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Slumping Dolphins again headed in wrong direction

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Slumping Dolphins again headed in wrong direction

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) From the start of his first year as coach of the Miami Dolphins, Joe Philbin stressed the need for steady improvement. Instead, a late-season tailspin has the team headed yet again in the wrong direction - toward a long offseason.

The Dolphins (5-8) have lost five of their past six games, ensuring that for a fourth consecutive year they'll finish .500 or worse. Going into its game against Jacksonville (2-11), Miami is virtually assured of missing the playoffs for the 10th time in 11 years.

Following a 27-13 loss Sunday at San Francisco, Philbin attributed the skid not to a lack of talent but to a ``lack of playmaking'' at critical times.

``It's correctable,'' he said Monday. ``There were some plays there to be made on both sides of the ball that we didn't do. There were some opportunities we didn't capitalize on.''

For the second straight week, the Dolphins remained in contention against a division leader until the final minutes. But against both the 49ers and New England Patriots, fourth-quarter rallies came up short.

Feeble offense and a takeaway drought have doomed the Dolphins in recent weeks. The offense has totaled three touchdowns in the past four defeats, and the defense has forced only one turnover in the past six games.

Getting better from week to week has been a Philbin mantra, but the Dolphins aren't doing it. They rank fourth worst in the NFL in yards, and are tied for fifth worst in points at 18.5 per game, with productivity declining of late.

``I don't know exactly what the answer is,'' rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. ``But we have to make the plays that are there. You can't win in this league scoring as few points as we are. It's frustrating.''

Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman concurred.

``I would agree with what Ryan said,'' Sherman said. ``I would probably say `expletive frustrating.' We feel like we're close, but not close enough.''

At San Francisco, as has been the case in several games, the Dolphins played their worst at crunch time. On their final possession, trailing by a touchdown, Tannehill went 0 for 5.

Facing one of the NFL's best defenses, Tannehill did throw for a score - his eight touchdown passes rank 30th. But he averaged only 4.5 yards per attempt, and reinforced a budding reputation for failing to deliver late.

``He played better in the first half,'' Philbin said. ``At the end of the game, where statistically he didn't perform as well as he would have liked, there were a lot of factors that contributed to that. It wasn't just him. There wasn't as much separation in the route-running. It wasn't like there were wide-open guys he was flat-out missing.''

The absence of a deep threat remains Miami's glaring weakness. Top receivers Brian Hartline and Davone Bess have combined to make 123 catches, but they've totaled only two touchdowns.

A lack of defensive playmakers has hurt, too. With 12 takeaways this year, the Dolphins are on pace to set a franchise record for fewest in a season.

No linebacker has an interception. While opponents have fumbled 17 times, Miami has just three recoveries, which is tied for last in the league. And the problem's getting worse: Over the past six games, the Dolphins have just one takeaway.

``That's not good,'' defensive end Cameron Wake said. ``You look at every statistic we have in football, and that's the one that determines your success.''

Wake might be the only Miami player to make the Pro Bowl. He notched three sacks against the 49ers, increasing his season total to 14, which matches a career high.

But he's on the verge of his fourth losing season in four years with Miami.

``I would give away every sack I got for a winning record and opportunities that we are not capitalizing on,'' he said. ``It is hard to contribute with that kind of stuff when we are stinking it up.''

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Alex Ovechkin, Carey Price put on a show with superstar showdown in Montreal

Alex Ovechkin, Carey Price put on a show with superstar showdown in Montreal

The best of the NHL was on display Monday in Montreal where the Capitals edged the Canadians 5-4 in overtime. Within the game, a superstar matchup emerged as the top goal scorer of his generation locked horns with arguably the best goalie in the world in an incredible bout that lived up to all the hype that surrounded the game.

”It’s great for the fans, great for everything,” Brett Connolly said. “It’s good to see two really good players go at it like that.”

Throughout his career, Alex Ovechkin has tormented Montreal goalie Carey Price. In 24 regular season games, he has scored on Price 18 times. On Monday, Ovechkin added two more goals to that total.

In the first period, Tom Wilson delivered a blistering pass through traffic right to the tape of Ovechkin who tipped it in past a helpless Price who had been waiting for the shot. He would add a second goal in the third period from the office with the Caps on a two-man advantage.

