Redskins

Smith: Falcons not satisfied with 1 playoff win

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Smith: Falcons not satisfied with 1 playoff win

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) A slip of the tongue gave away Atlanta coach Mike Smith's focus.

Smith was just starting his review Monday of the Falcons' 30-28 win over the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC divisional playoffs when it became clear his thoughts were on this week's NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers.

``We knew the San Francisco Forty ... excuse me, the Seattle Seahawks, were a very good football team and they showed a lot of resiliency,'' Smith said before smiling after catching his verbal miscue.

``We were very fortunate to make the plays there at the end of the game and get the win,'' he said.

The win over Seattle Sunday was the first for Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan in four postseason games with Atlanta. There was much talk after the game that the long-awaited first playoff win was the most important for the Falcons and would allow Ryan and other players to relax.

Smith shot down both theories.

``I don't think we'll be able to play looser,'' Smith said. ``I think we've got to get back into our preparation mode. I know many people have talked about the outcome and what does it mean to the Atlanta Falcons. It means we have an opportunity to play again and in the playoffs you want to keep playing. I think our guys understand the challenge this week is going to be big.''

The Falcons are the top seed in the NFC playoffs for the second time in three seasons. Atlanta lost at home to Green Bay as the top seed following the 2010 regular season and then lost in the first round at the New York Giants last year.

Ryan and the Falcons built leads of 20-0 and 27-7 against Seattle before falling behind 28-27 with 31 seconds remaining. Then Ryan completed passes to Harry Douglas, for 22 yards, and Tony Gonzalez, for 19 yards, to set up Matt Bryant's go-ahead 49-yard field goal with 13 seconds remaining.

Smith said it was a ``fun'' win for the team and the city of Atlanta, but he said it didn't mean the Falcons have realized their goals.

``Our goals and our expectations are a lot higher than just winning one playoff game,'' he said.

The Falcons will be home again for Sunday's NFC championship game as they look to advance to the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history. The 1998 season ended with a Super Bowl loss to the Denver Broncos.

Ryan and some of his teammates acknowledged they are glad there will be no more questions about not winning a postseason game.

``But at the same time, our goal is not to win one playoff game,'' Ryan said. ``Our goal isn't to stop answering that question.

``Our goals are still in front of us. We still have two more games to go. That's the mind-set I have. That's the mind-set this team has.''

Asked if the monkey is off the team's back, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said ``maybe a little bit'' before also saying the team had bigger goals.

``The outsiders said we can't win in the playoffs, now they have to come up with other things to say,'' Weatherspoon said. ``Our goal is to get the next win and then the next one after that.''

Smith said he didn't sleep well Sunday night, but not because of a big celebration.

``No, not celebrating,'' he said. ``For everybody involved, that was a fun football game and it's hard to unwind from fun football games. I think for everybody at least here in Atlanta it certainly was. Then I got going this morning on San Francisco.''

There may be little sleep for Smith's defensive coaches this week as the Falcons prepare a plan to contain 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick passed for 263 yards and rushed for 181 yards - a playoff record for a quarterback - in San Francisco's 45-31 win over Green Bay on Saturday.

The Falcons couldn't stop Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, who had seven carries for 60 yards and a touchdown while passing for 385 yards and two touchdowns.

Smith said the 6-foot-5 Kaepernick is ``probably between Russell'' and Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, who also had success against the Falcons this season.

Newton ran for 116 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown run, while passing for 287 yards and two touchdowns in the Panthers' 30-20 home win over the Falcons on Dec. 9. Newton ran for 87 yards with a touchdown and passed for 215 yards with two touchdowns in the Falcons' 30-28 win over Carolina on Sept. 30.

Wilson had only 26 yards rushing in the first half as the Seahawks were held scoreless. The rookie quarterback gained momentum after Falcons defensive end John Abraham aggravated his left ankle injury midway through the second quarter. Abraham did not play in the second half.

Smith said he expects Abraham to be back in practice ``before the end of the week.''

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2019 Redskins Draft Bracket: DK Metcalf and TJ Hockenson would inject the offense with needed talent

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USA TODAY Sports

2019 Redskins Draft Bracket: DK Metcalf and TJ Hockenson would inject the offense with needed talent

NBC Sports Washington wants Redskins fans to help decide the team's ideal 2019 first-round pick by voting in the Redskins Draft Bracket on Twitter. Before you vote, though, take in this breakdown of the next matchup.

Looking for a stat to describe the rough season the Redskins receivers had in 2018? Well, there's tons to choose from.

The team's wideouts had the second-fewest catches of 20-plus yards in the league. Antonio Brown had more grabs, yards and touchdowns than Washington's top three targets combined. Josh Doctson led the squad in receiving yards — with a measly 532.

You could easily find plenty more, but those three are all you need to realize that DK Metcalf should absolutely be on the franchise's mind when it comes to their first-round pick this April.

While Metcalf's numbers at Ole Miss won't overly impress you, his athleticism and potential explosiveness as a pro absolutely does. That's why it's no surprise the WR met with the Redskins while at the Combine, as Jay Gruden and Co. are well aware that they must become more dangerous on the outside.

