Wizards' defense has been exceptional. Outside of defensive versatility, having a strong defensive center anchoring the defense is paramount to an effective unit. 

Other parting thoughts

Jerome Robinson continues to play well as a starter, scoring 13 points in 19 minutes. The Wizards didn't get that long of a look at Robinson before the NBA suspended its season.

After acquiring him at the trade deadline in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, it'd be another steal by Tommy Sheppard if Robinson can play like this consistently in real life. 

Instead of erupting in the fourth quarter to help the Wizards secure a win, Beal went off for 14 points in the third this time. He finished with 24 points and went 12-for-30 from the field.

Markieff Morris made a return to DC in this one. The Lakers uniform looks weird on him. 

It's hard to capture just how quick Ish Smith is in a video game, but this spin move came pretty close. 

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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