Redskins

Seahawks top Panthers 16-12

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Seahawks top Panthers 16-12

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Seattle Seahawks need their tough defense to make things easier on rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. The plan worked perfectly against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.

Wilson threw the go-ahead touchdown pass to Golden Tate late in the third quarter, while the defense frustrated Newton and the Panthers throughout Sunday's 16-12 road win.

Wilson threw for a season-high 221 yards and shook off two third-quarter interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Of course, it helped that the defense kept the Panthers (1-4) out of the end zone and harassed Newton into a career-low 141 yards passing.

``The defense hasn't had any problems this year,'' Seattle receiver Sidney Rice said. ``They played well enough for us to win all year, all five games. On the offensive end, we need to pick it up just a little bit.''

Carolina had two chances to take the lead in the final minutes Sunday only to come away empty each time.

After driving the Panthers to the 1 for a fourth-down play, Newton rolled to his right and spotted Ben Hartsock open in the end zone, but he threw a one-hopper on the short pass.

Then, after the Seahawks (3-2) took an intentional safety, Carolina got the ball back at its own 31 with 54 seconds left and no timeouts. That's when Bruce Irvin, a rookie, stripped Newton from behind for his second sack. Defensive tackle Alan Branch fell on the loose ball to seal the win.

``It wasn't easy; it might have looked like it was, but it wasn't easy because of all the stuff they do,'' Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. ``And they tried all their options and stuff, and we were able to stay in sync with it, so it's a fantastic job defensively.

``Nothing can express it more than standing up on the goal line down there and finishing. That was awesome. It's what defensive players and coaches live for - those challenges and opportunities - and the guys came through in a big way.''

Newton finished just 12 for 29 and was sacked four times. He also ran for 42 yards, but Carolina finished with just 190 total yards.

``When you know what guys are doing and you still can't beat them, they're just good at what they do,'' said Newton, last year's No. 1 overall draft pick.

``Let's call a cat a cat and a dog a dog. They're a great defense. We knew what we they were going to do before the game even started.''

The Panthers' only touchdown came on Captain Munnerlyn's 33-yard interception return early in the third quarter.

``We know he's a great dual-threat quarterback, but once we bottle it up and frustrate him, we know he's going to tank a little bit,'' Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said of Newton. ``We were able to do that today.''

Carolina started the season with plenty of optimism with the return of Newton to lead a high-scoring offense, but the Panthers couldn't rebound a week after losing 30-28 to the Falcons on Matt Bryant's field goal with 5 seconds left.

``This is by no stretch done,'' second-year Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. ``This is 1-4 and we're not going to quit. We're going to show up and we're going to be back on the job (Monday). We will find answers and we're going to win.''

The game marked a homecoming of sorts for Wilson, who first gained acclaim as a quarterback at North Carolina State. He also played minor league baseball in Asheville and Gastonia before returning to college football and finishing up at Wisconsin.

The rookie hadn't thrown for more than 160 yards in a game until Sunday, but didn't panic when he threw the two interceptions and bought time with his mobility on several plays.

``I felt like we had so much control there,'' Wilson said. ``I made sure everyone was on the same page, and even changed the snap count a lot. We did a lot of great things today. ... Obviously, some of the penalties pulled us back, as did the turnovers, but we still did a lot of great things.''

Notes: The Panthers played without three starters; cornerback Chris Gamble, linebacker Jon Beason and offensive lineman due to injuries. ... Newton targeted receiver Steve Smith a season-high 13 times. The previous high was 11 in the opener at Tampa Bay. ... Seattle tight end Zach Miller had three catches for a season-high 59 yards, including a season-long 30-yard catch. ... Rice had five catches for 67 yards. ... Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined to rush for 22 yards for Carolina. ... Steven Hauschka kicked three field goals for Seattle.

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Inside the numbers: Will a 1,000-yard receiver make or break the 2018 Redskins?

Inside the numbers: Will a 1,000-yard receiver make or break the 2018 Redskins?

In 2017, the Redskins missed the playoffs while no receiver went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Jamison Crowder led the team with 789 receiving yards.

In 2016, the Redskins missed the playoffs while two receivers went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Pierre Garçon gained 1,041 yards that year while DeSean Jackson posted 1,005 receiving yards. 

In 2015, the Redskins did make the playoffs. That season the team had no receivers go for 1,000 yards, though Jordan Reed got close with 952 receiving yards. 

Is there a lesson here? Is there a takeaway that can help to predict the 2018 season?

Going into this season, no Redskins wideout has ever accounted for 1,000 yards in a single season. In their career.

Former first-round pick Josh Doctson accounted for just more than 500 receiving yards last season, catching 35 of the 78 balls thrown his way.  Crowder was mostly productive, but there was an expectation, fair or not, he would make more of a jump in 2018 than he did. Jordan Reed hardly played. 

To help the group, the Redskins added Paul Richardson in free agency. Last year playing for the Seahawks, Richardson went for 703 yards on 44 catches. The speedster gives the Redskins a true downfield threat the team lacked in 2017, and that could help the whole offense. In fact, it better help the whole offense. 

Still, looking at a top three of Doctson, Crowder and Richardson, it's hard to confidently predict a 1,000-yard receiver from the bunch. 

Could it happen? Absolutely. Any of the three could pop to a four-digit total.

Would you put your own hard-earned cash on the line? That would take some guts. 

Though the Redskins have a new quarterback in Alex Smith, head coach Jay Gruden has been crystal clear the team is not in a rebuilding mode. Washington must win, now, this season, and a minimum goal should be a Wild Card playoff spot. 

How imperative is a 1,000-yard wide receiver to that goal? Let's look back at the past 12 NFC playoff teams. 

