Nationals

Schaub has shot to get Texans into AFC title game

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Schaub has shot to get Texans into AFC title game

HOUSTON (AP) Matt Schaub made his first playoff start last week and helped lead the Houston Texans to a win.

But he did make a key mistake, throwing an interception which was returned for a touchdown.

He knows he'll have to be much better if the Texans expect to win at New England in a divisional playoff game on Sunday.

``He's going to have to play at a high level, but we all are,'' coach Gary Kubiak said. ``You know what I mean? We got a job to do around him.''

Schaub's No. 1 goal this week is to help the offense score touchdowns instead of field goals when it gets in the red zone. Houston got inside the 20-yard line four times last weekend against Cincinnati, and settled for field goals three times after the offense stalled.

``Against this team in their building threes aren't going to cut it,'' Schaub said. ``We've got to get down there and we've got be aggressive and score touchdowns.''

Schaub is a nine-year veteran, but Saturday was his first start in the postseason after he missed Houston's playoff run last year because of an injured foot. He said it meant a lot to him to be with his team for the first time in the playoffs, and of course, getting the win made it even better.

Receiver Andre Johnson believes that having that first game out of the way will help Schaub this week against the Patriots.

``Him just getting his first win probably just got a monkey off his back,'' Johnson said. ``Because that's something that a lot of people talked about. I think with him getting that out of the way, it will make him feel more comfortable going into the game.''

The Texans had their worst game of the season in their first trip to Foxborough, a 42-14 loss to the Patriots last month. But Schaub said that the loss didn't do anything to hurt their confidence.

``We know what type of team we can be when we're playing up to our expectations and our standards and what we demand out of ourselves,'' he said. ``We'll go up there with a lot of confidence to win a road football game.''

Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison was pleased with Schaub's work against the Bengals, and liked how he dealt with their pass rush, which is among the best in the NFL.

``He managed the game well and then he handled the pressure when it was coming, to get the ball out, when he was hot,'' Dennison said. ``He missed a couple of things. Obviously, his footwork was a little off, it cost us one there. But he's a tough-minded kid and he kept playing. Our guys rally around tough guys and he's done a nice job with that all year - just keep bouncing back. I think with that he leads us very well.''

Schaub threw for 4,008 yards with 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in the regular season. But he's thrown just one touchdown with four interceptions in the past five games.

Aside from the interception, Schaub was better against the Bengals as he completed 29 of 38 passes for 262 yards. He was helped by improved protection, and wasn't sacked after being taken down 12 times in the previous four games combined.

He knows they'll likely face a completely new look from New England's defense this time around.

``You've got to go in expecting a lot of different things,'' he said. ``You've got to be prepared to handle a lot of different situations and circumstances, things that they can do because they do a lot. Being able to adjust in game will be important.''

Along with taking advantage of opportunities in the red zone, Schaub knows another key to the game will be limiting penalties and turnovers against New England. He had an interception early in the last game against the Patriots that contributed to an early 14-0 deficit.

``The way they play, you can't have penalties and put yourself behind in the down and distance,'' he said. ``You can't give them extra possessions by turning the football over. The way their offense is playing you have to expect them to score points, and (can't) give them extra opportunities with the ball.''

Schaub, who has been criticized for not showing enough emotion at times, was animated when asked if the demeanor of the team changes this time of year.

``There's no tomorrow at this time of the season,'' he said. ``If you want to move on, you've got to bring a sense of attitude and nastiness with you to go out and dominate your opponent on every play.''

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Nationals earliest chance to clinch comes at the start of the week

Nationals earliest chance to clinch comes at the start of the week

“Clinch” is the word everyone will be waiting to hear this week.

The final seven days of the regular season is upon the Nationals. They are in a virtual tie for the wild-card with can’t-lose Milwaukee. Eight games are coming up this week. The process to end doubt starts Monday night.

Two teams -- Chicago and New York -- sit with wild-card elimination numbers of three. Which means the Nationals could be in the playoffs as soon as Tuesday night.

A magic number refresher: Nationals win, they shave a game. Cubs or Mets lose, they shave a game. Combine those things to move quickly into the offseason or postseason.

So, if Washington wins its next three games, it’s assured of a tie. If it wins three and the Cubs or Mets lose once, then the Nationals entered the postseason. Tuesday night is the earliest night for possible champagne popping. You get the idea.

Playing into the final week with so much on the line is new for the organization. It has never been the wild-card team. Usually, the division is wrapped up by now or a middling season brought elimination. Never in between.

Washington clinched the division on Sept. 10 in 2017 in game 143. The clinch came Sept. 24 in 2016 in game 154. Washington was comfortably up 8 ½ games, at that point. Its postseason spot was not in doubt.

But, not so to start this week. A careening year has come down to the final seven days. Washington is close. It could seal entrance into the postseason quickly. It could drag it out and celebrate at the end of the week. It could botch the entire thing, stunningly falling to the side, going home on Sept. 30 instead of preparing for the next game. Tune in to find out.

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Go-Go GM Pops Mensah-Bonsu's empathy put to test at open tryouts

Go-Go GM Pops Mensah-Bonsu's empathy put to test at open tryouts

WASHINGTON -- Capital City Go-Go general manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu often says one of the primary reasons he retired as a player to join the front office ranks was to bring his perspective as a journeyman pro to the GM position. He played for 18 professional teams across the NBA, G-League and overseas and was cut from quite a few of them. He once lost his job five minutes before his contract was guaranteed.

Those memories of disappointment and resolve have stuck with him to this day and he is reminded of them every time he has to cut a player. That experience makes him acutely aware of how a player feels when delivered the news.

"There is a way you can do business with honesty and integrity," he said.

That approach helped lead to a year-over-year change in the way the Go-Go held their tryouts on Saturday. Last year, Mensah-Bonsu delivered roster moves by taking players aside during scrimmages. The guys in the open morning session who were good enough to earn an invite to the closed afternoon tryout were told to stop playing and wait around.

That process led to a good deal of confusion. Some players who didn't know their fate came up and asked Mensah-Bonsu personally. He called it "heartbreaking."

So, this year he switched it up. He brought the roughly 100 players out to the main court and had them sit in the stands as he read out the jersey numbers of those who made it.

There was still some uncertainty from players about who had advanced to the second tryout. Several players pulled their jerseys off to double-check their numbers in disbelief.

Still, it was better than last year. With this being only the second season for the Go-Go and the second for Mensah-Bonsu as GM, that's all they can really ask for.

"You know how good things are in the first year by how the second year goes," Mensah-Bonsu said. "This year, we kind of knew the ropes and what to expect and how to do things. This year, we kind of hit the ground running. It was more seamless than it was last year."

Last year was unique because they had to build the team from scratch as an expansion franchise. This offseason, they were looking for fewer players overall, without the need to complete an entire roster.

The open tryouts generally bring a handful of players to the afternoon session where they then choose two to four as training camp invites. Those who are brought in for training camp then compete for roster spots on the Go-Go, which would put them one step away from the NBA.

Mensah-Bonsu said the goal was to take five or six players from the morning group. They ended up with 15, as he was once again surprised by the talent pool offered by the D.C. area.

That afternoon session, though, is a different level of basketball. There are players with decorated college careers and some with NBA resumes. Some of the invitees included Josh Selby, who played at Kansas and has 38 career NBA games under his belt, Maurice Creek (George Washington), Trey Dickerson (Georgetown) and Frank Howard (Syracuse). 

Everyone involved is chasing the NBA dream, some giving it one final shot.

"I empathize with these guys. It's not easy," Go-Go coach Ryan Richman said. "Come here, stretch, learn some plays and then play games. It's not an easy job."

It's not easy for the Go-Go staff, either, to evaluate 100 players all within a few hours. It can be confusing in its own way. And for Mensah-Bonsu, there was a moment on Saturday that was particularly disorienting.

In attendance for the morning tryout was a player named Kojo Bonsu. That's a familiar name.

"He's got the exact same name as my brother, so I looked and made sure he wasn't out there. It was eerie to see that. It's rare you see somebody with the exact same name as you or a sibling. It was interesting," Mensah-Bonsu said.

It is already hard enough for Mensah-Bonsu to make cuts. At least he didn't have to cut his brother.

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