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Seattle defense overcomes mistakes

Seattle defense overcomes mistakes

RENTON, Wash. (AP) For a change, the conversation about whether Russell Wilson was the best option at quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks was a bit muted on Monday.

Rightfully so after the performance the Seahawks defense turned in a day earlier in shutting down Cam Newton and Carolina.

And while Seahawks coach Pete Carroll felt the effort his defense put forth in Sunday's 16-12 win could be the best since he took over in 2009, he also added this bit of caution.

``We're just getting better. It feels like we are very, very early in the stages so hopefully we can keep going,'' Carroll said.

Despite all the ways the Seahawks tried to give away Sunday's game, the end result was their defense would not let it happen. Facing the Panthers' unique offense, Seattle limited them to 190 total yards, a combined 2 of 15 on third and fourth downs and the worst day passing in Newton's young career.

Newton was just 12 of 29 for 141 yards and was sacked four times. Only one other time in his two seasons has Newton completed less than 50 percent of his attempts.

The 190 yards of total offense were the fewest allowed by the Seahawks since November 2007 against San Francisco. Carolina had only two plays of more than 20 yards after coming into the week averaging more than five per game.

``Most teams, after three turnovers, something would go wrong. But our defense held on and fought hard and we stayed true to what we were there to do and finished the game really well,'' Carroll said. ``It was an exciting game for our guys. I love seeing that we played so well and so tough on defense.''

There were plenty of moments when the Seahawks defense shined on Sunday and cornerback Brandon Browner was often in the middle. It was Browner's strip of DeAngelo Williams and subsequent fumble recovery in the third quarter that changed the momentum after Seattle had gifted the Panthers three turnovers, including Captain Munnerlyn's 33-yard interception return for a touchdown to give Carolina a 10-6 lead.

Browner's forced fumble led to Wilson's touchdown pass to Golden Tate that gave the Seahawks the lead late in the third quarter.

But the burly cornerback wasn't done. He and Marcus Trufant combined to tackle Carolina's Louis Murphy at the 1-yard line on third-and-goal with less than 4 minutes remaining when it appeared he would score easily and potentially give Carolina the lead. On fourth-and-goal, Newton rolled out of the pocket, but threw a pass intended for Ben Hartsock into the turf.

``The four plays down there were really extraordinary,'' Carroll said of the goal-line stand. ``That's a fun situation to be in. As a defense that is as intense as it gets and as exciting as it gets to play ball, so much at stake and the game on the line and all that and to come through is really huge.''

Overshadowed by the play of the Seahawks defense was Wilson's best performance as Seattle's starting QB. He completed 19 of 25 passes for 221 yards, but was intercepted twice. The throw that Munnerlyn intercepted was a poor decision and a poor throw, but the other interception was a ball that Marshawn Lynch should have caught.

After seemingly weekly debate about whether Wilson was the right choice to be the starter over Matt Flynn, Sunday's efficiency quieted the talk for a bit.

Instead, the concerns continued about red zone efficiency. Seattle has just four touchdowns in 14 trips inside its opponents' 20 this season. Seattle outgained Carolina 174-93 in the first half on Sunday, yet led only 6-3 at halftime because it stalled inside the Panthers' 20.

Additionally, Seattle continues to struggle with penalties and had a number of big plays called back on Sunday, most notably a 56-yard pass to Tate and a pair of long runs by Lynch. The Seahawks enter this week's home game against New England as the most penalized team in the league.

``I better start reinforcing a lot better than I'm doing. I'm not doing a very good job here. It's not because it's not emphasized, the message isn't hitting home yet,'' Carroll said. ``We just stay after it. We have very aggressive guys, we sought them out and now we're having to deal with it.''

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5 takeaways from the neutral arbitrator’s ruling on Tom Wilson

5 takeaways from the neutral arbitrator’s ruling on Tom Wilson

Tom Wilson finally made his season debut on Tuesday after his 20-game suspension was reduced to 14 games. The suspension was reduced by neutral arbitrator Shyam Das, who issued his decision Tuesday in a 42-page ruling.

Wilson was originally suspended for a hit he delivered to St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist.

Just as Bettman did in the first appeal, Das sheds light on several fascinating aspects of the process and various arguments used. Here are my five biggest takeaways from Tuesday’s ruling.

Think Sundqvist hit shows that Wilson is a dirty player? No one else seems to

Wilson has developed a bit of a reputation among some fans for being a dirty player and many have used this incident as evidence of that. Behind closed doors, however, it seems like everyone is in agreement that Wilson was making a hockey play and just missed.

Das wrote, “The NHLPA stresses that Wilson had no intent to injure or target Sundqvist's head, as [head of the Department of Player Safety George Parros] acknowledged. It is agreed that he was making a hockey play. His hit, even assuming it was a violation of Rule 48 -- which the NHLPA disputes -- was off ‘by inches,’ as recognized by the DPS.”

It used to be fairly common for a player who cut across the middle in the offensive zone to get blown up by the opposition. It’s not that way anymore, but there’s nobody seems to question that Wilson was simply back checking and going after the puck carrier and not simply head-hunting.

Careful what you put in an email

In a footnote, Das detailed how the NHLPA tried to argue both Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly attempted to influence the DPS’s decision of whether or not to suspend Wilson.

The NHLPA cites an email Daly sent to Parros at 5:05 p.m. on September 30, 2018 stating: "Looks like a big one. The Emergency Assistance Fund [which receives forfeited salary of penalized players] is going to be happy." Immediately prior to sending this email, Daly had been copied on five emails sent to Parros by other DPS personnel all stating that in their opinion Wilson had violated Rule 48. The NHLPA also cites Parros' testimony that the day before the DPS hearing on this incident he was at an unrelated meeting at which the Commissioner said something to the effect: "You're going to do the right thing or Do the right thing.