At that point, a hat trick seemed like a foregone conclusion, but that’s when Price began to battle back.

Price robbed Ovechkin of goal No. 3 with not one, but two brilliant saves in the third period to help force overtime.

With the puck on the left wall, Ovechkin charged the net from the right midway into the third period. Connolly managed to find him with the pass and Ovechkin delivered a one-touch shot that Price snared out of the air Statue-of-Liberty style. Somehow Price managed to get over from post to post to snag the puck with the glove and he made sure to put some extra flair on the save.

With the score still tied at four, Ovechkin made one final push to win the game in regulation.

This time it was Wilson on the right with Ovechkin setting up for the one-timer on the left. Wilson delivered the pass and Ovechkin fired what would have been a buzzer-beater goal with just two seconds left in regulation. Price slid to cover the cross-ice shot, but could not get completely over in time to block the shot. He lifted his blocker up in desperation and just managed to catch the puck and send it out of play.

“Obviously Alex made a great shot, hit the knob of his stick,” Braden Holtby said. “It’s one of those unlucky things. It just happens.”

It was a spectacular save the brought that Montreal faithful to their feet and even drew recognition from Ovechkin himself.

Ovechkin’s initial reaction was one of disbelief, but he soon began applauding along with the crowd and skated over to give the netminder his due.

“It was a pretty cool moment, pretty beautiful save and the fans was cheering for him,” Ovechkin said. “I was kind of same.”

The Caps would get the last laugh with the overtime winner, but this was a rare occasion in which the result of the game as largely overshadowed by the drama that unfolded between two players.

Ovechkin finished the game with two goals against Price, while Price finished with 29 saves including two third period beauties to deny Ovechkin his hat trick.

Capitals head coach Todd Reirden was effusive of his praise of both players after the game.

“It’s stars like that that put on performances like they both did tonight that just make it worth every dime that it costs to come to the game and worth the price of admission tonight for certain with those two."

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Joe Flacco's status remains uncertain as Ravens head into Week 12

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Joe Flacco's status remains uncertain as Ravens head into Week 12

Lamar Jackson's first NFL start has taken over the headlines and airwaves since his historic performance Sunday for the Baltimore Ravens. But what about that guy Joe Flacco?

Sunday marked the first time Flacco wasn't the team's starting quarterback in 41 games as he nursed a hip injury sustained in their Week 9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Ravens were hush all week on Flacco's status against the Cincinnati Bengals, but head coach John Harbaugh told reporters post-victory they knew the Super Bowl XLVII MVP would be unable to start. 

"Finally, it was when he had a doctor’s appointment earlier in the week in New York," Harbaugh said. "One of the final … We had an indication of it the week before – it was going to be tough. But the final word … I can’t remember what day it was. It was Monday or Tuesday.” 

In his 11 years with the Ravens, the only extended time Flacco has missed was six games back in 2015 after tearing his ACL. Prior to Week 11, Flacco was on the injury report only eight times and had missed only three practices during the regular season. 

Flacco sustained the injury on the team's opening drive against the Steelers three weeks ago, but played the full 60 minutes completing 23 of 37 passes for 206 yards. What we've learned about the injury over the last week and a half is that it doesn't appear the quarterback will need surgery, but beyond that, there is little information on a return date. 

"Yes, it will be tough for him this week coming up,” Harbaugh added postgame. 

The timing of this injury is obviously not ideal given that Flacco is playing on the last year of his contract and the quarterback they drafted to replace him had about as good of a start as you can draw up.

"I'm not getting into any of that, Harbaugh said Monday on if Flacco would would have a chance to reclaim his job.

With six games to play and currently in a five-way tie for the last AFC wild card spot, a lot, and we mean a lot, can happen.

And just 24 hours after saying it would be tough for Flacco to play this upcoming week, Harbaugh upgraded Flacco's status.

“He has a chance. It’s just a matter of how fast the healing takes place in there," Harbaugh said during his Monday press conference. "It’s not a surgical thing; it’s just a calming-down type of a thing with the hip, and I’m not a doctor. They have that commercial with the TV doctors. I’m not even a TV doctor, so we’ll see.”

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