Nationals

Seahawks hoping to improve their run defense

Seahawks hoping to improve their run defense

RENTON, Wash. (AP) For the first six weeks of the season, the Seattle Seahawks run defense was among the best in the NFL.

In the eight games that have followed, the Seahawks have statistically been among the worst.

What changed?

``The run game has been solid except for some big plays we've given up to really good players,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ``We're hoping to play a lot cleaner, a lot sharper.''

Over the first six games, the Seahawks were No. 2 in the NFL in yards rushing allowed per carry at 3.3 yards. That ability to stop the run put more pressure on the opponents passing game to find openings against Seattle's secondary.

But during the past eight games, the Seahawks have struggled. They're giving up 5.3 yards per carry, which ranks last in the NFL.

Part of the problem is the big runs Seattle's defense has allowed to running backs such as Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore and Reggie Bush.

In five of the past eight games, the Seahawks have allowed their opponent at least 100 yards rushing as a team, after not letting any of their first six opponents reach that mark.

Still, there are concerns that have allowed those big runs to happen in the first place.

``We know that we have given up some big plays we know with Adrian and some backs,'' Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. ``It's still kind of a work in progress. That's still our No. 1 emphasis after getting the ball.''

Seattle enters Sunday night's matchup against San Francisco still with the No. 2 scoring defense in the NFL - right behind the 49ers - and with the 10th ranked rushing defense.

But it was the 49ers that started Seattle down the path of struggles with its run defense. It was a mix of defensive scheme and talent that helped Gore run for 131 yards when the teams faced off in Week 7. That remains Gore's season high and the second-most yards rushing allowed by the Seahawks this season.

San Francisco found its success by catching the Seahawks with some trap runs, especially in the second half that led to big running lanes for Gore.

It was a smart move schematically as the Seahawks were unprepared. Linebacker K.J. Wright said this week he'd never seen a trap play before until the 49ers ran one.

``I was lost. I was like `what was going on?''' Wright said.

While the trap runs caught Seattle by surprise in the first meeting, it will be how San Francisco uses mobile quarterback Colin Kaepernick that'll be new for the Seahawks this time. Kaepernick was just a spectator when the teams met in October.

Since becoming the starter five games ago, Kaepernick has rushed for 202 yards, adding another element to the 49ers offense.

The Seahawks defensive line took a hit this week when Jason Jones was placed on injured reserve with torn cartilage in his knee, but defensive tackle Alan Branch should be able to play despite an ankle injury.

While Seattle did give up 118 yards rushing last week to Buffalo in an easy win, its victories over Arizona and Chicago featured a run defense that was more like what the Seahawks got earlier in the season.

Seattle held Matt Forte to 66 yards and the Cardinals to just 43 yards rushing as a team. Those two efforts gave Bradley optimism that the run defense was heading in the right direction.

``I thought the Arizona game we played better and the Chicago game for the most part we've played pretty well,'' Bradley said. ``There are some good backs that we have faced ... Some of those guys are going to get their yards. For us the biggest thing is for us to keep the points down so we have a chance to win.''

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Brewers’ unlikely run continues to shrink wild-card gap with Nationals

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Brewers’ unlikely run continues to shrink wild-card gap with Nationals

The Brewers. They are surging instead of sliding, partying in St. Louis over the weekend after winning two of three against the division-leading Cardinals thanks to a ninth-inning grand slam by Ryan Braun on Sunday.

They have won nine of 10 and six of seven since MVP candidate Christian Yelich broke his kneecap, ending his season. Things are tight because of their run. Just two weeks remain in the regular season.

So, here’s where things stand overall: 

  • Chicago is 1 ½ games behind the Nationals for the top wild-card spot.
  • Milwaukee is 2 ½ games behind the Nationals and just a game behind the Cubs. Those three teams mark a breaking point in the standings.
  • The Mets are four games behind the Cubs for the second wild-card spot and 5 ½ behind the Nationals.
  • Philadelphia is six games behind the Nationals and 4 ½ games behind Chicago after back-to-back losses to end the weekend.