Conspiracy theorists are going to run away with this as proof that the NHL is somehow out to get the Caps, but I think it is important to note that the neutral arbitrator—the key word being neutral—did not buy the NHLPA’s argument. Das wrote, “The evidence as a whole, including Parros’ testimony, does not establish that the DPS was improperly influenced by the cited comments of League officials.”

Patrick Kaleta mattered a lota

Who is Patrick Kaleta? Kaleta is former player with an extensive history of supplementary discipline. His name appears 34 times in Das’ ruling so you know he must be important.

The NHLPA argued Kaleta was the “most appropriate comparison” to Wilson because he was suspended three times and fined once over the course of 94 games and with less total ice time. Despite his extensive history, the DPS issued a suspension of only 10 games in 2013 for a hit he delivered to the head of Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson. That 10-game suspension was reached by doubling his prior suspension of five games.

The DPS made a point of saying that because Wilson was facing discipline for the fourth time in 105 games, his history was “unprecedented.” The reason why the DPS felt that way was because it drew a distinction Wilson was suspended all four times whereas Kaleta was fined once in his four violations during the comparable period and it was not taking the fine into account. Once you add that in, it is easy to see the argument as to why the length of Wilson’s suspension seems extreme in comparison.

How the suspension went from 20 to 14

How the DPS reached 20 games for the suspension was detailed in Bettman’s ruling, but here’s a quick refresher. Parros took Wilson’s last suspension of three games and doubled it to account for the weight of a playoff game (6), tripled that number because Wilson is a repeat offender (18) and added two more games because the hit caused an injury (20).

The sticking point for Das was tripling the last suspension which Das said there was no precedent of the league doing in the past.

“I conclude that Wilson's suspension should be reduced to 14 games,” Das wrote. “I have arrived at this length by treating his most recent prior 3 playoff game suspension as the equivalent of 6 regular season games, as Parros did, doubling that based on all relevant circumstances to 12 games -- which certainly constitutes more severe punishment consistent with the CBA -- and adding 2 games, as Parros did, based on the injury to Sundqvist.”

The change was that instead of multiplying the past suspension by three, Das though it appropriate to double it instead just as the league did with Kaleta.

This wasn’t a win for Wilson

Getting Wilson back was good news for the Caps and it saves him $378,048.78 that he would have otherwise had to forfeit, but let’s be clear, this was not a win for Wilson.

A 14-game suspension is still a significant suspension and it would have felt massive had the league originally given him 14 games on Oct. 3. It just doesn’t seem that way now because the original suspension was for 20 games.

The neutral arbitrator ruled that Wilson’s hit was illegal and worthy of a significant suspension. The only issue was basically that he didn’t like the NHL’s math. Das’ ruling should in no way be considered vindication for Wilson. Everything that has been said about Wilson in the wake of the suspension remains true. He still has to change the way he plays because the next suspension will be greater. Even if the NHL is beholden to the double modifier Das determined to reach 14 games, the best case scenario for the next suspension will be 24 to 28 games depending on if the DPS takes into account the extra two games tacked on for injury or not. That’s the best case scenario. Neither he nor the team can afford that.

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3 things to watch for improved Wizards vs. Cavs

3 things to watch for improved Wizards vs. Cavs

The Washington Wizards still have John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter. The Cleveland Cavaliers no longer employ LeBron James. That makes Wednesday’s first meeting of the season between the Eastern Conference foes curious. The radical change for the visitors also requires a preview. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Sustaining the surge

Monday’s 117-109 victory over the Orlando Magic extended the Wizards’ winning streak to a season-high two. Don't knock the modest uptick after a 2-9 start. John Wall’s stat line took a big leap over the last three games: 24.0 points, 10.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 45.5 percent on 3-pointers. Beyond the numbers, the point guard appears to have knocked off the remaining rust physically. We’re used to his aggressive end-to-end pushes, but now Wall is firing up the court immediately after makes or misses, helping Washington quickly enter its offensive sets. Another strong outing from the five-time All-Star could propel the Wizards to their first three-game winning streak since Feb. 10-22.

Bench support

Starters Wall, Beal, Dwight Howard and Markieff Morris had solid games against the Magic, but it was the Wizards’ second unit playing above previous season norms. All five reserves finished with a plus-minus of plus-8 or better. Jeff Green continued his sizzling shooting, sinking 4 of 5 from beyond the arc en route to 18 points. The 6-foot-9 forward is 9 of 13 from beyond the arc overall during the last four games, and 21 of 28 overall. Backcourt partners Austin Rivers and Tomas Satoransky, slow to develop chemistry this season, showed increased comfort during the winning streak. Washington needs more from the pair to help keep minutes for Wall and Beal at reasonable levels. That Green and Rivers, in particular, have provided steady help has contributed to Porter sitting out the fourth quarter in three consecutive games.

Cleveland doesn’t rock

From four consecutive NBA Finals appearances to the NBA’s worst record (2-11, tied with Phoenix). Yeah, the Cavaliers miss LeBron James just a little. They also are down Kevin Love (toe surgery), leaving Jordan Clarkson (15.2) and Rodney Hood (12.9) as Cleveland’s top scorers. That’s not ideal. The Cavaliers are 27th in scoring (103.3) while giving up 113.1 points per game, which is better than Washington’s league-worst 118.5. Rookie point guard Collin Sexton, the No. 8 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, is filling in for the injured George Hill. Sexton is averaging 17.0 points over the last three games.

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