As with any prospect, there are questions with Metcalf. He only had 67 catches in 21 games in school, and while he shredded most of the drills in Indianapolis, his short area agility numbers were worse than Tom Brady. That's not great.

Regardless, he'd instantly become the offense's scariest athlete, and you have to like his chances of at least contributing splash plays early while he learns the nuances of the NFL.

The 'Skins don't just need improvement out wide, however. Jordan Reed was largely ineffective despite playing for much of 2018, Vernon Davis is 35 years old and Jeremy Sprinkle isn't much of a threat in the air at tight end.

Perhaps TJ Hockenson could be their answer. NFL.com says the Iowa product "is an ascending talent with a chance to become one of the best all-around tight ends in the game." 

One problem the Burgundy and Gold have encountered in recent years is Reed and Davis don't help much as blockers, while Sprinkle won't worry a defense with his hands. Taking Hockenson at pick No. 15 would mean Gruden could finally have a guy who excels in both areas.

It remains to be seen whether Metcalf or Hockenson will last until the Redskins' choice, as they could continue to rise up boards as the draft draws closer. If both or either is there, however, they need to be heavily considered. 

While the offense may have to be run-oriented again in 2019, it still needs more weapons for whoever is under center. They won't be able to grind out 13-play scoring drives every time they need a TD, and grabbing Metcalf or Hockenson would go a long way in introducing a new element to the group.

You've heard the case for both players. Now, retweet or like depending on whom you'd prefer to see move on in the bracket.

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How Tom Wilson's first game back from suspension against Minnesota sparked the Caps

How Tom Wilson's first game back from suspension against Minnesota sparked the Caps

WASHINGTON -– Capitals forward Tom Wilson did not miss a beat. That’s what happens when a player sits the first 14 games of a season because of an NHL-mandated suspension for a hit to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist in a preseason game. 
 
With his suspension reduced from 20 games to 16, Wilson was suddenly eligible to play Nov. 13 when Washington played a game against the Minnesota Wild.

Wilson scored a goal in the first period – and ironically was penalized on the same play for running into the goalie.

He later had a fight with Wild forward Marcus Foligno. He also helped the penalty kill strop five of six chances. That pretty much summed it up. 


 
Wilson sees Minnesota again tonight when the Capitals host the Wild at Capital One Arena (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington). That first game in St. Paul sparked a turnaround for the Capitals, who were lethargic early in the season as they tried to stay emotionally engaged after last spring’s dramatic championship run through the Stanley Cup playoffs.
 
Wilson’s return against the Wild had a visceral effect. The players had a jump not seen often in a 7-6-3 start to the season that included back-to-back home losses to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Arizona Coyotes. 
 
The Capitals won 5-2 that night against the Wild and went on an 8-2-0 run in Wilson’s first 10 games. He had eight goals and seven assists in those games before sustaining a concussion during a fight in a Dec. 4 loss at the Vegas Golden Knights. 
 
Wilson missed three more games and has only played 55 total. But he’s had a major impact on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and either center Evgeny Kuznetsov or Nicklas Backstrom. Wilson has 21 goals and 16 assists. Those are both career highs. His 37 points are also a career best. And that’s all in 23 fewer games than the 78 he played last season. There are eight games left for Wilson to top 40 points for the first time. 

Djoos returns

The lower-body injury to Michal Kempny sustained Wednesday means Christian Djoos is back in the lineup. He will be on the top pair with John Carlson. Djoos is playing just his second game since Feb. 23. The Capitals will be experimenting here down the stretch thinking Kempny will be out for a while. It’s a good opportunity for Djoos, who has played with Carlson before.

Washington will not recall a defensemen from AHL Hershey for now. They will stick with six unless another player is needed during the remaining three games of this four-game homestand.

50

Alex Ovechkin couldn’t find the back of the net in Wednesday’s 5-4 overtime loss to Tampa Bay, but he is still just two goals shy of 50 for his career. That would be his eighth 50-goal season. Ovechkin finished last year with 49. Only Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy have had more (nine each).

Ovechkin always torches Minnesota with 26 points (15 goals, 11 assists) in just 15 career games.

That’s his highest goals-per-game average against any franchise.

Holtby goes

No surprise here as the Capitals don’t have any more back-to-back games and will ride Holtby down the stretch until they possibly clinch the Metropolitan Division. They lead by three points over the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins and have eight games to go.

Holtby is 8-2-0 in his career against Minnesota with one shutout and a .922 save percentage. 

Going streaking

The Capitals have won eight games in a row against Minnesota, led by former Washington coach Bruce Boudreau.

Expect a good push from the Wild, however, who are still in the playoff chase in the Western Conference. At 34-31-9, they have 77 points and are one point behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second and final wild card spot. 

Expected lineup

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana – Evgeny Kuznetsov – T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin – Lars Eller – Brett Connolly
Andre Burakovsky – Nic Dowd – Travis Boyd
Christian Djoos – John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik – Nick Jensen
Braden Holtby
Pheonix Copley
Scratches: Chandler Stephenson, Dmitrij Jaskin
Injured: Michal Kempny

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