 

Fivethirtyeight.com puts the Nationals chances of making the postseason at 93 percent.

 

Coming up Monday:

San Diego at Milwaukee, 7:40 p.m., Richards (5-4, 3.66 ERA) vs. Davies (9-7, 3.77)

Washington at St. Louis, 7:45 p.m., Strasburg (17-6, 3.49) vs. D. Hudson (15-7, 3.38)

Cincinnati at Chicago, 8:05 p.m., Gausman (3-8, 5.83) vs. Hamels (7-7, 3.89)

New York Mets at Colorado, Matz (10-8, 3,84) vs. Senzatela (9-10, 6.87)

 

Philadelphia is off.

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Case Keenum isn't the Redskins problem, and Dwayne Haskins won't fix it either

Case Keenum isn't the Redskins problem, and Dwayne Haskins won't fix it either

The Redskins have lots of problems, but Case Keenum isn't one of them. Through two games this season, Keenum has thrown for 600 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. 

He hasn't been great, and he's missed some big opportunities, but Keenum isn't even close to the main reason why the Redskins are 0-2. Not even close. 

"I think he handled it really well. He might’ve miss a few throws here or there," Washington head coach Jay Gruden said of Keenum after the Cowboys loss. "He’s not taking many sacks, he’s getting out of the pocket, he’s making plays, and I love his competitiveness. I think that will rub off on the entire football team if it hasn’t already. Guys like to play for him and play with him.”

The Washington defense surrendered at least 30 points in consecutive losses to the Eagles and the Cowboys to start the 2019 campaign. The defense has given up at least 400 yards in both losses. The defensive front, the presumed strength of the Redskins team, has piled up a whopping two sacks through two games. Two. 

Offensively, the Redskins haven't been great, or even very good. Keep in mind, however, the expectations for Washington's offense weren't particularly high. Gruden has frequently talked how his team is built to "win ugly" and that the head coach is fine with low-scoring victories. 

Well, Keenum has delivered enough for those type of wins. The defense just isn't holding up their end of the bargain. In two games the Redskins have averaged 24 points with zero turnovers. That's more than enough to win ugly. 

And the truth is Keenum deserves almost all of the credit for the Redskins offensive production. The run game has been abysmal thus far. Through the first two losses, no running back has gained even 30 yards, and the Redskins collectively have less than 100 yards rushing. 

Whatever offense there has been has come from Keenum. He's missed a few big plays - a potential TD throw to Terry McLaurin in the second half of the Eagles loss and a blatant miss of a wide-open Paul Richardson against the Cowboys really stand out. But he's also made plenty of good throws and engineered some good drives. 

Keenum has also proved quite level-headed. He came to Washington knowing he had to compete for the starting job. His whole career he's been overlooked, and that has molded him into a veteran presence with a clear head. 

"Sometimes you must grind it out. It’s not always going to look pretty either, but I trust all those guys in that locker room and know that they’re going to fight no matter what," Keenum said.

Since this is Washington, there are always fans calling for the backup quarterback. In this case there is genuine excitement for Dwayne Haskins, the rookie 15th overall pick and Keenum's backup. Haskins has All Pro potential but hasn't hit the field yet. And frankly he shouldn't. Keenum has done plenty to keep a stranglehold on the starting job.

That said, late in both games this season the Redskins have been playing in situations where the result was mostly out of hand. Could Gruden give Haskins a drive to get him some real game action? Sure, but that would create a laundry list of postgame questions that Gruden probably wants to avoid. Plus, there are senior Redskins officials that are truly committed to Haskins spending the year on the bench to really learn the game. A random fourth quarter drive won't change that tremendously, in either direction. 

For now, it's Keenum, and it's the right call. He's been pretty good, and he's done enough for Washington to be in games.

"None of us expect to be average. We all want to score 100 points," Keenum said after the loss to Dallas. 

Of course the quarterback doesn't want to be average, but before the season started, the Redskins would have taken average from their QB. The plan was for low-scoring football that Washington wins with defense. 

Keenum has been better than average, the defense just hasn't shown up.

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