Only three of six NFL playoff teams in 2017 had a 1,000-yard wideout. The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles did not, but the Vikings, Saints and Falcons all did. 

In 2016, however, five of six playoff teams had 1,000-yard receivers. The only team that didn't, the Cowboys, deployed a heavy run offense that resulted in Ezekiel Elliott going for more than 1,600 rush yards. 

Added together, in the past two seasons, eight of 12 NFC playoff teams had a receiver on their squad go at least four digits. 

One more note: the New England Patriots played in the last two Super Bowls, winning one and losing one. Both years they had at least one receiver get to 1,000 yards (Julian Edelman in 2016, Brandin Cooks in 2017). In 2017, tight end Rob Gronkowski broke the 1,000-yard mark too.

Again, what's the takeaway? Having a 1,000-yard receiver is certainly good, but it's not a must for a playoff berth or a deep playoff run. The Eagles proved that. 

On some teams, an elite wideout makes a huge difference. Watch Giants tape and it's clear what Odell Beckham does for the offense. Watch Falcons tape and Julio Jones does the same. 

On other teams, an elite quarterback makes a huge difference. Duh.  

Of the teams examined, the 2016 Packers came the closest to the 2017 Patriots with having two players go for over 1,000 yards.

2017 New England did it with Cooks (1,082) and Gronkowski (1,084), 2016 Green Bay almost got there with Jordy Nelson (1,257) and Davante Adams (997). 

While Gronkowski and Nelson are excellent players, the common denominator is obviously the elite play of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. 

For the 2018 Redskins, what does it mean?

The Redskins don't have an elite wideout like Jones or Beckham. The Redskins don't have an elite quarterback like Brady or Rodgers. 

The best path for Washington's offense might be balance, and trying to emulate the Eagles model from 2017. Carson Wentz played most of the season at an elite level, but he spread the ball around to a number of targets and leaned heavily on his tight ends. It helped that the Eagles ran the ball very well too. 

Could the 'Skins do something similar? Alex Smith is known to spread the ball around, and if Jordan Reed and Derrius Guice can produce this fall, the offenses might be similar. 

The answer can't be force enough balls to one wideout to ensure a 1,000 yard season. That won't work. 

There might be another way to consider. Of the three NFC teams that made the 2017 playoffs without a 1,000-yard wideout, two found a lot of success throwing to a running back.

The Panthers leading WR was Devin Funchess with 840 receiving yards. Their second best receiver? Rookie running back Christian McCaffrey. 

The Rams leading WR was Cooper Kupp with 869 receiving yards. Their second best receiver? Running back Todd Gurley.

See a pattern?

Before breaking his leg in November, Chris Thompson had more than 500 receiving yards. He still finished as the team's fourth-leading receiver despite playing only 10 games. 

The offensive path to playoff success for Washington might not hinge on a true 1,000-yard wideout like it does for many teams. Full, healthy seasons from Jordan Reed or Chris Thompson could make up for deficiencies at other skill positions. It also remains possible Doctson, Crowder or Richardson make the four digit leap. 

Having a 1,000-yard receiver seems like a nice option for a good offense, and that's proven by nearly 70 percent of recent NFC playoff teams. Still, other paths remain to the postseason, and increased production at tight end and running back can go a long way. 

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Juan Soto's 2-run double carries Nationals past Orioles

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USA TODAY Sports

Juan Soto's 2-run double carries Nationals past Orioles

WASHINGTON -- A teenager among men, Juan Soto has impressed his teammates on the Washington Nationals with his maturity and, even more so, his potent bat.

Soto hit a tiebreaking two-run double in the eighth inning, and Washington beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-2 Thursday night in the deciding matchup of a three-game interleague series between neighboring rivals.

Soto, a 19-year-old rookie, is batting .326 with 16 RBIs in 28 games. Starting in the cleanup spot for the first time, he drew a walk and delivered the game's pivotal hit.

"I think we're all amazed every single day," Washington ace Max Scherzer said. "He puts together great ABs. He has antics and has some flair. He's a great young player. He's just enjoying himself."

Bryce Harper led off the eighth with a double off Mychal Givens (0-4) and Trea Turner followed with a single. After Anthony Rendon struck out, Soto hit a liner into the gap in left-center.

"He's got unbelievable poise," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of Soto. "No matter what the situation is, he goes out there with a game plan."

Whatever that plan is, it's effective.

"I just try to be focused and keep working," Soto said.

Rendon homered for the Nationals, who received seven strong innings from Scherzer and flawless work from their bullpen.

Newcomer Kelvin Herrera (1-0) pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning and Sean Doolittle got three straight outs for his 20th save in 21 tries.

Seeking to end a rare run of two straight losses, Scherzer left a tied game after allowing two runs -- both on solo homers -- and striking out nine.

Afterward, the right-hander heaped praise upon Soto for the manner in which he's adapted to playing in the big leagues.

"He has a great feel for the strike zone," Scherzer said. "To have that type of eye, it's remarkable for him to be able to do that at this time and this age and this level."

Activated from the 60-day disabled list before the game, Colby Rasmus homered for the Orioles in his first at-bat since April 6.

"Me and Max, we go way back, so I felt real good," said Rasmus, who had been sidelined with a hip injury.

In addition, Rasmus made an outstanding throw from right field to the plate, nailing Wilmer Difo on a tag-up play in the seventh inning with the score tied.

Mark Trumbo also homered for Baltimore, his sixth of the season and third in four games.

Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman gave up two runs and four hits over six innings. The right-hander was lifted with the score tied, leaving him winless in his last seven starts.

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