Wizards

Stress test? Broncos use practice to keep it real

201212231525555044554-p2.jpeg

Stress test? Broncos use practice to keep it real

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Last year, the Denver Broncos had plenty of practice - fall behind, stay close, go into hurry-up mode late and find some way to pull out a game with hardly any time left.

This year, about the only thing the Broncos are perfecting late in games is how to line up in victory formation.

With a game against the Chiefs (2-13) coming up Sunday, odds are against the Broncos (12-3) finally getting a dose of late-game drama. That means they could very well go into the postseason without having once endured the stress of needing the make-or-break score in 2012.

Not even Peyton Manning, who loves to rehearse every situation and every scenario as many times as possible with his new team, can give the Broncos the real-time practice they need in that department.

``You can't do anything about changing the outcome of the game,'' Manning said. ``You try to simulate game-like scenarios in practice. It's not quite the same as a game, so that's something coach Fox and the staff have tried to do all season long.''

Through 15 games, the Broncos haven't faced a single one that has come down to the wire. Two of their three losses came by less than a touchdown, but in the 27-21 loss to Atlanta, they didn't have the ball at the end, and in the 31-25 loss to Houston, they got it back with 20 seconds and no timeouts at their own 14-yard line - only time for a completion, a spike and one desperation play.

Meanwhile, the Broncos' 10-game winning streak has come by an average margin of 14 points. They've won three of those games by eight and another by seven - close enough to give the defense practice at some version of the prevent and the offense work on the run-heavy, clock-killing ``four-minute drill.''

But when it comes to that desperation drive with the clock running out, the kind perfected in this city by John Elway in the 1980s and 90s - nada.

Practice situations, says offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, can take a team only so far.

``The most important thing as a coach is to prepare your players for that,'' he said. ``We talk about situational football every day. If this situation comes up, what would we do? On the weekends after you see certain games, as a staff you talk about certain situations in other games and then you try to relay that message to the players.''

Last season, the Broncos had no shortage of real-life, late-game stress situations. With Tim Tebow at quarterback, they got the winning score in six games in the last two minutes of regulation or overtime.

This season, Manning has, in fact, engineered three game-winning drives in the fourth quarter to bring his career total to 48, the most in the NFL since the 1970 merger. But none of these has been a nail-biter. The latest go-ahead score came with 9:03 remaining in the Oct. 15 game against San Diego - the Broncos overcame a 24-0 deficit for a 35-24 win to start their winning streak.

Eric Decker, who has been in Denver for both Tebow and Manning, said every practice this year includes two-minute drills and lots of scenarios ``just to make sure we have things planned before we get into it.''

``But we have a lot of guys in this locker room who were here last year,'' Decker said. ``To be able to play from behind is something you can't practice but it's something you build as you have experience and have success with it. I think we've had success with it so the confidence is there.''

``But really,'' Decker said, ``our mindset is to get ahead and not have to worry about it.''

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

Drew Gooden, Justin Kutcher to highlight NBC Sports Washington Wizards broadcast team

gooden.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Drew Gooden, Justin Kutcher to highlight NBC Sports Washington Wizards broadcast team

Drew Gooden was nearing the end of his second 10-day contract with the Wizards in the 2014 season when he went off for 21 points against Brooklyn. 

It was a game that changed his career, led to being signed to the team for the remainder of that season and ending his career as a Washington Wizard two years later. “My career was totally reborn as a veteran leader on the Washington Wizards,” he said. “And that’s something I never would have thought would come full circle.”

And now? Gooden will serve as the game analyst on NBC Sports Washington’s Wizards broadcast this season. NBC Sports Washington announced on Wednesday he will join new play-by-play announcer Justin Kutcher as part of the Wizards' game broadcast team. Chris Miller will return in his role as sideline reporter.

“It’s a dream and I never thought in a million years I would have retired a Wizard and that out of all my teams that I played for, that Wizards would be the favorite organization that I played for, never thought I would be a color analyst for NBC Sports Washington,” Gooden said. “All of this is a dream.”

And while Kutcher may not have the same playing resume that Gooden does, he promises to bring the same passion Gooden does to broadcasts.

During the early days of his career, Kutcher wasn’t just the voice of (and practice player for) the Boston University women’s basketball team. He was such a passionate fan that he was the one making the most noise on the team bus after a big win or a big loss. Now, after decades in the business, he’s not sure he’ll go to that extreme – but Wizards fans can expect him to be “a fan who’s calling the game,” he said. “I say that about myself all of the time. I think of myself as just this incredibly lucky person that gets to call a sport that I love. When I have a reaction, it’s a genuine reaction. So, I’ll keep everything professional, but I’ll get excited.”

Kutcher has 17 years of experience as a play-by-play announcer, having spent the last seven years at Fox Sports where he led national coverage of NCAA basketball and football, the NFL and MLB. Prior to FOX Sports, Kutcher served as a play-by-play announcer for ESPN for four years. During that time, he led live coverage for a variety of sports, including basketball, football, baseball, softball, volleyball and hockey, across professional, college and high school leagues and conferences. He also appeared on studio shows during his tenure with ESPN. In addition to FOX Sports and ESPN, he has also called collegiate events for CSTV, now CBS Sports Network, for two years, as well as BTN, and contributed to MLB.com digital programming.

“I have known Justin since he was a runner for us at FOX Sports,” said Joe Buck. “He’s gone from working hard behind the scenes to one of the best, young voices in sports. Wizards fans are getting a great broadcaster and a better person .”

Here’s five more fun facts about Kutcher and Gooden.

1.    Kutcher’s worked the past five Westminster Dog Shows. “I get more ticket requests for that than any other event I go to,” he said. But, at first he wasn’t sure he was going to stick with it. The first year, he said, was a little tough. “I called my dad after it airs and he said that it was my mom’s favorite thing that I’ve done.” But, he stuck with it. And now? “I love it,” he said. 
2.    His favorite thing in DC is … the breakfast at Ted’s Bulletin. “They have a breakfast burrito that I get, I eat two of them at a time and people can’t believe it,” he said. Oh, and also his family. His family in the area includes a 3-year-old nephew, who when asked for real estate recommendations in the area, declared “you can live at our house!”
3.    Meanwhile, you can find Gooden at his favorite crab shack. “Quarterdeck in Arlington is my favorite, favorite restaurant,” he said. In the two years he’s known about the crab spot, he’s eaten there, he estimates, “800” times. 
4.    Good news for Wizards fans: He thinks the Wizards will be a team everyone sleeps on – and that’s great for them. “They’re going to have the opportunity to surprise a lot of people early,” he predicted. 
5.    Kutcher expects Rui Hachimura to … “be one of the steals of the draft.” Kutcher covered the new Wizard as a play-by-play announcer during Hachimura’s college career. “I would not be surprised if you see Rui average 15-18 points per game and close to 8 rebounds per game. I think he’s that type of player, he’s a really good kid, when I saw the Wizards drafted him I said that’s a great, great pick,” he said.
 

Quick Links

Capitals center Lars Eller is busy working on his shot this summer

lars_eller_captials_practice_usat.jpg
Instagram @LarsEllerOfficial

Capitals center Lars Eller is busy working on his shot this summer

With the Washington Capitals season ending in April and training camp beginning in September, players are on their own to get their summer work in.

Center Lars Eller took to Instagram on Wednesday to show his followers that he's been working on his shot in the offseason.

The 6-foot-2 Dane scored 13 goals for the Caps last season, adding one more in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With three months to go before the first puck drops in the 2019-2020 season, Eller will hope his extra work this summer will translate to the ice in the fall.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS