Nationals

Seattle's Lynch shines again in playoffs

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Seattle's Lynch shines again in playoffs

RENTON, Wash. (AP) Marshawn Lynch's tremor-causing playoff touchdown run two years ago against New Orleans has been viewed millions of times on YouTube.

It will be hard for Lynch to ever top the stunning run during which he broke more than a half-dozen tackles on his way to a 67-yard touchdown that induced enough frenzy inside the Seahawks' stadium that it registered as seismic activity.

Still, his best playoff performance might have been in Seattle's wild-card victory over Washington on Sunday.

Seattle needed all of Lynch's 132 yards rushing, and especially his 27-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter, to dispatch the Redskins. His sidestep cut that left Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall grasping at air allowed him to get to the outside on the touchdown run and was another sign of Lynch's shiftiness, which sometimes gets lost because of his brute power.

Lynch's performance on Sunday tied the franchise record for most yards rushing in a playoff game and bettered what he did against the Saints by 1 yard. He rushed for 99 yards in the second half and overcame a costly fumble at the Washington 1 on the first drive of the second half that could have shaken others.

Not Lynch.

``You don't ever have to worry about his mindset,'' Seattle fullback Michael Robinson said after the game. ``He got to the sideline, he was upset about it, and he just said, `Give it to me again. Keep feeding me.'''

Lynch is coming off the finest regular season of his career, yet he ended up getting overshadowed by the rise of quarterback Russell Wilson.

Lynch rushed for 1,590 yards in the regular season and was named to the Pro Bowl as a reserve behind Minnesota's Adrian Peterson. His yardage total was good for third in the NFL and he was one of just eight backs to post double digits in rushing touchdowns. According to STATS Inc., Lynch was fifth in the league with 639 of his yards coming after first contact and was third in the league in yards rushing in the fourth quarter with 354.

And he ran for all those yards despite taking most of the second half off in blowout victories late in the season against Buffalo and Arizona. Lynch had a combined 21 carries in those two games, but still rolled up 241 yards.

Lynch became the beneficiary of Seattle incorporating more of the zone-read run game into its offense in the second-half of the season. Sometimes he was the decoy who allowed Wilson to run untouched around the end. Other times, Lynch got the handoff and a head start while defensive linemen were figuring out if Wilson was keeping the ball.

``He has grown quite a bit, and in the last two years he has really owned it. It was a little sticky at first, and his consistency wasn't as sharp as it is now,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ``He basically gets it right almost all of time now. He trusts the reads, he trusts the principles and philosophy of the run game and he's been maxing out pretty much for a couple of years now.''

That system was on display again against the Redskins. While Lynch got the bulk of the yards, Wilson added another 67 yards rushing. Twice, including on Lynch's TD run in the fourth quarter, Wilson was out ahead of his running back serving as a blocker.

``I don't worry about Russell. What do you want me to do, tell him to get out of the way?'' Carroll joked. ``He's OK. It's not like he's laying bone-crushing blocks, you know?''

When Lynch got to the divisional round two years ago against Chicago, he was held to just 2 yards rushing on four carries in what remains the least productive game of his nearly two-plus seasons with the Seahawks.

He gets a chance to atone for that when the Seahawks travel to Atlanta on Sunday and face a Falcons run defense that was leaky during the regular season. Atlanta finished the year ranked 21st at stopping the run and gave up at least 140 yards rushing in each of its three losses.

The team that gave the Falcons the most fits was Carolina and mobile quarterback Cam Newton. The Panthers and their zone-read offensive system rushed for a combined 394 yards and averaged nearly 6 yards per carry in two games.

``We've grown and become more together and more in tune with our QB and what he can do and all that,'' Carroll said. ``We're a pretty hard team to beat right now.''

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Astros players plan to make a team statement on sign-stealing scandal during Spring Training

Astros players plan to make a team statement on sign-stealing scandal during Spring Training

The Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal has rocked MLB and left a dark shadow over the league during offseason. Up until this point, despite a fired general manager and on-field manager, the players at the root of the scandal have remained silent on the subject and avoided questions from the media.

That will all change in Spring Training as the Astros players plan to make "a strong statement as a team," according to Astros' owner Jim Crane. 

"When we get down to Spring Training, we'll all get them together and they'll come out with a strong statement as a team and apologize for what happened and we'll move forward," Crane said in a media scrum.

Over the weekend the team held their annual winter FanFest where several players had to face the music as many players met with the media for the first time. Jose Altuve, who is one of the players who allegedly benefited from the sign-stealing, dodged the question as best he could. The Astros shortstop's comments coincide with Crane's, saying “I think the time to comment about that will come. It’s a little early for me to say something about it.” 

Outside of their FanFest event, there is little that has come out of the clubhouse. Their owner acknowledged the lack of communication from the players and said the players were advised to stay out of the conversation. 

"The players have been beaten up a little bit and they've been all spread out. They've just kinda getting [sic] advice to take it easy."

Already Spring Training in West Palm Beach is going to be awkward between the two teams that made the World Series last season. The Nationals, who won the World Series whether or not the Astros used their system to gain an advantage, have their facilities next door to Houston's.

And if the Astros sign former Nationals' manager Dusty Baker to the same position in wake of A.J. Hinch's firing, there will be even more tense situations at Spring Training this year. 

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Jay Gruden reportedly to join Jaguars as their offensive coordinator

Jay Gruden reportedly to join Jaguars as their offensive coordinator

Just four months shy of his last appearance on the NFL gridiron sidelines, Jay Gruden may already have his 2020 gig lined up, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero.

Gruden was head coach of the Washington Redskins for six seasons, beginning in 2014 and going 35-49-1 in his burgundy and gold tenure. Gruden pushed the Redskins to their first postseason appearance since 2012 in his second year with the team, as well as back-to-back winning seasons in 2015 and 2016, not seen in Washington since 1996 and 1997. 

In March 2017, Gruden signed a two-year extension with the Redskins. He was fired after beginning the 2019 season 0-5. 

Recently, Gruden confirmed to Rapoport that he was "itching for something to do" and seeking employment before Jacksonville brought him in to interview for the OC role. 

After playing four years at the University of Louisville and and eight more in various football leagues, Gruden held many offensive roles, offensive coordinator for the Florida Tuskers and Cincinnati Bengals. 

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