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Schwartz shoulders blame for Lions' skid

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Schwartz shoulders blame for Lions' skid

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz admitted Monday that his team's season has ``gone off the rails'' and the progress made during last year's run to the playoffs has become a distant memory.

Schwartz, who has lost at least 10 games in three of his four seasons as Lions' coach, said the blame for the team's unfulfilled 2012 expectations rests entirely with him.

``The ultimate responsibility of the team is (with) the head coach, and I need to do a better job,'' he said. ``4-10 isn't good enough.''

Detroit's 38-10 loss at Arizona on Sunday was its sixth straight and the team's most lopsided defeat since a 48-3 loss at Baltimore in 2009. It also bucked the trend: After defeating Jacksonville on Nov. 4, Detroit lost its next five games by an average of 5.2 points, only to get hammered by the Cardinals.

Tight end Tony Scheffler said the Lions had chances to overcome four turnovers and beat an Arizona team that was riding a nine-game winless skid.

``We never thought we were out of it,'' Scheffler said following the loss Sunday. ``We just didn't make the plays to get back in it. Our defense fought hard the whole game. We didn't give them good field position. They kept us in it.''

Schwartz's assessment of the loss differed sharply. After defending his team's play in recent weeks, Schwartz said the Lions simply made too many errors Sunday to be competitive.

``We've had a lot of games this year that came down to one critical play in the fourth quarter that you look at and say, `Hey, if we made that one we would have won the game,''' he said. ``We can't be naive to think that this was one of those games.''

The Cardinals intercepted quarterback Matthew Stafford three times, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Stafford told teammates Sunday that he believed he was responsible for the loss after a 24-for-50 passing performance that was easily his worst effort of the season.

``That is about as bad as I can play,'' he said. ``For us to be successful, I have to play a whole lot better than that. I understand that.''

Schwartz praised Stafford's decision to take responsibility for the loss, saying ``that's what good quarterbacks do,'' but he also reiterated his opinion that responsibility for the team's performance ultimately rests with the coaching staff. He also said he never considered pulling Stafford.

Calvin Johnson's play was Detroit's lone bright spot Sunday. Johnson made 10 catches for 121 yards despite facing coverage that Schwartz likened to a box-and-one defense in basketball.

``(Arizona) doubled Calvin (Johnson) on just about every play,'' he said.'' They used punt coverage to try to handle him and the fact that he still had 121 yards says a lot about Calvin, says a lot about (offensive coordinator) Scott Linehan's ability to still be able to get him the ball. But we severely lacked other playmakers on the field.''

The Lions host playoff-bound Atlanta on Saturday.

NOTES: Schwartz said that CB Jacob Lacey could be out for the season after injuring his knee in the first quarter of Sunday's game. ...TE Brandon Pettigrew (ankle) and DT Nick Fairley (shoulder) remain on the active roster despite missing Sunday's loss due to injury. Schwartz said no decision has been made as to whether either player would be placed on injured reserve. ... Johnson's 121 receiving yards Sunday give him 1,667 yards for the season, putting him 181 yards from breaking the NFL single-season record Jerry Rice set with San Francisco in 1995.

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10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

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USA Today Sports

10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.

10) Will the Redskins develop depth on the D-line?

9) Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

8) Want better offense? Get more out of the tight ends 

7) Will Jimmy Moreland actually win the slot CB job from Fabian Moreau?

6) After losing Reuben Foster, how's the Redskins LB situation?

5) Will potential match production for Redskins WRs?

When a team picks in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft, folks around the NFL expect that player to become a Pro Bowler. For Washington, that exact scenario unfolded with right guard Brandon Scherff. 

Mostly. 

Selected fifth overall in 2015, the Redskins took Scherff to play right tackle and anchor the offensive line opposite Trent Williams. That idea quickly faded, helped by the emergence of Morgan Moses, and Scherff moved inside to play guard. For four years, it's worked out great, with Pro Bowl selections in 2016 and 2017. 

Scherff is a mauler in the best sense of the word. He has great footwork and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has called the former Iowa Hawkeye the best pulling guard in the NFL. Scherff is strong and nasty, words that won't win beauty pageants but absolutely win in the trenches of the NFL. 

Considering all of that, a contract extension for Scherff should be easy. Right?

Wrong. 

Currently in the final year of his rookie deal, multiple reports stretching over the last six weeks indicate that the organization is way off in their extension offers to Scherff. He might not command the biggest contract in the league, but he will get paid like a top three guard. In 2019, that means a lot of money.

Cowboys guard Zach Martin makes $14 million a year. Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell makes $13.3 million a year. Scherff might not get to Martin's salary, but he will probably get to Norwell, whether Washington pays it or not.

That means the Redskins need to pony up the cash now because as each day passes, the team is approaching an ugly set of options. Scherff and his representatives might continue to negotiate during the season, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. Once free agency becomes in view, players tend to wait for it. Just ask Kirk Cousins. 

In fact, the situation between Scherff and the Redskins has some resemblance to the Cousins saga from a few years ago. 

In that case, Washington low-balled their homegrown quarterback in their first set of negotiations. From there, things went sideways, and the team used consecutive franchise tags on Cousins before he finally left via free agency. 

If the Redskins can't get a deal done with Scherff, the team could use a franchise tag in 2020. But that's a dangerous game of roulette. 

The time to get a deal done with Scherff is now, if not last month. Redskins team president has said in the past that deadlines drive deals, but with Scherff, there is no exact deadline. He can decide to stop working on a contract extension at any moment, particularly once the pads come on at training camp. 

The Trent Williams holdout might be complicating things a bit, if Williams only wants more cash and the issue isn't about much more than that. The truth is a Scherff extension would actually free up cap space in the short term, as his signing bonus would be spread out over the life of the contract, and some of that salary cap relief could go to Williams right away. 

Williams' status isn't the hold up between Scherff and the Redskins. Whatever is the actual holdup best be resolved soon. or the Redskins are beginning down an all too familiar franchise path.

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Sánchez and Adams lead Nationals in crucial win over Braves

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USA Today

Sánchez and Adams lead Nationals in crucial win over Braves

ATLANTA—Anibal Sanchez outpitched Mike Soroka and scored the go-ahead run in the fifth inning, Matt Adams homered and the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 5-3 on Saturday night.

Second-place Washington pulled within 5 games of the NL East-leading Braves, improving to 33-14 since May 24, best in the majors over that span. Atlanta has dropped four of five.

Sanchez (6-6) got a big assist in the bottom of the fifth when shortstop Trea Turner turned a bases-loaded double play, leaping to nab Nick Markakis' liner and throwing to first to beat Josh Donaldson back to the bag.

Soroka (10-2) allowed four runs and nine hits in six innings. He had won 10 straight decisions, best by an Atlanta pitcher since Hall of Famer Greg Maddux had a 10-decision streak in 2001.

Sean Doolittle got the last five outs, facing the minimum, for his 21st save in 25 chances. He struck out Ronald Acuna Jr. with a runner at second to end the eighth and breezed through the ninth.

Washington went up 4-1 in the fifth when Sanchez reached on an infield single to third, took second on Donaldson's throwing error and scored on Turner's double. Turner took third on Adam Eaton's single and scored on Anthony Rendon's single. Eaton scored on Juan Soto's single.

The Nationals took a 5-3 lead in the eighth off A.J. Minter as Turner singled, stole second and scored on Eaton's single.

Adams went deep for the 15th time, an opposite-field homer that bounced off the top of the wall in left-center and into the stands to tie it at 1-all in the fourth.

Sanchez, who pitched for the Braves last year and helped them win the division, allowed three runs and six hits and has a 2.70 ERA in his last nine starts.

Atlanta led 1-0 in the first when Acuna reached on an infield single, stole second base, advanced on a flyout and scored on Freddie Freeman's single.

Brian McCann's ninth homer, a two-run shot in the sixth, chased Sanchez and cut the lead to 4-3.

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NBC Sports Washington's Michael Stearman contributed to this Associated Press story.